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Tibetan Film Festival 2009, Bangalore (4th &5th July 2009)
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Published on 5 June 2008
Jeeva jaala comprises all animate and inanimate objects
Tej (fire), aap (water) and prithvi (earth) were formed of Helium/Oxygen gas. By the commingling of these three mahaabhootas (elements) was born all the animate and inanimate, and jeeva jaala. The animate and inanimate amalgamated in jeeva jaala. The five senses which causes the act of creation, has played a major role in the creation of jeeva jaala. A food chain has also come into existence with the jeeva jaala. When the links of the food chain began to come apart, the jeeva jaala began to break.
Basavanna argues in this vachana that plants, the principal part of the jeeva jaala which contains all animate and inanimate, also has life. Basavanna, thus shows the colossal nature of violence by pointing out that when the vegetarians feed themselves by killing plants, they also partake in violence. Basavanna was the first visionary to intuitively understand that even the plants have life. Jagadish Chandra Bose scientifically proved the same at the beginning of the 20th century.
Basavanna clearly says that nourishment in jeeva jaala depends upon violence. Basavanna’s saying that ‘only our Sharanas of Koodalasangama who wish well-being to all are good-caste people’ cannot be made sense of without referring to the food chain. We think good of a deer which survives on grass. But what is the mode of thinking good and wishing well-being to violent animals like cheetah, tiger or lion, which survive on deers? Actually, we have to wish well-being to all the animals which have accepted the food-chain. Sharanas of Koodalasangama get cleansed of their guilt of killing life to nourish themselves by offering everything to linga and receiving prasaada. Thus, Basavanna sensifies us about the presence of a food-chain.
Eskimo people live on seafood. Fishes are food that god has made available to them. If they offer them to god and then consume, they will be acquitted of the guilt of killing the fish. Therefore, nobody should question the food culture. Food is a personal matter. As such, Basavanna says thus: “butcher knife in the left hand, meat in the right hand, pot of toddy in the mouth, and god in the neck – KoodalasangamadevaI will call such a person a linga, I will call such people mukhalingi”.
While Basavanna says that the plants have life, Jainism says the contrary. Jainism divides the living beings into samsaaris and muktas. Samsaaris are further divided into samanaskas and amanaskas. Samanaskas have an intuitive sensory organ. The living beings that do not have sensory organs are amanaskas. Amanaskas are beings incapable of having a sign language. They are further divided into trasa and sthaavara. The former are animate. But, earth, water, fire, air and plants are sthaavaras, i.e., inanimate (pruthivyaptejo vaayuvanaspatayaha sthaavaraaha). Prathivyaadis and prathiveekaayas are not sthaavara/static beings, because they do not have life. According to Jaina darshana, these sthaavara beings contain only sensory organs; (pruthivyaadi pruthiveekaayaadayaha / teshaamajeevatvaat / the cha sthaavaraaha / sparshanaikeendriyaaha) says Saayana Maadhava’s, the 14th century text, Sarva-Darshana Sangraha. Therefore, Jainism does not consider vegetarianism as a violent act. But according to Basavanna, even vegetarianism is also a violent act. His vachanas are evidences for the fact that he does not differentiate dietary into vegetarianism and meat eating. Basavanna’s principal objection was against violence in yajna. Like Buddha, he also opposed the practice of sacrificing animals for yajnas. Buddha has not asked the bikkus to refuse to accept meat food in alms. Though Basavanna liked vegetarian food, he was clear that a person could not be deemed lower in the social status just for his dietetical choices.
A well-known scholar Dharmananda Kosambi in his book Bhagavaan Buddha has proved that Buddha and Mahavira were meat eaters. Sahitya Academy has published this book, along with the subsequent objections raised by the Jaina scholars to Kosambi’s arguments. Kosambi has cited from various Jaina texts to substantiate his arguments.
Jaina pundits have argued that the word kapota does not mean pigeon but kooshmaanda, which have similar colours like a pigeon. Kukkuta is not a hen, but a fruit, usually known by the name bijaura. The Jain pundits point out that the word maamsa means not just meat but also the kernel of fruit. This means that Jainism does not consider eating vegetables as a violent act, like Basavanna. This is because, according to Jainism, plants do not have life.
Animate and inanimate is part of jeeva jaala. This jeeva jaal is dependent on food chain. The entire food-chain, including the vegetarian food habit, is full of violence. Human beings cannot disrupt this chain and also maintain the balance in jeeva jaala. If a tiger is hungry, other animals have to lose their life to satisfy its hunger; and thereby maintain the balance in the jeeva jaala.
