In Pathshala, we learn about the many aspects and principles of Jainism that can help us lead a Jain way of life. But, it may seem impossible to practice every aspect every day. We live in an environment that is simply different from when and where the practices of Jainism were first taught. As a high school student in America today, I prioritize the three basic principles of Jainism: non-violence, non possessiveness, and non-absolutism, applying them to my own life.
Non-violence can be followed in your thoughts, words, and actions by being humble, compassionate, and forgiving. Being humble means respecting other living beings and thinking of others before yourself. Gandhi is a great example of this; while working to free India from the British, he put the lives of his country before his own life. Non-violence can also be followed through being compassionate and forgiving. If someone has hurt you in some way, it may be difficult, but it is ultimately beneficial if you can try to understand their feelings and forgive them for what they have done.
In high school, it can be hard to always have a positive attitude, because there are many situations where your first thought isn’t always the happiest; for example, if you get a bad grade or have a big test to study for. It can be frustrating sometimes and you can get angry, but anger doesn’t amount to much. Learning how to control your passions and emotions can help you get back on track. When I have free time, I listen to music, bike, and craft. This helps calm me down and take my mind of the things that are more negative. It allows me to focus and concentrate, studying peacefully, which leads to getting better grades.
Possessiveness is having attachment to worldly objects, both tangible and intangible; non-possessiveness requires letting go of the attachment to these objects. Possessions can lead to violence and stronger passions: anger, deceit, ego, and greed. For example, if you lose or break your phone, you will get upset and be miserable until you either find your phone or a substitute or buy a new one. The cycle could then repeat. Our attachment to technology can also lead to jealousy and greed, because when a new technological advance comes out, we tend to want the newest version. We don’t think about those who can’t even afford these technologies or if we really need them; in this way, we become ungrateful for what we have. While technology is more of a necessity than a possession today, we can try to reduce our attachment to technology by using it only when we really need it.
Our American economy is based onpossessiveness. We believe in a capitalist society where creating more profit and having more wealth is the goal. Non-possessiveness helps me be grateful for what I have and reduce my anger and greed. For instance, at school, it helps lower my jealousy if someone has a possession that someone else has – because I don’t really need it. Just like the principle of nonviolence, non-possessiveness keeps me calm and focused at school and on my studies.
Non-absolutism refers to the tolerance and respect of other people’s views, opinions, and ideas. As there is no one truth, it’s important to acknowledge others’ views on every situation; nobody knows it all. Today, intolerance is prevalent. Jain philosopher John Koller stated this is largely due to the lack of ethics, respect, and knowledge of other beings and cultures. Many times, we simply don’t recognize other perspectives or consider them as important. When in a unfamiliar situation, like going to a new place surrounded by unfamiliar people, try to have an open mind about the place and the people around you. Coming into high school, where many of my classmates are people I’ve never met before, I try to learn more about and learn something from each new person I meet. When working in a group project, I feel that no matter how good you think your idea is, there is always something you can improve about that idea. Listening to others’ ideas can lead you to gain a more comprehensive perspective on your project. Transition Especially when you’re in a disagreement with someone, it’s important to try to understand what the other person is saying, even if you can’t accept their view. Whether you’re in school, at home, or in the workplace, non-absolutism is a beneficial principle for life.