Jainism & Status of Cows in India
Mr. A. K. Jain, Trustee, Ahimsa Foundation interviewed by Ms. Margarete H. Bluemel
On behalf of German National Radio
Question: Who are the promoters of Ahimsa Foundation and what are its objectives?
Answer: Ahimsa Foundation is a registered trust promoted by Mr. P. L. Jain & Mr. A. K. Jain. Mr. P. L. Jain is a mechanical engineer by profession and author of several technical books. Presently, devoting his time as chairman and founder trustee to this foundation and involved in several other socio-religious organisations. Mr. A. K Jain is by profession a chartered accountant and presently practicing independently in law and taxation at New Delhi. He is also author of several articles on finance, taxation and current legal affairs.
The principal objectives for promoting this Foundation was to spread the values of Jainism in the world. Unlike other religions e.g. Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, Jainism is not known in most parts of the world. The main reason for its limited following were strict regulations which restricted the movement of Jain saints outside India. Restrictions about food conditions and lifestyle of saints further restricted their ability to move long distances.
But if we look the various conditions imposed on the behavior and living modes scientifically we will feel highly convinced about their logic and relevance even in this age. Jainism is less of a religion but more of a philosophy which believes in :
1. Self control.
2. Rejection of violence against all living subjects whether they be humans, animals or birds.
3. Consumption of only vegetation based food products. Leather products like shoes, belts, purses, jackets etc. are strictly prohibited because all these are produced as a result of certain violent activity.
4. The theory of Karma is the philosophy of Jainism. It says that so called God (Tirthankaras in Jain religion) and saints cannot do any favours to us unlike in other religions. We have to face the results of our good or bad karma. One can only improve on his own karma and achieve salvation. Anyone can become God due to his own actions. The blessings from God cannot improve our fate.
The Foundation also aims at placing the different sections of Jain community on one single platform. In India the Jains are mainly divided into four sects namely Digambars, Swetambars, Terapanths and Mandir Margis. There is very little co-ordination and co-operation amongst these four sects. At some places serious disputes have arisen on the issues of religious properties and their control and the matter is being litigated in courts. Foundation is making all its efforts to bring together all the sections.
The Foundation has created detailed database of Jain families, Jain saints, temples, celebrities, literature and several other information modules and placed under the domain name of www.jainsamaj.org on the internet. It also publishes a monthly news magazines "Ahimsa Times" which is circulated to over one hundred thousand subscribers around the world.
The Foundation is also undertaking socio-economic projects and funding to educational and health institutions.
Question: Does Jain religion treat cows same as Hindus? What Ahimsa Foundation is doing for Cows?
Answer: The Jain philosophy does not discriminates in different animals and strictly prohibits killing and torture of all the birds and animals alike. In Jain religions cows do not enjoy any special status like in Hindus religion. In Hindu religion a very special status is offered to cows.
But that does not mean that cows are less sacred in Jain religion. Cows are emotionally close to the hearts of Hindus and Jains equally. We do not allow cows to be slaughtered. In fact several Jain institutions run cow shelters for non-milkable cows. For economic advantage dairy farms sell the non-milkable cows to slaughter houses. Often it is illegal. In several cities Jains have promoted institutions who are constantly watching illegal transport of cows to slaughterhouses. Justice Guman Mal Lodha and several other prominent Jains are engaged in cow protection programmes.
In Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra etc. hundreds of cow shelters are working to stop violence against cows. Pawapuri Jain temple at Sirohi district in Rajasthan is unique example of cow shelter. This temple holds almost ten thousand non-milkable cows and provide the best possible world class facilities for their existence. These cows are the ones which are caught during their illegal trafficking to slaughter houses.
The Jain religion does not encourage use of milk and considers the production process full of violence. The milk is drawn by injecting hormones. Moreover, economic greed of the dairy farms does not leave adequate quantity with the mother cow for its calf.
Our Foundation is spreading awareness amongst masses by educating people about the violence against all animals. We publish articles and news clippings regularly on violence against animals. On different occasions we have joined protest against animal cruelty in different world forums including PETA. Ahimsa Foundation also supports cow shelters in Rajasthan where hundred of stray unproductive cows are living.
Question: Do Jains use any cow products?
Answer: The question of using cow products does not arise as we are strictly against cruelty towards all the animals. Jains do not consume animal based products whether it is food or other products. Eggs are also strictly prohibited.
There is not much of awareness about the use of animal products in drugs, medicines and certain tinned food items and therefore it is possible that unknowingly we consume certain products which contains animal produce.
But it is also true that many Jains do not take religion very seriously in their day to day life and do use some of the animal products.
Question: As the western world believes that cows in (Hindu) India are sacred, how is that there are so many of them roaming through the streets and being neglected? Has the image of the "holy cow" been diminished in the modern, more and more westernized Indian society of today?
Answer: There is no controversy regarding the sacredness of cows in India. Cows enjoys a very-very special status in our minds. Often it is compared with mother. Both Hindus and Jains treat cows very affectionately even if they are on streets. Sometimes you can see cows roaming on Indian streets. This is mainly due to lack of financial resources with the owners. They are not able to feed their animal stock and therefore leave them loose to graze wherever possible. The problem is also due to their non-milking capability and end of their economic utility in terms of milk production. Even in these cases the Hindu and Jain owners do not sell them to slaughter houses but leave them. Although it is unfortunate but it is happening. To control and reduce this phenomena several NGOs are working on this issue and running cow shelters. In the vast country like India it is impossible to manage such large animal population but I must say that ninety five percent of our animal population is well taken care of inspite of economic limitations. I don't see any reason to accept the statement that in our country the image of holy cow is diminished.
I would definitely like to use this opportunity to spread the message of our tirhtankaras, our philosophy of non-violence in the western world. The consumption of vegetarian food will help us to reduce violence in our actions and mind. This will reduce killing of millions of innocent creatures around the world. It will improve the basic health, reduce diseases and favourably affect the wild life and natural environment.
It is certainly not possible that all the people in the world can be made vegetarian but even if we commit to avoid animal based food one day in a week, it will be a great beginning. It is possible to reduce use of leather shoes, purses, briefcases, jackets, gloves etc. and every effort will lead to a good Karma and better human life.
Coming to the cows it is medically settled that milk is not essential for health. People in the countries where milk products are consumed less are slimmer, healthier and less effected with cholesterol problems. Artificial insemination also contaminate the milk due to mixing of puss, hormones, pesticides, urea etc.
I would recommend people in India to follow south eastern countries like Indonesia, Japan, China etc. to use milk alternatives like tofu and soya milk and other soya based products. Soya based products not only offers the best alternative but are also rich with phytochemicals compounds like phyatate, phytostrols, isoflevins and genstine which are extremely helpful in preventing cancer cell growth and its cure.
Interview Date: 27.03.2004
Venue: 21, Skipper House, 9, Pusa Road, New Delhi - 110005, India
Interviewer: Ms. Margarete Blumel, Journalist, German Radio Station "Deutschlandfunk"
Engelskirchen / Colonge, Germany
Address: Rommersberg 12 / 51766 Engelskirchen
Phone / Fax: 00492263 - 481029