Rita: Sir many of my friends in school talk about God. Jesus is their God, Krishna is another God. Can you tell me something about our God?
Teacher: Many religions say, “God created the world. He maintains it. He controls it. He is very kind. He forgives us for our sins. He knows everything. He makes us happy. “
Rita: Does Jainism say the same thing about God?
Teacher: No, Jains have a different concept of God. It is not God, but godhood that can be attained by every soul. He/she who attains it, is omnipotent. He knows everything about all the past, present, and future at the same time. He is free from the four major Karmas. We call these great souls Arihantas. There have been many Arihantas. In present time cycle, there were twenty-four of them who set up the religious order afresh to help us cross the cycles of birth and death. They also re-establish the order of the Jain-Tirth formed of sadhus, sadhvis, male and female house holders and that is why they are also called Tirthankaras. The Jains worship them.
Rita: Did they create universe?
Teacher: No, the world is a natural phenomena. It is eternal which means that it was here from the beginning of time and will be here forever.
Rita: Sir, what are some different names for them and who were they?
Teacher: In Jainism they are called Tirthankars, Jinas, Vitrag, or Arihants. They lead us to the spiritual path and ultimately to liberation. Before renouncing their worldly life, some of them were kings, or princes, while others were ordinary people.
In Jainism we believe that every human, as well as any other living being has the potential to become perfect and omnipotent. But not all living beings may have this potential capability in this life.
Rita: Can we say then, that Lord Mahavira is a “Jain God”?
Teacher: Yes, Lord Mahavira is a “Jain God”. There were twenty-three such “Gods” before him in this time cycle. However, they are really not called “Gods” in the sense of them being the creator of the world. We call them Tirthankars or Arihants.
Rita: Oh! Now I can tell my friends that Arihantas or Tirthankars are our Gods. Will you tell us more about Lord Arihantas?
Teacher: Sure. You know that every name has a meaning. Kumud means “lotus”, and Ravi means “sun.” Similarly the word Arihant is made up of two words. They are “Ari” and “Hant.” Ari means “enemy” and Hant means “destroyer”. So Arihant literally means “destroyer of enemies.”
Payal: But, sir, the other day you said that Jains do not hurt anyone. Then how can our Lord Arihanta be a destroyer? I do not understand that.
Teacher: Payal, you are right. As a Jain, we are not supposed to hurt or destroy anyone. An Arihant’s enemies were not animals, bugs, or people like you and me. Arihantas did not have any enemies outside but they were from within.
Amar: The enemies within!!!
Teacher: Some times we get mad at friends, brothers, or sisters for very small matters. Sometimes we hide our toys when our friends come over to our house. We also cry at the mall when our parents don’t let us buy toys. Some kids show off in their class and act as if they know everything. These tendencies may look good to us at that time, and we may consider ourselves smart, but those thoughts are evil tendencies and sooner or later, they are going to get us in trouble.
These tendencies are our wrong desires. They are not good. Since they stay within us, they are our inner enemies.
Shila, Does this make sense to you? Can our desires be our enemies?
Shila: Yes Sir, now it makes sense. I remember the other day when I got mad at my best friend, she stopped talking to me. A few days later, when I really needed her help to study for a test, she did not help me and I got a “B” on the test. Now I realize how getting mad caused me to get a “B”.
Teacher: Sunil, have you experienced this kind of trouble?
Sunil: Yes, one day my sister and I were by ourselves at home. My sister got hungry and wanted to order pizza. She did not have enough money, and I would not share any of my money with her. So she had to stay hungry. A few weeks later, our parents dropped us off at the mall to go shopping. While we were at a clothing store, I noticed a nice jacket that I wanted to buy. I checked the price, and I saw that I did not have enough money. I asked my sister, if she would let me borrow some money. She said “No’ and reminded me about when she wanted to order pizza. I told myself, if I would have shared the money and not been so miserly, she would have given me money to buy that jacket. Later she said, “Don’t feel bad. I am not going to be like you, but remember that it is good to share.” Now I know that sharing is a very good idea.
Teacher: Does anyone else want to say anything?
Hina: Yes sir, now I realize what our inner enemies are. We
should control our anger. We should not be greedy. We should not insult anyone. We should not deceive anyone. In other words, we should control our desires.
Teacher: Yes, we should have total control of our desires, so that no matter what happens, we don’t get mad, greedy, or arrogant.
Arihantas did not destroy people, animals, birds or bugs, but they destroyed their inner enemies like anger, greed, ego, and deception (AGED).
Ashish: Now I know who the Arihantas are. They destroyed their inner enemies, but I still do not understand why we call them gods?
Teacher: Now, we are coming to the rest of the story. Once a person becomes an Arihanta, he/she knows everything and can perceive everything in the universe. He knows what is happening now, what will happen in the future and what has happened in the past at the same time. There is nothing that he does not know. He teaches us that we should be free from our inner desires. When we die, we are reborn as something else. When a Lord Arihanta dies, he/she becomes a Lord Siddha and is never born again. He is liberated from the worldly cycle of birth and death forever. That is why Lord Arihantas are called Gods.
Ashish: I still have one question. When we go to the temple our parents tell us to pray to the Gods. What are we supposed to pray to them?
Teacher When we pray, our prayers admire the Jinas for being free from their inner desires. Our prayers should not wish for rewards, but should remind us how to live a good Jain life. We also pray to them for being our models. We must try to follow their footsteps in order to achieve the supreme goal of liberation.
1) Do Jains believe in God?
2) What do other religions say about their Gods?
3) Do Jains believe God is the creator of the universe?
4) What are some different names for Jain Gods?
5) What does Arihanta mean?
6) What are our inner enemies?
7) Can anyone be an Arihanta?
8) Who is a Lord Siddha?