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Jainism and business practices of 21st century

Jainism and business practices of 21st century


– Dr. Jagat Shah. CMD – Global Network, Vibrant Markets, Mentor on Road and Smart village

  • Despite being 0.06% of the total world’s population & 0.4% of the total Indian population, Jain Community has been among the highest contributing community to the Indian economy.
  • Jain community has one of the the highest literacy rate at 94.1%, above the national average of 64.8%
  • Jains have received 7 Padma Bhushan awards (7% of 104 awardees)

Jains contribution to the Indian Economy :

  1. 4% of India’s population (Jains) contributes to 24% of Total INCOME TAX
  2. 62% of the TOTAL CHARITY FUNDs
  3. Run 12000 out of 16000 GAUSHALAS (an Indian shelter for homeless or unwanted cattle)
  4. More than 50,000 temples in India with maximum TIRTHDHAM
  5. most of the leading newspapers are owned by Jain’s
  6. contribute 25% of INDIA’S GDP GROWTH
  7. own more than 28% Indian property
  8. Richest community in India
  9. 46% of India’s stockbrokers are Jains
  10. 20% of total exports from the Indian Private Sector are contributed by Jains.
  11. 20% of Indian real estate and construction industry is contributed by Jains.
  12. 33% of Indian gold and Jewellery industry is contributed by Jains.
  13. 50% of the Indian diamond industry is contributed by Jains.
  14. 20% of Indian pharmaceutical company is owned by Jains.
  15. 20% of the Indian textile Industry is contributed by Jains.
  16. 30% of the Indian airline industry is contributed by Jains.
  17. 20% of Indian private power and electricity industry is contributed by Jains.
  18. 20% of Indian retail and wholesale industry is contributed by Jains.
  19. 20% of the Indian media industry is contributed by Jains

“For building a better world, the transformation should begin at individual level” – Said Acharya Mahapragya, a illustrious Jain Saint

Not only are the Jains peaceful: they recognize non-violence and self-control as means of liberation, walk the path of honesty and sincerity, and promote detachment from material possessions. Not quite the picture one would draw of a modern capitalist… Yet, they are neither social activists nor knights.

Jainism is a transtheistic religion (Refers to a system of thought or religious philosophy which is neither theistic – believes in the existence of a supreme being, nor atheistic – denies the existence of a supreme being. But is beyond them) that has been practiced for centuries, long enough for our Jain preachers to establish rules as a code of ethics for business practice. The results? Jains have frequently been praised for their entrepreneurial and commercial successes all over the world. So much so that the well-regarded Economist magazine recently dedicated a whole article to the entire community of merchants from Gujarat, an Indian state on which Jainism has had a lot of influence. Mr. Modi, India’s Prime Minister, is a Gujarati… as was Mahatma Gandhi. Although a Hindu, Mr. Gandhi was deeply inspired by Jainism and its core principle of non-violence.

While the majority of Jains currently reside in India, they have spread and founded communities all around the world. They are however very discreet and their companies rarely public, with some exceptions such as The Times of India, one of the country’s leading newspaper which is held by a Jain family. Jains’ most visible collective success has probably been taking over the diamond industry in Antwerp, Belgium, where the Indians’ share of revenues has risen to roughly 65%.

Within decades, a few hundred families coming mostly from the same town of Palanpur in Gujarat have transformed their Belgium workshops into global enterprises generating billions of dollars, employing thousands of workers, and owning establishments all over the globe. The most iconic one probably is Rosy Blue, the net sales of which have been estimated at over $1 billion annually. It has establishments in 14 locations employing 15,000 persons worldwide. Its founder Dilip Mehta is a Jain.

Their name suits such accomplishments: the Sanskrit word jina means “conqueror”. Yet the object of their conquests is neither Wall Street’s canopy nor any of their neighbors’ wealth. Rather, they conquer anger with forgiveness, wrap pride in humility, fight deceitfulness with straight-forwardness, and snob greed in contentment, achieving liberation from their inner passions.

Of course, generalization is out of the question. Nobody has ever admitted on record bestowing the combined gifts of pacifism and entrepreneurial success onto every newborn Jain… But Jainism’s impact on Indian culture is quite important and far surpasses Jains’ current share of India’s population.

The entire field of business ethics requires leadership and sustained effort, and Jains have skills in both these areas, but it requires a pro-active drive.

–   The need to understand ethical business values and practices from the viewpoint of ideals and principles of “Jainism”, is felt more now in the 21st century than ever before

–   Being ethical means to know what is true and what is false

–   From the last few years we are all aware that business practices are not done with good intentions, proper judgment, free from sins, and basically of virtuous deeds and hence most of them are unethical. The only chief goal is to make more and more profit, due to which the government rules/regulations are overridden/not followed, rules are bent/ignored anyhow by any means, by hook or crook only to make profit and more money. This is the prevailing mentality which is growing day by day and due to which ethical thinking has been broken or lost. This mentality is spreading deeply throughout the world. If proper and timely solutions are not implemented, then there are high chances of physical, mental and financial losses.

–   Jainism principles inherently are designed and followed to bring a lasting ethical impact on businesses.

We take a quick look at the core principles of Jainism from an ethical business point of view:

  1. Ahimsa or Nonviolence (Pranitipat)
  2. Tell no lies (Mrushavad)
  3. Not to take anything illegally from anyone (Adatadan)
  4. To fix one’s own limit for profits/making money for oneself (Aparigrah)
  5. Celibacy….To fix one’s own limits for controlling one’s physical desires (Brahmacharya)
  6. Open mindedness


The main base of Jainism is to follow Ahimsa, i.e. Non violence. To follow love, friendship, think & do good to all living beings. We should implement this as a principle of our business to make it ethical. For example:

  1. a)    Not to produce impure or low-quality goods
  2. b)    Not to  adulterate (milavat) the goods/services that one supplies
  3. c)     Not to charge more or sell at very high prices
  4. d)    Not to maintain false accounting books and practices
  5. e)     Not to avoid paying taxes to the government
  6. f)      Not to give false advertisements
  7. g)     Not to sell expired goods
  8. h)    To provide the best quality and not to compromise

In trying to follow the above such similar principles, one should not compromise. Why should Ahimsa be followed? Because we should love all the living beings of this universe and wish to make them happy.

Almost 85% of the world’s population consumes non-veg and to give up/sacrifice this is not possible. Ahimsa tries to ensure that one at least tries to love and make friendship with all the living beings of this universe.

The meaning of non-violence is to be understood in a broad manner with a larger perspective. If this is to be followed in business ethics, then indirectly it results in happiness, peace, and prosperity of all the living beings of the universe. This is very in-depth and vital, which is not possible to explain in detail.

The revered Jain Saint Param Pujya Buddhisagar Maharaj had already expressed/told this situation almost 100 years back.

At first sight, not the most astounding creed… All major religions profess non-violence. Yet all major religions have God at their center. And God gets angry sometimes… with plenty of volunteers to do what His wrath commands. For Jains, there is no god. We are all part of an independent and self-sufficient universe which does not require any superior power to govern it. Hence no exception is made to slaughter the heathens, convert the infidels, or otherwise herd (and tax) the ignorant lost souls.

The effect of such non-violence on business is… well, brutal! When one cannot harm any creature, including insects, one cannot do much work in the fields, nor deal with the raising or killing of cattle. In a largely agrarian society such as India, this was a considerable incentive for this community to develop good trading and financing skills. This is a self-sustaining process, because peace is essential for trade, encouraging merchants to avoid provocation and to get along with other cultures, always negotiating with a view to reaching a mutually satisfactory compromise.

Greed is even seen by Jains as a form of violence, for it leads to the exploitation of others. This affects the way Jains practice business: where profit is not the overriding aim, focus tends to go back to the fundamentals which sustain commercial success such as the quality of the service provided and the enduring relationship with the clientele and other stakeholders.

Greed is also rejected on the basis of Aparigraha, another principle that is central to Jainism


  1. To tell the truth
  2. To show falsely, what is not real/existing?

All these are Mrushavad.

For example: To lie about the quality, about the price/profits, to falsely show in the books, to give wrong/false advertisements in turn to mislead the consumer/customers. Hence to lie about the quality, price, not to maintain honesty, integrity, etc. all comes under mrushavad.

If we try to understand mrushavad as shown in Jainism and link the same to ethics of business, then there are many benefits like: to bring the individual, society and the nation to the top position.


Not to take illegally without the permission of the authority/person. We have to understand this in a wider perspective, which is very essential for business ethics. Like to rob others’ research/findings and then to change a few things in it and show it as one’s own findings. Then to register it as a trade mark. If these Jainism principles are followed, not following such short cuts, then there is a growth of the individual, society, and the nation.

Aparigraha (Non-attachment):

“The earth has enough for human needs, but not for human greed” said Mahatma Gandhi

Fix the limit of making money for oneself and if we do not follow all the above principles of Jainism, then one can become very rich, very good. But Jainism says that one has to fix a limit for becoming rich/making money for oneself. The limit if not fixed, there is no restriction, but one has to at least decide that above a certain limit, one will spend on social activities for human welfare.

We may feel that what is the connection of the above things with business ethics? But this is where Jain principles indicate that pity, compassion is what we have to adopt to think about the peace and happiness of all the living beings and this has to be understood with a wider perspective to see the greater truth.

Jains believe that unchecked attachment to material possessions can lead to direct harm to oneself and others. They are thus encouraged to let go of superfluous assets and to detach themselves emotionally from their property. One can easily see how this attitude may help a business’ sustainability and endurance prevail over the quest for fast and disruptive wealth accumulation, steering enterprises safely away from the abysses to which overheated mercantile passions may otherwise lead… Approaching any business relationship with the intent to reap only a fair share of benefit, one transaction at a time, encourages repeat business and long term relationships. This is precisely what the Jains value: developing long lasting bonds with providers and clients alike, who over the years become part of a growing community of interests in whichever market of the world where they settle.

