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 ahiṃsā (non-violence) towards all living beings. Jains believe that a human being who has conquered all inner passions comes to possess omniscience; such a person is called a Jina (conqueror). The path practiced and preached by Jinas is Jainism, and the followers of the path are called Jains. 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 (that is, still undergoing repeated births and deaths) are said to be imprisoned in the body. Ahiṃsā (non-violence) and self-control are said to be the means to liberation. The liberated souls free from saṃsāra (transmigration) are worshiped as God. Ahiṃsā (non-violence) and Anekantavada (non-absolutism or multiplicity of viewpoints) are the major teachings of Jainism.
Jain texts reject the idea of a creator or destroyer God and postulate an eternal universe. Jain cosmology divides the worldly cycle of time into two parts (avasarpiṇī and utsarpiṇī). According to Jain belief, in every half-cycle of time, twenty-four Tīrthankaras 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 Tīrthankaras show the 'fordable path' across the sea of interminable births and deaths. Rishabhanatha is said to be the first Tīrthankara of the present half-cycle (avasarpiṇī). Mahāvīra (6th century BC) is revered as the last Tīrthankara of avasarpiṇī. Though Jain texts explain that Jainism has always existed and will always exist, modern historians place the earliest evidence of Jainism in the 9th century BC.
Jain votaries are required to observe five fundamental vows with Ahimsa (not to injure any living being) being the first and foremost. Thus, Jains practice include strict vegetarianism and asceticism. Parasparopagraho Jivanam (the function of souls is to help one another) is the motto of Jainism. Jainism is divided into two sects Digambara and Svetambara which are further divided into sub-sects. The schism dates back to third century BC.
According to the 2001 Indian census, Jains have the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India (94.1 percent), and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country. Namokar Mantra is the most respected prayer in Jainism and major festivals include Paryushana, Mahavir Jayanti and Diwali.
- 1 Main Teachings
- 2 Philosophy
- 3 Liberation and Godhood
- 4 Ethics
- 5 Practices
- 6 History
- 7 Community
- 8 Schools and branches
- 9 Jain literature
- 10 Art and architecture
- 11 Reception
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes
- 14 Citations
- 15 References
The principle of ahiṃsā (non-violence or non-injury) is the most fundamental and well-known aspect of Jainism. The everyday implementation of the principle of non-violence 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 (vāchana), and 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)". Jain texts expound that there are ten vitalities or life-principles: the five senses, energy, respiration, life-duration, the organ of speech, and the mind. The table below summarises the vitalities that living beings possess in accordance with their senses.
|Senses||Number of vitalities||Vitalities|
|One sense||Four||Sense organ of touch, strength of body or energy, respiration, and life-duration.|
|Two sense||Six||The sense of taste and the organ of speech in addition to the former four.|
|Three sense||Seven||The sense of smell in addition to the former six.|
|Four sense||Eight||The sense of sight in addition to the former seven.|
|Nine||The sense of hearing in addition to the former eight.|
|Ten||Mind in addition to the above-mentioned nine vitalities.|
Therefore, Jains extend the practice of nonviolence not only towards other humans but 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. Jainism teaches that intentional harm and the absence of compassion make an action more violent. 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. Jains believe that the intent and emotions behind an act of violence are more important than the action itself. For example, if a person kills another living being out of carelessness and then later regrets the act, the bondage (bandha) of karma is less compared to when a person kills the same kind of living being with anger, revenge, etc. A soldier acting in self-defense is a different type of violence from 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 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.
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 concept of anekāntavāda (non-absolutism) is further explained by Syādvāda and Nayavāda. Syādvāda recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet syād to every phrase or expression. Syād here 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. Nayavāda is the theory of partial standpoints or viewpoints. Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words: naya ("partial viewpoint") and vāda ("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.
The third main principle in Jainism is aparigraha (non-attachment). According to the Tattvartha Sutra (a sacred Jain text), "Infatuation is attachment to possessions." Jainism emphasizes taking no more of something than is necessary. While ownership of objects is allowed, non-attachment to possessions is encouraged. 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 mention 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);
- the six defects (laughter, like, dislike, sorrow, fear, disgust); and
- the four passions (anger, pride, deceitfulness, greed).
