In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program
Youth explore the concept of ahimsa—nonviolence, or, doing no harm to any living being—and consider the trade-off we make in industrialized societies: casual harm for human convenience.
Share with participants that Jains are fervently committed to ahimsa. As far as possible, they do no harm to anything that lives. Display the Jain symbol (Leader Resource 3). Explain, in your own words:
The Jain symbol is a hand with a wheel and the word "ahimsa" in the palm, reminding Jains to be aware of the effect they have on their world. Jains practice radical mindfulness of all living things: humans, of course, but also animals (all kinds, mammals to bugs), plants, even microorganisms—anything they know to be alive.
Ask youth to stand up. Indicate two ends of a continuum: no harm at one end, great harm at the other. Tell them you will read a list of human actions that could affect other life, and you would like them to position themselves along the continuum to show how much harm they think is done by each action.
Read each item aloud. Give youth time to move, and then ask if they think that action would be all right to do: If the action is doing harm, would they nonetheless consider the actions justifiable? Why or why not? Would they feel bad about it? Would the amount of harm be different if they did the action, as opposed to someone else? Why or why not?
Stepping on a bug by accident
Stepping on a bug on purpose
Hitting a dog with your car
Eating root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots (destroying the plant)
Having an ill or aged pet put down by the veterinarian
Knocking down a hornets' nest
Swatting a mosquito on your arm
Treating your pet for fleas
Cutting down a tree that is in the way of building a house
Paving a parking lot
Treating your house for termites
Telling a lie
Wearing leather shoes
Pulling weeds from your yard
Treating a child for lice
Driving a car
Laughing at someone
Buying something wrapped in lots of packaging
Throwing away food
Buying more than you need or buying something you do not need
Eating more than your body needs
Downloading pirated music or software
Not helping someone when you can, even in small ways
Invite youth to return to their seats, and continue discussion:
Share with the group:
Jains take an oath to "Take nothing unless it is offered," either by a person or by the earth. Here is a partial list of what Jains will not do:
Kill an animal for food.
Pick fruit from a tree.
Eat any root vegetable.
Burn a fire at night.
Smack a mosquito.
Ask for youth's thoughts about the Jain commitment. Do they find it admirable? What purpose do they think it serves the individual practitioner? What purpose might it serve the earth and life on it?
Continue discussion with questions such as:
If any participant is unable to easily move along a physical continuum, have the youth show their answers another way, such as by raising two hands for "great harm," one hand for "some harm," and no hands for "no harm."
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Last updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2011.
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