Lala Raj Krishen Jain Memorial Lectures, University of Delhi,
Delhi have become an institution in themselves. Instituted in 1975 by Lala
Prem Chandra Jain in memory of his illustrious father, the Lecture Series
have not only acquired a history of their own; but have created a
tradition in the annals of the University. Beginning with A.N. Upadhye
(who, in fact, could not deliver the first lectures of the series due to
his intervening sad demise), the Lecture Series have passed through a long
course of their own where eminent scholars presented their scholarly
lectures of the highest order. Some of the top academicians who obliged us
in this context were G.C. Pande, D.S. Kothari; B.R. Saksena, Jagdish
Chandra Jain, K.D. Bajpai and so on. Vilas A. Sangave happens to be the
latest and the fourteenth.
The verbal presentation of the scholars are committed to
printing by Shri Raj Krishen Jain Charitable Trust, New Delhi for the
benefit of those who fail to avail of the occasion and for the future gene
ration of scholars and the lay people. Some of these lectures have already
been published. The ones delivered by Dr. Sangave are being brought out
To write a foreword to the lectures entitled `Jaina Society
Through The Ages� by Dr. Sangave is a reward in itself. The theme chosen
by him is relevant not only to every Jaina in the country and abroad, but
also to every thinking Indian as well. He has brought out the salient
features of the Jaina Community of India in the Most lucid language and
has underlined the fundamental issues that haunt the community as a whole.
Basing primarily on the Census Reports of� India from 1891 to 1981 and on
his own observations as one of the topmost sociologists Dr. Sangave has
brought to high such important and startling facts which open the eyes of
those who profess the religion in question and of those as well who watch
it being followed, upheld and professed as per the tenets of their faith.
Dr. Sangave has planned his theme in the following broad
sections-Significant Features, Demographic Changes, Religious Splits,
Social Fissions, Flourishment and Decline and Current Fundamental Issues.
In this context, he has very ably highlighted the distinguishing features
of Jainism (the precise and correct spelling of the term is Jinism), the
demographic analysis of the Jaina Community as a whole and statewise,
districtwise, regionwise and so on; the rise of sects and sub-sects,
origin and interaction of classes (Varnas) and castes, the history of
Jainism in terms of its Flourishment and decline and lastly the problems
of the fundamental nature which are staring at the face of the Jaina
Community in terms of its survival in the face of the cut-throat rivalry
and competition that are going on in the country as a whole.
The present piece of research of Dr. Sangave like his earlier
ones is a work which depicts his trait of clear-headedness and frankness.
He has brought out and highlighted the truth without any fear or favour.
This is one of the rarest feat on the part of a scholar particularly in
the present day context, when intimidation and appeasement are galore all
around. He has attempted at the exposure of the persecutions policy and
nature of Hinduism in the past and present which has done utmost harm to
the growth and development of Jainism and Buddhism. In this context, he
has also suggested ways and means, which if followed and practised in
letter and spirit, can restore the past glory of Jainism and can
reinvigorate it for centuries to come.
One of the most significant observations of Dr. Sangave in his
present thesis is with. regard to the concept of Ahimsa as a doctrine.
Among the five vratas (vows) of the Jainas; the first one which pertains
to Ahimsa has been considered by Dr. Sangave and thousands of his
predecessors as the essence of Jaina faith and religion. It has also been
considered as the chief or foremost vrata, whereas the other four ones,
i.e. Satya-vrata (abstention from falsehood), Asteya-vrata (abstention
from stealing), Brahmacarya-vrata (abstention from sexual indulgence) and
Aparigraha-vrata (abstention from (lie worldy possessions) are treated as
the suppliment of the first one i.e.-Ahimsa-vrata. In fact, the vow of
Ahimsa over the centuries has become at the hands of authors and Acaryas
the all-inclusive and the must comprehensive in character and scope.
