June 26, 2015


Jainism and Buddhism in the 6th century B.C. satisfied the need of the time by introducing the most necessary changes. They recognized the realties view of life. Their doctrines of Karma did not accept the belief that man's destiny is being pre-determined by super natural forces. Instead, man's own activities (Karma) determine his future. Hence man can seek salvation not from religious rituals, but by righteous conduct.
 In due course superstitious rituals and priestly dominance crept into the Zoroastrian system. However the Zoroastrian concepts of monotheism and the ongoing struggle between the good and evil, the necessity of humans identifying themselves with the good for salvation, influenced the theologies and philosophies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Jainism was as old as the Rig Veda. It was a revolt against the then existing Brahmanism. The new system wanted to make religion simple and avoid irrational rituals. It gave new socio-religious code of conduct. The Jains claim that their religion derives its tenets from 24 preceptors of different ages. These preceptors are called Thirthankaras. The earliest Thirthankara was called Rishabha. However only the 23rd and 24th Thirthankaras are considered to be historical figures.

The 23rd Thirthankara, named Parsavanath, was a prince who lived 250 years before Mahavira. He became an ascetic and preached four disciplines to his disciples.

1. Non - injury to living beings (ahimsa)
2. Not to speak untruth
3. Not to steal
4. Not to possess
Vardhamana, the 24th Thirthankara was born in Kundagrama, near Vaisali, in 599 B.C. in a royal family. His father was Siddhartha and mother Trisala. Vardhamana married Yashodha and had a daughter. After the demise of his parents Mahavira renounced worldly life and became an ascetic. After twelve years of wandering and severe penance, Vardhamana attained the KevalaGnanam(realisation of ultimate truth) attheageof42.
Thereafter he came to be known as Jina (conqueror of senses) or Mahavira (great hero). He went on propagating his doctrine to people and princes for 30 years. He received patronage of powerful kings of the Gangetic valley (Bimbisara, Ajatasatru etc). The Jain sangha that he founded, helped to spread this new doctrines. At the age of 72 he died at Pava near Rajagriha.

Teachings of Mahavira or Doctrines of Jainism
Mahavira had no faith in God and also rejected the authority of the Vedas. He believed that the matter and soul were two eternal elements. The soul suffers due to impurities caused by its contact with the matter and is to be born again and again until it frees itself from the bondage of cycle of births. He preached the three gems i.e. Tri Ratnas; Right Knowledge, Right Faith and Right Conduct. Mahavira had a
strong faith in the doctrine of ahimsa or non - injury to any living being. Ahimsa became the most prominent principle of Jainism. The Jains started to covertheir mouth with a piece of cloth, to prevent even a small insect from being killed. Care was taken not to injure even any plant or tree, nor to cause pain to men, birds and beasts. This principle was against the principle of animal sacrifice associated with yagnas.
Mahavira had no faith in the caste system and preached equality of human beings. He stressed that all human beings, irrespective of their birth, could attain salvation from the cycle of life, i.e. death and rebirth, by leading a pure and austere life based on ahimsa. He advised his followers not to make any discrimination between man and man on the basis of colour or caste.

Jainism advocates the following principles to be followed by a householder
The state of Moksha or Nirvana can be attained by observing the following three principles or Tri Ratna. (Ratnatraya) i) Right Belief, ii) Right Knowledge, iii) RightAction. (Conduct)
The code of conduct that Mahavira preached has five disciplines
1. Non injury to living beings
2. Not to utter untruth
3. Not to steal
4. Not to posses and
5. To practice celibacy (Brahmacharaya).
After the death of Maravira, Jains were split into two major groups. Those who followed the extreme tenets of Mahavira and gave up clothes came to be known as Diaambaras: others, who practiced the simple disciplines of Parsavanath and wore white robes were called Swetambaras. The Jains preferred people's languages to spread their messages. They contributed much to the native languages like Magadhi and Kannada. In Tamil they made rich contribution to the Sangam and post-Sangam literature. Many of the Sangam ethical works, Silappadhikaram, five minor epics, and grammatical works like Yapperumkalam were authored by Jain Scholars.
Jainism had its influence on social, political and religious life of our people. The literary and cultural fields were also enriched by Jainism. Anga, Upa Anga and Kalpasastras are beautiful literary works.
Chandra Gupta Maurya and Kharavela of Kalinga embraced Jainism. It was patronized by the Rashtrakutas of Deccan and the Pallava king Mahendiravarman of Kanchi. Jains contributed many beautiful temples at Kanchi, Sittannavasal and Kalugumalai. Temples at Girnar and Mt. Abu also belonged to the Jains.

Also Read:


No comments: