JAIN ORDER AND JAIN
The Jain religion is one of the oldest
religions in the world. The Jain religion was also known as Shraman Dharma,
Nirgranth Dharma, etc. It is not an offshoot of any other religion but is an
independent religion recognized by these various names during different time
periods. It was has been taught by Tirthankaras also called Jina. A follower
of a Jina is called a Jain and the religion followed by Jains is called
Jainism. Each Tirthankara revitalizes the Jain order. The Jain Order is
known as the Jain Sangh. The current Jain Sangh was reestablished by Lord
Mahävira, who was the 24th and last Tirthankar of the current
time period. The Jain Sangh is composed of the following four groups:
1) Sädhus (Monks)
2) Sädhvis (Nuns)
3) Shrävaks (Male householders)
4) Shrävikäs (Female householders)
The first Tirthankar of the current time
period was Lord Rushabhdev, who is also known as Ädinäth. Names of other
popular Tirthankars are Lord Shäntinäth (the 16th Tirthankar),
Lord Nemnäth (the 22nd Tirthankar), Lord Pärshwnäth (the 23rd
Tirthankar), and Lord Mahävira (24th Tithankar). Lord Mahävira is
the most popular Tirthankar of our time.
Lord Mahävira attained nirvän (liberated
from the worldly existence) in 527 B. C. He had eleven ganadharas
(disciples). Nine ganadharas attained liberation (salvation) during the
lifetime of Lord Mahävira, while aother two Gautamswämi and Sudharmäswämi
survived him. Gautamswämi attained perfect knowledge and perfect perception
and became Arihant the very night of Lord Mahavira's nirvän. The remaining
ganadhar, Sudharmäswämi, was the next to attain perfect knowledge and
perfect perception and became Arihant. Jambuswämi, the disciple of
Sudharmäswämi was the last Arihant of the present half time cycle. After
Jambuswämi none attained perfect knowledge and the knowledge declined slowly
as time went on.
Lord Mahavira's teachings were carried on
by his ganadharas to us in the form of scriptures (Agams). They were
compiled into twelve separate parts, known as the dwadashangi (twelve
parts). These twelve compositions were acceptable to all followers. However,
the dwadashangi were not put in writing for a long time. The Jain pupils
learned them by memorizing them. About 150 years after the nirvana of Lord
Mahavira, there was a drought for 12 years. During this time, some monks
along with Bhadrabahuswami migrated to South. After the drought was over,
some monks came back to North. They observed that there was some
inconsistency in oral recollection of the Jain scriptures by different
monks. That made them to compile scriptures. To accomplish that, the first
council (conference) of monks was held in Patliputra about 160 years after
Lord Mahavira’s nirvana. Monk Bhadrabahu, who had the knowledge of all 12
Angas, could not be present at that meeting. The rest of the monks could
compile only the first eleven Angas by recollection and thus, the twelfth
Anga was lost. The monks from the South did not agree with this compilation,
and the first split in Jainism started. Jains divided into two main groups,
Svetämbaras and Digambaras. Svetämbara monks wore white clothes. Digambara
monks did not wore any clothes at all.
The second council (conference) was held
in Mathura, 825 years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavira, under the
leadership of monk Skandil. Simultaneously, another council was held in
Valabhi under the leadership of Monk Nagarjunasuri. However, the texts of
Jain Scriptures were not written systematically until after the third
council that was held at Vallabhi 980 years after the nirvana of Lord
Mahavira under the leadership of monk Devarthigani.
Jain order had divided into two major
The Digambara sect
The Svetambar sect
The Digambara sub-sects
The Digambara sect, in recent centuries,
has been divided into the following sub-sects:
Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha.
The followers of Bisapantha support the
Dharma-gurus, that is, religious authorities known as Bhattarakas
who are also the heads of Jaina Mathas, that is. religious monasteries. The
Bisapanthas, in their temples, worship the idols of Tirthankaras and also
the idols of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. They worship these
idols with saffron, flowers, fruits, sweets, scented 'agara-battis', i.e.,
incense sticks, etc. While performing these worships. the Bisapanthis sit on
the ground and do not stand. They perform Arati, i.e., waving of
lights over the idol, in the temple even at night and distribute prasada,
i.e., sweet things offered to the idols. The Bisapantha, according to
some, is the original form of the Digambara sect and today practically all
Digambara Jainas from Maharashtra, Karnataka and South India and a large
number of Digambara Jainas from Rajasthan and Gujarat are the followers of
Terapantha arose in North India in the
year 1683 of the Vikram Era as a revolt against the domination and
conduct of the Bhattarakas. i.e. religious authorities, of the Digambara
Jainas. As a result in this sub-sect, the institution of Bhattarakas lost
respect in North India, however in South India the Bhattarakas continue to
play an importent role. In their temples, the Terapanthis install the idols
of Tirthankaras and not of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. Further.
