The Jain flag
|Other name(s)||Jina śāsana or Jain dharma|
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Jainism (// or //), traditionally known as Jain dharma, is an ancient Indian religion that prescribes the path of non-violence (ahiṃsā) towards all living beings. Jain philosophy distinguishes the soul (consciousnesses) from the body (matter).[note 1] Jains believe that all living beings are really soul; intrinsically perfect and immortal. Souls in transmigration (saṃsāra) are said to be embodied in the body like a prison and therefore, experience birth and death. Practitioners believe non-injury (ahimsa) and self-control are the means to liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. The liberated souls are worshipped as God in Jainism. Jain texts reject the idea of a creator or destroyer God and postulates an eternal universe.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Main Teachings
- 3 Philosophy
- 4 Liberation and Godhood
- 5 Five Vows
- 6 Practices
- 7 History
- 8 Community
- 9 Schools and branches
- 10 Jain literature
- 11 Art and architecture
- 12 Reception
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes
- 15 Citations
- 16 References
Jain cosmology divides the worldly cycle of time into two parts or half-cycles. According to Jains, in every half-cycle of time, twenty-four tirthankaras grace this part of the Universe to teach the unchanging doctrine of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. The word Tīrthankara signifies the founder of a tirtha which means a fordable passage across a sea. The Tirthankara show the 'fordable path' across the sea of interminable births and deaths. Modern history records the existence of last tirthankara, Mahavira (6th century B.C.) and his predecessor Parsvanatha. Jain texts expound that Jainism has always existed and will always exist.
Tirthankara become role-models for those seeking liberation. They are also called human spiritual guides. They reorganise the fourfold order that consists of male ascetics (muni), female ascetics (aryika), layman (śrāvaka) and laywoman (śrāvikā).
The Sanskrit word jina means a conqueror. A human being who has conquered inner passions like attachment, desire, anger, pride, greed, etc. and therefore attains omniscience is called Jina. Followers of the path practiced and preached by the jinas are called Jains. Parasparopagraho Jivanam ("The function of souls is to help one another") is the motto of Jainism. Followers of Jainism are called Jains and must observe five major vows. Self-discipline and asceticism are major focuses of Jainism.
The principle of ahiṃsā (nonviolence) is the most fundamental and well-known aspect of Jainism. The everyday implementation of the principle of non-injury is more comprehensive than in other religions and is the hallmark for Jain identity. Jains believe in avoiding harm to others through thoughts (mana), speech (vachana) actions (kāya) . According to the Jain text, Purushartha Siddhyupaya, "killing any living being out of passions is hiṃsā (injury) and abstaining from such act is ahiṃsā (non-injury)". In Jain texts, ten vitalities or life-principles are mentioned, these are: the five senses, energy, respiration, life-duration, the organ of speech, and the mind. According to Jain texts:
- The one-sensed lives possess four vitalities – sense organ of touch, strength of body or energy, respiration, and life-duration.
- The two-sensed beings have six, namely the sense of taste and the organ of speech in addition to the former four.
- The three-sensed beings have seven with the addition of the sense of smell.
- The four-sensed beings have eight with the addition of the sense of sight.
- The five- sensed beings without mind have nine life-principles with the addition of the sense of hearing. Those endowed with mind are said to have ten vitalities with the addition of the mind.
Therefore, in addition to other humans, Jains extend the practice of nonviolence towards all living beings. For this reason, vegetarianism is a hallmark of Jain identity with the majority of Jains practicing lacto vegetarianism. If there is violence against animals during the production of dairy products, veganism is encouraged.
After humans and animals, insects are the next living being offered protection in Jain practice with avoidance of intentional harm to insects emphasized. For example, insects in the home are often escorted out instead of killed. Intentional harm and the absence of compassion make an action more violent according to Jainism. According to the Jain text, Sarvārthasiddhi, "He who has passions causes injury to himself by himself. Whether injury is then caused to other living beings or not, it is immaterial."
After nonviolence towards humans, animals and insects, Jains make efforts not to injure plants any more than necessary. Although they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only as much as it is indispensable for human survival. Strict Jains, including monastics, do not eat root vegetables such as potatoes, onions and garlic because tiny organisms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because a bulb or tuber's ability to sprout is seen as characteristic of a living being.
Jainism has a very elaborate framework on types of life and includes life-forms that may be invisible. Per Jainism, the intent and emotions behind the violence are more important than the action itself. For example, if a person kills another living being out of carelessness and then regrets it later, the bondage of karma (karma bandhan) is less compared to when a person kills the same living being with anger, revenge, etc. A soldier acting in self-defense is a different type of violence versus someone killing another person out of hatred or revenge. Violence or war in self-defense may be justified, but this must only be used as a last resort after peaceful measures have been thoroughly exhausted.
The second main principle of Jainism is anekāntavāda (non-absolutism). For Jains, non-absolutism means maintaining open-mindedness. This includes the recognition of all perspectives and a humble respect for differences in beliefs. Jainism encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. The principle of anekāntavāda influenced Mahatma Gandhi to adopt principles of religious tolerance and ahiṃsā.
Anekāntavāda emphasizes the principles of pluralism (multiplicity of viewpoints) and the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, no single one of which is complete.
