Meaning of Jainism

Jainism is a religion propounded by a `Jina’. Principles enunciated by a `Jina’ constitute Jainism and the follower of Jainism is known as a `Jaina’. Further, a `Jina’ is neither a supernatural being nor an incarnation of an all-powerful God. The word `Jina’ means the conqueror or the victorious, i. e., one who has conquered the worldly passions by one’s own strenuous efforts. Human beings are entitled to become `Jinas’ and as such `Jinas’ are persons of this world who have attained supreme knowledge, subjugated their passions and are free from any sort of attachment. Jainism is nothing but a set of principles preached by such persons known as `Jinas’. Hence Jainism is not an Apaurusheya religion, i.e., a religion propounded by a non-human being or based on a sacred book of non-human origin. On the contrary, Jainism is a religion of purely human origin and it has emanated from the mouth of a dignitary who has secured the omniscience and self-control by his own personal efforts. In short, Jainism is the substance of preachings of dignitaries who have attained the state of `Jinas’.

Further, after attaining self-realization by conquering the five senses and by destroying all the (ghati) `Karmas’, i. e. bondages of life and after acquiring `Kevala Jnana’, i. e., the omniscient knowledge, the `Jina’ spends the rest of his time in `Dhanmaprabhavana’, i. e., preaching the principles of religion to the mass of human beings. Not satisfied with his own self-realization, the `Jina’ engages himself in the noble task of helping his fellow-beings with his message of Dharma, i. e., religion, which would enable the ordinary mortals to reach the summum bonum of life and attain the same spiritual status of perfection which he himself has acquired by his own personal efforts. Because of this noble task of showing the `Mokshamarga’, i. e., the path of spiritual realization, Jina is also called Tirthankara. This term `Tirthankara’ or Prophet means one who helps human beings to cross the ocean of Samsara, i.e., this life by providing them with a vessel to sail with in the form of Dharma. Hence, Jainadharma is the boat which is provided for the human beings for the purpose of crossing the ocean of Samsara and because of this noble task of helping the mankind, Jina is also called Tirthankara.

Thus, the people who worship the Jina or the Tirthankara and who follow the religious tenets proclaimed by the Jina are called the Jainas and their religion is Jainism.