Chapter 2. Religions
of the World
should read enough of the materials presented in this section concerning the
tradition of Jainism in order to understand how this tradition displays the
characteristics or elements that make a tradition one that would be termed a
“religion. The tradition presented in the materials below is one of the
world’s living religions. You reading should indicate why this is so.
THE ABSOLUTE: what do the
believers hold as most important? What is the ultimate source of value and
significance? For many, but not all religions, this is given some form of
agency and portrayed as a deity (deities). It might be a concept or ideal
as well as a figure.
THE WORLD: What does the belief
system say about the world? Its origin? its relation to the Absolute? Its
HUMANS: Where do they come
from? How do they fit into the general scheme of things? What is their
destiny or future?
THE PROBLEM FOR HUMANS: What is
the principle problem for humans that they must learn to deal with and
THE SOLUTION FOR HUMANS: How
are humans to solve or overcome the fundamental problems ?
COMMUNITY AND ETHICS: What is
the moral code as promulgated by the religion? What is the idea of
community and how humans are to live with one another?
AN INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY:
Does the religion offer an explanation for events occurring in time? Is
there a single linear history with time coming to an end or does time
recycle? Is there a plan working itself out in time and detectable in the
events of history?
RITUALS AND SYMBOLS: What are
the major rituals, holy days, garments, ceremonies and symbols?
LIFE AFTER DEATH: What is the
explanation given for what occurs after death? Does he religion support a
belief in souls or spirits which survive the death of the body? What is the
belief in what occurs afterwards? Is there a resurrection of the body?
Reincarnation? Dissolution? Extinction?
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER
RELIGIONS: What is the prescribed manner in which believers are to regard
other religions and the followers of other religions?
For those who wish to listen to information on the world's
religions here is a listing of PODCASTS on RELIGIONS by Cynthia
If you have iTunes on your computer just click and you will be led to the
Here is a link to the site for the textbook REVEALING WORLD RELIGIONS
related to which these podcasts were made.
was born in India about the same period as Buddhism. It was
established by Mahavira (c. 599 - 527
BC) in about 500 B.
C. He was born near Patna in what
is now Bihar state. Mahavira
like Buddha belonged to the warrior caste. Mahavira was called
‘Jina’ meaning the big winner and from this name was derived
the name of the religion.
In many senses
Jainism is similar to Buddhism. Both developed as a dissension to the
Brahmanic philosophy that was dominant during that period in north-east
India. Both share a belief in reincarnation which eventually leads to
liberation. Jainism is different to Buddhism in its ascetic beliefs. Both
these religions emphasize non-violence, but non-violence is the main core
in Jainism. Mahavira just like Buddha isn’t the first prophet of his
religion. In Jainism like Buddhism there is a belief in
reincarnation which eventually leads to liberation.
Neither of these religions their religious philosophy around
worship. But Jainism is different than Buddhism in its ascetic
beliefs. Both these religions emphasis on non-violence, but in
Jainism non-violence is its main core.
Jains believe that every thing has life and this also includes
stones, sand, trees and every other thing. The fact that trees
breath came to be known to the science world only from the 20th
century. Mahavira who believed that every thing has life and
also believed in non-violence practically didn’t eat anything
causing his self- starvation to death. Mahavira was also
extremely ascetic and walked around completely naked because of
his renouncement of life. After years of hardship and
meditation he attained enlightenment; thereafter he preached Jainism for
about 30 years and died at Pava (also in Bihar) in 527 BC.
Mahavira’s religion followers are less extreme than him in
diets. They are vegetarians. But the religious Jains will do
everything possible to prevent hurting any being. They won’t
walk in fields where there are insects to prevent the
possibility of stepping on them. They also cover their mouth to
prevent the possibility of swallowing small invisible microbes.
They mostly do not work in professions where there is a
possibility of killing any living being like in agriculture
instead professions like banking and business. But it is not
clear what came first, businessmen who adopted Jain philosophy
because it was easy for them to follow or Jainish philosophy
which convinced the Jains to adopt non violent professions.
There are two Jain philosophies. Shvetember and Digamber.
Digamber monks like Mahavira don’t wear any clothes, but
normally they don’t walk like that outside their temples. The
Digambers include among them only men. The Shvetembers monks
wear white clothes and they include women.