The habit of not taking more than is necessary out of a given trade or resource is obviously helpful as well at an age where environmental considerations demand adjustment of business practices. Because they see themselves as but one part of the vast universe rather than its center and reason of being, the Jains always considered nature as worthy of care and protection. Thinking in terms of sustainability and developing environment-friendly activities do not require much of a shift in Jains’ business culture.

This universal approach encourages open-mindedness, another essential principle of Jainism.

The ethical doctrine of Aparigraha / Non-Possession is unique in the modern world which has relevance to the solutions of the global problems: i) Economical problems 2) Ethical problems & 3) Environmental Problems.


To understand this principle of Jainism from the perspective of business ethics is very difficult. A person who will fix the limit to have sex even with his own wife can only attain peace, contentment, and happiness and will never look at other women in a wrong manner, but as a mother, sister and daughter. There are many steps to have integrity, but this step is the most important one and if we do not follow it then there is no fear, shame, or hesitation, which will lead to definite (100%) destruction.

Open-mindedness (syād-vāda and anekānta-vāda) Jains tell the story of blind men encountering an elephant, each man probing a different part of the animal… and each of them describing something different. Only by putting all their perspectives together can the blind men truly “see” the elephant. Only by welcoming the complexity of reality can one avoid the sinister path of dogmatism… and the bloody mischief done in its name.

This metaphor illustrates the most helpful of Jainism’s values in our modern and multicultural world: the moral strength required to acknowledge the limitations of one’s perspective and to treat all differing views with respect. Rather than fearing uncertainty and imposing their truth, Jains welcome the unknown because it ends up contributing to a greater understanding.

In business, having the ability to consider a counterpart’s opinion with a cool and understanding mind has always been an undeniable advantage. But in today’s global market, where deals are made routinely among representatives of all cultures of the world, this becomes a lethal (yet non-violent) weapon. Equipped with it, the Jains have surfed the wave of globalization rather than drowned in it. Maintaining a discreet and respectful attitude helped their becoming part of the social fabric in all the countries to which they have migrated over the centuries. The accelerated disparition of boundaries and the ever-growing connection of markets has offered opportunities to increase their revenues within a much wider network. Tolerating and even welcoming other perspectives helps seeing better than most this diverse and fast changing elephant that is our world.

Jainism is founded on the equality of all living beings – To an extent; it puts all non-living beings also on a status of respect. Hence, Jainism represents the highest standard of ethics ever. Jainism stresses on the importance of controlling the senses including the mind, as they can drag one far away from true nature of the soul.

Strong ethics in business with strict implementation system for a Jain follower have the capacity to influence our business environment and taking towards the road of ethical business. The focus on good intention may bring harmony and transparency in the economy if applied in businesses. If this micro system of a Jain layperson’s life style is adopted by the population at macro level then the whole world may achieve the target of an economy of satisfied consumers through the path of managerial excellence.

A person who will be determined to follow the above rules, then it will be easier to implement the above 6 principles of Jainism and will be successful in doing ethical business. There are innumerable principles of Jainism and if such principles are followed in business, then the misery, inferiority, jealousy, etc.. seen in today’s world will be wiped out.

Implementation of all this not only develops an individual, but also the society, nation and the universe, Which will in turn lead to peace, happiness, and success. This also leads to produce of creative/positive energy which is unimaginable.

Jains’ ethos is no guarantee of success. Jains were also helped by urbanization, which diversified economies and created clusters of potential clients for their businesses. Large families and solidarity within their community also helped them a lot to thrive. And of course, every religion has its pitfalls, and every code of ethics its unintended perversions. But it is both interesting and comforting that, in this day and age, one can still try to be good… and do well.


Relevance of Jainism for ethical business in 21st century:

  • The need to understand ethical business values and practises from the viewpoint of ideals and principles of “Jainism”, is felt more now in the 21st century than ever before
  • Being ethical means to know what is true and what is false
  • From last few years we are all aware that business practices are not done with good intentions, proper judgement, free from sins, and basically of virtuous deeds and hence most of them are unethical. The only chief goal is to make more and more profit, due to which the government rules/regulations are overridden/not followed, anyhow by any means, by hook or crook, only to make profit and more money. Only this is the mentality which is increasing and due to which ethical thinking is broken or lost. This mentality is spreading in deep throughout the world, very speedily. If proper solutions are not brought timely, then there are huge possibilities of physical, mental and financial losses.
  • Only Jainism principles can bring real, pointed successful solution.

I conclude by stating that Jainism is all about what the pundits of climate change initiatives are trying to achieve, it can be achieved through jain business practices.


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