Jains illustrate this theory through the parable of the blind men and an elephant. In this story, each blind man feels a different part of an elephant: its trunk, leg, ear, and so on. All of them claim to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant, but due to their limited perspectives, can only partly succeed.
The third main principle in Jainism is aparigraha (non-attachment). According to Tattvartha Sutra (a Sacred Jain Text), "Infatuation is attachment to possessions". Jainism emphasizes taking no more than is necessary. While ownership of objects is allowed, non-attachment to possessions is taught. Followers should minimise the tendency to hoard unnecessary material possessions and limit attachment to current possessions. Further, wealth and possessions should be shared and donated whenever possible. Unchecked attachment to possessions is said to result in direct harm to oneself and others. Jain texts mentions that "attachment to possessions (parigraha) is of two kinds: attachment to internal possessions (ābhyantara parigraha), and attachment to external possessions (bāhya parigraha). The fourteen internal possessions are: Wrong belief, The three sex-passions (Male sex-passion, Female sex-passion, Neuter sex-passion), Six defects (Laughter, Liking, Disliking, Sorrow, Fear, Disgust) and Four passions (Anger, Pride, Deceitfulness, Greed). In Jainism, non-manifestation of passions like attachment is termed non-injury (ahiṃsā), and manifestation of such passions is considered hiṃsā (injury). This is said to be the essence of the Jaina Scripture.
External possessions are divided into two subclasses, the non-living, and the living. According to Jain texts, both internal and external possessions are proved to be hiṃsā (injury).
According to Jainism, there are six simple substances in existence, namely, Soul, Matter, Time, Space, Dharma and Adharma. Jain philosophers distinguish a substance from a body, or thing, by declaring the former as a simple element or reality while the latter as a compound of one or more substances or atoms. They argue that there can be a partial or total destruction of a body or thing, but no substance can ever be destroyed. According to Champat Rai Jain:
Substance is the sub-strate of qualities which cannot exist apart from it, for instance, the quality of fluidity, moisture, and the like only exist in water and cannot be conceived separately from it. It is neither possible to create nor to destroy a substance, which means that there never was a time when the existing substances were not, nor shall they ever cease to be.
The soul-substance, called Jīva in Jainism, is distinguished from the remaining five substances, called ajīva, on account of the quality of intelligence with which it is endowed and of which the other substances are devoid. Its nature is said to be freedom. In its modifications, it is said to be the subject of knowledge and enjoyment, or suffering, in varying degree, according to its circumstances.
- Matter (Pudgala) is considered a non-intelligent substance consisting of an infinity of particles or atoms which are eternal. These atoms are said to possess sensible qualities, namely, taste, smell, colour, and touch and sound also in certain forms.
- Time- The cause of continuity and succession. It is said to be of two kinds, nishchaya and vyavhāra
- Space (akāśa)
- Dharma and Adharma- These two substances are said to be helpful in the motion and stationary states of things respectively, the former enabling them to move from place to place and the latter to come to rest from the condition of motion.
Jain philosophy is based on seven fundamentals which are known as tattva which attempt to explain the nature of karmas and to provide solutions for the ultimate goal of liberation of the soul (moksha): These are:
- Jīva- the soul which is characterized by consciousness
- Ajīva: Non-living entities that consist of matter, space and time.
- Āsrava (influx)- inflow of auspicious and evil karmic matter into the soul.
- Bandha (bondage)- Mutual intermingling of the soul and karmas. The karma masks the jiva and restricts it from having its true potential of perfect knowledge and perception.
- Saṃvara (stoppage)- obstruction of the inflow of karmic matter into the
- Nirjarā (gradual dissociation)- separation or falling off of part of karmic matter from the soul.
- Moksha (liberation)- complete annihilation of all karmic matter (bound with any particular soul).
Soul and Karma
According to Jains, souls are intrinsically pure and possess the qualities of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite bliss and infinite energy in their ideal state. In reality, however, these qualities are found to be obstructed due to the soul's association with karmic matter. The ultimate goal in Jainism is to obtain moksha, which means liberation or salvation of the soul completely freeing it from karmic bondage.
The relationship between the soul and karma is explained by the analogy of gold. Gold is always found mixed with impurities in its natural state. Similarly, the ideal, pure state of the soul is always mixed with the impurities of karma. Just like gold, purification of the soul may be achieved if the proper methods of refining are applied. The Jain karmic theory is used to attach responsibility to individual action and is cited to explain inequalities, sufferings and pain. Jain texts prescribe meditation on twelve forms of reflection (bhāvanā) for those who wish to stop the influx of karmas that extend transmigration. One such reflection is Saṃsāra bhavanā:
|“||Endless is the cycle of transmigration; painful is every form of life; there is no happiness in any of the four conditions of existence; devas, human beings, animals and residents of hells are all involved in pain and misery of some kind or other; moksha alone is blissful and free from pain; the wise should, therefore, only aspire for moksha ; all other conditions are temporary and painful."||”|
Tirthankara-nama-karma is a special type of karma, bondage of which raises a soul to the supreme status of a tirthankara.
Jain texts propound that the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. It is independent and self-sufficient, and does not require any superior power to govern it. Elaborate descriptions of the shape and function of the physical and metaphysical universe, and its constituents, are provided in the canonical Jain texts, in commentaries and in the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks.
