Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

INTRODUCTION

SPEECH
PREFACE
FOREWORD
SIGNIFICANT FEATURES
  DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES
  RELIGIOUS SPLITS
  SOCIAL FISSIONS
  FLOURISHMENT AND DECLINE
  CURRENT FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES
  TABLES

CURRENT FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES

 

 

2. LACK OF COMMUNITY FEELING

          Another fundamental problem of a vital importance, with which the Jaina community is confronted, is regarding the social organisation of the community. In this respect the position of the Jaina religion is quite distinct. Jainism is not at all concerned with the division of society into classes or other groups. But for the facility of living the Jainas divided the people into four classes, viz. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras. In dividing the society into four classes the Jaina Acharyas made it abundantly clear that the classes are based on the differences in professions and that complete freedom is given to persons to follow any profession they like. The classes were neither considered as hereditary, nor were they arranged in the order of respectability. Thus all classes were placed on the same level and full mobility was assured between the classes. This was the social organisation of the Jainas at the time of Lord Mahavira and it prevailed for more than one thousand years after his death.

 

          But afterwards slowly these four classes disappeared and their place was taken by many castes and sub-castes. The caste system of Jainas was practically modelled from the Hindu caste system. As a consequence the Jaina community has been divided into a large number of castes and sub-castes which through their councils control the social relations of their members. Contacts are not maintained among various classes. Inter-marriages are largely prohibited. Even though inter-dining is not banned, still it is not availed of freely at all. Caste organisations run the boarding houses, distribute the scholarships, hold annual conferences, conduct their papers, provide residential accommodation at cheap rents and do other things all for the benefit of their caste members only. At many places castes have built their own temples where members assemble for performing religious services and festivals. Naturally by these means, at the expense of community feeling, caste loyalty is fostered in the minds of the Jainas. The caste system has created separatist tendencies in the Jaina community.

 

          Thus on the social grounds, just as on the religious ground, the Jainas have been divided and sub-divided into small sections which care more for themselves than for the Jaina community as a whole. The strength of the small community has been very much weakened by the existence of these innumerable self-centered groups.

 

          Apart from considerably reducing the vitality of the community, these social and religious divisions have very adversely affected the, marriage relations of the people. One of the prominent features of the caste system is its endogamous nature. Accordingly a member of a particular caste or sub-caste, as the case may be, is required to marry a person who  belongs to that caste or sub-caste. The exact. number of castes and sub-castes prevailing in the Jaina community at present is not known but it is sure that the number is definitely more than one hundred. When a small community is divided into so many sections, it is obvious that the numerical strength of these sections must be meagre. That is why more than half the castes in the Jaina community possess the members who number less than five hundred. Naturally the field for choice of partners becomes very limited. Along with caste endogamy, religious endogamy is also to be observed. This means that the caste members belonging to the same sect or sub-sect should have marital relations among themselves only. The members of a sub-caste, but not of the same sub-sect, are not expected to contract matrimonial alliances among themselves. Further, with these factors territorial considerations have also to be taken into account. Accordingly the partners to the marriage must not only belong to the same caste or-sub-caste and to the same sect or sub-sect, but also must be the residents of a particular locality. Thus there is practically no scope given to the Jainas in the important matter of the choice of their life partners. It is evident that in these circumstances the married life cannot be conducive to happiness and many a time marriages have necessarily to be contracted between not too distant relatives. Moreover, due to these three-fold restrictions the already existing deficiency of females is further heightened and comparatively many males are required compulsorily to remain unmarried against their wish throughout their life. All these things tell upon the growth of the population and create discontent among the people. It is, therefore, clear that the caste solidarity is tried to be maintained through restriction on marital relations even though they definitely go against the. interests of the community as a whole.

 

          In these circumstances it is quite obvious that the social organisation of the Jainas should not be based on the caste system, if the Jainas have to put a stop to their gradual decline. The Jainas must unhesitatingly reduce the role of the caste system forthwith. In doing so they are, undoubtedly, not going against the religion because Jainism never sanctioned the caste system. It must be remembered that in the past castes were not found in the Jaina community at all. There is not even a slight evidence in the doctrines of Jainism, in the ancient history of the Jaina society or in the ancient Jaina literature regarding the existence of caste-distinctions in Jaina community. That is why concerted efforts will have to be made to give prominence to community feeling and to gradually reduce the influence of castes.

