First Steps To Jainism



Preface to First Edition

Need has been felt for a small book in simple English containing elementary knowledge of Jainism. Not only in the West, where lately interest in Jainism has increased considerably, but also amongst the younger generation of Indians knowing English, inquiry is frequently heard about some such book-“Can you suggest some small book on Jainism in simple English?”/p>

No doubt, there are a number of books in English on Jainism specially by German indologists and other western scholars. Also some Indian authors like J. L. Jaini (Outline of Jainism, published in 1916), C. R. Jain (Fundamentals of Jainism, 1916) and others have written some good books on Jainism. However, such books are of a level too high to be easily intelligible to a layman. These are learned treatises following Jain sacred texts. These books assume that readers have familiarity with and have considerable basic knowledge of the subject of Jainism. This makes those books heavy reading for the beginners.

Similarly the language used in most of such books contains more than a sprinkling of Prakrit or Sanskrit terms relating to Jainism, the reason for which is not far to seek. It is obviously difficult to find the exact equivalents of a number of Prakrit or Sanskrit terms in English language. Thus Tirthankar, siddha, Dravya, dracaena, karma, etc. are very difficult words to be exactly translated into equivalent English terms. The result is that reading of such books with heavy dosage of oriental terms becomes all the more difficult for a layman.

Such books, no doubt, are very useful as books of reference but do not attract the readership and these do not meet the demand mentioned in the beginning of this preface.

The reader is further discouraged by frequent references to ancient geography and mythology, which like elsewhere, contain material that might appear simple hyperbole to the unfamiliar and uninitiated reader. Further a mere collection and presentation of facts, without relating them to context and without indicating their place in the system, leaves the reader confused with a hazy and superficial knowledge of Jainism, where grain is mixed with chaff.

We have therefore, attempted to describe all the important aspects of Jainism in simple language in brief self-contained chapters, to provide elementary knowledge of the principles of Jainism. Since the chapters are self-contained, some items may have been repeated. The compilation has, therefore, been called First Steps to Jainism, each chapter being called a step. Care has been taken to avoid the shortcomings mentioned above, so as to satisfy rational inquiries about the Jain view of life and to encourage further studies in Jain set of beliefs and Jain way of life.

The plan of this effort is to cover the significant features of Jainism-the metaphysical, ethical, theological, philosophical-in two parts. First one, dealing with the preliminary and essential features, is before you. This first part begins with Groundwork-the first chapter, which as the name suggests-prepares the ground for the study by giving a general idea for introducing the subject of Jain religion to familiarize the reader. It gives a bird’s eyeview of Jain tradition, its main tenets and teachings.

The subsequent five chapters called five steps deal with the following aspects-

(i) Step One – Universe – The Six substances (the Dravya)- This chapter contains a brief description of the universe and its constituents according to Jain metaphysics. The subject has been of considerable interest to all humanity in all ages, and we propose to deal with this initially and show the simple and logical approach of Jainism to the subject of the Universe and its dimensions in time and space. The main constituents of the beginningless universe according to Jainism, i.e., (1) the living beings, (2) time, (3) space, (4) medium of motion, (5) medium of rest and (6) matter are dealt with in this chapter. Attempt has been made to exhibit that this Universe is a sort of stage on which the living beings (the souls) and the non-living matter interact with each other with the help of other four constituents.

(ii) Step Two – The Seven fundamentals (The Tattva)-We take off from the last chapter and in this chapter try to depict the detailed process by which the interaction between the living (the soul) and the non-living (matter) takes place and its different phases and aspects. The subject forms the core or the fundamental sector of the Jain thought indicating the path that should be followed so that the soul comes out victorious from its struggle with matter, which is the ultimate aim and destiny of the human soul. The procedure of interaction between the soul and the matter includes influx of matter into soul, bondage of the soul, stoppage of influx, destruction of the bondage and final liberation.

(iii) Step Three – The Three Jewels (The Ratna)-For achieving the liberation of the soul from perennial bondage and to enable it to discover its full power and glory Jainism prescribes three fold noble path also known as Three Jewels of Jainism: Right Vision, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. This three fold approach is described in this chapter. It has been rightly observed that right vision is the foundation on which the whole structure of right knowledge and right conduct is built. Similarly, right knowledge guides the conduct of human beings on the right lines.

(iv) Step Four – The Three Hallmarks (The Lakshan)-The ethical part of Jainism is as simple, as logical and as dignified as the metaphysical part. Actually it shows the highest stage of civilization reached by man. In day to day life Jainism prescribes adoption of non-violence, self-control and penance for the sake of happiness in this life and in the next. The scope of these hallmarks, the practicability thereof and their importance in day to day life of individuals and the society is attempted to be explained in this chapter. Indeed, these hallmarks of Jainism and the emphasis thereupon have attracted much attention lately of all thinking world due to the practical use to which Mahatma Gandhi put the concept of non-violence in the solution of the problems in human affairs

(v) Step Five – The five worships (The Panch Parmeshthi)-The Jain prayer to the five supreme beings is another example of its catholicity and universality. This prayer is elaborated in this chapter to throw light on the qualities of the worshipped beings.

In part II we propose to deal with more elaborate and advanced aspects of Jainism like Theory of Non-absolutism(Ane-kantvad), Theory of causation(Karamvad), stages of Evolution (Gunasthan)etc. Both parts when ready will be issued with notes, authorities, references and bibliography in one Volume.

Before closing we request that this endeavor should be viewed as an attempt at introduction of the subject only with a view to encourage further study of this ancient religion. No scholarship or authoritative approach is claimed by the authors, who are beginners, and shall feel obliged to those who read this book and give their suggestions to improve it. All this effort is built on the inspiration and blessings of Gurudev who has initiated us on this noble path. If there are any shortcomings that are noticed we shall be grateful to be advised of the same and we tender profound apologies in advance with folded hands(Michamidukaram).

Asoo Lal Sancheti

M.Com., LL.B.,I.R.A.S.

Retd.Financial Advisor & Chief Accounts Officer,

Indian Railways

Former Member, Accounts & Finance,

Rajasthan State Electricity Board

Jodhpur Manak Mal Bhandari

July 31,1984 B.Com.

 Preface to Second Edition

Before Part II of the Book could be ready, first edition of Part I has exhausted. There being demand for the Book, a second edition is being published in hard cover.

Jodhpur A.L. Sancheti

July 31, 1989 M.M. Bhandari  

Preface to Third Edition

The third edition of the book is before the readers after five years since the second edition was published. In the meantime Part II of the Book has been published in Nov.1994-Divali. In this edition an additional feature has been included in the form of thirty-two Plates giving a glimpse of Jain art-calligraphy, painting, statutory, architecture and structures.

Our grateful thanks are due to Shriman Shanti Chandji Sahib Bhandari from whose photographs and collection of paintings, we have borrowed heavily for the plates’ section. We are thankful to other collectors and publishers from whom we have taken material for some of the plates.

Jodhpur A.L. Sancheti

Oct.1995-Divali M.M. Bhandari