The Institute of Jainology’s ninth annual Ahimsa Day commemoration at the House of Commons, held on 12th October 2011 was a tremendous success. This annual event, sponsored by the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative ‘Parliamentary Friends of India’ groups, was attended by MPs, Ministers, Lords and the Jain community amongst others.
Ahimsa Day celebrates the central Jain tenet of ‘non-violence’ as a means to peace, positivity and prosperity, encouraging MPs, Lords and Ministers to discuss how current world issues can be considered from an alternative ‘compassionate’ perspective.
The focus of this year’s Ahimsa Day was Climate Change and the Contemporary World, a theme on the minds of many people around the world who are seeing first-hand the catastrophic effects of global warming. The setting was House of Commons Committee Room No 10.
Evening’s compère was Miss Avni Girish Mehta who after introducing herself requested Ms Palvi Shah to recite the auspicious Navkar mantra to start the evening.
Lord Dholakia, one of the most consistent supporter of the Ahimsa Day celebrations formally opened the evening to welcome the guests on behalf of the Lib-Dem Parliamentary Friends of India. He talked about his own vision of how the Jain philosophy of non violence applies to so many facets of the politics in both Houses. He also invited the Institute to use the facilities in House of Lords to host a similar event.
Lord Dholakia was followed by Mr Stephen Hammond MP of the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India and then by Mr Virendra Sharma MP representing Labour Parliamentary Friends of India. Mr Barry Gardiner MP an old friend of the Institute also wished a successful evening. Mr Gareth Thomas MP also took the opportunity to welcome many of his constituents who were present in the audience.
Mr Jaysukh Mehta, a Director of the Institute then welcomed the members of the audience on behalf of the Institute. He outlined the history of Ahimsa Day celebrations and how the Ahimsa Award had come about. He also listed the illustrious personalities who had been awarded the Ahimsa Award in the past.
Next to address the audience was the keynote speaker for the evening , Mr Phil Wynn Owen, the Director General for International Climate Change & Energy Efficiency in the Department of Energy & Climate Change [DECC]. He reminded us that even though we in the United Kingdom, contribute to less than 2% of the world’s carbon dioxide omissions, it is our duty to set an example and find ways of helping other countries, within the EU and elsewhere, to reduce their emissions and take active measures to slow down the pace of Climate Change. The inspiring speech about what we could do to make positive changes for the world of our children. Please click here for the full text of his speech.
Dr Mehool Sanghrajka, Director of Education at the Institute of Jainology responded with the Jain view on Climate Change and the Contemporary World. He reminded us of two basic premises of Lord Mahavira’s 2600 year old philosophy, perhaps the greatest environmentalist theory in our history:
- The earth is a living entity and we are interdependent. We should respect the right of all life to exist, and learn to live in harmony with it rather than exploiting it.
- The earth has enough resources for all. It is accumulation by the few that is the cause of the scarcity. We should learn to live within what we need.
- He explained that these two principles offer us all the solutions that we need to solve the problems that the world is facing, if we based our actions and thoughts on science rather than politics! Click here for the full transcript of his address.
Mr Mahesh Gosrani, a Director from the Institute announced Mr Nitin Mehta MBE as the recipient of 2011 Institute of Jainology Ahimsa Award. He then read out a citation outlining the reasons for the choice of his name. Mr Mehta’s selfless contribution to the causes of vegetarianism and compassion for animal life. As the founder of the Young Indian Vegetarians Society and an active resident of the Croydon Council, his efforts to promote Ahimsa were acknowledged by the Institute. The Board of Directors of the Institute of Jainology were unanimous in their choice of Nitin Mehta as the recipient of their prestigious award. Click here for the full transcript of the citation.
The memento for the Ahimsa Award 2011 was presented by lady Dholakia to Mr Nitin Mehta MBE on behalf of the Institute.
Nitin Mehta MBE expressed his pleasure and felt humbled that his name was included along with the illustrious names like Mr Nelson Mandela on the list of the recipients of Ahimsa Awards in the past. He also delivered his own message of why he supports vegetarianism and how the ecology of the earth is being damaged by eating non vegetarian diet. His full address is appended. Click here for full text of his speech .
Dr Harshad Sanghrajka then briefed the community members on the activities of the Institute over the past twelve months. Ms Palvi Shah was then invited to recite ‘Maitri Bhavnu Pavitra Zarnu (The Sacred Stream of Amity) composed by Pujya Chitrabhanu. She started with a brief explanation of what the ’12 Contemplations’ in Jain philosophy and then the significance of the poem she was about to recite. Click here for the poem and its explanation.
The evening was brought to a close by a short vote of thanks by Dr H Sanghrajka. This year’s celebration of Ahimsa Day proved to be a great success and only if a larger venue was available many more than those standing at the rear end of the Committee Room of House of Commons could have been seated comfortably.
We hope that the message of Ahimsa continues to reverberate in the House of Commons and keep its members alert to the benefits to be had by following it and also the dangers of ignoring it.