they worship the idols not with flowers, fruits and other green vegetables
(known as sachitta things), but with sacred rice called 'Aksata',
cloves, sandal, almonds, dry coconuts, dates, etc. As a rule they do not
perform Arah or distribute Prasada in their temples. Again,
while worshipping they stand and do not sit.
From these differences with the
Bisapanthis it is clear that the Terapanthis appear to be reformers. They
are opposed to various religious practices. As according to them. These are
not real Jaina practices. The Terapantha had performed a valuable task of
rescuing the Digambaras from the clutches of wayward Bhattarakas and hence
the Terapanthis occupy a peculiar position in the Digambara Jaina community.
The Terapanthis are more numerous in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya
It is pertinent to note that even though
the name Terapantha sub-sect appears both among the Digambara and the
Svetambara sects. Still the two Terapanthis are entirely different from each
other. While the Digambara Terapanthis believe in nudity and idol-worship,
the Svetambara Terapanthis are quite opposed to both.
The sub-sect Taranapantha is known after
its founder Tarana-Svami or Tarana-tarana-Svami (1448-1515 A.D.). This
sub-sect is also called Samaiyapantha because its followers worship
Sarnaya, i.e., sacred books and not the idols. Tarana-Svami died at
Malharagarh, in former Gwalior State in Madhya Pradesh, and this is the
central place of pilgrimage of Taranapanthis.
The Taranapanthis strongly refute idolatry
but they have their own temples in which they keep their sacred books for
worship. They do not offer articles like fruits and flowers at the time of
worship. Besides the sacred books of the Digambaras, they also worship the
fourteen sacred books written by their founder Tarana-Svami. Further,
Taranapanthis give more importance to spiritual values and the study of
sacred literature. That is why we find a complete absence of outward
religious practices among them. Moreover, Tarana-Svami; was firmly against
the caste-distinctions and in fact threw open the doors of his sub-sect even
to Muslims and low-caste people.
These three main traits of the
Taranapanthis, namely, (a) the aversion to idol worship, (b) the absence of
outward religious practices, and (c) the ban on caste distinctions, were
evolved as a revolt against the religious beliefs and practices prevailing
in the Digambara Jaina sect, and it appears that Tarana-Svami might have
formulated these principles under the direct influence of Islamic doctrines
and the teachings of Lonkashaha, the founder of the non-idolatrous
Sthanakvasi sub-sect of the Svetambara sect.
The Taranapanthis are few in number and
they are mostly confined to Bundelkhand, Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh and
Khandesh area of Maharashtra.
The Gumanapantha is not so important and
in fact very little is known about it. It is stated that this sub-sect was
started by Pandit Gumani Rama or Gumani Rai, who was a son of Pandit
Todaramal, a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan.
According to this Pantha, lighting of
candles or lamps in the Jaina temples is strictly prohibited, because it
regards this as a violation of the fundamental doctrine of Jaina religion,
viz., non-violence. They only visit and view the image in the temples and do
not make any offerings to them.
This pantha became famous in the name of
shuddha amnaya, that is pure or sacred tradition, because its
followers always stressed the purity of conduct and self-discipline and
strict adherence to the precepts.
Gumanapantha originated in the 18th.
Century A.D. and flourished mainly during that century. It was prevalent in
several parts of Rajasthan, and it is found now in some areas of Rajasthan
The Totapantha came into existence as a
result of differences between the Bisapantha and Terapantha sub-sects. Many
sincere efforts were made to strike a compromise between the Bisa (i.e.
twenty) Pantha and the Tera (i.e.. thirteen) pantha and the outcome was
sadhesolaha (i.e., sixteen and a half)-Pantha or 'Totapantha'. That
is why the followers of Sadheso!aha Pantha or Totapantha believe to some
extent in the doctrines of Bisapantha and to some extent in those of
The Totapanthis are extremely few in
number and are found in some pockets in Madhya Pradesh.
