Jainism – At A Glance



There is a considerable variation regarding the origin of Jainism between historians and Jaina traditions. According to historians Jainism originated due to similar reasons and conditions in which Buddhism originated. But according to Jaina traditions it is considered to be an eternal dharma with the tirthankaras guiding every time cycle of the cosmology. Jainism traces its spiritual ideas and history through a succession of gurus, whom they call Tirthankaras. It is believed that in the present time cycle Jainism is shaped by 24 Tirthankaras starting with Rishabh and ending with Mahavir. Jaina texts claim Rishabh lived millions of years ago. The tirthankar preceding Mahavir i.e. Parsavnath is believed to have lived in the 9th century B.C. Historians hold a diametrically opposite view for there are no corroborative evidences for the 23 tirthankaras who preceded Mahavir.

          Life of Mahavira

  • Born in 540 BC at Kundagrama near Vaisali.
  • Siddhartha was his father ; Trisala his mother, Yashoda  his wife and Jameli was the daughter.
  • Attained Kaivalya at Jrimbhikagrama in eastern India at the age of 42.
  • Died at the age of 72 in 468 BC or 527 BC at Pavapuri near Rajagriha.
  • He was called Jina or Jitendriya, Nirgrantha  and Mahavira.

Jainism in the Past

  • The name of two Jaina Tirthankaras, Rishabha and Arishtanemi are found in the Rig Veda.
  • The Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavat Purana describe Rishaba as an incarnation of Narayana.
  • According to Jaina beliefs, the male nude torso discovered from the Indus Valley culture has something to do with the Tirhankaras.
  • There were twenty-four Tirthankaras all Kshatriyas and belonging to the royal family. Parsavanath was the 23rd tirthankara.

Way to Nirvana (Three Ratnas)

  • Right Faith ( Samyak vishwas)
  • Right knowledge ( Samyak gyan)
  • Right conduct ( Samyak karma)

The Principles of Jainism as Preached by Mahavira

  • Rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals.
  • Did not believe in the existence of God.
  • Believed in Karma and the transmigration of soul.
  • Laid great emphasis on equality.

Five Main Teachings

  1. Non-injusry ( ahimsa )
  2. Non-lying ( saryai )
  3. Non-stealing ( asateya )
  4. Non-possession ( apaigraha )
  5. Observe continence ( Brahmacharya )

( The first four principles are of parsavanath and the fifth Bramacharya was included by Mahavira).

Sacred Literature Of Jainism

             The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a form of Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi, and may be classified as follows:

  1. The twelve Angas
  2. The twelve Upangas
  3. The ten Parikarnas
  4. The six Chhedasutras
  5. The four Mulasutras

24 Tirthankaras

4Abhiaandam SwamyMonkey
6PadamprabhuRed Lotus
8Chandraji prabhuMoon
19MallinathWater pot
21NaminathBlue Lotus
22NeminathConch Shell

Philosophy Of Jainism

  • Syadvada : All our Judgements are necessarily relative , conditional and limited. According to Syadvada ( the theory of may be) seven modes of predication ( saptabhangi) are possible. Absolute affirmation and absolute negation both are wrong. All judgements are conditional.
  • Anekantavada : The jaina metaphysics is a realistic and relativistic pluralism. It is called Anekantavada or the doctrine of the ‘manyness or reality’. Matter ( pudgala) and Spirit ( Jiva) are regarded as separate and independent realities.
  • Instruments of Knowledge –
  • Matijnana : Perception through activity of sense organs , including the mind.
  • Srutajnana : Knowledge revealed by scriptures.
  • Avadhijnana : Clairvoyant perception.
  • Manahparyayajnana : Telepathic Knowledge.
  • Kevalajnana : Temporal knowledge or  Omniscience.

Jaina Councils

Temple Art

By the end of fourth century BC , there was a serious famine in the Gangas valley leading to a great exodus of many Jaina ( Sravana Belgola) along with Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya. They returned to the Gangetic valley after 12 years. The leader of the group , which stayed back at Magadha was Sthalabahu. The changes that took place in the code of conduct of the followers of Sthulabahu led to the division of the Jainas into Digambaras ( skyclad or naked) and Svetambaras ( white-clad ). Jainism happens to be one of the world’s oldest religions in practice to this day.

  • First council   was held at Pataliputra by Sthulabahu in the beginning of the third century BC and resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace the lost 14 Purvas.
  • Second Council was held at Valabhi in the 5th century AD under the leadership of Devaradhi Kshamasramana and resulted in final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.

Five Categories of Siddhas

  • Tirthankara, who has attained salvation.
  • Arhant, who is about the attain Nirvana.
  • Acharya , the head of the ascetic group.
  • Upadhyaya , teacher or saint and
  • Sadhu , which includes the rest.

Spread of Jainism

      Jainism received patronage from the kings of the time , including Chandragupta Maurya. In the south , royal dynasties such as the Gangas , Kadambas , Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas patronized Jainism. In Gujarat, patronage came from wealth merchants. The  concrete expression of Jainism’s religious zeal is seen all over the country in works of art and architecture. The 57-foot high statue of Gomateshvara at Sravanabelagola in Mysore, erected in 983 or 984 AD is a marvel of its kind. The temples at Mount Abu and those at Palithana in Gujarat and Moodabidri and Karkala in the south make a rich contribution to the Indian heritage.

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