Jainism : as a Religion
8. Jainism is a Dharma, synonymous with English word Religion. The translated
term "Religion" has been derived from the latten verb "Religare" meaning to bind
together or from "Religere" meaning to execute" painstakingly which suggest both
groups identity and ritual. Its combined form connotes that religion is to
impose binding duties and required observances on its adherents. On this basis,
it can be defined expressing valuation or designations and certain kinds of
beliefs and practices. The word Dharma in our Indian tradition is derived from
the verb Dhr to bear that indicates that Dharma is a base of all entities (Dharanad
dharma mityahurdharmao dharayate praja (Mahabharata, Karmaparva, 69).
9. Hundreds of definitions of Dharma and Religion have been made in different
Perspectives. I need not go into them. As regards the Jain tradition, it has two
broad meanings: one is generic in usage and the other, technical and specific to
the use of the term. Dharma in technical sense is the basis for dynamism in life
that helps in our movement or motion. It is opposed to Adharma, stillness or
rest. No other system of thought in India has conceived these two terms in such
a fashion as in Jain system. It is possible that these two terms may signify the
moral connotations of life with its movement and death.
10. The generic term Dharma has two levels of meaning: one is metaphysical and
the other one is ethical and moral. Jain philosophers defined the Dharma as
follows:l) that which saves the being from worldly sorrows (Sansaradukkhatah
sattvan yo dharatyuttame sukhe- Ratnakatranda Sravakacara, 2; cf.
Sarvarthasiddhi, 9.2, Caritrasara, 3.1 etc.).2) To observe non- violence,
compassion, restraint, right penance, brotherhood, forgiveness, truth and other
human qualities (Dhammo dayavisuddho- Bodhapahud, 25; cf. Sarvarthasiddhi,
9.7Rajavartika, 6.l3.5 etc.)3) Ratnatraya (Right faith, Right knowledge, and
Right conduct) is Dharma (Sadrastijnanavrttani dharmam dharmesvara viduh -
Ratnakaranda Sravakacara, 3, Dhavala, Pustaka, 8,p.92 etc.)4) Nature of the
entity is Dharma or nature of purified soul is Dharma (Niscayadharma) �
Vatthusahavo dhammo, Pravacanasara, 7-8 etc.)5) Devotion, donation, worship,
service, etc. are included into practical aspects of religion (Pancaparamesthyadibhaktiparinamarupa.
vyavaharadharmastavaducyate- Pravacanasara Tat.Vr. 8.9 etc.).
11. All these definitions are related to each other with different aspects.
Acarya Kundakunda, for instance, defined the Dharma in several ways:
Vatthusahavo dhammo, Rayannatayam ca dhammo, Carittam khalu dhammo,
khamadidasaviho Bhavo dhammo and so on. These definitions are associated with
right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct, which are called Ratnatraya.
The Ratnatrayas constitute together the path of emancipation from all Karmas or
Moksa. The religion cannot be observed without Ratnatraya. Here the observation
of ten kinds of religion becomes essential in Jain tradition : Ksama
(forbearance), Mardava (humility), Arjava (uprightness), Satya (truthfulness),
Sauca (desirelessness), Samyama (self-discipline), Tapa (self-mortification),
Tyaga (renunciation), Akincanya (poverty), and Brahmacarya (celibacy) (Tattvarthasutra,
9.6; Thananga, 10.16 etc.).
12. All these Dharmas in Jain tradition carry the adjective "Uttama" which
indicates the right attitude of the follower towards all the aspects of religion
with great spirituality and profundity (Sarvarthasiddhi, 9.6). They do not have
any relation with wealth of fame (Rajavartika, 9.6.26; Caritrasara, 1.58). This
tenfold ascetic Dharma consists of four elements: Dana ((almsgiving), Sila
(virtue), Tapas (ascetic practices), and Bhava (spiritual attitude).
13. This is the generic meaning of Dharma indicating the metaphysical, ethical
and moral attitude to human values. It relates with the ultimate aim of life
(liberation or Moksa). The traditional Jain view does not accept the grace of
God or help from any external agency for achieving the final goal. The Bhakti
element is of course there but it is from the conventional or practical point of
view (Vyavaharanaya) and not from real standpoint (Niscayanaya). Any one could
achieve this goal by one's own efforts. Non-possession, non- violence and
vegetarianism have their roots in such efforts. This is the humanistic approach
to the goal of life.
14. The religion in Jain Sramana cultural system is of two types: one is
pertaining to individual, and the other one is concerned with the society.
Individualistic religion is meant for spiritual aggrandizement and pleasure of
temporal and next world of all beings whereas the other one confines to the
prosperity of the society or community for mundane gratification and nation as
well. It is of view that the caste system depends on one's deeds (Kammana jati)
and not on birth. Maitri (friendship), Karuna (compassion), Mudita or Pramoda
(sympathetic joy), and Madhyasthabhava (impartiality) are the cultivation of the