The credit of initiating this outlook and way f life certainly goes to Lord Rishbha of hoary antiquity, who was the first Shramana Tirthankara, the first teacher of man and harbinger of human civilization on this earth. The twemtythree Tirthankaras who succeeded him, one after the other, down to Lord Mahavira, the last in the series, practiced and propagated, in their times, Appostle creed of peaceful existence. All these Tirthankaras were the greatest apostles of Ahimsa, whose compassion knew no bounds to the animal kingdom, so poignantly manifest in their insistence on total abstention from using meat, fish or eggs as food and from hunting, poaching or fishing as sport. The concern and compassion for animal life rings out from every chapter and verse of their lives
Aristanemi, the 22nd Tirthankara and a cousin of Lord Krishna of Mahabharta fame, could not bear the sight of wailing beasts and birds collected penned to be slaughtered for the wedding feast. He leapt down from his chariot, set the poor animals free, and was so disgusted at the brutal ways of men that he at once renounced the world and repaired to Mount Girnar to practice penance.
Parshvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara who lived in the 9th Century B.C., saved the life of a couple serpents which were being burnt down by some Tapasis, along-with the logs of wood, and he relentlessly preached against killing animals for religious purposes or in ascetic practices.
Lord Mahavira himself, while yet a boy, easily tamed wild elephants and terrible serpents, simply because he envinced love and compassion for them. During his ascetic life, he roamed about dense forests, and all the wild beasts, birds and reptiles befriended him. Non of them tried to hurt him, nor did they feel any fear in or by his presence. Tiger and deer, cat and mouse, mongoose and snake, hawk and sparrow-all forgetting their natural animosity fore one another, played freely about the saint, sitting or standing there in meditation. The awefully venomous reptile Chandkaushika, a terror to the entire countryside, was cowed down into submission by the friendly touch of the saint. Mahavira was the greatest Ahayadani he himself was fearless and made everybody fearless, unstintingly giving the gift of life (assurance to live) to every living being.
With Mahavira, Ahimsa was a creed and a living faith. It is the key note entire ethical system and in effect it means abstaining from hurting the feelings of, or killing, wounding, torturing or confining any living being, or depriving it of food, water, etc. intentionally, wantonly, carelessly or negligently, by oneself, or through the agency of some other person, or even by commending such an act of commission or omission committed by any body else. Verily, the first condition for being initiated into Mahavira’s Order even as a lay aspirant is the giving up of meat-eating, drinking, gambling, thieving or robbing, hunting, fornication, prostitution, lying and grabbing. Those, he declared, were already sins to be shun and forsaken.