According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into three parts, the upper, middle, and lower worlds, called respectively urdhva loka, madhya loka, and adho loka. It is made up of six constituents: Jīva, the living entity; Pudgala, matter; Dharma tattva, the substance responsible for motion; Adharma tattva, the substance responsible for rest; Akāśa, space; and Kāla, time.
Kāla (time) is beginningless and eternal; the cosmic wheel of time, called kālachakra, rotates ceaselessly. According to Jain texts, in this part of the universe, there is rise and fall during the six periods of the two aeons of regeneration and degeneration. Thus, the worldly cycle of time is divided in two parts or half-cycles, ascending (utsarpani) and descending (avasarpani). Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity, where happiness increases, while avasarpiṇī is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality. According to Jain cosmolology, currently we are in the 5th ara of Avasarpani (half time cycle of degeneration). As of 2016, exactly 2,538 years have elapsed and 18,460 years are still left. It is an age of sorrow and misery. In this ara, no liberation is possible, although people practise religion in lax and diluted form. At the end of this ara, even the Jain religion will disappear, only to appear again with the advent of 1st Tirthankara in the next cycle.
The following table depicts the six Aras of Avasarpini
|Name of the Ara||Degree of happiness||Duration of Ara||Average height of people||Average lifespan of people|
|Sukhama-sukhamā||Utmost happiness and no sorrow||400 trillion sāgaropamas||Six miles tall||Three palyopama years|
|Sukhamā||Moderate happiness and no sorrow||300 trillion sāgaropamas||Four miles tall||Two palyopama Years|
|Sukhama-dukhamā||Happiness with very little sorrow||200 trillion sāgaropamas||Two miles tall||One palyopama years|
|Dukhama-sukhamā||Happiness with little sorrow||100 trillion sāgaropamas||1500 meters||705.6 quintillion years|
|Dukhamā||Sorrow with very little Happiness||21,000 years||6 feet||130 years maximum|
|Dukhama- dukhamā||Extreme sorrow and misery||21,000 years||2 feet||16–20 years|
This trend will start reversing at the onset of utsarpinī kāl with Dukhama- dukhamā ara being the first ara of utsarpinī (half time cycle of regeneration).
According to Jain texts, sixty-three illustrious beings called śalākāpuruṣas are born on this earth in every Dukhama-sukhamā ara. The Jain universal history is a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious persons. They comprise twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras, twelve chakravartins, nine baladevas, nine vāsudevas and nine prativāsudevas.
A chakravarti is an emperor of the world and lord of the material realm. Though he possesses worldly power, he often finds his ambitions dwarfed by the vastness of the cosmos. Jain puranas give a list of twelve chakravartins (Universal monarchs). They are golden in complexion. One of the greatest chakravartins mentioned in Jain scriptures is Bharata Chakravarti. Traditions say that India came to be known as Bharatavarsha in his memory.
There are nine sets of baladeva, vāsudeva and prativāsudeva. Certain Digambara texts refer to them as balabhadra, narayana and pratinarayana, respectively. The origin of this list of brothers can be traced to the Jinacaritra by Bhadrabahu (c. 3rd–4th century BCE). Baladeva are nonviolent heroes, vasudeva are violent heroes and prativāsudeva can be described as villains. According to the legends, the vasudeva ultimately kill the prativasudeva. Of the nine baladeva, eight attain liberation and the last goes to heaven. The vasudeva go to hell on account of their violent exploits, even if these were intended to uphold righteousness.
- Sensory knowledge
- Scriptural knowledge
- Clairvoyance (Avadhi gyan)
- Omniscience (Kevala gyan)
The first two kinds of knowledge are regarded as indirect (knowledge) and remaining three as direct knowledge.
The concept of anēkāntavāda (non-absolutism) is further explained by Syādvāda. Syādvāda is the doctrine extending from anēkāntavāda. This recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet syād to every phrase or expression. The Sanskrit etymological root of the term syād is "perhaps" or "maybe", but in the context of syādvāda it means "in some ways" or "from some perspective." As reality is complex, no single proposition can express its full nature. The term syāt- should therefore be prefixed to each proposition, giving it a conditional point of view and thus removing dogmatism from the statement. There are seven conditioned propositions (saptibhaṅgī) in syādvāda as follows:
- syād-asti—in some ways, it is;
- syād-nāsti—in some ways, it is not;
- syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not;
- syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable;
- syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable;
- syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable;
- syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.
Each of these seven propositions examines the complex and multifaceted nature of reality from a relative point of view of time, space, substance and mode. To ignore the complexity of reality is to commit the fallacy of dogmatism.
Nayavāda is the theory of partial standpoints or viewpoints. Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words: naya ("partial viewpoint") and vada ("school of thought or debate"). It is used to arrive at a certain inference from a point of view. Every object has infinite aspects, but when we describe one in practice, we speak only of relevant aspects and ignore the irrelevant. Nayavāda holds that philosophical disputes arise out of confusion of standpoints, and the standpoints we adopt are "the outcome of purposes that we may pursue"— although we may not realize it. Naya, being a partial expression of truth, enables us to comprehend reality part by part.
