Practice Nonviolent Communication

meets every Monday

7:30 pm - 9 pm.


Regents Park Apartments

5050 S Lake Shore Dr. Chicago, IL

A Chapter on Meditation written by Dr. Hema Pokharna
Health is the proper relationship between the microcosm,
which is man and the macrocosm,
which is the universe.
Disease is a disruption of this relationship.
When health is absent
Wisdom cannot reveal itself,
Love cannot become manifest,
Strength cannot be exerted,
Wealth is useless and
Reason is powerless.
- Herophilies; 300 B.C
In our present state of violence and woundedness which has gradually evolved, our only choice now is 'non-violence or non-existence'. According to Jainism non-violence is the highest virtue. As a Jain Indian woman and scientist now in America, here I share my explorations and existential convictions of non-violent ways and skills that lead to connectedness and healing. Meditation is the tool to recognize and revere the inter-relatedness of the life force in our selves and other living beings.


I was born in Poona, Maharashtra-India, the 6th child and 3rd female. I grew up in a family with ancestors on both sides of Jain religious heritage. My forefathers were from Rajasthan and my grandfather had immigrated to the southern Maharastra. They were all business people. As far as I know none of my ancestors was an academic achiever-scholar or a doctor. Life was simple and content for the most part.

When I was sixteen, my mother died very suddenly, leaving behind a motherless family. Her sudden death was both a surprise and shock. Due to infection she would vomit a lot so she was admitted to the hospital, where she was well taken care of. She was about to be released from the hospital when her symptoms recurred. It was during this time that I witnessed my dad holding my mother's hand and chanting the Namokar mantra*.

Jain nuns were also invited to give blessings to my mother; they also chanted the Namokar mantra along with other mantras. Although I chanted the Namokar mantra every morning and at bedtime as a family norm, seeing my dad and the nuns chant at this moment had a whole different meaning. I remember chanting day and night praying for my mom's recovery. She died in a couple of days. This was my first encounter with death. My mother was a very kind and loving woman, piously dedicated to her family. This was the family's first major loss and we missed mom a lot. For the first time I saw my father and older siblings cry profusely.

According to the traditions, on the third day we were taken to the Jain monks for consolation and advised to stop mourning and return to daily life. It was then I remember very distinctly that Shree Acharya Anandrishiji Maharaja looked most compassionately at each of us, as if drinking up all the sorrow we were in. The memories of his compassionate look and caring words still bring peace to me. The whole family was ordained as his disciples and he became our Spiritual Guru. We were given certain vows and revised instructions on being Jains. I remember returning with a sense of strength; there were smiles on our faces and a renewed sense of bonding. The power of the Guru was an aid in the healing process because the guru was a powerful and spiritually evolved being.

This was my first memorable and intimate encounter with the Jain guru, after which we visited him and other Jain nuns and monks (saints) for darshan* and discourses on several occasions.It has been interesting to learn how one's relationship with a more spiritually powerful being can bring healing just by remembering his presence long after my Guru's death.

The death of my mother was a major turning point in my life. The sense of being a child, a youngster was lost. I suddenly felt much older and mature, self reliant and self confident. I thought of myself as a person who could make things happen. I was suddenly the responsible child in the family. I had the notion that I could remove every one's pain.

The family was held together by a determined father with a reputation for uncommon sense and a great respect for education. He encouraged and provided each one of us siblings opportunities to obtain advanced professional degrees. Jain education and spiritual practices were equally encouraged and demonstrated by him.


Over the years I have understood Jainism to be about abstaining from violence as a way of life and to extend love and respect toward all forms of life. Non-injury from a very cellular level to a global level in words, thoughts and action based on self-restraint. Every form of life is revered and encouraged and allowed to live; the Jain motto being 'Live and Let Live'.

Growing up in a classical Jain environment, I was among Jain saints who practiced nonviolence and asceticism, to extreme limits. For example, they covered their mouth with a fine cloth mask to ensure that they did not involuntarily "kill" any living organism in the air around them while breathing. They carried a cotton broom called Ogha with which they cleared their path before stepping forward.

Other classical Jain ways included no use of electrical energy. Most of the activities like dinner were taken care of before sunset to avoid harming any living thing that may not be visible in the dark. Most of the saints practiced silence and performed evening meditation called pratikraman, which is a time and ritual for reflection and confession, considered an essential form of self care.

