Antiquity of Jain Asceticism
15. The sources of Jain history and asceticism are Angas, Upangas, and other literary works, inscriptions, Pattavalis and antiquities of all types written in Prakrit, Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannad and other classical languages. The earlier literary works are more important but they are full of mythical legendary elements, which are mingled with historical facts. The Pattavalis are also not fully reliable as their authors added and omitted the mater according to their discretion. Secondly, the supernatural and egregious elements along with technical terms like Purva, Dhanusa, Raju etc. are so much occurred that the historical facts are covered with their devotional impact of umbrella. The veil of historical darkness could be removed if the researcher strives to comprehend them through different developmental stages in the light of modern perspective. Researchers of east and west tried to determine the historical position of Jainism right from the beginning of l8th century and submitted their different speculations, which were simply fantastic and divergent. Some of them tried to establish that Jainism is the reformed religion of Brahmanism while others are of view that either Buddhism emerged from Jainism or Jainism is the Buddhist schism. All these speculations were successfully and admirably criticized and refuted by Professor H. Jacobi in l879 in his introductions to the volumes XXII and XLV of the sacred Books of the East Series who convincingly shown that Jainism and Buddhism are two completely different religions and they are not offshoots of Brahmanism. He also proved through early Pali literature that Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were quite different historical contemporary personalities and Jainism was definitely in existence prior to Buddhism. Gosalaka, the founder of Ajivika sect was the follower of Mahavira and the Buddha was the follower of Parsva tradition. The scholars now accept this theory. He further quotes the Uttaradhyanasutra which mentions an interview near Sravasti between Gautama Indrabhuti, the disciple of Mahavira and Kesi, the follower of Parsvanatha in which after the good conversion as to the number of vows and use or disuse of clothes, the two leaders recognized that the doctrines of their respective teachers were essentially the same. This fact points out that an older faith prevailed before the advent of Lord Mahavira who reorganized the same faith on a former basis. Professor Jacobi thus established once forever the theory that Jainism is not an offshoot of Buddhism. Likewise, it is also established fact that Jainism is not an offshoot of Vedic religion. It also supports the Jain tradition that it is the ancient and pure Aryan culture of India. 2
16. Two types of Indian cultural systems are found in India, Brahmanic and Sramanic or Non-Vedic. The early Brahmanic system is the civilization of those who subjugated the senses and materialistic empire. In later period , it seeks the grace of God with violent approach and clashes started with each other. The Ksatriya class developed its earlier system bestowing the name of Sramanology in early days. During the Upanisdic period, even the well-versed Brahamnic sages went to Ksatriyas to acquire the spiritual knowledge. The Sramana tradition is therefore not an offshoot of Vedic or Brahmanic cult, but it is quite an independent religion and philosophy based on equality and equanimity and self- efforts leading to salvation. According to Sramanas, the being is himself responsible for his/ her own deeds. Salvation ( Moksa) , therefore, can be attained by anyone. Jainism is thus a very democratic religion. Ritual, in its opinion, is not the only means of emancipation. The only means of escaping from the misery of Samsara, the cycle of birth and death, is the path of moral, mental and spiritual development based on complete ascetic non-violence and truth.
17. These characteristics of Sramana culture can be understood, as indicated earlier, by the word “Sramana (Prakrit Samana) itself which is derived from “Srama (Prakrit Sama) to exert, effort, labour or to perform austerity, but is mixed in meaning with “Sama” to emancipate from Karma with observing “Sama” equality and equanimity. 3 One Sramana who performs acts of mortification or austerity is called “” (Sramati tapasyatiti Sramanah), 4 which are very popular in both the Sramana traditions, Jainism and Buddhism. According to this definition, as earlier told, the beings are he responsible for their own deeds. Salvation, therefore, can be achieved by any-body irrespective of caste, creed, color, sex and culture. The cycle of rebirth to which every individual was subjected was viewed as the cause and substratum of misery. The goal of every person was to evolve the way to escape from the cycle of rebirth. Each school of Sramanas preached its own way of salvation. But they all agree in one respect, namely in discounting violent rituals as the means of the emancipation from misery of Samsara, and establish that only pious religious activities can lead the being to the eternal happiness.
18. Jainism is claimed to be one of the most ancient religious systems. According to its tradition, it is an eternal and imperishable religion, which is manifested heretically by all Tirthankaras and Jinas time to time from generation to generation in the same manner. It has no beginning and it will never cease to exist. In its tradition, as many as twenty-three more Jinas or Tirthankaras are recognized as heaving preached the doctrine of Jainism prior to Vardhamana Mahavira or Nigantha Nataputta, the contemporary of the Buddha who is very much known to us. They are so designated as they had conquered themselves through perfect knowledge and gained absolute freedom from the bondage of Karmas and as they had founded the four Tirthas or orders of ascetics monks, nuns, and male and female disciples to continue to do so for ever. They are human beings, born of human parents, renounced the world individually, initiated the spiritual life and became superhuman, , Jina or Tirthankara the propagator of Truth and not the founder of a religion. After attaining perfect knowledge, Tirthankaras deliver sermons for well being of all. They preach universal love, compassion, harmony, equality and equanimity and way of life to all the human beings irrespective to caste, creed, color and gender.