Non-absolutism (anēkāntavāda) is more formally stated by observing that objects are infinite in their qualities and modes of existence, so they cannot be completely grasped in all aspects and manifestations by finite human perception. Only Kevalins (omniscient beings) can comprehend objects in all aspects and manifestations; others are only capable of partial knowledge. Accordingly, no single, specific, human view can claim to represent absolute truth.
After the attainment of Kevala Jnana (omniscience), the tirthankara discourses in a divine preaching hall called samavasarana. The discourse delivered is called Śhrut Jnāna and comprises eleven angas and fourteen purvas. The discourse is recorded by Ganadharas (chief disciples), and is composed of twelve angas (departments). It is generally represented by a tree with twelve branches.
Historically, the Jain Agamas were based on the teachings of Mahāvīra, the last Tīrthankara of present half cycle. The Agamas were memorised and passed on through the ages. They were lost because of famine that caused the death of several saints within a thousand years of Mahāvīra's death. These comprise thirty two works: eleven angās, twelve upanga āgamas, four chedasūtras, four mūlasūtras, and the last pratikraman or Avashyak sūtra.
The Digambara sect of Jainism maintains that the Agamas were lost during the same famine that the purvas were lost in. In the absence of scriptures, Digambaras use about twenty-five scriptures written for their religious practice by great acharyas. These include two main texts, four Pratham-Anuyog, three charn-anuyoga, four karan-anuyoga and twelve dravya-anuyoga.
Liberation and Godhood
The Path to Liberation
Jainism is also called Moksha Marga (The Path to Liberation). The very first aphorism of the Jain text, Tattvartha sutra is:"Right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct (together) constitute the path to liberation."
Prof. S.A. Jain in his book "Reality" writes:
Perfect release from all karmas is liberation. The path to liberation is the method by which it can be attained. The singular ‘path’ is used in order to indicate that all the three together constitute the path to liberation. This controverts the views that each of these singly constitutes a path. Hence it must be understood that these three— right faith, right knowledge and right conduct — together constitute the direct path to liberation.
The following three jewels of Jainism constitute the threefold path to liberation.:-
- Right View (samyak darśana) - Belief in substances like soul (Ātman) and non-soul without delusions.
- Right Knowledge (samyak jnana) - Knowledge of the substances (tattvas) without any doubt or misapprehension.
- Right Conduct (samyak charitra) - Being free from attachment, a right believer doesn't commit hiṃsā (injury).
Stages on the Path
|1. Mithyātva||Gross ignorance. The stage of wrong believer|
|2. Sasādana||Vanishing faith i.e., the condition of the mind while actually falling down from the fourth stage to the first stage.|
|3. Mishradrshti||Mixed faith and false belief.|
|4. Avirata samyagdrshti||Right Faith unaccompanied by Right Conduct.|
|5. Deśavirata||The stage of partial self-control (Śrāvaka)|
|6. Pramatta Sanyati||First step of life as a Jain muni (monk). The stage of complete self-discipline, although sometimes brought into wavering through negligence.|
|7. Apramatta Sanyati||Complete observance of Mahavratas (Major Vows)|
|8. Apūrvakaraņa||New channels of thought.|
|9. Anivāttibādara-sāmparāya||Advanced thought-activity|
|10.Sukshma sāmparāya||Slight greed left to be controlled or destroyed.|
|11.Upaśānta-kasāya||The passions are still associated with the soul, but they are temporarily out of effect on the soul.|
|12. Ksīna kasāya||Desirelessness, i.e. complete eradication of greed|
|13.Sayoga kevali (Arihant)||Omniscience with vibrations. Sa means "with" and yoga refers to the three channels of activity, i.e., mind, speech and body.|
|14.Ayoga kevali||The stage of omniscience without any activity. This stage is followed by the soul's destruction of the aghātiā karmas.|
At the second last stage, a soul destroys all inimical karmas including the knowledge-obscuring karma which results in the manifestation of infinite knowledge (Kevala Jnana) which is said to be the true nature of every soul.
Those who pass the last stage are called siddha and become fully established in Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. After attaining moksha, Arihants become Siddha and dwell in Siddhashila with infinite bliss, infinite perception, infinite knowledge and infinite energy.
Soul removes its Ignorance (Mithyatva) on 4th stage, Vowlessness (Avirati) on 6th stage, Passions (Kashaya) on 12th stage, and Yoga (activities of body, mind and speech) on 14th stage and attains liberation. 
In Jainism, perfect souls with body are called Arihant (victors) and perfect souls without the body are called Siddhas (liberated souls). Tirthankara is an Arihant who help others in achieving liberation. Jainism has been described as a transtheistic religion, as it does not teach the dependency on any supreme being for enlightenment. The tirthankara is a guide and teacher who points the way to enlightenment, but the struggle for enlightenment is one's own. The following two verses of Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra, expounds the definition of God as per Jainism:
In the nature of things the true God should be free from the faults and weaknesses of the lower nature; [he should be] the knower of all things and the revealer of dharma; in no other way can divinity be constituted. (1-5)
He alone is free from hunger, thirst, senility, disease, birth, death, fear, pride, attachment, aversion, infatuation, worry, conceit, hatred, uneasiness, sweat, sleep and surprise is called a God. (1-6)
In Jainism, both ascetics and householders (śrāvaka) have to follow five major vows (vratas). Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and self-control through these five main vows:
- Ahiṃsā: The first major vow taken by Jains is to cause no harm to any living being by actions, speech or thoughts. Out of the five types of living beings, a householder is forbidden to kill, or destroy, intentionally, all except the lowest (the one sensed, such as vegetables, herbs, cereals, etc., which are endowed with only the sense of touch). The vow of ahiṃsā is considered the foremost among the 'five vows of Jainism'.