Growing up I enjoyed being in the company of the nuns and monks. I travelled with them on foot. I served them by inviting them for food, running small errands for them and helping them learn english. These were my ways of enjoying their company and guidance. I relished being in their company and witnessing their way of compassion towards life. I very much liked their white clothing and their equinamity. Both the monks and the nuns had a special liking for me. Many would be eager to teach me different mantras and shlokas or simply hand me a rosary and have me repeat Namokar Mantra and other Jain prayers. While I recited my mantras on the rosary I was to breathe with awareness and concentration.

At the monastary the saints encouraged me to practice the Jain form of meditation called Samayika. Samayika is an exercise in attaining equanimity, in which the individual engages with the true self through increasing detachment from all external objects and passions. The detachment entails a temporary renunciation of all possessions before sitting in meditation. The ritual included forgiving, and begging forgiveness of, the entire world of beings. Sometimes Samayika was performed in the form of silent meditation; it could also be performed while studying a religious text, repeating sacred phrases (mantra) or hymns or listening to a sermon.

As a part of this ritual, different Jain prayers were recited. Meri Bhavana was one of the prayers and has been one of my favorite prayer. Its essence is:

May I be friendly towards all beings,

May I delight in the qualities of the virtuous ones,

May I practice utmost compassion for afflicted beings,

May I be equinamous towards those who are not well- disposed towards me.

May my soul have such dispositions as these forever.

I learnt Jains are the followers of "Jina". Jina are spiritual victors-human teachers who have attained infinite knowledge and professed that there is eternal liberation (moksha) from worldly suffering after the bonds of spiritual ignorance are broken. The very word Jain is derived from jina, meaning conqueror. Conquest over ones passions was the goal in life. Particularly important are anger, pride, deceit and greed. Since these are sources resulting from individual and collective violence in thought, word and action, these are the most dangerous enemies of personal and world peace. Jains live by the theme of self-conquest which is supremely important to them. I learnt that Mahavira, although usually accepted as the founder of the faith in the context of history, is said to be the last of a line of 24 Jina. All of them are said to have attained perfect wisdom (Kaivalya) by vanquishing their desires and breaking their bonds with the material world. The Jinas are known as Tirthankara ("crossing-makers"). The "crossing" refers to the passage from the material to the spiritual realm, from bondage to freedom.

According to Jainism there is no personal God which is assumed by most religions, nor a single impersonal absolute reality. Jainism does not believe in a creator-God, that controls the destinies of men. Man is not dependent on any external force. Jainism emphasises that one's karma or actions alone are responsible for one's bondage. It regards each living being as an independent jiva (soul). The fundamental principle of life is based on the fact that there exists a spiritual and physical symbiosis and that cause and effect have profound impact on life. The Jain path of purification to liberate oneself is by choosing the right Faith, acquiring the right Knowledge and finally observing the right Conduct.

One of the important aspects of Jainism is the concept of anekaantvaad, or the principle of plurality of viewpoints. It is central to the ideas of tolerance and mutual respect. And that each person has a perception of the world which is a mixture of truth and ignorance. All perceptions are valid but incomplete views of reality. This concept was usually explained with the aid of the parable of seven blind men and an elephant* . Demonstrating that truth can be visualized from seven angles and are mere additions to the human knowledge. When viewed together, they present the picture of universal reality. I recently read that Mahatma Gandhi agreed with this, saying, "It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know we are both right from our respective points of view."


Practising Jainism meant undertaking religious practices involving various self-imposed restraints while adhering to the commitment to nonviolence. Eating vegetarian meals is the norm, as is also following a life long code of conduct which is spelled out negatively as the rejection of falsehood, theft, lust, greed and violence. The highest virtue is the total abjuration of any thought or action which can hurt a living being.

We as Jains observed a very special annual rite called Samvastsari. This is the last of the eight day period known as Paryusana-parva during which we abstained from various foods, and activities to minimize violence and spend time in meditation re-examining our actions over the year. We also would go through confessions and admissions of any wrong doings accompanying pleas for forgiveness to both family and friends and extending forgiveness to all beings. Much of the time was spent practicing different forms of meditation, chanting or reading religious books for all eight days.

