Jainism

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Jainism is a pantheistic religion that teaches non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice rely mainly on self-effort in progressing the soul on the spiritual ladder to divine consciousness. Any soul which has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state of supreme being is called jina which means conqueror or victor.

Jainism is also called Shraman (self-reliant) Dharma or the religion of Nigrantha (who does not have attachments and aversions) by ancient texts. It is referred to in Hindi जैनधर्म (Jain Dharma), and in Tamil சமணம் (Samanam).

Jainism was revived by a lineage of 24 enlightened ascetic leaders called tirthankaras[1] culminating with Parshva (9th century BC) and Mahavira (6th century BC).[2][3][4][5][6] In the modern world, it is a small but influential religious group with about 4.2 million followers in India,[7] and successful growing immigrant communities in North America, Western Europe, the Far East, Australia and elsewhere.[8]

Jains successfully sustained this ancient religion to this era and have significantly influenced and contributed to ethical, political and economic spheres in India. Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship and have the highest degree of literacy in India;[9][10] Jain libraries are the oldest in the country.[11] Tamil Jains and Tulu Jains who are native to their region residing in places of TamilNadu and Karnataka early since 1st century BC. Even though South Indian Jains are distinguishable in some of their routines and practices from North Indian Jains, the core philosophies and belief systems are the same for both cultures.

Main points[change | edit source]

  • Every living being has a soul.[12]
  • Every soul is potentially divine, with innate qualities of infinite knowledge, perception, power, and bliss (masked by its karmas).
  • Therefore, Jainists think of every living being as themselves, harming no one and be kind to all living beings.
  • Every soul is born as a celestial, human, sub-human or hellish being according to its own karmas.
  • Every soul is the architect of its own life, here or hereafter.[13]
  • When a soul is freed from karmas, it becomes free and attains divine consciousness, experiencing infinite knowledge, perception, power, and bliss.[14]
  • Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (triple gems of Jainism) provide the way to this realization.[15] There is no supreme divine creator, owner, preserver or destroyer. The universe is self-regulated and every soul has the potential to achieve divine consciousness (siddha) through its own efforts.
  • Navakar Mantra is the fundamental prayer in Jainism and can be recited at any time of the day. Praying by reciting this mantra, the devotee bows with respect to liberated souls still in human form (Arihantas), fully liberated souls (Siddhas), spiritual leaders (Acharyas), teachers (Upadyayas) and all the monks. By saluting them, Jains receive inspiration from them to follow their path to achieve true bliss and total freedom from the karmas binding their souls. In this main prayer, Jains do not ask for any favours or material benefits. This mantra serves as a simple gesture of deep respect towards beings who are more spiritually advanced. The mantra also reminds followers of the ultimate goal, nirvana or moksha.[16]
  • Non-violence (to be in soul consciousness rather than body consciousness) is the foundation of right view, the condition of right Knowledge and the kernel of right Conduct. It leads to a state of being unattached to worldly things and being nonjudgmental and non-violent; this includes compassion and forgiveness in thoughts, words and actions toward all living beings and respecting views of others (non-absolutism).
  • 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.
  • Limit possessions and lead a pure life that is useful to yourself and others. Owning an object by itself is not possessiveness; however attachment to an object is.[17] Non-possessiveness is the balancing of needs and desires while staying detached from our possessions.
  • Enjoy the company of the holy and better qualified, be merciful to those afflicted souls and tolerate the perversely inclined.[18]
  • Four things are difficult for a soul to attain: 1. human birth, 2. knowledge of the laws governing the souls, 3. absolute conviction in the philosophy of non-violence and 4. practicing it in every day life activities.
  • It is important not to waste human life in evil ways. Rather, strive to rise on the ladder of spiritual evolution.
  • The goal of Jainism is liberation of the soul from the negative effects of unenlightened thoughts, speech and action. This goal is achieved through clearance of karmic obstructions by following the triple gems of Jainism.
  • Jains mainly worship idols of Jinas, Arihants and Tirthankars, who have conquered the inner passions and attained divine consciousness. Jainism acknowledges the existence of powerful heavenly souls (Yaksha and Yakshini) that look after the well beings of Thirthankarars. Usually, they are found in pair around the idols of Jinas as male (yaksha) and female (yakshini) guardian deities. Even though they have supernatural powers, they are also wandering through the cycles of births and deaths just like most other souls. Over time, people started worshiping these deities as well.[19]

