Deep Ecology and Jainism: A Critical Assessment of Theory and Practice
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Deep ecology distinguishes itself from alternate environmental philosophies by considering ecological issues in term of their broader context. That is, deep ecology takes the socio-cultural issues surrounding environmental destruction into account when considering their appropriate solutions. This comprehensive methodology is based on an eight-fold philosophy, which includes the principles of theoretical pluralism, interconnectivity, and non-violence towards the natural world. Similar principles are found within the Jain tradition of Northern India, and are known as anekāntavāda (non-absolutism), parasparopagraho jīvānām (interrelatedness), and ahimsā (non-violence). This similarity has lent itself to easy comparisons between deep ecology and Jainism, in which Jainism is depicted as a religious tradition with inherent environmental values based on deep ecology principles. Yet, scholars such as Devall, Sessions, and Warwick have written of this correlation have focused only narrowly on Jain doctrine, and disregarded the nuanced understanding and complex representations of the living tradition of Jainism. They have failed to take into account the lived reality of Jain practices in their immediate social and cultural context, and consequently, their conclusions are based off of a limited understanding of Jainism. A more critical analysis of Jain doctrines and deep ecology principles will portray the schismatic differences between Jainism and deep ecology, and present them as distinctive philosophies. Therefore, an orthodox understanding of Jainism does not reflect the ideals of deep ecology as presented in its environmental activist philosophy.
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