Teachings of peace, love and forgiveness were instilled in me both at home and at the convent school where I was educated. Since we lived in a small apartment, collecting or accumulating possessions beyond what was needed was not practical. Non-accumulation or possession beyond immediate need is another Jain norm.

So living by the basic tenants of Jainism: non-violence, truth, non-possession, non-stealing, and celibacy, was very easy for the most part while I was growing up. Being the second youngest in the family, I was taken care of by my older siblings and father. There was another Jain family norm to tolerate pain and inconvenience in life. Anger had no obvious place. The feeling of brotherhood, the spirit of sharing with others and the quality of self reliance were the values to be cultivated and nourished. Needs and desires beyond the basics were not to be fulfilled. Education was the top priority. Life was easy.


In 1985 I left for the US to pursue doctoral studies in biochemistry. I was thousands of miles away from home and family. This was a critical phase of my development-I was

being challenged to change structures and my way of life. I found myself in the midst of a cultural milieu which provided little in the way of reinforcement for a non-violent way of life. My major culture shock included the prevalence of sex and violence. I was surrounded by people and places where meat eating was a way of life. In India I had never been at a table where meat was served or eaten.

I was surrounded by material abundance leading to wastage or accumulation. My first day at the graduate assistant meeting I was shocked when the supervisor threw a bundle of white paper in the trashcan because of a typographical error. In India we never threw paper in the trash not even the newspaper. It was recycled by taking it back to places where it was taken in exchange for money.

I was to establish a sense of personal identity. I missed home. I missed family, I missed being taken care of by my siblings. I missed friends and I missed the sense of belonging, a sense of connection. Over a year things got a little comfortable. I was sharing an apartment with two other Indian room mates. I met several others like myself who had come from different countries and were in search of community and sense of belonging. I had company in my sense of being lost.

Being brought up with the Jain teachings, I was aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption and how important it was to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family and my society by mindful eating, drinking and consuming. The Jain upbringing had me determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or foods derived from animals. Much of the practices helped me to keep away from TV programs, books, films and conversations that would damage my body or consciousness.

I became a high-achiever. I looked very successful in the eyes of the world. I was a doer-a master of planning and control. To me, to be successful in the US meant to jump through a series of hoops to achieve financial security, professional achievement and material well being. The pace and style of life and lack of time bred separation, not only from others, but also from myself. My life appeared to be an endless treadmill. I was good at being productive and efficient but always felt stressed, tired and caught in a way of living that left no space to breathe.


In 1988 I went to a Jain celebration in Cleveland. Acharya Sushil Muniji was the keynote speaker. He was known to me for his unprecedented and highly controversial international tour: although Jain monks and nuns are permitted to travel solely by foot Acharya Sushil Muniji had recognized the wisdom in breaking from this ancient restraint in order to share Lord Mahavir's message of non-violence, peace and oneness of all living beings with the world at large. In his presentation he emphasized that living as Jains meant living to our full potential with humility and simplicity. He challenged everyone to reassess their understanding of life and the way they lived. Living as Jains is a way of life of consciousness and compassion. Jains are people who wish to create the future in partnership with nature. His essential message that night was that the only way of healing and restoration of peace in the violence torn world was by non-violence.

He emphasized the healing effects of the Namokar mantra4, and said that the Namokar mantra is the basic mantra for healing of mind, body and spirit in a combination of color, breathing, sound and inner body systems. He explained that the Mantra represented five colors: white, red, yellow or orange, green or blue, and black. And that the mantra repetition with color visualization is a very healing practise. He further explained how the mantra helps to awaken the energy stored at the base of the spine. Subtle breath or prana is constantly produced at this center, and with the help of the mantra its quantity and force can be increased. He led us through a long meditation keeping us aware of our breathing process. This is a form of yoga called pranayama which focuses on the regulation of the breath. Pranayama literally means regulation or control of prana, the life force. He said "Mind, body and breath should move together. Focus your mind and do one work at a time. This is meditation".

I had the good fortune of being in the company of a Jain monk after several years. I came out of the meditation refreshed and renewed, with a sense of being whole and at home. A new life, and a new awareness had been awakened once more in me. Meditation had a healing effect on me. After that meeting I had several occasions to study and meditate under his guidance. I relearned much about Jainism, yoga and meditation as tools to increase the power of the mind and body, and to create a state of well-being and inner peace. He became my guru in the US.