Notes[change | edit source]

  1. Buswell, Robert E. "Encyclopedia of Buddhism" (2004) p. 391
  2. Larson, Gerald James (1995) India’s Agony over religion SUNY Press ISBN 079142412X . “There is some evidence that Jain traditions may be even older than the Buddhist traditions, possibly going back to the time of the Indus valley civilization, and that Vardhamana rather than being a “founder” per se was, rather, simply a primary spokesman for much older tradition. Page 27”
  3. Varni, Jinendra; Ed. Prof. Sagarmal Jain, Translated Justice T.K. Tukol and Dr. K.K. Dixit (1993). Samaṇ Suttaṁ. New Delhi: Bhagwan Mahavir memorial Samiti. “The Historians have so far fully recognized the truth that Tirthankara Mahavira was not the founder of the religion. He was preceded by many tirthankaras. He merely reiterated and rejuvenated that religion. It is correct that history has not been able to trace the origin of the Jaina religion; but historical evidence now available and the result of dispassionate researches in literature have established that Jainism is undoubtably an ancient religion.” Pp. xii – xiii of introduction by Justice T.K.Tutkol and Dr. K.K. Dixit.
  4. Edward Craig (1998) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor & Francis ISBN 0415073103 “One significant difference between Mahavira and Buddha is that Mahavira was not a founder of a new movement, but rather a reformer of the teachings of his predecessor, Parsva.” p. 33
  5. Joel Diederik Beversluis (2000) In: Sourcebook of the World's Religions: An Interfaith Guide to Religion and Spirituality, New World Library : Novato, CA ISBN 1577311213 Originating on the Indian sub-continent, Jainism is one of the oldest religion of its homeland and indeed the world, having pre-historic origins before 3000 BC and the propagation of Indo-Aryan culture…. p. 81
  6. Jainism by Mrs. N.R. Guseva p.44
  7. Indian Census
  8. Estimates for the population of Jains differ from just over four million to twelve million due to difficulties of Jain identity, with Jains in some areas counted as a Hindu sect. Many Jains do not return Jainism as their religion on census forms for various reasons such as certain Jain castes considering themselves both Hindu and Jain. The 1981 Census of India returned 3.19 million Jains. This was estimated at the time to be at least half the true number. There are an estimated 25,000 Jains in Europe (mostly in England), 21,000 in Africa, 20,000 plus in North America and 5,000 in the rest of Asia.
  9. Press Information Bureau, Government of India
  10. Census of India 2001
  11. The Jain Knowledge Warehouses: Traditional Libraries in India, John E. Cort, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 115, No. 1 (January - March, 1995), pp. 77–87
  12. Mehta, T.U. "Path of Arhat - A Religious Democracy" (DOC). Pujya Sohanalala Smaraka Parsvanatha Sodhapitha. http://www.ibiblio.org/jainism/database/BOOK/arhat.doc. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
  13. Fisher, Mary Pat and Bailey, Lee W. An Anthology of Living Religions. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2008.
  14. Kastenbaum, Robert (2003) "Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying " p. 491
  15. "INTRODUCTION TO TATTVARTHA-SUTRA". http://www.jainworld.com/education/seniors/senles23.htm.
  16. Jainism: The World of Conquerors By Natubhai Shah Published 1998 Sussex Academic Press
  17. Dulichand Jain (1998) Thus Spake Lord Mahavir, Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai, ISBN 81-7120-825-8 Page 69
  18. Prof. S.A.Jain. Reality - English Translation of Sarvarthasiddhi by Srimat Pujyapadacharya, 2nd Edition, Chapter 7, Page 195.
  19. Pramodaben Chitrabhanu, Jain symbols, Ceremonies and Practices