Daniel Israel 1999-2000
allowed to use
THE TEACHINGS OF LORD MAHAVIRA
Lord Mahavira was
born on March 30, 599 B.C. and attained the nirvana in the year 527 B.C.
at the age of 72. He was a contemporary of Lord Buddha. He was the 24th
and the last of the Tirthankars. The present form of Jainism was shaped by
principles of Jainism are:
(multiplicity of views)
The first and the
third are quite simple to understand but the second one needs some
explanation. It is dealt under 'Multiplicity of Viewpoints and Relativism
(Syadavada)', in the Jain literature. Difference of view points, quite
often, add to the knowledge and one should infer, only after hearing
diverse views on any subject. If it is not done, then the conclusions
reached could be
biased or incorrect. It provides for the tolerance for the views of the
others. One can have a better perception only after hearing others. For
example, we are all familiar with the story of the eight blind men and an
elephant. There the views expressed about the elephant by each of the
blind men were correct but only partial knowledge could be obtained from
any one view. The total knowledge about the elephant could be had only by
listening to all of them.
An object can, on
occasions, be described by two completely opposite statements, i.e. it is
(ASTI) and it is not (NASTI). These two statements can be made referring
to (1) substance, (2) place, (3) time, and (4) form. Let us take an
example of a piece of furniture. A piece of furniture made of jungle wood
is not made of sandal wood. Similarly, it could be located in a given room
but not in other rooms. Thus, it can be specified in either way which seem
to be opposite to each other. This way of specification is called ASTI -
NASTI - VADA.
Another set of
logic lines has been developed by the Jain thinkers which postulate that
there can be as many as seven modes of prediction in a given case. This
introduces an element of uncertainty in the predictions and therefore
introduces the concept of probability. This is called Syadavada or the
doctrine of `may be '.
If we consider
the Jainist and the Vedantic philosophies, we will find that both are
correct in their own ways. They do not contradict each other. The Jain
philosophy does not go into the depth of the process of creation as does
the Vedantism and therefore it ( Vedantism ) arrives at the conclusion of
The God as the First Cause. On the other hand, the Jainism comes up with
the understanding of the complexity of the universe for the common humans
and proposes the Syadavada which is a marvellous concept of accommodation
which is necessary for the correct evaluation of anything. The Jainism
defines life in almost everything, and therefore, preaches non-violence of
In summary, the
Jains consider the highest ideal - Tirthankara who possesses infinite
knowledge, infinite bliss and infinite power. This blissful state is
similar to that of Vedantic `Chitananda'. Jainism makes distinction
between Arhat and Siddha which are analogous to the Vedantic Jivan Mukta
(free form life) and Videha Mukta ( free from body ). A Jivan Mukta might
also be a Videha Mukta as in the case of King Janaka. Tirthankaras are
those Siddhas who profound the truth during their life time which is a
higher thing. The Jains have Arhats, the Siddhas, and the Tirthankaras who
in the simpler terms and in the corresponding manner are: those who
deserve, those who accomplish, and those who sanctify. It is possible for
every man to attain the highest state. Tirthankaras take the place of God
in the Jain philosophy
Jainism begins with a serious
concern for the human soul in its relationship with the laws governing
existence in the universe,with other living beings, and to its own
future state in eternity. First and foremost, it is a religion of the
heart: the golden rule is Ahimsa or nonviolence in all parts of a
person-- mental,verbal, and physical. Jains have deep compassion for all
forms of life
Jainism offers a quiet,
overwhelmingly serious way of life, a cultural insistence on compassion,
a society of ethics that has dramatically changed the world and will
continue to effect change. Jainism is an ecologically responsible way of
life which is nonviolent in thought, action, and deed.
Jina and the Soul
The "Jains" are the
followers of the Jinas. "Jina" literally means
"Conqueror." He who has conquered love and hate, pleasure and
pain, attachment and aversion, and has thereby freed `his' soul from the
karmas obscuring knowledge, perception, truth, and ability, is a Jina.
The Jains refer to the Jina as God.
Origins of Jainism
Originating on the Indian
subcontinent, Jainism -- or, more properly, the Jain Dharma -- is one of
the oldest religions of its homeland and indeed of the world. Jainism
has prehistoric origins dating before 3000 BC, and before the beginning
of Indo-Aryan culture.
Jain religion is unique in
that, during its existence of over 5000 years, it has never compromised
on the concept of nonviolence either in principle or practice. It
upholds nonviolence as the supreme religion (Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah) and
has insisted upon its observance in thought, word, and deed at the
individual as well as social levels. The holy text Tattvartha Sutra sums
it up in the phrase "Parasparopagraho Jivanam" (all life is
mutually supportive). Jain religion presents a truly enlightened
perspective of equality of souls, irrespective of differing physical
forms, ranging from human beings to animals and microscopic living
organisms. Humans, alone among living beings, are endowed with all the
six senses of seeing, hearing, tasting smelling, touching, and thinking;
thus humans are expected to act responsibly towards all life by being
compassionate, egoless,fearless, forgiving, and rational.