It was interesting to be aware that all the technological progress we are after contributes to the achievement of fundamental freedoms in society. Einstein's writing put more light to this awareness "Man should not have to work for the achievement of necessities of life to such an extent that he has neither time nor strength for personal activities... Advances in technology would provide the possibility of this kind of freedom.. The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit in general requires still another kind of freedom,... Only if outward and inner freedom are constantly and consciously pursued is there a possibility of spiritual development and perfection and thus improving man's outward and inner life."5


When I had completed all my course work as a graduate student, I went on to research on wound healing, a continuation of my interest in wound healing from India. I was involved with testing the biocompatibility of polymers which were being designed as dressing materials for wounds. This involved harvesting and culturing macrophages from mice peritoneum and stimulating these with polymers. All along I was uneasily aware that doing research with animals was not congruent with the Jain principles of reverence for life. My work was now being supervised by my Ph.D advisor for whom I had developed great respect because of the compassion and caring he extended to the struggles of international students. With him I was able to discuss my internal turmoil and come to an arrangement of having a technician do the animal sacrifice for me. This was still violence in disguise for me and continues to be a personal and an ethical dilemma.

Being Jain and aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I took this time to re-examine and re-evaluate the principles of nonviolence and vowed to cultivate compassion and was determined not to kill, and not to condone acts of killing, both in my thinking and actions.

Not long thereafter, with encouragement and support from my advisor I enrolled in a course on alternatives to violence*. My advisor's support and the course have been a great help and influence during my early struggles in living a nonviolent lifestyle in the West.

Upon completion of the Ph.D. program, I received a postdoctoral fellowship at Case Western Reserve University. By then I had a certain light hearted attitude towards life and research. I was to work on a research hypothesis which I had designed as a graduate student. I was very excited about the research project. With good fortune I was in a position to collaborate with a skillful biochemist and an excellent researcher whose guidance I very much wanted, yet in one of our discussions he was so frustrated that he said "are you sure you have a Ph.D, you don't seem to be bright". I felt very sad and scared because I was considered to be a good scientist and productive researcher, so far. My identity was in jeopardy. In that moment I considered myself a failure since he was a very reknowned scientist; his words were the truth to me. This was a very painful experience. After spending three hours of crying and breathing I returned to his office renewed with compassion and said "Can I spend a few moments in your luminous presence so that I can brighten myself". By then I think he was aware of what had happened and was very kind to me ever after. Particularly rewarding at this time was the reminder to breathe. At this point I found and understood that the best antidote to any violence was to breathe. This has been one of the most exciting and major turning points in my development. Toward the end of the fellowship we had published three papers together. And my continued association with him has meant a great deal to me. After that day, my "Ph.D" stood for "Psychologically healthy and Delightful".

In those three hours of breathing, I was aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and inability to listen to others. I affirmed my own convictions to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to my fellow beings and relieve them of their sufferings if possible. After understanding that words can create happiness or suffering I am now much more conscious to learn ways to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self confidence, joy, and hope. The principle of nonviolence had a newer and much deeper meaning.

The time spent to breathe and cry was the time I allowed myself to stop and get the benefit of experiencing and reacting with freshness, taking time to remove any prejudice and restriction. This to me was meditation in its own form. Making time to meditate on a regular basis as a regular practice has made it easy to take time in moments of conflict and confusion. This approach gives meaning to my own reactions at a greater depth. By my practice, I am encouraged and assured to break free from denial, excercise free will and operate on beneficial beliefs and enhance the feel for my inner self and wisdom. Meditation has served me as a tool to sense renewed empowerment. The centering of myself in the midst of life's stresses and uncertainties rebalances my body's vital energies. This is the process of re-establishing inner peace or connecting with self.

I grew up in an environment with the best of Jainism, Christianity and Hinduism, but when I came to the US, none of the teachings at first seemed to apply to my day to day life. I had to feel my way through explosive situations, and out of these experiences, I became more and more convinced of the healing power and usefulness of nonviolence-Ahimsa.

Mahatma Gandhi stumbled upon nonviolence when he himself was not a pacifist at heart. As a poor lawyer in South Africa he suffered certain indignities and saw other human begins suffer indignities, so he set out to correct these sufferings. He did not start out with a developed philosophy but gradually created his original way of life. Ahimsa paramo dharma: "Nonviolence is the supreme religion"-this Jain motto was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi bringing much healing to the world. We must endeavor to practice ahimsa to the best of our abilities and understand it through our own experiences.

