Followers of Jainism were the first to advocate the doctrine of ahimsa, “non-violence,” as a way of life. In practice, they avoid any profession that involves harming living things, and are very careful not to kill even the smallest insect. The logic behind ahimsa is that violence is usually motivated by ignorance, anger, greed, delusion, and passion, qualities which attract karma to the soul and place it in bondage to the material world. Even the act of taking the life of an insect increases the karma attaching itself to the soul. Since a Jain seeks liberation from this bondage, he or she strives to avoid any violent act.
Unificationism does not teach reincarnation, but it does teach that all of a person’s actions and choices influence the development of his or her spiritual self. The ideal is for human beings to embody God’s love and acts of irresponsibility and violence, whether against their fellow man or the creation, create distance between the spirit self and God. The damage to the spiritual self which is caused by such acts must be repaired through a process of restoration.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was inspired by Jainism and developed ahimsa into a method of political action which was eventually put into practice in many situations all over the world. Ghandi eventually brought about the independence of India from Britain through non-violent protest. The practice of non-violence was successfully used by the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and South Africa. Today, it is often employed at public demonstrations such as “sit-ins” and student demonstrations which attract public attention to political and social issues. Gandhi also practiced austerity and moderation.
The Jain theory of knowledge and perception has had an important influence on the development of Indian philosophy
and is mirrored in the discussions of European philosophers. Many philosophers critique the theory of relativistic pluralism, saying that the one and the many cannot exist simultaneously unless one accepts some kind of underlying monism or holistic view of the universe.