Jainism is the religion professed by the
Jains, so called because they follow the system expounded and preached by
It is one of the oldest living religions
of India, purely indigenous in origin, and represents that current of
ancient Indian culture which was distinct from and independent of the
Brahmanical. It is a fully developed system with all the necessary limbs
and accessories, possesses several sects and sub-sects, and owns quite a
rich cultural heritage. It is known to have drawn its adherents from
almost every caste and social group, and even at present it is diffused in
all parts of the Indian Union, a few Jains residing in many foreign
lands as well.
1. Jina (lit. conqueror of self) is also
known as Arhanta, the adorable one, Kevalin or possessor of absolute
knowledge, Nirgrantha or the one without attachment, Shramana, the
practiser of equanimity and Tirthankara (lit. ford-finder), one who
establishes the path that takes people safely across the ocean of misery,
the round of births and deaths, that is, the samsara. Consequently,
Jainism has also been known as the creed of the Jinas, Arhantas,
Nirgranthas, Shramanas or Tirthankaras. There have been innumerable Jinas
or Arhantas, but only twentyfour of them are designated the Tirthankaras.
The first in the series of the 24 Jinas
or Tirthankaras of the current cycle of time, was Adinatha Rishabhadeva.
He belongs to remote pre-historic times and is believed to have been the
first temporal as well as spiritual leader of mankind, who inaugurated the
'age of action', the beginnings of human civilization and the practice of
religion. The last three Tirthankaras were Arishtanemi a cousin of Krishna
Vasudeva of the Mahabharata fame (crica 1450 B.C.), Parshvanatha (877-777
B.C.) and Vardhamana Mahavira (599-527 B.C.).
These Jinas or Tirthankaras were born as
ordinary men, but they renounced the pleasures of the world and, by a
course of self-discipline, asceticism and concentrated meditation,
mastered the flesh, and annihilated all the forces and influences
obstructing spiritual development, and attained fullest self-realization
and absolute perfection, bringing out to the full the divinity or god-hood
inherent in man. Then, for the well-being and happiness of all living
beings, they preached what they themselves had practiced and achieved. As
such, Jainism is not a revealed religion and claims no divine origin.
It starts with the scientific assumption
that nothing is destructible, that is, nothing can be created out of
something which does not at all exist in one form or the other and that,
therefore, the universe is the conglomeration of all that exists, is
uncreated, is real, and is without a beginning and without an end. The
principal constituents of the cosmos are the two categories: animate
objects and inanimate objects. The former comprise an infinite number of
independent souls in varying degrees of physical and spiritual
development, and the latter consist of space, time, the media of motion
and rest, and matter in different forms. Spirit and matter are thus the
real which are pluralistic, eternal and not liable to lose or interchange
their nature. These irreducible constituents being themselves existential
give an existential character to the universe. Each of these substances is
the substratum of qualities and modes, which are its determents and on
which its own intelligibility depends. The substance is also subject to
constant, incessant change in the qualities and modes of which it is made
up. Thus, origination and destruction refer to modification of qualities
on the permanent bed rock of substance which is consequently both
permanent and impermanent at one and the same time. It is only the
permanent that changes, for in the absence of permanence change is
meaningless. And, with the simple dogma that the soul has been associated
with matter from times immemorial, Jainism explains the phenomenon that
the 'Samsara', the round of rebirths, the world of becoming or mundane
existence, is, as a remedy against which religion is needed.
This need for religion, in its turn, is
explained by the Jaina theory of Karma, which is founded on the simple law
of cause and effect. You reap what you have sown. Nobody can escape the
consequences of his or her acts of commission and omission, good and bad.
This doctrine makes transmigration of souls a proven fact, establishes the
continuity and immortality of all the souls and provides a rational
explanation for the diverse phenomena and experiences of lifer At the same
time, it does away with the necessity of any outside agency for the
purpose of rewarding or punishing the living beings. They and they alone
are responsible for their actions and themselves benefit by or suffer from
the consequences. Man is the measure of all things. He is the master of
his own destiny and can make it or mar it accordingly as he wills. The
entire emphasis is on the development of strong will-power and conscious
personal effort in order to thwart and annihilate the various adverse
influences, the forces of the Karma, and in this way to effect spiritual
evolution, leading to the ultimate goal, the very Godhood, whence is no
return to the 'samsara'. This transformation of man into god is the
realistic end of religious pursuit in Jainism for a sincere aspirant of
In order to work out this spiritual
evolution, it is necessary to comprehend properly the seven Tattvas or
1. Soul, which is the principal and, in
its present embodied state, needs and seeks liberation Matter, the basis
of all worldly existence, which keeps the individual soul in bondage,
preventing its liberation.
3. Influx of Karma, when the soul acts
against its true nature by indulging in anger, hatred, pride, deceit,
avarice, cruelty, etc.
4. Karmic bondage, when the soul becomes
a slave to karmic forces, resulting for it-self in good or bad fruition,
as the case may be.
5. Stoppage of the influx, by the
practice of wholesome self-control.
6. Partial annihilation of Karmic forces
through renunciation, penance and austerities.
7. Moksha or complete liberation
Nirvana) of the soul from the karmic bondage, which lives thereafter in a
state of absolute purity, spiritual perfection, omniscience, bliss and