However, today, we are jeopardizing such a balance in jeeva jaala through deforestation, water pollution, air pollution, pollution of the entire earth, wars, genocides, and exploitation.
A Paris based Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, in 1999 declared in its Declaration of Human Responsibilities thus: “The planet earth is the only and unchangeable habitable place we have. Human being, with all his diversity, is part of this world and its evolution.”
Social and natural problems have increased today. Human being did not create life. Life is a mystery. It invigorates all that is alive. It makes possible the continuation of nature and human life through reproduction. And it makes possible a continuous relationship between nature and human life. Despite the presence of diversity, it is our collective aim to protect a right to life. A declaration based on this awareness, the Declaration of Human Responsibilities says, is truly universal in its spirit.
Therefore Declaration of Human Responsibilities is something which concerns to everything on earth, both visible, and invisible. The intention of the declaration is to make us aware of the fact that we have the responsibility of protecting, what we called, ‘everything’.
This fundamental responsibility contains the idea of providing space to every human community and living beings. Providing space to other living beings and human communities is part and parcel of the very act of protecting life.
This declaration is an important resolution of the 21st century. It is being discussed today in several places across the world, including India. This declaration expresses its regret that,
The world had not seen in the past such long lasting effects on various social, political, economic and cultural mode of living. Never before had it acquired such a huge amount of knowledge in such a small amount of time. Nor had it ever possessed such immense power capable of effecting a change in the atmosphere.
Despite possessing such diverse potentialities and despite the fact that as a result of the increasing inter-relationships several openings have come up, unforeseen crises are cropping up in several arenas. Economic gulf is increasing between the nations. The concentration of political and economic power in a few hands is marring the cultural diversity. The natural resources are being overused. This is causing unrest and confrontation across the world. A concern about the future of this world is on the increase because of such a distressing condition.
Basavanna had warned us in the 12th century that, if we do not conserve the balance in jeeva jaala, human life would become a catastrophe.
Thus Basavanna expresses the importance of conserving the balance in jeeva jaala.
Koodalasangama is the only god (one god several names) who looks after the world. He has set up a mammoth grocery on earth. He is responsible for utpatti (the production), sthiti (present condition) and laya (the final destination) status of all animate and inanimate. Laya does not mean (as it is usually understood) a violent termination. It is the status of culmination reached at then end of an organized evolution. When human being interferes in the regular functioning of utpatti, sthiti, and laya the jeeva jaala loses its healthy balance. Destruction of forest at-will, pollution of the rivers and the entire atmosphere destroys the nature, imperiling the life of all the living beings, in consequence. As Gandhi said, the earth can satisfy all our desires, but not greed.
The whole world is meant for god’s enterprise, and not for human ravaging. Therefore, Basavann calls god a Setti. The Setti who is there for trading speaks if there is ommana, not if there is immana. Ommana means both one opinion (unanimity), and four measures. And, immana means differences (or discrimination), and eight measures. A use of the nature with a humane ommana and as per our necessity (just four measures) will not affect the balance of the jeeva jaala. A discriminatory overuse (eight measures) of the nature will cause an imbalance in the jeeva jaala, which will result in a destruction of everything. Unanimity will sensitize us about our necessities. A discriminatory attitude, on the contrary, will lead to greediness. Therefore, god always pays attention to those who have ommana(ssu), and neglects those with immana(ssu). This applies to both physical and spiritual world, alike. God does not lose even a penny. His business of maintaining the balance in the nature is clean and precise.
It is important to maintain a balance in all our enterprises on this earth. It is a lack of this sense of balance that leads to wars. And genocides. And communal riots. And the rift valleys of discriminatory hierarchies. Forests will turn into desserts. Growing holes in the ozone layer will make the life on earth impossible.
Therefore, the awareness about the nature that Basavanna shows when he says that Koodalasanagamadeva has a good weighing machine of worldly-endeavour may even surprise the 21st century activists fighting for the protection of nature.
(Trans. Dunkin Jalki)
[More about Ramjan Darga and his writing here ]
 (This and all the subsequent footnotes are translator’s notes.) Jeeva jaala literally means a network of life, or sap of life. This word, which cannot be adequately translated in English, refers to the entire living organisms, including plants found on earth. I have retained the Kannada word in the essay.
 Prasaada is portion or the whole of something that has been offered first to god, and then used by human beings
 We can roughly translate sharana as a follower of the Veerashaiva tradition.