Below, please find my audio commentary on Lord Mahavira’s teaching to his disciples.
The principle of non-violence, ahimsa, is very strong in Jain teachings and greatly influences the tradition’s approach to ecology and the natural environment. Jains believe that every part of the universe is filled with living beings- a single drop of water contains three thousand living beings, all of whom want to live. Humans have no special right to supremacy; all things deserve to live and evolve as they can. Jains believe that to kill any living being has negative karmic effects.
Thus, Jains wear face masks, purify water, and adhere to strict vegetarian diets to avoid violence to other creatures. As people walk, they squash insects unknowingly. Even in breathing, Jains feel, people inhale tiny organisms and kill them. Jains avoid eating after sunset, so as not to inadvertently eat unseen insects who might have landed on the food, and some Jain ascetics wear a cloth over their mouth to avoid inhaling any living organisms.
Levels of life are determined by their degree of sensitivity. The highest group of beings are those with many senses, such as humans, gods, and animals. Lower forms have fewer senses. The “one-sensed” beings only have the sense of touch. They include plants, soil, minerals, stones, rivers, lakes, fire, lightening, and wind. Jains acknowledge the suffering of even one-sensed beings, not wanting to hurt them or cause them pain. Thus, Jains are strict vegetarians and treat everything with great care. In Delhi, Jain benefactors have established a hospital for sick and wounded birds. Jains also go to markets where live animals are bound with wire, packed into hot trucks, driven long distances without water, to be killed as meat. Jains buy these animals at any price and raise them in comfort. Even to kick a stone while walking is to injure a living being.