Ahimsa is a student group focused on representing Columbia University’s Jain community, as well as educating the Columbia population on Jainism. An ancient religion originating on the Indian subcontinent, Jainism contains principles of karma, dharma, reincarnation, moksha, and most notably, nonviolence. It is a monastic religion based upon the principles of peace, respect for all living things, truthfulness, and self-control. Ahimsa seeks to use these universal themes to encourage dialogue about Jainism, as well as educate the diverse Columbia population about Jain philosophy, culture, and tradition through lectures and discussions. By working together with other groups, we hope to facilitate discussions about the diversity amongst religions. Additionally, Ahimsa is engaged in celebrating Jain ideals through service in our surrounding community.
Jain practices center on five major vows: non-violence (Ahimsa), truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possession. The raised hand with a wheel on the palm signifies the Jain Vow of Ahimsa, and serves as a reminder that all individuals should stop to consider their actions. The wheel represents the dharmacakra, the Wheel of Dharma, signifying the endless cycle of reincarnation. The 24 spokes on the wheel represent the 24 Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers) whose teachings guide the way to spiritual liberation. One of the most important and celebrated figures in Jain history is Mahavir, the last of 24 Tirthankaras.
The cycle of reincarnation can be halted through the pursuit of truth and non-violence. The concept of non-violence is most apparent in the material world. Jains are not permitted to harm others, even small animals, and must observe strict vegetarian diets. The principle of non-violence is also applicable to the mind; one must conquer their anger, pride, jealousy, and all other negative emotion. This is done by accepting that all philosophies are part of one over-arching truth. By abandoning one's attachment to these worldly feelings, one releases one's self from the bonds of karma and is able to execute their thoughts and actions through a system of natural laws.
To learn more about Ahimsa, and Jainism, look out for our lectures, study breaks, and other events.