All these subdivisions (injury, falsehood, stealing, unchastity, and attachment) are hiṃsā as indulgence in these sullies the pure nature of the soul. Falsehood etc. have been mentioned separately only to make the disciple understand through illustrations.— Puruşārthasiddhyupāya (42)
- Satya: Satya means truth. This vow is to always speak the truth. Given that nonviolence has priority, other principles yield to it whenever they conflict: in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence may be observed.
- Asteya or Achorya: Asteya means not stealing. Jains should not take anything that is not willingly offered. Attempting to extort material wealth from others or to exploit the weak is considered theft. Fair value should be given for all goods and services purchased.
- Brahmacharya: Brahmacharya means chastity for laymen and celibacy for Jain monks and nuns. This requires the exercise of control over the senses to control indulgence in sexual activity.
- Aparigraha: Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. This means non-attachment to objects, places and people. Jain monks and nuns completely renounce property and social relations.
Monks and nuns are obligated to practise the five cardinal principles very strictly and therefore must observe complete abstincence, while laymen are encouraged to observe them within their current practical limitations.
In Jainism, monasticism is encouraged and respected. Monks and nuns live extremely austere and ascetic lifestyles. They follow the five main vows strictly and observe complete abstinence. Jain monks and nuns have neither a permanent home nor any possessions. They do not use vehicles and always travel barefoot from one place to another, irrespective of the distance. They wander from place to place except during the months of Chaturmas. They do not prepare food and live only on what people offer them. Digambara monks and nuns carry a broom-like object, called picchi (made from fallen peacock feathers) to sweep the ground ahead of them or before sitting down to avoid inadvertently crushing small insects. Shvetambera monks carry rayoharan (made from dense, thick thread strands). Jain monks have to follow six duties known as avashyakas: samayika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation).
The monks of Jainism, whose presence is not needed for most Jain rituals, should not be confused with priests. However, some sects of Jainism often employ a pujari, who need not be a Jain, to perform special daily rituals and other priestly duties at the temple.
Jains practise a type of meditation called samayika, a term derived from the word samaya. The goal of samayika is to achieve a feeling of perfect calmness and to understand the unchanging truth of the self. Such meditation is based on contemplation of the universe and the reincarnation of self. Samayika is particularly important during the Paryushana religious festival. It is believed that meditation will assist in managing and balancing one's passions. Great emphasis is placed on the internal control of thoughts, as they influence behavior, actions and goals.
In Jainism, the purpose of prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires and to assist in the liberation of the soul. Jains do not pray for any favors, material goods or rewards.
The Namokar Mantra is the fundamental prayer of Jainism and may be recited at any time. In this mantra, Jains worship the qualities (gunas) of the spiritually supreme, including those who have already attained salvation, in order to adopt similar behavior. The prayer does not name any one particular person place or thing.
Paryushana or Daslakshana is the most important annual event for Jains, and is usually celebrated in August or September. It lasts 8–10 days and is a time when lay people increase their level of spiritual intensity often using fasting and prayer/meditation to help. The five main vows are emphasized during this time. There are no set rules, and followers are encouraged to practise according to their ability and desires. The last day involves a focused prayer/meditation session known as Samvatsari Pratikramana. At the conclusion of the festival, followers request forgiveness from others for any offenses committed during the last year. Forgiveness is asked by saying "Micchami Dukkadam" to others, which means "If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action, then I seek your forgiveness." The literal meaning of Paryushana is "abiding" or "coming together."
Mahavir Jayanti, the birth of Mahavira, the last tirthankara of this era, is usually celebrated in late March or early April based on the lunar calendar. Diwali is a festival that marks the anniversary of Mahavira's attainment of nirvana. It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival. On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to Lord Mahavira in all Jain temples all across the world. Gautam Gandhar Swami, the chief disciple of Lord Mahavira achieved omniscience(Keval Gyan) later the same day. Diwali is celebrated in an atmosphere of austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy and environment-consciousness. Jain temples, homes, offices, shops are decorated with lights and diyas. The lights are symbolic of knowledge or removal of ignorance. Sweets are often distributed to each other. The new Jain year starts right after Diwali. Some of the other festivals are Akshaya Tritiya, Roth Teej, Raksha Bandhan and Holi.
There are many Jain rituals in the various sects of Jainism. The basic worship ritual practised by Jains is "seeing" (darsana) of pure self in Jina idols.
One example related to the five life events of the tirthankaras called the Panch Kalyanaka are rituals such as the Panch Kalyanaka Pratishtha Mahotsava, panch kalyanaka puja, and snatra puja.
Jain Pilgrim (Tirtha) sites include:
- Siddhakshetra or site of moksha of an arihant (kevalin) or Tirthankara like Mount Kailash, Shikharji, Girnar, Pawapuri and Champapuri (capital of Anga)
- Atishayakshetra where divine events have occurred like Mahavirji, Rishabhdeo, Kundalpur, Tijara Jain Temple, Aharji.
