Jainworld
Jain World
Sub Categories of Jain Books
Books on Line
Book of Compassion
 

PREFACE

 

ESSENCE OF JAINISM

 

TIRTHANKARA MAHAVIRA

 

Excerpts from the JINA'S TEACHINGS

  Jain Books
  Catalog of Books in English
  Catalog of Books in Hindi
  Catalog of Books in Gujarati
  List of Books, Topics & Sub-topics and Authors


ESSENCE OF JAINISM


 

 

An intelligent comprehension, intellectual conviction and profound faith in the essential nature of the soul, of matter, and of their mutual relationships, actions and reactions, is the first condition for launching upon the path of liberation, which consists in piety, charity, renunciation, self-discipline, penance, meditation and self-realization. This trio of Right faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct, known as the three spiritual jewels in Jainism, constitutes the Path to liberation, 'Moksha' or 'Nirvana'.

The Jaina 'nirvana' is not the obliteration of the individual, nor is it the submergence of the individuality into some universality. It is essentially a religious concept, recounted as the last of the seven 'Tattvas' mentioned above, which are not merely metaphysical conditions but have an ethical import as well. As the religious goal and the driving force of morality, 'nirvana' is a positive achievement of the soul which freeing itself from the 'karma' once for all acquires the state of perfect and everlasting beatitude.

The Jaina conception of divinity is also unique and is another illustration of its realistic pluralism. Each soul, when completely free from karmic influences, becomes 'itself' and transforms into 'divinity'. Viewed as a type, as the state of highest spiritual evolution, divinity is one, connoting collectively all the divinities represented by all the emancipated and liberated souls. But, viewed individually, each liberated soul is a full and perfect divinity in itself and by itself; it retains in individuality even in liberation. This is the conception of God in Jainism, which as a type is the ideal to the aspirants. It does believe in Godhood, but not in a God as the 'first cause'. The 'Siddhas' and the 'Arhantas' represent the two types of divinity or Godhoods, the former being the absolutely liberated bodiless pure souls, and the latter, also known as the 'Kevalins' or 'Jinas', including the 'Tirthankaras' are those who attained emancipation in life, becoming all-knowing, all-perceiving, full of compassion for all, and immune to all feelings of attachment and aversion, like and dislike. There is also a large pantheon of godliness, celestials or angels, who are superhuman but not supermen, are divine beings but not divinities or deities. The only divinities or deities are the Arhantas and the Siddhas, who are adored and are worth adoring. After them come the true ascetic saints who pursue the path of the Jina in earnest.

The Jaina theory of knowledge is a highly developed one, which also deals with the validity of knowledge, based on a comprehensive apprehension of reality as also the various individual view-points revealing the different aspects of the multi-sided reality. This conception of reality as being manifold, highly complex and pluralistic in character, gave the Jaina system the name 'the philosophy of Anekanta or Syadvada.' In fact Anekanta is concerned with the thought process when viewing a thing, and Syadvada indicates the manner in which that thought process is given expression to. If one sticks to only one of the many aspects of the thing, ignoring and rejecting all the others, he can never realize the truth. Scholars have interpreted the 'Anekanta' philosophy of the Jains as the theory of non-absolutism, of relative pluralism, of realism, or of coexistence. In its practical implication it means a healthy spirit of sympathetic understanding of other peoples' views, reconciliation, tolerance, cooperation and co-existence. It is a rational creed, opposed to blind faith and fanaticism.

Then, the concept that every living being, from the lowliest to the highest, possesses a soul of its own which is independent, is amenable to pain and pleasure, is immortal and potentially divine, engenders belief in the community, rather brotherhood, of souls, which makes the believer respect all alike and practice the virtue of 'live and help others to live'. It is why, in its practical aspect, Jainism has been described as an 'ethical system par 'excellence', and Ahimsa, or perfect non-violence, is the keynote of that system. It is the 'dharma', or essential nature, of the spirit and pervades the entire length and breadth of the Jaina code of Right conduct, or the Path.