CONNECTING WITH SELF Jainism's paramount emphasis has been on inner peace, self discipline and non-violent ways of life in action, speech and thought. And it believes that a core wisdom, an inner knowing, is inherent to human nature. According to Jain teachings, violence and suffering are the result of disconnectedness from the knowledge of who we are. Man is ill because he cannot sit still. Indeed there is scientific evidence that disconnectedness in life impairs both the mind and body (6-7).

It is only through outward expression in action that the inner self can be known. It is when we feel connected with our self that energy flows through us abundantly; we feel truly alive, potent, excited, fulfilled, absorbed; we experience life in the moment. This is the creative life force flowing through us. At these moments we begin to recognize that the same force flows through all life forms. We sense the unity, the connection of all life.

Hippocrates has said that the natural force within each one of us is the greatest healer of disease.

Connecting with self means connecting with our inner wisdom; being congruent with our own feelings and values. One of the ancient techniques of getting in touch with our inner wisdom is meditation. This involves a systematic practice of mental habits that reduce painful mind states, encouraging us to exchange anger for forgiveness, fear for love and curse for blessing.

Meditation is used here to describe a number of different uses of the mind, from concentration on breath, contemplation and concentration to devotion and chanting. The word itself is probably derived from the same root as the Latin word 'mederi' meaning 'to heal', and meditation can certainly be looked at as a healing process, both emotionally and mentally and to a certain extent physically too.

The word "heal" comes from the Indo-European root "to make whole". Thus anything that promotes a sense of connectedness is healing. In other words healing is the restoration of our wholeness of mind, body and spirit. Anything that promotes a sense of isolation may lead to dis-ease. Science is also now beginning to prove what the ancient mystics and yogis have experienced through the ages concerning the latent powers in man. Scientists, parapsycologists and occultists have experimented extensively, proving the validity of mental telepathy, E.S.P., existence of the aura and etheric body, color therapy, psychic healing and more. Tests have shown how the state of mind affects physical health. Vegetarianism and natural foods, relaxation meditation and yoga have proved to increase the productivity of the mind and body, and to create a state of well-being and inner peace.

Regular practice of meditation is to allow ourselves time for compassionate alternatives to arise from the heart which will have long lasting consequences versus immediate solutions. Buddha in his teachings also emphasised the importance of just standing in the face of confusion. This is not about passivisity but about reaching down to our inner core for direction and strength. It does take great courage, commitment, and vigilance to live in accord with the doctrine of nonviolence in a culture whose values are antithetical to this compassionate ethic of noninjury.


There is a story of a man in search of truth, who once came to a master to ask for instruction. "Where are the gates of heaven and where are the gates of hell?" inquired the man. "Now why would a scurvy knave like yourself be asking such a question?" replied the master. In a flash of rage the man drew his sword. "Here open the gates of hell," remarked the master. At these words, perceiving the master's discipline, the man sheathed his sword. "Now open the gates of heaven," observed his teacher.

Meditation can be used as the key to find steadiness in our choice of nonviolence over violence in our mind. It proves instrumental in the process of winning the inner negotiation-with fears, greed, insecurities and vanities knowing success in any endeavor in the outer realm depends upon this anyways. Being able to stop and breathe and take a moment to take a second quiet look at the situation helps to connect with our inner core which is the source and base of our inner wisdom. That is why you relax to meditate not meditate to relax. Meditation is about awareness expansion.

The following is a model illustrating how to be at peace within and without, developed with the help of Kent Haines, a friend, who has been a wittness and a mentor in my struggles to put my knowledge and understanding of Jainism and meditation to practical use in daily life conflicts. The most important thing he taught me both by instruction and by example, was how to be at peace within and how the inner peace then manifests itself outside. I shall always be grateful for his kindness and patience. He has a wide knowledge of pshycology and spirituality, which I admire and use but have not yet been able to emulate.

The model illustrates a simple choice between two pathways.

"Road more travelled" is the road which leads to violence, the path due to our actions which arise out of instant reactions. The alternative path is the road which is less travelled. It is the path of nonviolence.


