- Jainism is one of the religions whose origin can be traced back to the twenty-four teachers (Tirthankaras – ones who establishes a path or ford), through whom their faith is believed to have been handed down.
- The term ‘jaina’ is derived from the term ‘jina’, and the term ‘jina’ is the common name for the supreme souls who are totally free from all feelings of attachment, aversion, etc.
- The etymological meaning of the word ‘jina’ is conqueror. It is the common name given to the twenty-four teachers (Tirthankaras), because they have conquered all passions (raga and dvesa) and have attained liberation.
What is Sramana Tradition?
The word ‘Sramana’ means an ascetic or a monk. Thus asceticism and mysticism, meditation and contemplation, silence and solitude, the practice of virtues like non-violence, renunciation, celibacy, self-control, etc. are distinguishing characteristics of this tradition.
What are the 4 vows of Jainism?
- The twenty-third Tirthankara, the immediate predecessor of Mahavira, was Parvanatha, and he preached the doctrine of love and ahimsa.
- He enjoined four vows, which are:
(i) Not to destroy life (ahimsa)
(ii) Not to lie (satya)
(iii) Not to steal (asteya) and
(iv) Not to own property (aparigraha).
- His great successor Mahavira Swami added the fifth vow of chastity (brahmacharya).
Sacred Scriptures of Jainism
- Most of the ancient Jain texts are written in Prakrta (an early form of Sanskrit). According to their own tradition, the canon( as we know it today) was agreed upon almost a thousand years after the death of Mahavira, in the late fifth or early sixth century of the Christian era, at a Council held at Vallabhi in Gujarat, presided over by the famous monk Devarddhi Ksamasramana, who was called for the specific purpose of collecting and putting the sacred texts into written form.
- The general outline of the canon is as follows. It is divided into six sections and contains either forty-five or forty-six books.
- The twelve Angas or limbs.
- The twelve Upangas, or secondary limbs
- The ten Painnas, or ‘Scattered pieces.
- The six Cheya-Sutta
- Individual texts (two)
- The four Mula-Sutta
The Concept Of God
- Jainism does not believe in a personal God or a creator God.
- According to the Jaina philosophical works, the definition of God is as follows: God is that soul who has completely removed all the Karmas.
- The defining characteristic of Godhood is identical with that of liberation itself. To attain liberation is to attain Godhood.
- The term ‘Isvara’ can very well apply to the soul that has become powerful by attaining its perfectly pure nature constituted of four characteristics, which are, infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power, and infinite bliss.
- By constant practice of spiritual discipline, spiritually right knowledge, and right conduct, the means of liberation gradually develop and ultimately attain perfection. And when they attain perfection, all the coverings get removed and all the bondages are cut off. As a result, the soul’s natural qualities get fully manifested. To attain this state is to attain Godhood.
- Though the Jains reject God as the creator of the world, they think it is necessary to meditate on and worship the liberated, perfect souls. Prayers are offered to them for guidance and inspiration. According to the Jain religion, worship is not for seeking mercy and pardon.
The Concept of Soul
- The Jaina holds that every living and non-living being is gifted with souls. All souls are not equally conscious, but every soul has the potential to attain infinite consciousness, power, and happiness.
- The soul is inherently perfect. These qualities are inherent in the very nature of the soul. Each Jiva (soul) is eternally associated with Ajiva (non-sentient or non-conscious being) because of Karman. They are obstructed by karma, just as the natural light of the sun is hindered by clouds.
- By removing the karmas, a soul can remove bondage and regain its natural perfections.
- The obstacles, the Jaina asserts, are constituted by matter-particles which infect the soul and overpower its nature qualities. In other words, the limitations that we find in any individual’s soul are due to the material body with which the soul has identified itself.
- The Karma or the sum of the past life of a soul – its past thought, speech, and activity – generates in it certain blind cravings and passions that seek satisfaction. Those cravings in a soul attract to it particular sorts of matter-particles and organize them into the body unconsciously desired.
- Jaina writers point out that bondage or the fall of the soul begins in thought. They, therefore, speak of two kinds of bondage: (1) internal or ideal bondage, that is to say, the soul’s bondage to bad disposition (bhava-bandha), and (2) its effect, which is material bondage, that is to say, the soul’s actual association with matter (dravya-bandha).
- But we should keep in mind that the soul, for the Jaina, is not devoid of extension, but co-extensive with the living body. The soul is the jiva, the living being; and in every part of the living body, we find matter as well.
What is Liberation?
- In liberation, the soul is totally and absolutely free from all karmas and consequently established in its pure and pristine state.
- All the miseries a soul experiences in the world are due to its desire for sensual pleasures.
- The Jainas, therefore, stress the necessity of right knowledge (samyag-jnana) or the knowledge of reality.
- The right knowledge can be obtained only by carefully studying the teachings of the omniscient Tirthankaras or teachers who have already attained liberation and are therefore fit to lead others out of bondage.
- The path to liberation lies through right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. Liberation is the joint effect of these three.
- Jaina philosophy does not accept the principle that after having attained absolute freedom a soul comes again into this world in the form of incarnation.
In the activities dealing with spiritual discipline for the layman, there occurs the exposition of twelve vows. They are:
- The gross vow of refraining from violence
- The gross vow of refraining from telling lies
- The gross vow of refraining from taking anything which is not given
- The vow of refraining from sexual activities, the gross vow of limiting one’s possessions
- The vow of limiting the area of acts that are not virtuous
- The vow of limiting the quality of things that could be used once as also of things that could be used repeatedly
- The vow to abstain from harmful activities that serve no useful purpose
- The vow of remaining completely equanimous for a fixed period of time
- The vow of reducing the limits of the area set forth in the sixth vow for a limited period of time
- The vow of observing fast and living like a monk for certain days
- The vow of sharing things with deserving guests.
Pancha Vrathas/The five great vows
- Ahimsa or Non-violence
- Satya or vow
- Astheya or ‘Non-stealing’
- Aparigraha or Abstinence from all attachment
Three gems (Triratna)
- Right Faith (samyag-darshana)
- Right Knowledge (samyag-jnana)
- Right Conduct (samyag-charitra)
Jainism is one of the oldest religious traditions of the world. A great generation of tirthankaras, acaryas, saints, and scholars belonged to this tradition. In today’s world, there is an assumption that religion loses its grip on humanity, but Jainism has lot to offer to negate this contention. Jainism takes the path of self-reliance, self-discipline, and self-purification to realize the inherent potentialities of the human self.