Ahimsa and Swahimsa

Let us consider the important doctrine of ahimsa, the practice of non-violence. That the influence of Jainism and its teaching of ahimsa has been very widely and deeply felt during the last 2,500 years cannot be denied.

As you may already know the Maharishi fasted to death before the great Jain festival. This act of taking his life through fasting is called Swahimsa. Swahimsa means to take violence on oneself for the good of others. For Jains ahimsa is a great principle. We also should know that Swahimsa is a higher doctrine.

Consider what Jesus Christ did when he, “Gave his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) “Jesus Christ went to the furthest extent in teaching and practicing love, so much so that it became Swahimsa (the destruction of self for the good of others), which goes beyond ahimsa.

The Jain doctrine of ahimsa (non-killing or nonviolence) is a preparation for meditating on, understanding and accepting the work of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

“There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” is what Jesus not only preached but practiced even to the extent of the Crucifixion.

You can see that at the cross, Jesus won the greatest and final victory over himself, sin and the world and became an authentic Jain (i.e. the conqueror, from which Jainism arose).

The cross of Jesus is the manifestation of Swahimsa (the destruction of self for the good of others).  

For it is better, if the will of God wills it, to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.

For Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, indeed being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit; (1 Peter 3:17-18)

When you consider the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in terms of ahimsa and swa-ahimsa (swa means self) it brings you to a point of appreciation and connection to Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

Also consider the saving work of Jesus Christ in light of the meaning of the term Jain. The term Jain is derived from the word Jaina that means conqueror. We already know that Mahavir went to extreme measures to conquer inward passions and sins. If you truly meditate on all that Jesus did on the cross and the victory that Jesus accomplished through his death you will be deeply impressed.

When considering Jesus act of Jaina (victory of sin) his authority as teacher is confirmed.

Jesus claimed to be more than a great teacher, but the Son of God who came to forgive sins.

The story of Jesus healing the paralytic and asserting his authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12) is a Bible story that will help you see the full impact of Jesus the great conqueror of sin.

 And again He entered into Capernaum after some days. And it was heard that He was in a house.

And immediately many were gathered, so that none any longer had room, even to the door. And He proclaimed the Word to them.

Then they came to Him, bringing one who was paralyzed, who was carried by four.

When they could not come near to Him because of the crowd, they unroofed the roof where He was. And digging through, they let down the cot on which the paralytic was lying.

And seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, Child, your sins are forgiven to you.

But some of the scribes were sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,

Why does this one speak such blasphemies? Who can forgive sins except God only?

And instantly knowing in His spirit that they reasoned so within themselves, He said to them, Why do you reason these things in your heart?

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven you; or to say, Arise, and take up your cot and walk?

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority upon earth to forgive sins, He said to the paralytic,

I say to you, Arise, and take up your cot, and go to your house.

And immediately he arose and took up his cot and went out before all. So that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, We never saw it this way.

 
You can see the self-denying aspect of Jesus. The Jain sadhus and sashavis i.e., monks and nuns, are the most self-denying of their kind in the world. But look at the cross, Jesus won the greatest and final victory.

Jesus Christ went to the furthest extent in teaching and practicing love, so much so that it became swahimsa (the destruction of self for the good of others), which goes beyond ahimsa.

 “There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ is what Jesus not only preached but practiced even to the extent of the Crucifixion. At the cross, Jesus won the greatest and final victory.  

Reference
The Christian Religion and the Jains  By Manilal Parekh, (National Christian Review, March 1926 PP.138-145)

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