In Jainism, the non-manifestation of a passion such as attachment is termed ahiṃsā (non-violence), and the manifestation of such a passion is considered hiṃsā (injury). This is said to be the essence of the Jaina scripture.
External possessions are divided into two sub-classes, the non-living and the living. According to Jain texts, both internal and external possessions are proved to be hiṃsā (injury).
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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 to be a simple element or reality and the latter a compound of one or more substances or atoms. They claim 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 (Matter, Time, Space, Dharma and Adharma), collectively called ajīva, by the intelligence with which the soul-substance is endowed, an intelligence not found in the other substances. The nature of the soul-substance is said to be freedom. In its modifications, it is said to be the subject of knowledge and enjoyment, or suffering, in varying degrees, according to its circumstances. Jain texts expound that all living beings are really soul, intrinsically perfect and immortal. Souls in transmigration are said to be embodied in the body as if in a prison.
- 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, in certain forms, touch and sound.
- Time is said to be the cause of continuity and succession. It is of two kinds: nishchaya and vyavhāra
- Space (akāśa)- Space is divided by the Jainas into two parts, namely, the lokākāśa, that is the space occupied by the universe, and the alokākāśa, the portion beyond the universe. The lokākāśa is the portion in which are to be found the remaining five substances, i.e., souls, Matter, Time, Dharma and Adharma; but the alokākāśa is the region of pure space containing no other substance and lying stretched on all sides beyond bounds of the three worlds (the entire universe).
- Dharma and Adharma are substances 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 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) – the 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 reaching its true potential of perfect knowledge and perception.
- Saṃvara (stoppage) – obstruction of the inflow of karmic matter into the soul
- Nirjarā (gradual dissociation) – the 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 Jain belief, souls, intrinsically pure, 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 the realization of reality.
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, suffering and pain. 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 without beginning 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 into two parts or half-cycles, ascending (utsarpiṇī) and descending (avasarpiṇī). Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity, where happiness increases, while avasarpiṇī is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality. According to Jain cosmology, currently we are in the 5th ara of avasarpiṇī (half time cycle of degeneration). As of 2016, exactly 2,538 years have elapsed, and 18,460 years are still left. The present age is one of sorrow and misery. In this ara, though religion is practised in lax and diluted form, no liberation is possible. At the end of this ara, even the Jain religion will disappear, only to appear again with the advent of the first Tīrthankara after the 42,000 years of next utsarpiṇī are over.
The following table depicts the six aras of avasarpiṇī
|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 the 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 balabhadra, nine narayana, and nine pratinarayana.
A chakravartī 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 Chakravartin. Jain texts like Harivamsa Purana and Hindu Texts like Vishnu Purana mention that India came to be known as Bharatavarsha in his memory.
There are nine sets of balabhadra, narayana, and pratinarayana. The balabhadra and narayana are brothers. Balabhadra are nonviolent heroes, narayana are violent heroes, and pratinarayana can be described as villains. According to the legends, the narayana ultimately kill the pratinarayana. Of the nine balabhadra, eight attain liberation and the last goes to heaven. On death, the narayana go to hell on account of their violent exploits, even if these were intended to uphold righteousness.
According to the Jain text Tattvartha sutra, jnāna (knowledge) is of five kinds:
- Sensory knowledge
- Scriptural knowledge
- Clairvoyance (Avadhi jnāna)
- Omniscience (Kevala jnāna)
The first two are regarded as indirect knowledge and the remaining three as direct knowledge.
After the attainment of Kevala Jnāna (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 the 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, a pratikraman, or Avashyak sūtra.
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.
- 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 does not 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-to-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. According to Jain texts, after the total destruction of karmas the released pure soul (Siddha) goes upto the summit of universe (Siddhashila) and dwells there in eternal bliss.
The soul removes its ignorance (mithyatva) at the 4th stage, vowlessness (avirati) at the 6th stage, passions (kashaya) at the 12th stage, and yoga (activities of body, mind and speech) at the 14th stage, and thus attains liberation. 
In Jainism, perfect souls with the body are called Arihant (victors) and perfect souls without the body are called Siddhas (liberated souls). Tirthankara is an Arihant who helps others to achieve liberation. Tirthankaras become role models for those seeking liberation. They are also called human spiritual guides. They reorganise the four-fold order that consists of male ascetics (muni), female ascetics (aryika), laymen (śrāvaka) and laywomen (śrāvikā). 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 the Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra expound the definition of God according to 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 main vows (vratas). Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and self-control through these five main vows:
1. 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'. According to the Jain text Purushartha Siddhyupaya:
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)
2. 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.