 

3. TENDENCY TO DISREGARD AHIMSA

          Another most important current issue of a fundamental and very urgent nature before the Jaina community at present is the increasing tendency of showing persistent disregard in practice to the observance of the actual rules of behaviour pertaining especially to food and drink laid down by the ethical code of conduct based on the basic doctrine of Ahimsa as preached by Jainism. This objectionable tendency to consume prohibited items of food and drink is clearly seen among adolescent and young members of the community at present and there is a possible danger that in course of time it would spread to other sections also in near future. This is a very serious matter as it poses a virtual threat not only to the prestige and continuity of the Jaina community but also to the future of the Jain Religion in the sense that both the Jaina Religion and its followers the Jainas-are extremely valued in this world because of the utmost importance accorded by them to actual observance of the basic principle of Ahimsa in all activities of life.

 

          In this regard it can be asserted that of all religions of the world, Jainism is the only religion which has the principle of Ahimsa as its central doctrine. The other religions also speak of Ahimsa whenever convenient, but they never offer such loyalty to the principle of Ahimsa as is found in Jainism. In the history of world religions, Jainism alone has given a unique position to the doctrine of Ahimsa and has based its ethical code entirely on the complete observance of the tenet of Ahimsa in all its aspects. Jainism is the only religion in the world which has given maximum attention to the important practical aspects of the theory of Ahimsa so that Ahimsa, in its minutest details, can be actually observed both by the lay followers and ascetics in their day to day life. At the same time, Jaina Religion has got the unique distinction, among the other religions of the world, of ably presenting in a scholastic and scientific manner the theoretical and philosophical side of the doctrine of Ahimsa by discussing it thoroughly not only from internal and absolute points of view, but also from external and real points of view.

 

          Similarly, among the five main vows prescribed by Jaina religion, the most fundamental position has been given to the Ahimsa-Vrata, i.e. the vow of Ahimsa, and it has been convincingly shown that the remaining four main vows, viz. Satya-Vrata, i.e. the abstention from falsehood, Asteya-Vrata, i.e. the abstention from stealing, Brahmacharya-Vrata, i.e., the abstention from unchastity, and AparigrahaVrata, i.e. the abstention from the worldly attachments, are nothing but the details of the vow of Ahimsa. Further, along with making the vow of Ahimsa very comprehensive and all-inclusive in character and scope, extreme, carefulness in the actual practice of Ahimsa has also been strongly advocated and with this end in view the Jaina scriptures have particularly laid down the five kinds of Aticharas, i.e. transgressions, of each of the five main vows along with other vows and have specifically enjoined upon the householders to avoid these Aticharas so as to make the practice of Ahimsa as faultless as possible. Moreover, even though the theoretical dimensions of the vow of Ahimsa in all its aspects were made very wide and the extreme carefulness was insisted on the actual observance of the vow of Ahimsa, still every precaution was taken to see that the vow of Ahimsa can be definitely put into practice in the daily life of the followers of Jainism. At the same time for ensuring the practicability of vow of Ahimsa many prescriptions were laid down in regard to the actual observance of Ahimsa in accordance with. the respective capacities of followers of Jainism.

 

          In addition, the doctrine of Ahimsa was not confined to its negative aspect, i.e. avoidance of injury only, but at the same time great stress was laid to emphasise the positive aspect, i.e. increasing the welfare of others, which is inherent in the doctrine of Ahimsa and accordingly the Jaina scriptures gave encouragement to the grant of charities, extended support to the organization of welfare activities for the benefit of all living beings and strongly advocated the spirit of tolerance with reference to the other religionists.

 

          Thus the philosophy and rules of conduct laid down in Jaina religion have been based on the solid foundation of Ahimsa, which has, throughout and consistently, been followed to its logical conclusion. That is why Jaina Religion has become synonymous with Ahimsa Religion and, the Jaina Cult-Lire is termed as the Ahimsa Culture. On this basis Jainism has also shown to the world in a perfect and convincing way tile worth of the doctrine of Ahimsa by stating the basic principle, viz. �Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah�, i.e. Ahimsa is the greatest religion.

 

          In view of these considerations it is quite imperative for the Jainas from tile point of their continued existence in future as a distinct and respectable entity in the world to see that their internal religious and social differences are reduced to a great extent and to ensure that tile detailed rules of behaviour specialty those pertaining to food and, drink-as laid down by I hr ethics of Jainism based on the fundamental doctrine of Ahimsa are scrupulously observed by all sections of the community. If these things are achieved there is no doubt that the Jaina community will continue to play a positive role and will retain its prestigious position in future also. In this connection it is worth quoting the considered opinion on the future role of Jaina community in India put forward by the eminent senior sociologist and thinker, Dr. R.A. Schermerhern, in his world recognised book �Ethnic Plurality in India� in the following words : �If the internal dissensions among the Jains are reduced, and if the inflexible conservatism of the Jains remains strong and is centered about the ideal of Ahimsa, the Jain Community will have a continuing function in the life of India that cannot easily perish�.