Much thought and extensive exchange of views have gone into the planning of the manuscript of Aspects of Jaina Religion by Dr. Vilas Sangave. This has been done primarily under the active guidance of the Prasident of Bharatiya Jnanpith, Padma-bhushan Sahu Shriyans Prasad Jain. Whatever the limited range of published works on Jainism in English so far, some of it most serious and some of a rudimentary nature, aspects of Jaina Religion is expected to make its mark mainly because it combines the authenticity of the essentials with the simplicity of treatment. It goes to the credit of Dr. Sangave that t he has been able to weave a pattern of presentation where history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, political ramifications and social ethics, each with its own colour and charm, harmonies to illustrate the glory that is Jainism and its basic creed of universal compassion that is Ahimsa.
As the title of the book suggests, it does not deal with the whole range of nuances of philosophy or astounding sweep of religions and secular literature through centuries of pioneering work of great Acharyas and scholars in Prakrit, Sanskrit, Apabhramsa and in various regional languages, or the amazing achievements in the field of Art and Architecture, with any descriptive details, and yet it gives a panoramic view of each such aspect so that a reader can acquaint himself reasonably well with the fundamentals of Jain religion and culture, and also the way an ascetic and a layman have to conduct himself under the prescribed codes.
A vary distinctive feature of the book is that each individual aspect of the Jaina religion has been presented as a part of the organic whole so that the principles of Jainism get interpreted in the context of their practical application. Jainism, thus, becomes meaningful and relevant in the universal overview. The essence of Jainism lies in its approach to the spiritual advancement o the individual welfare of humanity and protection of all life in it s pulsating environment.
It is in order to emphasise this aspect that the author has at times taken recourse to re-stating the same basic social and ethical concepts in varying contexts. It is not that thus, hang loosely, but rather acquire new significance in the context of each such relevant topic. Th following chapters seem to be indicative of this :
Distinctiveness of Jaina Ethics (Chapter VI )
Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture ( chapter IX )
Significance of Jainism ( Chapter XI )
As a social scientist, Dr. Vilas Sangave has brought to bear his insight and integrated comprehension on some of the obtruse topics of philosophy where what he himself says is authenticated by appropriate and telling quotations. For instance, while dealing with the philosophy of Karma, Dr. Sangave quotes Dr. C. Krouse from his Heritage of the Last Arhat as follows :
“Jainism does not torpify its followers by the terror of karma, nor does it make them languish in unhappy effeminate fatalism as many people think all oriental religions do, but on the contrary, it trains the individual to become a true hero on the battlefield of true conquest.”
Thought Dr. Krouse does not say it so specifically, nor does Dr. Sangave points it out as a footnote or by way of a comment, it is obvious that this simple quotation sums up what the Jina is and what jainism stands for.
Through 11 chapters and less than 200 pages, Dr. Sangave has attempted to give a compendium on Jainism which, for all practical purposes, serves as a handbook to be studied carefully by those who want to understand not only the fundamentals of Jainism, but also its historical and social perspective in a logical sequence. It has also been the author’s and the publisher’s aim that the book should prove useful and intelligible to foreign readers too.
Suggestions for incorporation of additional material or for improving the presentation would be most welcome by the author and Bharatiya Jnanpith.
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