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      Jainism- An Introduction

 

 
  

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In India the three great religions, namely Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are well known worldwide. Jainism is one of the oldest living religions of India, predating 800 BCE recorded history as referenced in Hindu scriptures. It is an original system, quite distinct and independent from other systems of all other Indian philosophies. The Jains philosophy was not developed to oppose the elaborate hierarchical Vedic practice as well as it is not an offshoot of Hinduism.

Religion, it should be known, is "way of life" which is not invented, it is rediscovered and this was what precisely the Tirthankaras did. They explained the law of nature that governed the universe man his conduct.

The word 'Jain' is derived from Sanskrit word Jin, meaning a victor, and implies a conqueror of one self, or one who has attained a victory over attachments and aversions. A true Jain is, thus, a follower of him, who is above bias, a true friend of all, and the foe of non.

Jainism is a science and not a code of arbitrary rules and capricious commandments. It was founded by Omniscient teachers, a distinction to which no other religion can lay claim. Jainism is the only man made religion, that reduces every thing to the fixed laws of nature and agree with the modern science.

Origin Antiquity of Jainism:

Jainism, as believed by Jain's, was not originated by any particular individual in the same sense as Christ and Mohammed originated their religions Christianity and Islam. Had it been right to say then this religion would have also been known as Mahavira dharma or Risabha Dharma  but it is widely known as Jain Dharma. In the present cycle of of time, the religion was first preached by Tirthankara Risabha, who is also known as Adinath. After Lord Risabha, or Adinatha there were twenty three great reformers of Jainism called Tirthankaras (Total Tirthankaras-24 Numbers). On the basis of Hindu Puranas (scriptures), Budh grantha (scriptures), epigraphically evidences, chiefly the Mathuras inscriptions and also Mohanjadaro and Harappa findings reveals that the first Jain Tirthankara Rsabha was worshiped in Sind some five thousand years ago.

   The Principle - Ahimsa (Non-violence) is the underlying philosophy of Jainism. The Goal - Jainism is the complete purification of the soul ie getting rid of completely from  passion an attachments to ascend to the Moksha, a world beyond heaven and earth, where all the liberated souls dwell eternally in a state of energy, consciousness, and bliss.

Jains believe in reincarnation. Their souls, which are believed to be a unique substance in the universe, take different living forms in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. This cycle has been going on forever, the universe has no beginning or end, and it has always been and always will be. The ultimate goal is to get rid of one's karma on their soul so that they may end this cycle. Once this goal is reached their soul has attained all knowledge and it rests in the heavens forever (Nirvana).

Jainism believes that universe and all its substances or entities are eternal. It has no beginning or end with respect to time. Jains do not believe that there is a supernatural power that does favor to us if we please him. There is no need of some one to create or manage the affairs of the universe. Universe runs at its own accord by its own cosmic laws. Hence Jainism does not believe in God as a creator, survivor, and destroyer of the universe. However Jainism does believe in God. When a living being destroys all his karmas, he possesses perfect knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. He becomes omniscient and omnipotent. The underlying philosophy of Jainism is that renunciation of worldly desires and self-conquest leads to perfect wisdom. Thus the living being can become God as per Jain religion. Hence Jains do not believe in one God. Gods in Jain religion are innumerable and the number is continuously increasing as more living beings attain liberation. Every living being has a potential to become God of the Jains religion.

                        The Jain philosophy believes that the universe and all its entities such as soul and matter are eternal (there is no beginning or end), no one has created them and no one can destroy them. The soul is indestructible.

 Thus the fundamentals of Jains are: - The soul is indestructible.

v   All living beings have a soul.

v   All souls are equal; non-is superior or inferior to another. I has the compatibility to become God.

v   Every object of the universe, including the soul, changes by itself, without any external interference.

v  Any soul can attain salvation through self-realization.

v   God is not the creator or protector of the universe. He only knows and sees the whole universe.

v    Every truth is a relative truth and not the absolute truth.

  Jains rely a great deal on self-efforts and self-initiative, for both - their worldly requirements and their salvation. Jainism appeals to common sense. Jains accept only those things that can be explained logically and reasoned. Jains believe that each living being is a master of his/her own destiny.

 Jains believe that from eternity, the soul is bounded by karma and is ignorant of its true nature.  It is due to karma soul migrates from one life cycle to another and continues to attract new karma, and the ignorant soul continues to bind with new karma.  This way it provides a logical explanation of our sufferings on Earth.                 

A person who destroys all eight types of karmas is called Siddha. A person who destroys only four ghati karmas is called Arihanta (Tirthankara, Jina etc). Both Arihantas and Siddhas are classified as Gods in Jainism.

 

  Lord Adinath ji

                                   There are twenty four Tirthankara  and first one among them was Shri Rishabhadeva as mentioned in the Yajur Veda. The 24th and the last Tirthankara was Mahavira . Mahavira was born about 580 B.C. in Northern India. Now there are about four million (as per 1991 census) followers in India. Now this figure may be much higher say about seven millions. Lord Mahavira preached atheism or the absence of god. Jainism also believes that one can achieve salvation (freedom from wheel of life i.e. rebirth). Jains use the word Karma to mean a substance that binds the soul to physical world. By causing sins you keep accumulating Karma whereas meditation and fasting burns the Karma. One can get freedom from rebirth (Salvation) only after burning the Karma accumulated in past lives.