In connection with the account of the
major and minor sub-sects prevailing among the Digambara sect. it is worth
while to note that in recent years in the Digambara sect a new major
sub-sect known as 'Kanji-pantha', consisting of the followers of Kanji Swami
is being formed and is getting popular especially among the educated
sections. Saint Kanji Swami (from whom the name ‘Kanji-pantha' is derived),
a ‘Svetambara-Sthanakvasi’ by birth, largely succeeded in popularizing the
old sacred texts of the great Digambara Jaina saint Acharya Kunda-Kunda of
South India. But Kanji Swami’s efforts, while interpreting Acharya Kunda
kunda's writings, to give more prominence to nischaya-naya, that is,
realistic point of view, in preference to vyavahara-naya, that is,
practical view point, are not approved by the Digambaras in general as they
consider that both the view points are of equal importance. However, the
influence of Kanjipantha is steadily increasing and Sonagarh town in Gujarat
and Jaipur in Rajasthan have become the centers of varied religious
activities of the Kanajipanthis.
The Svetambara sub-sects -
Like the Digambara sect, the Svetambara
sect has also been split into three main sub-sects:
The original stock of the Svetambaras is
known as Murtipujaka Svetambaras since they are the thorough worshippers of
idols. They offer flowers, fruits, saffron, etc. to their idols and
invariably adorn them with rich clothes and jeweled ornaments.
Their ascetics cover their mouth with
strips of cloth while speaking, otherwise they keep them in their hands.
They stay in temples or in the specially reserved buildings known as
upasrayas. They collect food in their bowls from the sravakas or
householders' houses and eat at their place of stay.
The Murtipujaka sub-sect is also known by
terms like (i) Pujera (worshippers), (ii) Deravasi (temple
residents). (iii) Chaityavasi (temple residents) and (iv)
Mandira-margi (temple goers)
The Murtipujaka Svetambaras are found
scattered all over India for business purposes in large urban centers, still
they are concentrated mostly in Gujarat.
The Sthanakvasi arose not directly from
the Svetambaras but as reformers of an older reforming sect, viz., the Lonka
sect of Jainism. This Lonka sect was founded in about 1474 A.D. by
Lonkashaha, a rich and well-read merchant of Ahmedabad. The main principle
of this sect was not to practice idol-worship. Later on, some of the members
of the Lonka sect disapproved of the ways of life of their ascetics,
declaring that they lived less strictly than Mahavira would have wished. A
Lonka sect layman, Viraji of Surat, received initiation as a Yati,
i.e., an ascetic, and won great admiration on account of the strictness of
his life. Many people of the Lonka sect joined this reformer and they took
the name of Sthanakvasi, meaning those who do not have their religious
activities in temples but carry on their religious duties in places known as
Sthanakas which are like prayer-halls.
The Sthanakvasi are also called by terms
as (a) Dhundhiya (searchers) and (b)Sadhumargi (followers of
Sadhus, i.e., ascetics). Except on the crucial point of idol-worship,
Sthanakvasi do not differ much from other Svetambara Jainas and hence
now-a-days they invariably call themselves as Svetambara Sthanakvasi.
However, there are some differences between the Sthanakvasi; and the
Murtipujaka Svetambaras in the observance of some religious practices. The
Sthanakvasi do not believe in idol-worship at all. As such they do not have
temples but only sthanakas, that is, prayer halls, where they carry
on their religious fasts, festivals, practices, prayers, discourses, etc.
Further, the ascetics of Sthanakvasi cover their mouths with strips of cloth
for all the time and they do not use the cloth of yellow or any other color
(of course, except white). Moreover, the Sthanakvasi admit the authenticity
of only 31 of the scriptures of Svetambaras. Furthermore, the Sthanakvasi do
not have faith in the places of pilgrimage and do not participate in the
religious festivals of Murtipujaka Svetambaras.
The Svetambara Sthanakvasi are also spread
in different business centers in India but they are found mainly in Gujarat,
Punjab, Harayana and Rajasthan.