- Puranakshetra associated with lives of great men like Ayodhya, Vidisha, Hastinapur, and Rajgir
- Gyanakshetra: associated with famous acharyas or centers of learning like Shravanabelagola
There is inscriptional evidence for the presence of Jain monks in south India by the second or first centuries BCE, and archaeological evidence of Jain monks in Saurashtra in Gujarat by the second century CE.
The origins of Jainism are obscure. Jainism is a philosophy of eternity. During the 5th or 6th century BC, Vardhamana Mahāvīra became one of the most influential teachers of Jainism. Jains revere him as twenty-fourth tirthankara and regard him as the last of the great tīrthankaras of this era. He appears in the tradition as one who, from the beginning, had followed a religion established long ago.
On antiquity of Jainism, Dr. Heinrich Zimmer was of the view that:
There is truth in the Jaina idea that their religion goes back to a remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the pre-Aryan so called Dravidian period, which has recently been dramatically illuminated by the discovery of a series of great Late stone Age cities in the Indus Valley, dating from the third and perhaps even fourth millennium B.C.
The ancient city Pithunda, capital of Kalinga (modern Odisha), is described in the Jain text Uttaradhyana Sutra as an important centre at the time of Mahāvīra, and was frequented by merchants from Champa. Rishabha, the first tirthankara, was revered and worshiped in Pithunda and was known as the Kalinga Jina. Mahapadma Nanda (c. 450–362 BCE) conquered Kalinga and took a statue of Rishabha from Pithunda to his capital in Magadha. Jainism is said to have flourished under the Nanda Empire.
The Maurya Empire came to power after the downfall of the Nanda. The first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta Maurya (c. 322–298 BCE), became a Jain in the latter part of his life. He was a disciple of Bhadrabahu, the last srut-kevali (knower of all "Jain Agamas") who migrated to South India. Samprati (c. 224–215 BCE) (Grandson of the Maurya emperor Ashoka) is said to have converted to Jainism by a Jain monk named Suhastin. After his conversion he was credited with actively spreading Jainism to many parts of India and beyond, both by making it possible for monks to travel to barbarian lands, and by building and renovating thousands of temples and establishing millions of icons. He ruled a place called Ujjain.
In the 1st century BCE, Emperor Kharavela of the Mahameghavahana dynasty of Kalinga invaded Magadha. He retrieved Rishabha's statue and installed it in Udaygiri, near his capital Shishupalgadh. Kharavela was responsible for the propagation of Jainism across the Indian subcontinent.
Xuanzang (629–645 CE), a Chinese traveller, notes that there were numerous Jains present in Kalinga during his time. The Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves near Bhubaneswar, Odisha are the only surviving stone Jain monuments in Orissa.
King Vanaraja (c. 720–780 CE) of the Chawda dynasty in northern Gujarat was raised by a Jain monk Silunga Suri. He supported Jainism during his rule. The king of kannauj Ama (c. 8th century CE) was converted to Jainism by Bappabhatti, a disciple of famous Jain monk Siddhasena Divakara. Bappabhatti also converted Vakpati, the friend of Ama who authored a famous prakrit epic named Gaudavaho.
Once a major religion, Jainism declined due to a number of factors, including proselytising by other religious groups, persecution, withdrawal of royal patronage, sectarian fragmentation and the absence of central leadership. Since the time of Mahavira, Jainism faced rivalry with Buddhism and the various Hindu sects. The Jains suffered isolated violent persecutions by these groups, but the main factor responsible for the decline of their religion was the success of Hindu reformist movements. Around the 7th century, Shaivism saw considerable growth at the expense of Jainism due to the efforts of the Shaivite poets like Sambandar and Appar. Around the 8th century CE, the Hindu philosophers Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Adi Shankara tried to restore the orthodox Vedic religion.
Royal patronage has been a key factor in the growth as well as decline of Jainism. The Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) converted from Jainism to Shaivism under the influence of Appar. His work Mattavilasa Prahasana ridicules certain Shaiva sects and the Buddhists and also expresses contempt towards Jain ascetics. Sambandar converted the contemporary Pandya king to Shaivism. During the 11th century Brahmana Basava, a minister to the Jain king Bijjala, succeeded in converting numerous Jains to the Lingayat Shaivite sect. The Lingayats destroyed various temples belonging to Jains and adapted them to their use. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana (c. 1108–1152 CE) became a follower of the Vaishnava sect under the influence of Ramanuja, after which Vaishnavism grew rapidly in the present-day Karnataka. As the Hindu sects grew, the Jains compromised by following Hindu rituals and customs and invoking Hindu deities in Jain literature.
There are several legends about the mass massacre of Jains in the ancient times. The Buddhist king Ashoka (304–232 BCE) is said to have ordered killings of 18,000 Jains or Ajivikas after someone drew a picture of Buddha bowing at the feet of Mahavira. The Shaivite king Koon Pandiyan, who briefly converted to Jainism, is said to have ordered a massacre of 8,000 Jains after his re-conversion to Shaivism. However, these legends are not found in the Jain texts, and appear to be fabricated propaganda by Buddhists and Shaivites. Such stories of destruction of one sect by another sect were common at the time, and were used as a way to prove the superiority of one sect over the other. Another such legend about Vishnuvardhana ordering the Jains to be crushed in an oil mill doesn't appear to be historically true.