According to Jainism life is all whole and complete yet is ever changing. There is no beginning or end, only a constant cycling and recycling of substances and experiences. Life is full of new and fresh moments and never static, giving us the power to create our own circumstances. With right knowledge, right faith and right conduct we know that we have choice in every action and that every moment is a new beginning point which is in the here and now.

According to the model in a state of unrest or dis-ease, (dis-ease is referred to a state of our mind of confusion, restlessness and conflict), or in other words, any situation that upsets you-unmet needs, expectations, disappointments, broken commitments, and several others which could be the cause of violence and suffering-can be seen as an opportunity for profound learning. This can be described as the state of emptiness8 which is made up of many feelings. Emptiness is the first reaction to the stimulus of injury. The stimulus can be any agent, action or condition that will provoke emotional upset inside a person. After emptiness comes the feeling of hurt, a wave of pain, suffering,or distress. Then comes the emotional upset or anger and the reaction. When we are not at peace about something and our reactions reflect judgmentalness, self righteousness, dominance, one-upmanship, selfishness, accumulation of power, this is an indication that we have by-passed emptiness and chosen the road more travelled. Taking time to stop and breathe in the emptiness long enough we may give ourselves the choice of reacting out of love or in ways that nurture emotional and spiritual growth. The act of connecting with self becomes a tool for learning in the midst of upsetting situations. This is the point when we can use our internal wisdom or internal sources of spiritual energy to transform, protect and conserve life. Also as we learn to become comfortable and accept our own internal self, we become more accepting of the other.

Mahatma Gandhi said that his only weapon against violence was a mute prayer. Probably he meant being with the emptiness in the face of violence. Since every living thing has a divine spark, an image of God, getting in touch with self means being in touch with the God within ourself. This is the prayer which heals.

The approach of sitting still has been advocated since ancient times. Buddha sat still under a tree. Jesus sat still in a garden, Mohammed sat sit in a cave, and Gandhi and King and thousands of others have brought sitting still to perfection as a powerful tool of social change. They became the light of the world as they brought themselves to a state of consciousness. Their presence and memory is like a rock in our community, a rock of Silence exuding peace. Beautiful things might happen if enough people did this on a regular basis making it a way of living. The choice point of taking the path of emptiness over emotional upset is fear. The ability to be in emptiness is letting go of fear, in a way that you move through the fear making contact and containing the fear. It is in this letting go of fear that love arises. At any point where we are functioning out of fear, where we may be feeling very angry, critical, and disapproving of the situation. This is the path which is more commonly followed or the one with an attachment to our desires. In this choice we hold back, we become closed to learning, and our ability to love is not available in the moment.

The other path is the path of non-attachment and often leads to a more objective view of self-even when those actions create fears and discomfort. Non-attachment is not about disengaging, an illusion that I will not feel anything and that I will be insulated and safe. Non-attachment is being fully engaged in the Gestalt psychology sense of 'contact', and not being blown around by whats going on in the environment, but being mindful and making choices which are life enhancing and life enriching. On this path you choose to go into the state of emotional emptiness which is the price you pay for change or an outcome of love, peace and healing. This is the path on which you bring God into being. Once you experience what is emptiness and learn to be in it, you continue to have that ability to choose emptiness. Being on this path becomes comfortable and to some extent easy with practice and much consciousness of self. Because it takes time to turn our insights and awarenesses into behaviors, and to actually embody nonviolence we need to organize quiet spaces in our daily life. The regular quiet and reflective time helps the integration of what we already know at a deeper level into our daily ways of being. Travel on this path is additive or spiral rather than linear.

Being in emptiness is going into the unknown. We do not need any deep metaphysics but to come to an understanding the simple little truth that the still small Voice is the power that destroys the illusions of this world, as Goldsmith9 describes.

Being in emptiness is a feeling process, being in contact with the pleasant and the unpleasant feelings. It is an act of being engaged but not attached. Non-attachment is being open to the infinite possibilities, noticing our will and intent to control the outcome, being in emptiness then means to be able to override this need to control or let go of the attachment to the outcome. Its being with self as an on going experience in the present, whatever that is. Even with its unpleasantness, it proves to be nourishing. Any judging or comparing in thinking in these moments of emptiness rejects and takes you from yourself. Making a regular time to meditate when you practice being in the present moment and experience the firm support, the balance, the center of ongoing, changing experience makes choosing emptiness in moments of conflict possible.