19. The Jain tradition is of view that the universe and its creation are eternal and infinite and are divided into two eras (Kalpas), viz.1) Avasarpini or descending era subdivided into six ages, i) Susama-Susama (happy-happy), ii) Susama (happy), iii) Susama-Dusama (happy-unhappy), iv) Dusama-Susama (unhappy-happy), v) Dusama (unhappy), and (vi) Dusama-Dusama (Unhappy-unhappy), and 2) Utsarpini or ascending era sub-divided into six having the same names in reverse order. In the Avasarpini era we are passing through , the people attain all the pleasure and the happiness at the starting point, which reduce gradually up to the last era. The Utsarpini era commences with utmost sorrowful condition and ends with most pleasant age. The first three of the Avasarpini era and the last three of the Utsarpini era are collectively called the Bhogabhumi (happy and contended) where the people achieve and fulfill their requirements from Kalpavrksas (wish-fulfilling trees). They used to inhabitant in forest and lead their lives on fruits and trees. Art and industries were also not known to them. From historic viewpoint. This may be called the early and later Stone Age.
20. The remaining ages are called Karmabhumi (age of action where the people learn to work, toil, write, educate and express art etc. The inventors of this age are called Kulakaras (legislators and founders of civilization) who are said to have appeared in the first of these last three ages or in the fourth age of the era, the transitional period of the age. The result of the phenomenal change compelled the kulakaras to create the revolutionary Karmabhumi period for welfare of the society. The number of Kulakaras is varied in ancient Jain literature, but ordinarily the number is fourteen. Nabhiraya, the father of Rsabhadeva, the first Tirthankara of Jainism is said to be last one. These kulakaras changed the old order and invented the number of new methods for evolving the civilization and educating the people in various ways. In those days the life was very easy and simple. It changed gradually and, as a result, the Kulakaras are said to have adopted three types of Dandaniti (punishment), viz. admonition (Hakara), warning (Makara), and the reprimand (Dhikkara). The first five Kulakara’s found it enough to rebuke the wrongdoer with “Ha”. The next five Kulakaras had the need of “Ma” to reinforce the effect of disapproved. “Ha” expressed the exclamation towards the misdoing while “Ma” signified regret, as if to say, “I regret that you should have done such a thing as this”. This was enough to curb the offences to set right the way for the future. The remaining Kulakaras added “Dhik” to the existing code of penalties to express their abhorrence of the evil deed. The first Tirhtankara Rsabhadeva and his son Bharata laid down the regular laws. 5 This may be said the starting point of Jain asceticism.
21. The human civilizations have been divided into three parts, viz. Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. Human beings got real entry into civilization in the third Neolithic age, which may be named as Fourth age is supposed to be the best in which the Tirthankaras Kulakara or Avasarpini period in the light of Jaina tradition. Accordingly, the and other great personages take birth and enlighten the human beings for their spiritual development. We are at present living in the Fifth age of the Avasarpini, which commenced the few years after Mahavira’s Parinirvana (527 B.C.) and is of 21000 years duration. It may be mentioned here that the Kulakaras are also called Manu in the Adipurana of Jinasena (3.211-12). The fourteen Manvantaras in Vedic tradition also carry out the same activities. 6 The Visnupurana (3.2.45-47) describes the main functions of the Manvantaras.
22. After Kulakaras, the sixty-three Great Personalities or men of mark (Salakapurusas) appeared in the current Avasarpini period, viz. I) 24 Tirthankaras, ii) 12 Cakravartis, iii) 9 Balabhadras, IV) 9 Vasudevas or Narayanas, and v) 9 Prativasudevas or Pratinarayanas. Of these, Rama, the hero of the Ramayana and Padmapurana of Jainas flourished in the age of Tirthankara Munisubrata. The impact of Nami and Parsvanatha’s philosophical conceptions can be perceived on the Upanisdic mysticism. Lord Krisna, the apostle of Non-violence was the cousin of Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara. Jacobin rightly pointed out that out of 63 Salakapurusas, 27 are related to krsna legend. It amounts to come to the conclusion that an attempt for reconciliation between Brahmanical and Sramanic systems was made during this period.
23. There were three types of cultural groups in India: l) the Northern group which was spiritual, non-violent, and who were idol worshippers is known as the “Aryans”. 2) The Southern group which was well-versed in the arts and industries is called the “Dravidas” or “Vidyadharas”, and 3) the North-western group which spread over Asia, Europe, Iran, etc. is known as the “Indo-Aryan. On the basis of new researches, scholars are of the view that the Aryan and Dravidian cultures originally belonged to Jainism. Dravidas were definitely not the Vedic Aryans and they are, therefore, called Anaryas. Dasas (slaves), Dasyus (thieves), Arhatas, Vratyas, Anaryas, and Asuras (demons) are referred to in Vedic literature as opponents of the Vedas. Jain culture has been refuting the idea that the Vedas were not composed by man (Apauruseyatva) since inception. Therefore, these ancient references must be connected with Jainism.