The decline of Jainism continued after the Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent. The Muslims rulers, such as Mahmud Ghazni (1001), Mohammad Ghori (1175) and Ala-ud-din Muhammed Shah Khilji (1298) further oppressed the Jain community. They vandalised idols and destroyed temples or converted them into mosques. They also burned the Jain books and killed Jains. Some conversions were peaceful, however; Pir Mahabir Khamdayat (c. 13th century CE) is well known for his peaceful propagation of Islam. The Jains also enjoyed amicable relations with the rulers of the tributary Hindu kingdoms during this period; however, their number and influence had diminished significantly due to their rivalry with the Shaivite and the Vaisnavite sects.
The majority of Jains currently reside in India. With 4–6 million followers, Jainism is relatively small compared to major world religions. Jains live throughout India (0.37%), with the largest populations concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (31.46%), Rajasthan (13.97%), Gujarat (13.02%) and Madhya Pradesh (12.74%). Karnataka (9.89%), Uttar Pradesh (4.79%), Delhi (3.73%) and Tamil Nadu (2.01%) also have significant Jain populations. Outside of India, large Jain communities can be found in the United States and Europe. Several Jain temples have been built in both of these places. Smaller Jain communities also exist in Kenya and Canada.
Jains developed a system of philosophy and ethics that had a great impact on Indian culture. They have contributed to the culture and language in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
Jains encourage their monastics to do research and obtain higher education. Monks and nuns, particularly in Rajasthan, have published numerous research monographs. Jains, according to the 2001 census, have the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India (94.1 per cent), and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country. Jain libraries, including those at Patan and Jaisalmer, have a large number of well preserved manuscripts.
Schools and branches
The Jain community is divided into two major denominations, Digambara and Śvētāmbara. Monks of the Digambara ("sky-clad") tradition do not wear clothes. Female monastics of the Digambara sect wear unstitched plain white saree and are referred to as Aryikas. Śvētāmbara ("white-clad") monastics on the other hand, wear white seamless clothes.
During Chandragupta Maurya's reign, Acharya Bhadrabahu, the last śrut-kevali (all knowing by hearsay, that is indirectly) predicted a twelve-year-long famine and moved to Karnataka with his disciples. Sthulabhadra, a pupil of Acharya Bhadrabahu, stayed in Magadha. After the famine, when followers of Acharya Bhadrabahu returned, they found that those who stayed at magadha had started wearing white clothes, which was unacceptable to the others who remained naked. This is how the Digambara and Śvētāmbara schism happen. The Digambara being naked whereas the Svetambara were white clothed. Digambara found this as being opposed to the Jain tenets which, according to them, required complete nudity. The presence of gymnosophists ("naked philosophers") in Greek records as early as the fourth century B.C., supports the claim of the Digambaras that they have preserved the ancient Śramaṇa practice.
The earliest record of Digambara beliefs is contained in the Prakrit Suttapahuda of the Digambara mendicant Kundakunda (c. 2nd century CE). Digambaras believe that Mahāvīra remained unmarried, whereas Śvētāmbara believe Mahāvīra married a woman who bore him a daughter. The Śvētāmbaras believe women may attain liberation and that the tirthankara Māllīnātha was female.
Excavations at Mathura revealed Jain statues from the time of the Kushan Empire (c. 1st century CE). Tirthankara, represented without clothes, and monks with cloth wrapped around the left arm are identified as the Ardhaphalaka ("half-clothed") mentioned in texts. The Yapaniyas, believed to have originated from the Ardhaphalaka, followed Digambara nudity along with several Śvētāmbara beliefs.
Tamil and Kannada literature
Some scholars believe that the author of the oldest extant work of literature in Tamil (3rd century BCE), the Tolkāppiyam, was a Jain. The Tirukkuṛaḷ by Thiruvalluvar is considered by many to be the work of a Jain by scholars like V. Kalyanasundarnar, Vaiyapuri Pillai, Swaminatha Iyer, and P. S. Sundaram. It emphatically supports vegetarianism in chapter 26 and states that giving up animal sacrifice is worth more than thousand offerings in fire in verse 259.
The Nālaṭiyār was composed by Jain monks from South India in 100–500. It is divided into three sections, the first section focusing on the importance of virtuous life, second section on the governance and management of wealth, and the third smaller section on the pleasures.
The Silappatikaram, the earliest surviving epic in Tamil literature, was written by a Jain, Ilango Adigal. This epic is a major work in Tamil literature, describing the historical events of its time and also of then-prevailing religions, Jainism, Buddhism and Shaivism. The main characters of this work, Kannagi and Kovalan, who have a divine status among Tamils, were Jains.
According to George L. Hart, who holds the endowed Chair in Tamil Studies by University of California, Berkeley, has written that the legend of the Tamil Sangams or "literary assemblies: was based on the Jain sangham at Madurai: "There was a permanent Jaina assembly called a Sangha established about 604 A.D. in Madurai. It seems likely that this assembly was the model upon which tradition fabricated the Sangam legend."