The aspirants in Jainism fall into two categories, the ascetics and the laity, or the monks, nuns, laymen and lay-women, which constitute the fourfold jaina order (Sangha). The male ascetic are known as the 'Sadhus' , 'Munis' or 'Yatis', and the female ones as the 'Aryikas' or 'Sadhvis'. All of them represent persons who have renounced worldly life and pleasures, adopted a life of

self-abnegation and asceticism and devote themselves to the pursuit of 'Moksha 'or 'nirvana' by attending primarily to their own spiritual well-being and secondarily to the moral welfare of the society in general. There is an elaborate and strict code of internal and external conduct laid down for them.

The householders of both sexes, known as the 'Shravakas' and 'Shravikas' respectively, on the other hand, take the world as it is and live their life with as much piety as each individual possibly can, depending on his or her aptitude, capability and environments. They instinctively pursue the activities of producing, earning or acquiring wealth or worldly goods, as also those of enjoying the fruits there of including the satisfaction of basic needs, enjoyment of comforts and luxuries and indulgence in sensual and aesthetic pleasures. But, they are advised to add a third activity, the Dharma, to their pursuits, nay, it should better precede the other two and act as a constant guiding factor in regulating them. One must produce, earn and acquire wealth by putting in as much hard work, skill and foresight as he is capable of, but only by lawful means. He can certainly enjoy the fruits of his labor, but he should do so, again in a lawful way.

The keynote of this lawfulness is Ahimsa, which demands that one must not intentionally injure the feelings or the life forces of another, either by thought, word or deed, himself, through the agency of others, or even by approving of such an act committed by some body else. Intention in this case implies ulterior or selfish motive, sheer pleasure and even avoidable negligence. This Jaina or the 'Ahimnsite' way of life guarantees perfect amity and helpful coexistence between individual and individual, community and community, one nation or race and another, even between human beings and sub-human life.

A person professing Jainism puts his faith in the trio of 'Deva', 'Shastra' and 'Guru'. The Deva is the Jina who is the most adorable ideal, the Shastra connotes literature comprising, based on or imbued with the spirit of the teachings of the Jina, and the Guru is the selfless ascetic who pursues the path to liberation as shown by the Jina. These three are the objects of worship and deepest reverence in as much as they serve as spiritual guides and sources of inspiration to and the noblest ideals worthy of emulation by the seeker. He must abjure drinking liquors and eating animal food, including fish and eggs and excepting milk and milk products. He usually avoids all passion-arousing victuals and takes fresh, simple, healthy and wholesome meals and that, too, only in daytime, not after nightfall, and drinks clean filtered water. To him fornication, adultery, harlotry, wanton killing of life by way of sport, stealing, robbing and gambling are evil indulgences to be shunned and shaken off. The 'primary eight virtues' of a fain, although described differently in different Jaina books, agree in essence with the above summing up.

Besides the primary eight virtues, a Jain should take the 'five vows,' the first of which is abstinence from intentional killing of life for food, sport, pleasure or some other selfish purpose. But, he can and should use force, if necessary, in the defense of his country, society, religious institutions, family, life and property. His agricultural, industrial and diverse living activities do also involve injury to life, but it should be limited to the minimum possible through carefulness, cleanliness and due precaution. Thus, in the first stages a lay aspirant absolutely abstains only from the first of the four forms of 'Himsa'. The second vow is to abstain from telling lies and taking recourse to falsehood in speech or actions, to using harsh, cruel, shocking or abusive language, to ridicule, back-biting and flattery. The third vow is to abstain from stealing or misappropriating others property and includes abstinence from cheating, robbing and using dishonest or illegal means in acquiring any worldly object. The fourth vow is to abstain from having sexual relation with any body but one's own lawfully wedded spouse. And, the fifth vow is abstinence from acquiring and possessing worldly goods without a limit, in other words, it requires the imposition of a limit on one's needs, acquisitions and possessions and enjoins the use of the surplus for the common good. These are the partial or qualified vows, applicable only to the laity, the ascetics have to observe the vows absolutely and practice various internal and external austerities.

A Jain is expected to cultivate, as best as he or she can, the ten differential of 'Dharma', which are, forgiveness, humility, integrity, truthfulness, greed, discipline, penance, renunciation, possession-lessens and continence.