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Jainism is a South Asian religion[1] that teaches non-violence towards all living beings. Jain philosophy is the oldest philosophy of India that distinguishes body (matter) from the soul (consciousness) completely.[2] It rests on the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa) and Non-possessiveness (non-attachment to possessions). It teaches that the universe is eternal and that every living being has a soul which has the power to become God. A soul which has won over its inner enemies like attachment, greed, pride, etc. is called jina which means conqueror or victor. Such great souls are considered God. Self-control is considered the means to obtain liberation or Godhood.

Jainism teaches that 24 great souls called tirthankaras (teaching gods) are born from time to time to revive Jaina faith.[3] In present age it begin with first tirthankara Rishabhadeva with Parshva (9th century BC) and Mahavira (6th century BC) being the 23rd and 24th tirthankara respectively.[4][5][6][7][8] In the modern world, it is a small but influential religious group with about 4.2 million followers in India,[9] and growing immigrant communities in North America, Western Europe, the Far East, Australia and elsewhere.[10]

Jains have 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;[11][12] Jain libraries are the oldest in the country.[13] Tamil Jains and Tulu Jains have lived in parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka since th 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 | change source]

  • Every living being has a soul.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • When a soul is freed from karmas, it becomes free and attains divine consciousness, experiencing infinite knowledge, perception, power, and bliss.[16]
  • Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (triple gems of Jainism) provide the way to this realization.[17] 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.[18]
  • 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.[19] 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.[20]
  • 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.

God[change | change source]

Siddhas in Siddhashila

According to Jain philosophy, a soul in its pure form is God. The following are three posts that any soul can attain-

God Qualities
Tirthankara 24 teachers and revivers of the Jain philosophy in each time cycle
Arihanta One who has won over his inner passions like anger, greed, pride, etc.
Siddha Souls who have attained moksha (liberation) and live at the top of the universe

Tirthankara[change | change source]


Tīrthaṅkara is a human being who has won over the cycle of birth and death. Tirthankaras shows the path to liberation to other living beings. After their death they become Siddha i.e. soul at its purest form.[21] Following are the 24 tirthankaras of present time cycle-

Number Name Emblem Colour
1 Rishabhdev Bull Golden
2 Ajitanatha Elephant Golden
3 Sambhavanatha Horse Golden
4 Abhinandananatha Ape Golden
5 Sumatinatha Heron Golden
6 Padmaprabha Lotus Red
7 Suparshvanatha Swastika Golden
8 Chandraprabha Moon White
9 Pushpadanta Dolphin or Makara (sea dragon) White
10 Shitalanatha Shrivatsa Golden
11 Shreyanasanatha Rhinoceros Golden
12 Vasupujya Buffalo Red
13 Vimalanatha Boar Golden
14 Anantanatha Hawk or ram or bear Golden
15 Dharmanatha Thunderbolt Golden
16 Shantinatha Antelope or deer Golden
17 Kunthunatha Goat Golden
18 Aranatha Nandyavarta or fish Golden
19 Mallinatha Water jug Blue
20 Munisuvrata Tortoise Black
21 Naminatha Blue lotus Golden
22 Neminatha Conch shell Black
23 Parshvanatha Snake Green
24 Mahavira Lion Golden
  • First tirthankara Rishabhdev taught people, the skills of farming, trade, defence, politics. He also taught 72 arts for men and 64 arts for women and organised the people in societies. That is why he is known as the father of human civilization.

Cosmology[change | change source]

Shape of Universe as mentioned in Jain texts

According to Jainism, universe has no beginning or end. The Jain wheel of time is divided into two parts, Utsarpinī or ascending time cycle and Avasarpinī, the descending time cycle, occurring continuously after each other. Jains believe that their religion is eternal, having no origin and end.[22]

Name of the Ara Degree of happiness Duration of Ara Average height of people Average lifespan of people
Suṣama-suṣamā Total happiness and no sorrow 400 trillion sāgaropamas Six miles tall Three palyopama years
Suṣamā Medium happiness and no sorrow 300 trillion sāgaropamas Four miles tall Two palyopama Years
Suṣama-duḥṣamā Happiness with very little sorrow 200 trillion sāgaropamas Two miles tall One palyopama years
Duḥṣama-suṣamā Happiness with little sorrow 100 trillion sāgaropamas 1500 meters 705.6 quintillion years
Duḥṣamā Sorrow with very little Happiness 21,000 years 6 feet 130 years maximum
Duḥṣama- duḥṣamā Too much sorrow 21,000 years 2 feet 16–20 years
Jain cosmic wheel of time

Suṣama-suṣamā (read as Sukhma-sukhma)

  • First ara of Avsarpini- During this ara people were on average six miles tall. They took their food on every fourth day; they were very tall and were free from anger, pride, greed and other bad acts.