3. Asteya: Asteya means non-thieving. 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.
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.
The Jain ethical code also prescribes seven supplementary vows and a last sallekhana vow. The supplementary vows include three guņa vratas (merit vows) and four śikşā vratas. The sallekhana vow is observed by Jain ascetics and householders at the end of their life by gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids.
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 a picchi (made from fallen peacock feathers) to sweep the ground ahead of them or before sitting down to avoid inadvertently crushing small insects. Svetambara monks carry a rayoharan (a broom-like object made from dense, thick thread strands). Jain monks have to follow six duties known as avashyakas: sāmāyika (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 Sāmāyika, a vow of periodic concentration. It is one of the essential duties to be performed by the Śrāvaka (householder) and ascetics. The preposition sam means one state of being. To become one is samaya. That, which has oneness as its object, is sāmāyikam. Sāmāyika is aimed at developing equanimity and to refrain from injury. The goal of sāmāyika 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. Sāmāyika 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 since they influence behavior, actions and goals.
Jain texts prescribe meditation on twelve forms of contemplation (bhāvanā) for those who wish to stop the influx of karmas that extend transmigration. These twelve reflections as mentioned in ancient Jain texts, like Tattvārthsūtra, Sarvārthasiddhi, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya are:
- anitya bhāvanā – the transitoriness of the world;
- aśaraņa bhāvanā – the helplessness of the soul;
- saṃsāra – the pain and suffering implied in transmigration;
- aikatva bhāvanā – the inability of another to share one’s suffering and sorrow;
- anyatva bhāvanā – the distinctiveness between the body and the soul;
- aśuci bhāvanā – the filthiness of the body;
- āsrava bhāvanā – influx of karmic matter;
- saṃvara bhāvanā – stoppage of karmic matter;
- nirjarā bhāvanā – gradual shedding of karmic matter;
- loka bhāvanā – the form and divisions of the universe and the nature of the conditions prevailing in the different regions – heavens, hells, and the like;
- bodhidurlabha bhāvanā – the extreme difficulty in obtaining human birth and, subsequently, in attaining true faith; and
- dharma bhāvanā – the truth promulgated by Tirthankaras.
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.
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. 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 Mahāvīra, 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 Mahāvīra's attainment of moksha. Gautama Swami, the chief disciple of Lord Mahāvīra, attained omniscience (Keval Jñāna) later the same day (kartika-amavasya). The Hindu festival of Diwali is also celebrated on the same date (kartika amavasya). On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to Lord Mahāvīra in all Jain temples all across the world. Diwali is celebrated in an atmosphere of austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy, and environmental consciousness. Jain temples, homes, offices, and shops are decorated with lights and diyas (small oil lamps). The lights are symbolic of knowledge or removal of ignorance. Sweets are often distributed. The new Jain year starts right after Diwali. Some other festivals celebrated by Jains are Akshaya Tritiya and Raksha Bandhan.
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. Jains practices include abhisheka (wash the idols), applying sandle-paste, offering food, fanning with fly-whisks, and entertaining with music.
Jain pilgrim (Tirtha) sites include:
- Siddhakshetra – Site of the moksha of an arihant (kevalin) or Tirthankara, such as Mount Kailash, Shikharji, Girnar, Pawapuri and Champapuri (capital of Anga).
- Atishayakshetra – Locations where divine events have occurred, such as Mahavirji, Rishabhdeo, Kundalpur, Tijara Jain Temple, Aharji.
- Puranakshetra – Places associated with lives of great men, such as Ayodhya, Vidisha, Hastinapur, and Rajgir.
- Gyanakshetra – Places associated with famous acharyas, or centers of learning, such as Shravanabelagola.
The origins of Jainism are obscure. Jainism is a philosophy of eternity, and Jains believe their religion to be eternal. Ṛṣabhanātha is said to be the founder of Jainism in the present half cycle. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first Vice President of India wrote:
There is evidence to show that so far back as the first century B.C. there were people who were worshipping Ṛṣabhadeva, the first tīrthaṅkara. There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhamāna or Pārśvanātha. The Yajurveda mentions the name of three Tīrthaṅkaras-Ṛṣabha, Ajitnātha and Ariṣṭanemi. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa endorses the view that Ṛṣabha was the founder of Jainism.