Jain scholars and poets authored Tamil classics of the Sangam period, such as the Cīvaka Cintāmaṇi and Nālaṭiyār In the beginning of the mediaeval period, between the 9th and 13th centuries, Kannada authors were predominantly Jains and Lingayatis. Jains were the earliest known cultivators of Kannada literature, which they dominated until the 12th century. Jains wrote about the tirthankaras and other aspects of the faith. Adikavi Pampa is one of the greatest Kannada poets. Court poet to the Chalukya king Arikesari, a Rashtrakuta feudatory, he is best known for his Vikramarjuna Vijaya.
Art and architecture
Jainism has contributed significantly to Indian art and architecture. Jains mainly depict tirthankara or other important people in a seated or standing meditative posture. Yakshas and yakshinis, attendant spirits who guard the tirthankara, are usually shown with them. Figures on various seals from the Indus Valley Civilisation bear similarity to Jain images, nude and in a meditative posture. The earliest known Jain image is in the Patna museum. It is approximately dated to the 3rd century BCE. Bronze images of Pārśva, can be seen in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, and in the Patna museum; these are dated to the 2nd century BCE.
The Jain tower in Chittor, Rajasthan is a good example of Jain architecture. Decorated manuscripts are preserved in Jain libraries, containing diagrams from Jain cosmology. Most of the paintings and illustrations depict historical events, known as Panch Kalyanaka, from the life of the tirthankara. Rishabha, the first tirthankara, is usually depicted in either the lotus position or kayotsarga, the standing position. He is distinguished from other tirthankara by the long locks of hair falling to his shoulders. Bull images also appear in his sculptures. In paintings, incidents of his life, like his marriage and Indra's marking his forehead, are depicted. Other paintings show him presenting a pottery bowl to his followers; he is also seen painting a house, weaving, and being visited by his mother Marudevi. Each of the twenty-four tirthankara is associated with distinctive emblems, which are listed in such texts as Tiloyapannati, Kahavaali and Pravacanasaarodhara.
There are 26 caves, 200 stone beds, 60 inscriptions and over 100 sculptures in and around Madurai. It was in Madurai that Acharya Bhutabali wrote the Shatkhandagama. This is also the site where Jain ascetics of yesteryear wrote great epics and books on grammar in Tamil.
Remnants of ancient Jain temples and cave temples can be found all around India. Notable among these are the Jain caves at Udaigiri Hills near Bhelsa (Vidisha) in Madhya Pradesh and Ellora in Maharashtra, and the Jain temples at Dilwara near Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
The Sittanavasal cave temple is regarded as one of the finest examples of Jain art. It is the oldest and most famous Jain centre in the region. It possesses both an early Jain cave shelter, and a medieval rock-cut temple with excellent fresco paintings of par excellence comparable to Ajantha paintings; the steep hill contains an isolated but spacious cavern. Locally, this cavern is known as Eladipattam, a name that is derived from the seven holes cut into the rock that serve as steps leading to the shelter. Within the cave there are seventeen stone beds aligned into rows, and each of these has a raised portion that could have served as a pillow-loft. The largest stone bed has a distinct Tamil- Bramhi inscription assignable to the 2nd century B.C., and some inscriptions belonging to 8th century B.C. are also found on the nearby beds. The Sittannavasal cavern continued to be the "Holy Sramana Abode" until the seventh and eighth centuries. Inscriptions over the remaining stone beds name mendicants such as Tol kunrattu Kadavulan, Tirunilan, Tiruppuranan, Tittaicharanan, Sri Purrnacandran, Thiruchatthan, Ilangowthaman, sri Ulagathithan and Nityakaran Pattakali as monks.
The 8th century Kazhugumalai temple marks the revival of Jainism in South India.
Statues and sculptures
A monolithic, 18 m statue of Bahubali referred to as "Gommateshvara", built by the Ganga minister and commander Chavundaraya, is situated on a hilltop in Shravanabelagola in the Hassan district of Karnataka state. This statue was voted as the first in the SMS poll Seven Wonders of India conducted by The Times of India.
- Heavenly being (devas)
- Human being
- Hellish being
- Tiryancha (subhuman like flora or fauna)
Like all religions, Jainism is criticized and praised for some of its practices and beliefs. Sallekhana (or Santhara) vow observed by pious Jains is a particular area of controversy. In which, a votary voluntarily decides to gradually reduce the food intake under some conditions. These condition are:-
- Severe famine
- Incurable disease
- Great disability
- Old age or when a person is nearing his end.
Sallekhana is seen as spiritual detachment requiring a great deal of spiritual accomplishment and maturity and a declaration that a person is finished with this world and has chosen to leave. Jains believe this allows one to achieve death with dignity and dispassion along with a great reduction of negative karma.
Mahatma Gandhi was greatly influenced by Jainism. Jain principles that he adopted in his life were asceticism, compassion for all forms of life, the importance of vows for self-discipline, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance among people of different creeds.
Swami Vivekananda appreciated the role of Jainism in the development of Indian religious philosophy. In his words, he asks:
What could have saved Indian society from the ponderous burden of omnifarious ritualistic ceremonialism, with its animal and other sacrifices, which all but crushed the very life of it, except the Jain revolution which took its strong stand exclusively on chaste morals and philosophical truths?
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