The Jain Code of Conduct
In short, the code of conduct
is made up of the following five vows, and all of their logical
conclusions: Ahimsa, Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing),
Aparigraha (non-possessiveness), and Brahmacharya (chastity). Jain
religion focuses much attention on Aparigraha, non-possessiveness
towards material things through self-control, self-imposed penance,
abstinence from over-indulgence, voluntary curtailment of one's needs,
and the consequent subsiding of the aggressive urge.
Vegetarianism is a way of life
for a Jain, taking its origin in the concept of compassion for living
beings, Jiva Daya. The practice of vegetarianism is seen as an
instrument for the practice of nonviolence and peaceful, cooperative
coexistence. Jains are strict vegetarians, consuming only one-sensed
beings, primarily from the plant kingdom. While the Jain diet does, of
course, involve harm to plants, it is regarded as a means of survival
which involves the bare minimum amount of violence towards living
beings. (Many forms of plant material, including roots and certain
fruits, are also excluded from the Jain diet due to the greater number
of living beings they contain owing to the environment in which they
religion of India concentrated largely in Gujarat and Rajasthan, in parts
of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and in the state of Karnataka (Mysore), as
well as in the larger cities of the Indian peninsula. The Jains totaled
about 3.7 million as the 1990s began, but they exert an influence in the
predominantly Hindu community far out of proportion to their numbers; they
are mainly traders, and their wealth and authority have made their
comparatively small sect one of the most important of living Indian
is somewhat similar to Buddhism,
of which it was an important rival in India. It was founded by Vardhamana
Jnatiputra or Nataputta Mahavira (599-527 BC), called Jina
(Spiritual Conqueror), a contemporary of Buddha.
As do the Buddhists, the Jains deny the divine origin and authority of the
Veda and revere certain saints, preachers of Jain doctrine from the remote
past, whom they call tirthankaras ("prophets or founders of
the path"). These saints are liberated souls who were once in bondage
but became free, perfect, and blissful through their own efforts; they
offer salvation from the ocean of phenomenal existence and the cycle of
rebirths. Mahavira is believed to have been the 24th tirthankara.
Like adherents to their parent sect, Brahmanism, the Jains admit in
practice the institution of caste, perform a group of 16 essential rites,
called samskaras, prescribed for the first three varna
(castes) of Hindus, and recognize some of the minor deities of the Hindu
pantheon; nevertheless, their religion, like Buddhism, is essentially
to Jainism is the doctrine of two eternal, coexisting, independent
categories known as jiva (animate, living soul: the enjoyer) and ajiva
(inanimate, nonliving object: the enjoyed). Jains believe, moreover, that
the actions of mind, speech, and body produce subtle karma (infraatomic
particles of matter), which become the cause of bondage, and that one must
eschew violence to avoid giving hurt to life. The cause of the embodiment
of the soul is thought to be karmic matter; one can attain salvation (moksha)
only by freeing the soul of karma through the practice of the three
"jewels" of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.
Differences in Doctrine
principles are common to all, but differences occur in the religious
obligations of the monastic orders (whose members are called yatis)
and the laity (sravakas). The yatis must observe five great
vows (panca-mahavrata): refusal to inflict injury (ahimsa),
truthfulness (satya), refusal to steal (asteya), sexual
restraint (brahmacarya), and refusal to accept unnecessary gifts (aparigraha).
In keeping with the doctrine of nonviolence, they carry the Jainist
reverence for animal life to its most extreme lengths; the yati of
the Svetambara sect, for example, wears a cloth over his mouth to
prevent insects from flying into it and carries a brush to sweep the place
on which he is about to sit, to remove any living creature from danger.
The observation of the nonviolent practices of the yatis was a
major influence on the philosophy of the Indian nationalist leader
Mohandas Gandhi. The secular sravaka, in addition to his observance
of religious and moral duties, must engage in the adoration of the saints
and of his more pious brethren, the yatis.
two main sects of Jainism, the Digambara (space-clad, or naked) and the
Svetambara (white-clad, wearers of white cloth), have produced a vast body
of secular and religious literature in the Prakrit and Sanskrit languages.
The art of the Jains, consisting primarily of cave temples elaborately
decorated in carved stones and of illustrated manuscripts, usually follows
Buddhist models but has a richness and fertility that mark it as one of
the peaks of Indian art. Some sects, particularly the Dhundia and the
Lunka, which reject the worship of images, were responsible for the
destruction of many works of art in the 12th century, and Muslim raids
were responsible for the looting of many temples in northern India. In the
18th century another important sect of Jainism was founded; it exhibited
Islamic inspiration in its iconoclasm and rejection of temple worship.
Complex rituals were abandoned in favor of austere places of worship
called sthanakas, from which the sect is called Sthanakavasi.
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