Jainism and Views on Obesity
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted by: Pooja Jain
Obama, Palin should collaborate to conquer obesity
by Hema Pokharna, Director, Journeys of Life from the Chicago Tribune
First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to reduce childhood obesity have faced opposition from evangelicals and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who calls the campaign another example of an overbearing government and wishes the First Lady would let other parents decide what's best for their own children.
Imagine how beautifully a collaborative initiative would serve all concerned when both listen to each other as Mrs. Obama shares the wisdom of healthy foods from childhood and Mrs. Palin shares her passion for autonomy and freedom to choose.
I wish to share a very important aspect of Jainism which is the concept of anekaantvaad, or the principle of plurality of viewpoints. It is central to the ideas of tolerance and mutual respect.
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 is 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."
Our present challenge is that we live in a world of difference. Yet, we are interdependent. Anekantwad has much to offer us and help us learn to live with our differences in peace and harmony.
I would like people to make use of this tool as a wider spectrum to play instead of wasting energies in fighting in the right and wrong mentality.
Anekantwad can be an an instrument to facilitate our conversations and dialogues nonviolently and respectfully when we run into the blind men represented in the story who seem to appear in our lives and promote division and injustice, betraying the very ideals and teachings that lie at the heart of Ahinsa or nonviolence.
There is hope that the world can be transformed through dialogues and nurtured relationships among people of difference by working toward a just, peaceful and sustainable future. The well-being of the Earth and all life depends on this collaboration.
If Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Palin collaborated, they could convince the junk food industries to join the mission and find ways of making tasty foods with high nutrition.
Anekantwad is about keeping ourselves centered and connected with the purpose and potential of our lives as we unfold the sources of unhappiness and disconnection from our vitality.