The foundation of Jain philosophy is Nonviolence or rather TOTAL Non-Violence towards any living being howsoever small it might be. This philosophy guides the conduct of the followers of Jain philosophy. I have no hesitation to say that this need not be a Jain philosophy only, but this should be a philosophy of every human being. In order to live this philosophy, the conduct of true followers of Jainism differs from the other Non-Jains.
- Not eating of Non-Veg Food
- Not eating of root vegetables
- Other Non Eatables
- Eating before the sun set known as Chauvihar
- Fasting (with water only or in some cases without water & other penance )
“The basic foundation of Jain food is non-violence. First of all, we should only take such food, which involves least possible injury. The question of killing five-sensed beings doesn’t arise at all; we should avoid injury to mobile beings also. It is necessary to avoid destruction of even one sensed beings as far as possible. Jain-food-conduct has been determined keeping all these things in view.”
Jain Scholar Dr. Hukam Chand Bharill.
- Non-eating of Non-Veg Food:
This is obvious as it entails killing of animals/ other living beings.
Eggs are also non-eatables. Eggs are the progeny of five-sensed beings. Food produced out of eggs is clearly flesh food. Some people argue that a vegetarian egg cannot give birth to a child; it is lifeless. This statement is untrue because it is a product of the sexual organ of the hen. So not only is it impure, but it also increases in size after birth and does not become rotten. Therefore, it is alive, though it may not possess the capacity to evolve from, but in no way can it be treated as lifeless.
Some people say that the milk of a cow or goat is also part of the body. However, there is a vast difference between milk and eggs. This understanding is incorrect because an egg is the progeny of a hen, similarly, milk is not the progeny of the cow. By taking milk out of the body of a cow or goat, no harm is done to their lives; whereas, by use of the egg, the creature inside the egg is killed. If the milk producing cow or goat is not milked at the proper time, agony is caused to it.
The fundamental principle is whether killing/harm is caused to the living being.
- Non-eating of root vegetables:
There are is millions of small lives in root vegetables. Those who have attended school laboratory should be aware that while viewing Onion or Potato slices in the microscope, one can easily see the micro living beings. Root vegetables (tuber-roots) are totally forbidden as uneatable for 2 reasons. The first being that vegetables grown underground are the depository of countless of small creatures. The second reason being the uproot of such vegetables has definitely results in the destruction of plants and trees.
- Other Non Eatables:
According to Jain texts, a śrāvaka (householder) shouldn’t consume the four maha-vigai – wine, flesh, butter and honey; and the five udumbara fruits (the five udumbara trees are Gular, Anjeera, Banyan, Peepal, and Pakar, all belonging to the fig class). Honey is forbidden, as its collection would amount to violence against the bees.
Mushrooms, fungus, and yeasts are forbidden because they are parasites, grow in non-hygienic environments and may harbour other life forms.
Even chocolates and many other ready-made food items do contain the above stated non eatables. Those who are conscious about following this pure way of life must check the contents of these ready-made foods.
Many a times the food contains gelatine powder and the manufactures put up the Green Mark assuming that no living beings are used during manufacturing however the gelatine powder itself is made up of;
“Gelatine is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs and fish.” Wikipedia.
- Eating before the sun set known as Chauvihar
There are microbes which hide during the sunshine. They reappear once the sun sets. They enter our food chain and preparations after the sunset. We all can see micro and small living being appears after the sunset if we are out in the open. Similar living beings are all there in the atmosphere after the sunset, some are seen and some cannot be seen by naked eyes. The principle of Non Violence is at play when Jains do Chauvihar and do not eat after the sunset.
You can see the video to know more. You Tube Video by Dr Raksha Shah on Chauvihar
- Fasting and Other Practices:
Fasting is one of the 12 types of penance according to Jainism. The soul sheds its KARMAs known as Nirjara, in two ways:
Akam Nirjara: By getting its fruits (good or bad) as the Karma comes into play. This is the natural course of Nirjara. We have no choice.
Sakam Nirjara: By pre-poning the fruits by doing penance. This is by our choice.
Akam Nirjara can be compared with repayment of debt as per repayment schedule, while Sakam Nirjara can be compared with prepayment of debt by choice.
All penance practices performed by Jains, if done with the proper frame of mind and understanding, are the forms of Sakam Nirjara.
These are some of the usual practices performed the by Jains around us. So when the next time you see any Jains doing any of the above practices you are now aware about the logic/science and purpose behind the same.
(Note: Some of the content of this post is taken from “Vegetarian Food and Jain Conduct” by Dr. Hukam Chand Bharill )