Choosing emptiness is a process of centering where you act with integrity and harmony. It is to simply observe and be open and allow ourselves to that which is natural, harmonious, and appropriate. It is being in the space of the spirit. Its a way of getting to know self, both who I am 'inside' and how I react to what is 'outside'. By being in the emptiness I discover a very different 'me' to perhaps the stressed and troubled person that seems to be my superficial nature. As self-awareness and the clear communication with the self improve, creative problem-solving skills also increase. It takes much courage to inspect the inside and find things that you think are bad. Getting in touch with the stillness inside is a way to remember that you are more than just your thoughts and reactions-rather you enlarge yourself to include everything. You start to see yourself separate from the struggle and experience a harmonious connection between ourselves, our planet and a Higher self or the God within.

Being in emptiness can be likened to that of being in the "focusing attitude" which is described by Gendlin10 as, 'An attitude of being gentle and friendly to whatever is there. Allowing, waiting, being with. The opposite of controlling, pushing forcing, judging, criticizing. More important than the technique. A quiet, listening presence to our inside places that allows them to speak and tell their story. Creates a "Safe Place" inside where hurts can speak and give meaning.

Finally what the world really needs is healing and regeneration. Celebrating the gift of life we all share. Untill the very recent past healing has been considered largely the prerogative of the medical profession. However, in recent years, several religious institutions in the West have turned their attention to the idea that healing of mind, body, and personal relationships is as much a function of religious institutions as of the doctor's office. This looks like an age when science is growing closer to religion and spirituality.


In conclusion, growing up with Jain heritage and environment, has meant learning practical and ethical tools for living a restrained, tolerant and non-violent life. Jainism has taught me that all life is sacred, and that every living being has a special place in the universe: parasparopagrapho jivanam -meaning that all life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence.

As a scientist, I know that a cell is the basic unit of life, and that DNA/chromosomes carry a similar inner knowing. Several cells come together to form tissue, several tissues form organs and several organs together form a human body functioning on the basis of interdependence and connectedness. Similarly, each human is a basic unit in the body of humanity. All of us live in organizations called families, which together form communities, these together form nations, several nations together, we have the world. From the very basic level to the global level it is each single human being that contributes to the the communities well-being and in turn are sustained by it. The interrelationship between communities and the environment plays an important role in our survival. One's health and well being are dependendent on others. If we want a peaceful world, we must start with becoming peaceful ourselves. As we ourselves become more healthy and more alive, each of us will set in motion a ripple that affects others.



1. Glimpses of Jainism by S. C.Diwaker, Jain Mitra Mandal, Delhi, India 1964.

2. That which is by Umaswati, translated by Nathmal Tatia, edited by Kerry Brown and Sima Sharma, HarperCollins Publishers. USA 1994.

3. The Jaina Path of Purification by Padmanabh S. Jaini, University of California Press, 1979.

4. Song of the Soul by H.H. Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, Siddhachalam Publishers, New Jersey 1987.

5. Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein, based on Mein Weltbild edited by Carl Seeling,Crown Publishers, New York, 1954; Souvenir Press, London 1973.

6. The Neurophysiology of Enlightenment by Wallace, Robert Keith. Fairfield, IA: Maharishi International University Neuroscene Press, 1986.

7. Full Catastrophe Living by Kabat Zinn, Jon. New York; Delacorte Press, 1990.

8. Thomas Fogarty in Family Therapy vol 3

9. The Thunder of Silence by Joel S. Goldsmith, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1961.

10. Focusing by Eugene T Gendlin, Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc, New York, 1981.


* Universal Jain prayer-paying obeisance or surrendering to the liberated and detachted souls in the process of attaining liberation.

* literally, sight or vision: having darshan of a saint, sage, or deity means being in his or her presence and receiving a blessing by being there.

* In the parable of seven blind persons it is said that they were describing various parts of the elephant as the whole elephant. This led them to quarrel. One who had the feet described the elephant as a pillar and one who had touched the ears affirmed it to be a fan and so on. A passer-by found out the real cause of their quarrel and said "Each one of you is correct. The mistake is that you have the knowledge of partial truth which you supppose to be the whole truth about the elephant. If all your statements are properly combined we would get the complete description of the elephant."

* A course in solving conflict peacefully.


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