Do your duty and do it as
humanely as you can- this, in brief,
is the primary principle of Jainism
Vilas A. Sangare
When it comes to providing shelter and medical aid to the needy and injured, the Jainas do not distinguish between humans and animals. The first European travellers in India were astonished at the sight of houses for sick animals. These nursing homes for birds and animals called panjarapolas, maintained by donations, still exist. Their exact number is not known; in Gujarat alone there are about sixty-five of them.
“The last of the five main vows,” writes Vilas A. Sangave in his Jaina Community (p. 219/20), “is noteworthy as it indirectly aims at economic equalisation by peace- fully preventing undue accumulation of capital in individual hands. It recommends that a householder should fix, beforehand, the limit of his maximum belongings, and should, in no case, exceed it.
If he ever happens to earn more than that, he must spend it away in charities, the best and recognised forms of which are distribution of medicines, spread of knowledge, provision for saving the lives of people in danger, and feeding the hungry and the poor.
Obviously, these vows are of great social value as they accord a religious sanction to some of the most important public and private interests and rights which are, in modern times, safeguarded by the laws of the state.”
The observations and photographs featured in this chapter have not been made and taken by way of a subsidized research project on the practice of charity in Jainism. No such project, it seems, has yet been conducted.
The following photos and observations simply illustrate what an open-minded and open-eyed’ visitor to the religion of non-violence is likely to encounter, be it in a lane in Old Delhi (ill. 196) or outside the gate to a solitary old Jaina temple somewhere in Uttar Pradesh (see overleaf).
Fa-Hien, a Chinese Buddhist who visited India at the beginning of the fifth century of our era was astonished at the free hospitals and other charitable institutions be noticed. In his journal, translated by James Legge (Indian Literature. p. 336), he recorded, “Throughout the whole country the people do not kill any living creature, nor cat onions or garlic.” These remarks rather point to Jaina than to Buddhist influence upon the people.