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

FLOURISHMENT AND DECLINE

 

 

2. CONTINUOUS EXISTENCE

 

          In fact, the most creditable achievement of Jainas is survival from, ancient times up to the present day. The Jainas and the Buddhists were the main representatives of S�ramana culture in India and it is pertinent to note that while Buddhism disappeared from the land of its birth, though it survives in other parts of the world, Jainism is still a living faith in India though it never spread outside India with the exception perhaps of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). There are many reasons responsible for the continuous survival of Jainas in India.

 

1. Excellent Organization

          Perhaps the most important reason which contributed to the continued existence of the Jain community to the present day is the excellent organisation of the community. The significant part of the Jain organisation is the fact that the laity has been made an integral part of the community. The community has been traditionally divided into four groups, viz. Sadhus or male ascetics, Sadhvis or female ascetics, Shravakas or male laity and Shravikas or female laity, and these groups have been bound together by very close relations. The same Vratas or religious vows are prescribed for ascetics and laity with the only difference that the ascetics have to observe them more scrupulously while the tally is allowed to follow them in a less          severe manner. The laity is made completely responsible for the livelihood or the ascetics and to that extent the latter are dependent on the former. From the beginning ascetics have controlled the religious life of file lay disciples and file lay disciples have kept a strict control over the character of the ascetics. That is why the ascetics are required to keep themselves entirely aloof from worldly matters and to rigorously maintain their high standard of ascetic life. If they fall short of their requirements they are likely to be removed from their positions. In this connection, H. Jacobi rightly remarks as follows, �It is evident that the lay part of the community were not regarded as outsiders, or only as friends and patrons of the Order, as seems to have been the case in early Buddhism; their position was, from the beginning, well defined by religious duties and privileges; the bond which united them to the Order of monks was an effective one...... It cannot be doubted that this close union between laymen and monks brought about by the similarity of their religious duties, differing not in kind, but in degree, had enabled Jainism to avoid fundamental changes within, and to resist dangers from without for more than two thousand years, while Buddhism, being less exacting as regards the laymen, underwent the most extraordinary evolutions and finally disappeared in the country of its origin.�

 

2. Inflexible Conservatism

          Another important reason for the survival of the Jaina community is its inflexible conservatism in holding fast to its original institutions and doctrines for the last so many centuries. The most important doctrines of the Jaina religion have remained practically unaltered up to this day and, although a number of the less vital rules concerning the life and practices of monks and laymen may have fallen into disuse or oblivion, there is no reason to doubt that the religious life of the Jain community is now substantially the same as it was two thousand years ago. This strict adherence to religious prescriptions will also be evident from Jaina architecture and especially from Jaina sculpture, for the style of Jaina images has remained the same to such an extent that the Jaina images differing in age by a thousand years are almost indistinguishable in style. Thus an absolute refusal to admit changes has been considered as the strongest safeguard of the Jains.

 

3. Royal Patronage

          The royal patronage which Jainism had received during the ancient and medieval periods in different parts of the country has undoubtedly helped the struggle of the Jain community for its survival. The Karnataka and Gujarat continued to remain as strongholds of Jains from the ancient times because many rulers, ministers and generals of renowned merit from Karnataka and Gujarat were of Jain religion. Apart from Jain rulers many non-Jain rulers also showed sympathetic attitude towards the Jain religion. From the edicts of Rajputana it will be seen that in compliance with the doctrines of Jainism orders were issued in some towns to stop the slaying of animals throughout the year and to suspend the revolutions of oil-mill and potter�s wheel during the four months of the rainy season every year. Several inscriptions from the South reveal the keen interest taken by non-Jain rulers in facilitating the Jains to observe their religion. Among these the most outstanding is the stone inscription dated 1368 A.D. of the Vijayangara monarch Bukka Raya I. When the Jains of all districts appealed in a body for protection against their persecution by the Vaishnavas, the king after summoning the leaders of both sects before him declared that no difference could be made between them and ordained that they should each pursue their own religious practices with equal freedom.

 

4. Work of Jaina Saints

          The varied activities of a large number of eminent Jain saints contributed to the continuation of Jain community for a long period, because these activities produced a deep impression upon the general public regarding the sterling qualities of Jain saints. They were mainly responsible for the spread of Jainism all over India. The Chronicles of Ceylon attest that Jainism also spread in Ceylon: As regards the South India it can be maintained that the whole of it in ancient times was strewn with small groups of learned Jain ascetics who were slowly but surely spreading their morals through �the medium of their sacred literature composed in the various vernaculars of the country. These literary and missionary activities of the Jain saints ultimately helped the Jains in South India to strengthen their position for a long time in the face of Hindu revival. Even in political matters the Jain saints were taking keen interest and guiding the people

whenever required. It has already been noted that the Gangas and the Hoyasalas were inspired to establish new kingdoms by the Jain Acharyas. Along with the carrying of these scholastic, missionary and political activities, the Jaina Acharyas tried to excel in their personal accomplishments also. Naturally princes and people alike had a great regard for the Jain saints in different parts of the country. Even the Muslim rulers of Delhi honoured and showed reverence to the learned Jain saints of North and South India. It is no wonder that the character and activities of such influential Jain saints created an atmosphere which helped to lengthen the life of Jain community.

 

5. Social Welfare Work

          A minority community for its continued existence has always to depend on the goodwill of the other people and that goodwill could be persistently secured by performing some benevolent activities. The Jains did follow and are still following this path of attaining the goodwill of all people by various means like educating the masses and alleviating the pain and misery of people by conducting several types of charitable institutions. From the beginning the Jains made it one of their cardinal principles to give the four gifts of food, protection, medicine and learning to the needy (ahara-abhaya-bhaishajya-shastra-dana) irrespective of caste and creed. According to some this was by far most potent factor in the propagation of the Jain religion. For this they established alms-houses, rest-houses, dispensaries and schools wherever they were concentrated in good numbers. It must be noted to the credit of the Jains that they took a leading part in the education of the masses. Various relics show that formerly Jain ascetics took a great share in teaching children in the Southern countries, viz. Andhra, Tamil, Karnataka and Maharashtra. In this connection Dr. Altekar rightly observes that before the beginning of the alphabet proper the children should be required to pay homage to Ganesha, by reciting the formula �Shri Ganeshaya Namah�, is natural in Hindu society, but that in the Deccan even today it should be followed by the Jain formula �Om Namah Siddham� shows that the Jain teachers of medieval age had so completely con trolled the mass education that the Hindus continued to teach their children this originally Jain formula; even after the decline of Jainism. Even now the Jains have rigorously maintained the tradition by giving freely these four types of gifts in all parts of India. In fact the Jains never lag behind in liberally contributing to any national or philanthropic cause.