Suṣamā (read as Sukhma)

  • Second ara- During this ara people were on average 4 miles tall. They took their food at a gap of three days. The land and water became less sweet than they were during the first ara.

Suṣama-duḥṣamā (read as Sukhma-dukhma)

  • Third ara- people were on average 2 miles tall. They took their food on every second day. Height and strength of the body reduced and became less than the second ara. The first Tirthankara, Rishabha was born at the end of this ara.

Duḥṣama-suṣamā (read as Dukhma-sukhma)

  • Fourth ara- age of religion, where the liberation was possible. The 63 great persons who promote the Jain religion worldwide, regularly appear in this ara. This ara came to an end 3 years and 8 months after the moksha of last tirthankara Mahavira.

Duḥṣama (read as Dukhma)

  • Current 5th Ara- it is an age of sorrow and misery. No one can live more than 200 years in this ara. The average height of people in this ara is six feet tall. No one can attain liberation. People practice religion in relax form. At the end of this ara, even the Jain religion will disappear and will appear again with the 1st Tirthankara in the next cycle.

Duḥṣama - duḥṣama (read as Dukhma-dukhma)

  • Sixth ara- age of too much misery and sorrow, making it impossible to practice religion in any way. The age, height and strength of the human beings will decrease greatly. In this era people will live for no more than 16–20 years.

This trend will start reversing with the start of utsarpiṇī kāl.

Festivals[change | change source]

  • Mahavir Jayanti- the Janam (birth) Kalyanak of Mahāvīra, the last tirthankara, is celebrated on this day. It is a national holiday in India.

Citations[change | change source]

  1. Jones 2005, p. 4764.
  2. "Dravya - Jainism", Encyclopedia Britannica 
  3. Buswell, Robert E. "Encyclopedia of Buddhism" (2004) p. 391
  4. Larson, Gerald James (1995). India's Agony Over Religion: Confronting Diversity in Teacher Education. SUNY Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7914-2412-4. 
  5. 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 Jain religion; but historical evidence now available and the result of dispassionate researches in literature have established that Jainism is an ancient religion.” Pp. xii – xiii of introduction by Justice T.K.Tutkol and Dr. K.K. Dixit.
  6. Craig, Edward (1998). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Index. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-415-07310-3. 
  7. Beversluis, Joel Diederik (2000). Sourcebook of the World's Religions: An Interfaith Guide to Religion and Spirituality. New World Library. p. 81. ISBN 1-57731-121-3. 
  8. Jainism by Mrs. N.R. Guseva p.44
  9. Indian Census
  10. 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.
  11. Press Information Bureau, Government of India
  12. Census of India 2001
  13. 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
  14. Mehta, T.U. "Path of Arhat - A Religious Democracy" (DOC). Pujya Sohanalala Smaraka Parsvanatha Sodhapitha. Retrieved 2008-03-11.  Unknown parameter |date of publication= ignored (help)
  15. Fisher, Mary Pat and Bailey, Lee W. An Anthology of Living Religions. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2008.
  16. Kastenbaum, Robert (2003) "Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying " p. 491
  17. "Introduction to tattvartha-sutra". 
  18. Jainism: The World of Conquerors By Natubhai Shah Published 1998 Sussex Academic Press
  19. Dulichand Jain (1998) Thus Spake Lord Mahavir, Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai, ISBN 978-81-7120-825-8 Page 69
  20. Prof. S.A.Jain. Reality - English Translation of Sarvarthasiddhi by Srimat Pujyapadacharya, 2nd Edition, Chapter 7, Page 195.
  21. Flügel, P. (2010). The Jaina Cult of Relic Stūpas. Numen: International Review For The History Of Religions, 57(3/4), 389-504. doi:10.1163/156852710X501351
  22. Ghatage, A.M. (1951). "Jainism". In Majumdar, R.C. and A.D. Pusalker. The Age of Imperial Unity. Bombay. pp. 411–412. 

References[change | change source]