It is interesting to note that the two
non-idolatrous sub-sects, viz., Taranapanthis among the Digambaras and
Sthanakvasi among the Svetambaras, came very late in the history of the
Jaina Church and to some extent it can safely be said that the Mohammedan
influence on the religious mind of India was greatly responsible for their
rise. In this connection Mrs. S. Stevenson observes: "If one effect of the
Mohammedan conquest, however, was to drive many of the Jainas into closer
union with their fellow idol-worshippers in the face of iconoclasts. Another
effect was to drive others away from idolatry altogether. No oriental could
hear a fellow Oriental’s passionate outcry against idolatry without doubts
as to the righteousness of the practice entering his mind, Naturally enough
it is in Ahmedabad, the city of Gujarat, that was most under Mohammedan
influence, that we can first trace the stirring of these doubts. About 1474
A.D. the Lonka sect, the first of the non-idolatrous Jaina sects, arose and
was followed by the Dhundhiya or Sthanakvasi sect about 1653 A.D. dates
which coincide strikingly with the Lutheran and Puritan movements in
Europe." (vide Heart of Jainism, p. 19).
The terapanthi sub-sect is derived from
the Sthanakvasi; section. The Terapanthi sub-sect was founded by Swami
Bhikkanaji Maharaj. Swami Bhikkanaji was formerly a Sthanakvasi saint and
had initiation from his Guru, by name Acharya Raghunatha. Swami
Bhikkanaji had differences with his Guru on several aspects of
religious practices of Sthanakvasi ascetics and when these took a serious
turn, he founded Terapantha on the full-moon day in the month of Asadha in
the year V.S. 1817, i.e., 1760 A.D.
As Acharya Bh1kkanaji laid stress on the
13 religious principles, namely, (i) five Mahavratas (great vows),
(ii) five samitis (regulations) and (iii) three Guptis
(controls or restraints), his sub-sect was known as the Tera (meaning
thirteen)-pantha sub-sect. In this connection it is interesting to note that
two other interpretations have been given for the use of the term Terapantha
for the sub-sect. According to one account, it is mentioned that as there
were only 13 monks and 13 laymen in the pantha when it was founded,
it was called as Tera (meaning thirteen) -pantha. Sometimes
another interpretation of the term Terapantha is given by its followers.
Tera means yours and pantha means path; in other words, it means,
"Oh! Lord Mahavira! it is Thy path".
The Terapanthis are non-idolatrous and are
very finely organized under the complete direction of one Acharya,
that is, religious head. In its history of little more than 200 years, the
Terapantha had a succession of only 9 Acharyas from the founder
Acharya Bhikkanaji as the First Acharya to the present Acharya
Tulasi as the 9th Acharya.
This practice of regulating the entire
Pantha by one Acharya only has become a characteristic feature of the
Terapantha and an example for emulation by other Panthas. It is
noteworthy that all monks and nuns of the Terapantha scrupulously follow the
orders of their Acharya, preach under his guidance and carry out all
religious activities in accordance with his instructions. Further, the
Terapantha regularly observes a remarkable festival known as Maryada
Mahotasava. This distinctive festival is celebrated every year on the
7th day of the bright half of the month of Magha when all ascetics
and lay disciples, male and female, meet together at one predetermined place
and discuss the various problems of Terapanthis.
The penance of Terapanthis is considered
to be very severe. The dress of Terapanthi monks and nuns is akin to that of
Sthanakvasi monks and nuns. But there is a difference in the length of
muhapatti, i.e., a piece of white cloth kept always on the mouth. The
Terapanthis believe that idolatry does not provide deliverance and attach
importance to the practice of meditation.
Further, it may be stressed that the
Terapantha is known for its disciplined organization characterized by one
Acharya (i.e., religious head), one code of conduct and one line of thought.
The Terapanthis are considered reformists as they emphasize simplicity in
religion. For example, the Terapanthis do not even construct monasteries for
their monks, who inhabit a part of the house which the householders build
for themselves. Recently their religious head, Acharya Tulasi, had started
the Anuvrata Andolana, that is, the small vow movement. which
attempts to utilize the spiritual doctrines of the Jainas for moral uplift
of the masses in India.
The rise of Terapantha is the last big
schism in the Svetambara sect and this Pantha is becoming popular.
The Terapanthis are still limited in number and even though they are noticed
in different cities in India, they are concentrated mainly in Bikaner,
Jodhpur and Mewar areas of Rajasthan.
Sädhus (monks) and Sädhvis (nuns) are
people who have voluntarily given up their household lives and worldly
affairs and have accepted the five major vows to uplift their souls on the
spiritual path. They strictly follow the rules laid down for them. Shrävaks
and shrävikas, on the other hand, continue to lead worldly lives. They may
observe in full or to a limited extent, twelve minor vows laid down for