 Tirthankara  Mahavira

        The basic teachings of Lord Mahavira are as follows:-

  • Ahimsa: - To protect all life (non-violence)

  • Satya: - (Truth )-To speak truth/ avoiding falsehood.

  • Acauraya (Achaurya) : Non-stealing . Also not to take any thing without permission.

  • Brahmacharya: - Celibacy/Chastity .To not commit adultery/remaining    sexually              monogamous to one's spouse only. 

  •  Aparigraha: - Non-attachment/Non-possession. To detach from people, places and material things. Avoiding the collection of excessive material possessions, abstaining from over-indulgence, restricting one's needs, etc.

 

      The word Ahimsa is widely known. It inspired and influenced Mahatma Gandhi the most. Jainism alone has given a unique position to the doctrine of Ahimsa and has based its ethical code entirely on the complete observance of Ahimsa in all its aspects i.e. mental, verbal and physical in order to minimize harm to all possible life forms. The Monks and nuns follow these five teachings of lord Mahavira in their life. The householders also practice these teachings in their life apart from following the traditional code of conduct like using filtered water and eating their diner before sunset. This lead Jains to vegetarianism. 

 

Mostly Jains are strict vegetarians. They consume item mainly from plant kingdom. It is considered as the bare minimum requirement for the survival of human beings.

  The Sects: - Broadly there are two categories among Jains. The first one is Digambara (Jains (Sky clad -naked). They keep themselves free from all worldly materials and social inhibitions. The second one is Shwetambara (white Clad). They use simple white cloths. The difference in the two sects is more in rituals than in doctrines.

In modern days the Jainism is not limited to the boundaries of Indian soil. It is spreading all over the world. There are more than fourteen temples in USA and Canada itself apart from three being in UK. Recently one more temple at Manchester, UK has been inaugurated.  In USA the most famous among them is the
Siddhachalam Jain Tirth. Which is located at: 65 MUD POND ROAD, BLAIRSTOWN, NEW JERSEY and is spread over a vast area of land. Late Acharya Sushil Muni's divine inspiration has brought Siddhachalam into reality. Three different Models of Jain Tirth in India - (1) Shri Sammed Shikharji of Bihar (2) Shri Panwapuriji of Bihar and (3) Shri Girnarji of Gujarat states have been established here.  The best thing can be seen here that both the sects have united here by having a common place of worship, placing the idols of their gods side by side.  Both sects hold Jains functions from time to time. The Jains Temple at California is also a similar example. A very beautiful temple has been constructed there.  While placing the idols of twenty-four Tirthankaras they arranged the idols on one to one basis. This arrangement has been followed in many other temples in United States. This has brought together both the sects of Jains.

   There are temples in other countries also like Japan Cambodia, Kenya (Africa). A glimpse of the temple at Kenya is here.

 

 

 Temple at Kenya.

  Address: Digambar Jain temple, Nairobi, Kenya, P.B- 41217

The war and violence is routine matter these days and is on increase throughout the world. The Jainism is need of the time that contains solutions.  The Jainism   is bound to spread all over the world. The Internet is a new and effective source for everyone to know the things and make available the informationís with less efforts and expenses. There are thousands of Jains websites and links over Internet that provide with all aspects of religious studies. Some of them provide lots of valuable information about Jains philosophy and literature even in many different languages. There are thousands of Jains groupís as well and some of them provide newsletters and exchange views among their members. They spread the message of Jainism all over the world and people are becoming more familiar to Jainism these days.

Statue of Bahubali ji

Shravan-Bel-Gola, banglore , Karnatka.

The monolithic statue of lord Gomateswara, Jain Siddha Bahubaliji son of lord Adinathji standing atop the Indragiri hills is 17 meters high and is said to be one of the tallest and most grace full monolithic statue in the world. Nearly 1800 years old the (digambar) naked statue is symbolic of the renunciation of worldly possessions.

                         Now in order to sum up refer some of the  views by Hon' able persons which indicates the origin Antiquity  and about the philosophy of Jainism: -

 

"There is nothing wonderful in my saying that Jainism was in existence long before the Vedas were composed."

                                                     -- Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Vice‑President, India

 

"Truly speaking, Jainism is an independent and original religion, for it is neither Hinduism nor Vedic religion, but of course it is an aspect of Indian life, culture, and philosophy."

                                                     

                                                      -- Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister, India

 

 "I say with conviction that the doctrine for which the name of Lord Mahavir is glorified nowadays is the doctrine of Ahimsa. If anyone has practiced to the fullest extent and has propagated most the doctrine of Ahimsa, it was Lord Mahavira ;  

                                                                ---Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation

 

"Mahavira proclaimed in India that religion is a reality and not a mere social convention. It is really true that salvation can not be had by merely observing external ceremonies. Religion cannot make any difference between man and man."         

                                                                   -- Dr. Rabindranath Tagore

 

"We learn from scriptures and commentaries that Jainism is existing from beginning less time. This fact is indisputable and free from difference of opinion. There is much historical evidence on this point.

                                                          - Lokamanya Bala Gangadhar Tilak

 

"Jainism has contributed to the world the sublime doctrine of Ahimsa. No other religion has emphasized the importance of Ahimsa and carried its practice to the extent that Jainism has done. Jainism deserves to become the universal religion because of its Ahimsa doctrine."

                                          

                                                              - Justice Ranglekar, Bombay High Court

 

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