Jains revere Vardhamana Mahāvīra (6th century BCE) as the twenty-fourth tirthankara 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.— Dr. Heinrich Zimmer
There is inscriptional evidence for the presence of Jain monks in south India by the second or first centuries BC, and archaeological evidence of Jain monks in Saurashtra in Gujarat by the second century CE.
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 been 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. According to Michael Tobias, he was a Jain ruler, who was also a military victor. However, according to Helmuth von Glasenapp, this cannot be said with certainty: Kharavela was probably a free-thinker who patronized all his subjects, including Jains.
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, raised by a Jain monk named Silunga Suri, supported Jainism during his rule. The king of Kannauj Ama (c. 8th century CE) was converted to Jainism by Bappabhatti, a disciple of the famous Jain monk Siddhasena Divakara. Bappabhatti also converted Vakpati, the friend of Ama who authored a famous Prakrit epic titled 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 Mahāvīra, 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.
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 what is now 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 massacre of Jains in 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 Mahāvīra. 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 does not 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 Vedic Hindu kingdoms during this period; however, their number and influence had diminished significantly due to their rivalry with the Shaivite and Vaisnavite sects.
The majority of Jains currently reside in India. With 4–6 million followers (0.1%), Jainism is relatively small compared to major world religions. Jains form 0.37% of India's population. Most of the Jains are concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (31.46% of Indian Jains), 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. According to the 2001 Indian census, Jains have the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India (94.1 percent), 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 sarees 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 began, with the Digambara being naked while the Svetambara were white clothed. Digambara saw this as being opposed to the Jain tenets which, according to them, required complete nudity. Evidence of gymnosophists ("naked philosophers") in Greek records as early as the fourth century BCE 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 Acharya, Kundakunda (c. 2nd century CE). Digambaras believe that Mahāvīra remained unmarried, whereas Śvētāmbara believe that 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.
The Digambara sect of Jainism maintains that the Agamas were lost during the same famine in which the purvas were lost. According to the Digambaras, Āchārya Bhutabali was the last ascetic who had partial knowledge of the original canon. Later on, some learned Āchāryas started to restore, compile, and put into written words the teachings of Lord Mahāvīra, that were the subject matter of Aagamas. Āchārya Dharasen, in the first century CE, guided two Āchāryas, Āchārya Pushpadant and Āchārya Bhutabali, to put these teachings in written form. The two Āchāryas wrote, on palm leaves, Ṣaṭkhaṅḍāgama – among the oldest-known Digambara Jaina texts. Digambara texts include two main texts, four Pratham-Anuyog, three charn-anuyoga, four karan-anuyoga and twelve dravya-anuyoga.
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 to be the work of a Jain by scholars such as Ka. Naa. Subramanyam, V. Kalyanasundarnar, Vaiyapuri Pillai, and P. S. Sundaram. It emphatically supports vegetarianism in chapter 26 and states that giving up animal sacrifice is worth more than a thousand offerings in fire in verse 259.
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 the then-prevailing religions, Jainism, Buddhism and Shaivism.
According to George L. Hart, who holds the endowed Chair in Tamil Studies at the 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 from 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. 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 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 BCE, and some inscriptions belonging to the 8th century BCE are also found on the nearby beds. The Sittannavasal cavern continued to be the "Holy Sramana Abode" until the 7th and 8th 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-metre (59-foot) 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. A Statue of Ahimsa (depicting Rishabhanatha) was erected in Nashik district in 2015 which is 33 m (108 ft) tall.
- 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. The Sallekhana (or Santhara) vow observed by pious Jains is a particular area of controversy. In this vow, a votary voluntarily decides to gradually reduce their 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, adopting the Jain principles of 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. Mahatma Gandhi said:
No religion in the World has explained the principle of Ahimsa so deeply and systematically as is discussed with its applicability in every human life in Jainism. As and when the benevolent principle of Ahimsa or non-violence will be ascribed for practice by the people of the world to achieve their end of life in this world and beyond. Jainism is sure to have the uppermost status and Lord Mahāvīra is sure to be respected as the greatest authority on Ahimsa.
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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