Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
Foreword
I. JAINA TRADITION UPTO MAHAVIRA
II. PRINCE MAHAVIRA
IV. PRECEPTS OF MAHAVIRA
V. DOCTRINES OF MAHAVIRA
  VII. SIGNIFICANCE OF MAHAVIRA

Chapter - I.  JAINA TRADITION UPTO MAHAVIRA

 

Dr. V.A.Sangave

(iv) Moreover, on some seals we find the figure of a bull engraved below the figure of a nude male deity practising penance in the �Kayotsarga� way i.e. in a standing posture. These figures appear to be the representations of Rishabhadeva, the 1 st Jaina Tirthankara, because of the facts that among the 'Jainas there is an established practice of depicting the Lanchhana i.e. the emblem of each Tirthankara below his idol and that the emblem of Rishabhadeva is bull.

(v) In addition, the sacred signs of Swastika are found engraved on a number of seals (vide Sir John Marshall: MohanjoDaro and the Indus Civilization, Vol. III, Plate No. 14, Picture Nos. 500 to 515). It is pertinent to note that the Swastika signs engraved on Seals Nos. 502, 503, 506 and 514 exactly resemble the established Jaina practise of drawing Swastika signs .

(vi) Further, there are some motifs on the seals found in Mohanjo-Daro and it is suggested that these motifs are identical with those found in the ancient Jaina art of Mathura.

From these archaeological evidence it can be stated that there are traces of worship of Jaina deities and that there was the prevalence of worship of Jaina Tirthankara Rishabhadeva alongwith the worship of Hindu God who is considered to be the prototype of Lord Shiva in the Indus Valley Civilization. This presence of Jaina tradition in the most early period of Indian history is supported by many scholars like Dr. Radha Kumud Mookarji, Gustav Roth, Prof. A. Chakravarti, Prof. Ram Prasad Whanda, T.N. Ramchandran, Champat Rai Jain, Kamta Prasad Jain and Dr. Pran Nath.

Regarding the antiquity of Jaina tradition of Tirthankaras Major J.G.R. Forlong (in his books 'Short-studies in the Science of Comparative Religion�) writes that from unknown times there existed in India a highly organized Jaina religion from which later on developed Brahmanism and Buddhism and that Jainism was preached by twenty-two Tirthankaras before the Aryans reached the Ganges. Dr nmmerman also strongly supports the antiquity of Jaina tradition in the following terms. "There is truth in the Jaina idea that their religion goes back to remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the Pre-Aryan." (Vide Zimmerman: The Philosophies of India, p. 60).

6. Jaina and Vedic Religions Traditions:

The antiquity of Jaina religious tradition can thus be traced back to the earliest period of Indian history. This Jaina tradition is not only Pre-Vedic but non-Aryan also. It is obvious that the Jaina religion was flourishing in India, especially in the eastern regions of India, where the Aryans came and settled in India. Hence from the advent of Aryans in India, we find the prevalence of two distinct religions traditions in India, viz. theVedic and the Jaina religious traditions.It is true that because of their basic differences in tenets and practices of religion, these ,two traditions were opposed to each other and that each tradition did try to dominate the other. In spite of this struggle we notice that both the traditions did run parallel in India, sometimes one becoming dominent and sometimes the other.

In the Vedic tradition the priest had a pre-eminent position as he was the champion of ritualism. He vigorously claimed that the welfare and indeed the very existence of the world, including even the Gods, depended upon the maintenance of their systems of sacrifice, which grew to immense size and complexity. The cults popularised by him were polytheistic; the deities were very often the forces of nature; and man was put , at their utter mercy, the priest alone being capable of saving him by seeking the favour of the deities through sacrificial rites. This school of thought was more prominent first in North-West India as the Aryans coming from outside settled first in that region; but later on it did spread towards the Eastern and Southern regions of India.

On the other hand in the Jaina tradition prominent position was assigned to the ascetic. In the Eastern region of India, and especially along the fertile banks of the Ganges and the Jamuna, there flourished a succession of ascetic Teachers, who, hailing from rich families, had enough leisure for high thinking and religious meditation. For them, the spirit in man and also in all animate beings, was the focus of religious meditation as well as an object of investigation in relation to all that is inanimate in the universe. This brought them face to face with the problem of life here and elsewhere, since both spirit and matter were real for them-real, and therefore essentially eternal, though passing through the flux of change. Life here and hereafter was the result of the beginningless connection between spirit and matter, which was the source of all the misery in this world; and the aim of religion was to separate matter from spirit, so that the latter might achieve a state of liberation in which it would exist in a plentitude of purity, bliss and knowledge.Man is his own master; his thoughts, words and the acts have made him, and continue to make him, what he is; it is in his hands to make or mar his present or future; the great Teachers of the past are his ideals to inspire him along the path of religion; and he has to struggle with hope, on the well-trodden path of spiritual progress, following a code of moral and ascetic discipline, till he reaches the goal of spiritual emancipation or perfection.

In view of this ideology there is no place, in the Jaina religious thought, either for a Deity who shape the universe and meddles in its matters, or for a priest invested with mys terious powers to propitiate that Deity. This line of thought is continuosly and forcefully represented by Jaina Tirthankaras right from Rishabhadeva to Mahavira. Later on a similar line of thought was adopted by Ajivika Teachers like Gosala, by Sankhya Philosophers like Kapila and promulgators of Buddhism like Buddha.As these acetic Teachers of different religions and sects represent virtually the same line of thought; they are said to belong to one comprehensive tradition known as Shramana Tradition. Naturally the Jainas are the oldest representatives of Shramana tradition and Mahavira was the last among the Jaina Tirthankaras who expounded the tradition for the benefit of living beings.