Various studies of the doctrine of Ahimsa have been made and
brought to light in the recent past by scholars both professing the
religion and observing it from close quarters. They too have tried to
define the term. Their interpretations differ considerably. The scholars
depict it as a positive concept, on the one hand, though the derivative
meaning of the term Ahimsa presents it to be a negative concept, i.e.
negation from the act of causing injury to any living being while the
other set of scholars, on the other hand, argue differently and ask why
did after all the concept of Ahimsa originate; what was the necessity that
impelled young men of the times of Mahavira and Buddha to leave their
households, worldly pleasures, etc. and adopt a life of poverty and
self-negation; what did they want to achieve and so on and so forth. In
finding answers to the questions cited above, some scholars have come to
the conclusion that probably Ahimsa was a social necessity of that period
and the period that followed. Modern researches; they argue; have revealed
that iron was discovered in the Gangetic Valley in the 8th and 7th
centuries B.C. With the help of iron implements large tracts of land were
brought under plough. That was the beginning of the shift in the society
from the pastoral mode of production to an agricultural one. In carrying
the shift to its culmination point, it was necessary to utilize the
services of large number of domesticated animals and cattle and hence a
social necessity was felt on a large scale. That was the reason, they
hold, that led to the revolt against sacrificial killing of cattle.
It took the shape of a revolution under the leadership of
Mahavira and Buddha. The emphasis on Ahimsa in the teachings of those
great religious leaders has been explained in this very manner. Now the
point that emerges is that if this explanation has got any bearing on the
situation of the society of those days, it has equal of similar hearing on
the society today. One may simply ask and argue: why this Ahimsa when the
industrialization is the order of the day and machines are gradually
taking over the place of the cattle; will it not lead to large scale
surplus of cattle; what will the society do With the surplus cattle, and
so on and so forth. Large scale meat and fish consumption in the
industrialised countries may have its explanation in the analysis as cited
above. Under the circumstances, the role of the upholders of Ahimsa has
increased to a very large extent. Among such upholders of Ahimsa, the
Jainas occupy the foremost position and thus the major responsibility lies
on their shoulders to defend and protect their cherished doctrine as a
whole. The suggestion of Dr. Sangave that there is a tendency towards
slackness in the observance of the principle of Ahimsa even among the
Jainas themselves gets explained in this manner. One may go to the extent
of suggesting that the necessity of the emergence of another Tirthankara
has become quite obvious today.
Another very relevent question that needs an explanation in this
context is the position of other vratas propounded by Ana (Mahavira, the
Jaina Tirthankara) or Thirthankaras especially the last one, i.e.
Aparigraha. Mahavira had taken it to its logical culmination when he
established the order of monks who were required to discard parigraha
(possession) of all sorts including the clothes to cover their bodies
against the vagaries of nature and to hide their nudity. The spirit behind
this lofty doctrine of the Jaina faith as propounded by him was to think
of the fate of the dispossessed in the society. Thus, in fact, he was the
first and the foremost �socialist� in recorded history of the human race.
The question needs, I believe, a thorough investigation by the fellow
Another point that needs a thorough analysis by the scholars is
the study of the ways and means that thc religious minorities have adopted
over the centuries for their survival in the face of the all-pervading
influence of the ruling faith. It is a truth examined and tested all
through history that the ideas, manners, customs, rituals, etc. of the
ruling group overpowers those of the rest of the people, whether they like
it or not. This process may be slow, but it is always steady. Under the
circumstances of the same or similar nature, the leaders of each religious
minority find out and practise the methods that they consider
influence-proof. Whether the Jaina community has made its own arrangement
to face this challenge is the uppermost concern in the mind of Dr. Sangave
as a sociologist.
Dr. Sangave�s lectures provide a clear-cut message to the Jaina
Community as a whole to rise to the occasion and unite itself for its
survival. As noted above, he traces history of Jainism in the country and
does not hesitate to call a spade a spade. The Hindu persecution of the
Jainas has been clearly and unambiguously cited and illustrated by him and
the sad and unfortunate fate of Jainism today has been ascribed to the
aggressive and expansionist designs of Hinduism. This needs stoppage for
all times to come. The awakening among the Jain masses is the only answer,
one may submit.
To conclude, it may be noted that Shri Raj Krishen Jain Memorial
Lecture Series have another dimension of their own. As cited above, the
lectures have created history in the University of Delhi, I Delhi. Will
this history stop with the said lectures alone? This is another question
that agitates our minds quite often. Its culmination, I believe, lies in
the establishment of a full-fledged Department of Prakrit and Jainology.
Will the Jaina Samaja (community) rise to the occasion? Academicians like
us are impatient people. They want history to be recreated and not that
history be allowed to take its own course.
Professor & Head
Room No. 81,
Department of Buddhist Studies,
Faculty of Arts,
University of Delhi, Delhi.