CERTAIN SPECIAL FEATURES OF JAINISM


 

4.1 THE ONTOLOGICAL VIEW

 

The ontological view of Jains is concerned primarily with the life and existence rather than the creation of the universe and the conception of God. Jainism, however, cannot be regarded as agnosticism or metaphysical nihilism. It is to the credit of Jain thinkers that they constructed a philosophy and theory of reality out of the negative approach of those who were

protesting against the dogmatism of the Vedas.

 

Jainism does not deny reality. Jain philosophers adopted a middle course by propounding a theory that the world consisted of two eternal, uncreated, coexisting but independent categories of substances: The conscious (jiva) and the unconscious

(ajiva). They developed the logic that the world is not

altogether unknowable; only one should not be absolutely certain about one's assertions. Jain philosophers said that moral and religious values must be brought out of dogmatic slavery.

Wisdom must be proved by reason which, in turn, depends on the experiences of self and of others. The human experience based on reason constitutes the data for the discovery of reality.

4.2 CONCEPT OF GODHOOD

 

Professor Surendranath Dasgupta, the famous philosopher-

historian, has described the concept of Godhood as follows:

"The true God is not the God as the architect of the universe, nor the God who tides over our economic difficulties or panders to our vanity by fulfilling our wishes, but it is the God who emerges within and through our value-sense, pulling us up and through the emergent ideals and with whom I may feel myself to be united in the deepest bonds of love. The dominance of value in all its forms presupposes love, for it is the love for the ideal that leads us to forget our biological encumbrances. Love is to be distinguished from passion by the fact that while the latter is initiated biologically, the former is initiated from a devotedness to the ideal. When a consummating love of this description is generated, man is raised to Godhood and God to man." (9)

 

This corresponds to the Jain approach to Godhood. In Jainism, God is the supreme manifestation of human excellence.

 

4.3 PESSIMISM vs. OPTIMISM

 

Jainism is often considered to have a prevailing note of

pessimism about life. This is not true. The tone of

hopefulness pervades all aspects of Jain philosophy. "We hear much indeed of philosophy", observes Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, "as a call to transcend the narrowness of egoism and identify

ourselves with something greater than ourselves as the way of salvation, but this is not in order to escape from the

ineradicable evil of existence but in order to find ourselves in things that give to existence its only true value." For "in the man who transcends his narrow self and merges it in the life of the whole philosophy as truth, religion as devotion and morality as goodness meet." This is similar to the Jain view of life described earlier.

 

4.4 THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN PEACE

 

We are all pilgrims of peace. So far, we have not succeeded in our quest. No doubt we have discovered science and science has given us new powers but it has not brought peace. The time has now come when philosophy and religion should turn their

attention to the problem of peace on earth. Jainism, owing to its comprehensive and accommodative nature, is well-equipped to solve the problem of world peace. Jainism preaches multiplicity of viewpoints (anekantavada) which weans us from too

exclusive occupations and dogmatic suppositions. The gigantic experiments going on throughout the world need a fuller

understanding of the minds of the leaders of thought,

irrespective of their, social outlook, political beliefs,

religious creed or nationality. With the complexity and vastness of the subject matter, the attainment of unanimity remains only an ideal. Great thinkers have made varied attempts to reach this ideal. It is essential that people should look at things from as many viewpoints as possible and reach an acceptable solution to problems.

 

4.5 TRUTH AND NONVIOLENCE

 

Jain ethical code is based on two main concepts: Nonviolence (ahimsa) and truth (satya). These are important not only for individual uplift but also for social welfare and prosperity. All the twenty-four Tirthankars preached nonviolence and truth for spiritual advancement as against sacrificial rituals. Nonviolence is based on sanctity of life and love for all living beings. Truth purifies the mind. Speaking pleasant and wholesome truth is nobler than silence.

 

In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi has demonstrated the value of these ideals. "I am being led to my religion", he says "through truth and nonviolence, i.e., love in the broadest sense.... Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known. The most ignorant among mankind have some truth in them. We are all sparks of truth. The sum total of these sparks is

indescribable, as-yet-unknown-truth which is God. I am being daily led nearer to it by constant prayer." ...He further says, "To be sure to such religion, one has to lose oneself in continuous and continuing service of all life. Realization of truth is impossible without a complete merging of oneself in, and in identification with, this limitless ocean of life.

Hence, for me, there is no escape from social service, there is no happiness on earth beyond or apart from it. Social service here must be taken to include every department of life. In this scheme, there is nothing low, nothing high, all is one, though we seem to be many." (10)

 

4.6 JAlNISM AS APPLIED INTELLIGENCE

 

Jainism is neither the satisfaction of intellectual curiosity (nishchaya) nor the practical pragmatism (vyavhara) alone. It is a combination of both. Both are essential for an integrated growth of man. Intellect is significant as a means to better practical moral adjustment. However, truth cannot be attained by reason alone without practical moral discipline of the

passions and prejudices which warp human judgement. In short, Jainism is applied intelligence rather than pure science. It is a training in modesty rather than twisting the facts for a supposed explanation. Jainism influences life with deepest insight, widest farsight, synthetic disinterestedness (vitaraga) and penetrating comprehensiveness in man's journey towards salvation--the state of soul having infinite perception,

infinite knowledge, infinite bliss and infinite strength.

 

By developing insight, man acquires the quality of

distinguishing between the real and the unreal, and of grasping of the ultimate nature of things. By developing farsight, man acquires the quality of distinguishing the eternal values from transitory ones and lives his own life for accomplishing the eternal values. The quality of disinterestedness relieves a person from one-sided dependence. A comprehensive view helps man penetrate beneath the superficial and limited sphere, and leads him to the nature of reality.

 

It is primarily because of these features that Jainism has maintained its identity and has remained less hostile and more accommodative to fellow religious communities than some other heterodox systems.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------- 9. Philosophy of Dependent Emergence in Contemporary Indian Philosophy, edited by S. Radhakrishnan and J. H. Muirhead. p. 285. George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1958.

 

10. Contemporary Indian Philosophy; op. cit. p. 21.