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1 1. What is Jainism?
The word Jainism originated from “Jina” meaning winner. Jina are the religious leaders of Jainism. They are the connection between the material and the spiritual world and they are also called Tirthankaras (“Ford Finders”). In the Kalpa-Sutra (bible of Jainism) there are 24 Tirthankaras indexed and three are described in detail: The first Jina, Rishabha, the 22nd Neminatha, his successor, Parshavanatha and Mahavira, the last Jina and known as the initiator of Jainism
Mahavira (meaning “the Great Hero”) was born 599 BC in Kundapura and died 527 BC in Pavapuri. His real name was Vardhamana. He decided to become an ascetic, when he was about 30 years old and already married to Yasodha, with whom he had a daughter. After two more years he put off all his clothes to walk around as a pure, naked, man, just like he was created. This life lasted twelve years until he became omniscient. Then he called himself Jina and Mahavira. As a preacher he founded an order for monks and nuns. During that period he could convince a lot of people of his religion. He was supported by the kings of Magadha and Bimbisara, and by his son Ajatashatru. After 38 years of preaching he left a strong religious community, which still exists in India, but couldn’t get success in other parts of the world, in contrast to Hinduism or especially Buddhism.
In Jainism the world is divided in two main principles: Spiritual (Jiva) and Non-Spiritual (Ajiva). Ajiva or non-jiva is matter in all its forms, and the conditions under which matter exists: time, space, and movement. Jiva consists of an infinite number of identical souls, which exist in humans, animals, plants, but also water. Naturally every soul is pure and omniscient, but the Karma spoils the soul. This is why the soul can’t move on in the cycle of reincarnations (Samsara) until all Karma is wiped out. To clean the soul you have to follow the ethic principles of Jainism.
Jainism has five different ethic principles, which were introduced by Mahavira: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacarya (chastity) and Aparigraha (non-possession). Those principles are valid for all souls, so they count for men and animals. This is why Jains are firm vegetarians. The ethic principles are stricter for monks.
Jainism is divided in two different groups, schools or sects: Digambaras and Shvetambaras. The Digambaras are followers of the Jain monk Bhadrabahu, who foresaw a period of starvation and fled with 12,000 people to the southern India. When they returned twelve years later they saw that the Shvetambaras had arisen.
Digambaras (meaning “air dressed”) are strict ascetics. They represent Ahimsa very firm, because they believe in the unrestricted right of existence of every soul. This is why they prepare good to avoid killing other beings accidentally. Digambaras refuse every possession, including clothes. They walk around completely naked, or just dressed with a loincloth. Digambaras believe that women are unable to reach the nirvana.
Shvetambaras (meaning “white dressed”) neither believe that ascetics must practice nudity, nor do they believe that women are unable to be a good Jain. Svetambaras believe that the 19th Tirthankara was a woman. Shvetambaras are less strict and believe that through change one can follow ahimsa on a larger scale.
1.4 Religous Sites
• Shravana Belagola, monumental statue of the Jain saint Gomateshwara in Karnataka.
• Dilwara Temples, complex of white marble Jain temples on Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
• Ranakpur Temples, extensive complex of white marble Jain temples in Rajasthan.
• Palitana, most visited Jain temple in Gujarat.
• Bawangaja, a complex of Jain temples and monumental statues in Madhya Pradesh.
• Gwalior's fort is home to dozens of Jain rock-cut sculptures.
• The Bhagwan Adinath temple at Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
• Kundalpur having 63 temples, famous for beautiful statue of Rishabha in Madhya Pradesh
2 2. Jainism and other religions
• Mahavira and Buddha were contemporaries. They lived at approximately the same time in India, but they never met
• There were 24 Buddhas in Buddhism and 24 Jina in Jainism; most of the names are similar.
• Jainism and Buddhism think that all religions describe the same thing just in a different way. The famous ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant illustrates the Jain science of Anekantavada, and is found in the Buddhist text called Udana.
• The Buddhist philosophy of the “Middle Way”, meaning that Buddhists should not be extreme fundamentalists, rose because of the Jain criticism that Buddhists were lax and not living the rigorous life of a true ascetic.
• To this day, many Buddhist teachings, principles and terms remain identical to Jain ones. In short, a large body of evidence suggests vividly that, in large measure, Buddhism is an offshoot of Jainism.
• Jainism developed out of Hinduism, because Jains tried to depose the caste system and to reform the ethic principles.
• The Jain influence on Hindu philsoophy and religion have been considerable, while Hindu influence can be observed in just a few Jain sects.
• Jainism accepts nothing from the Vedic, Vedantic or later Hindu scriptures.
• Rishaba, who was the first Tirthankara, is also known in the Hindu religion. Tirthankaras and Vedas were distinguished later by Mahavira.
• While Hindus believe that Jainism is an offshoot of their religion, Jains see themselves as a totally independent religion.
3 3. The Jain-Symbol
The word swastika is called„luck“or „well-being“. For Hindus, Jains and Buddhists the swastika is very significant and it’s drawn on books or house walls by Hindus and Jains. You can find the swastika in temples very often, too. As a rule the symbol is shown in white color on a black background.The swastika has his origin in the Greek culture. There are two different forms of this symbol.
The right turning swastika turns clockwise and represents the sun and the fire.
The left turning swastika turns anticlockwise and symbolizes the evil.
The Jain Symbol is an assembly of various symbols, each having a deeper meaning. This symbol was adopted by all sects of Jainism.
The outline of the symbol is defined as the universe (Lok). The lower part of the symbol represents the seven hells (Naraki). The middle part shows the Earth and the planets (Manushyalok). The upper part contains the heavenly places (Devlok) of all the godly beings and abode of the Siddhas (Siddhashila or Siddh-Loka). Jains believe that this universe was neither created by anyone, nor can it be destroyed by anyone. It may change its form, but otherwise, it has always been and will always be here.
The raised hand means stop. The word in the middle of the wheel is "Ahimsa". Ahimsa means non-violence. Both together mean that you have to stop for a moment and think twice before you do something. So you can be sure that you will not hurt anyone by your words, thoughts or actions. You are also not allowed to ask or encourage others to join in any dangerous activity. The wheel in the hand shows that if we are not careful and ignore these warnings and carry on violent activities, then just as the wheel goes round and round, we will go round and round through the cycles of birth and death.
The four arms of the swastika remind us that during the cycles of birth and death we may be born into any one of the four destinies: heavenly beings, human beings, animal beings, (including birds, bugs, and plants) and hellish beings. Our aim should be the liberation and not the rebirth. To show how we can do this, the swastika reminds us that we should become the pillars of the four fold Jain Sangh (order), then only we can achieve liberation. The four pillars of the Jain Sangh are sädhus (monks), sädhvis (nuns), shrävaks (male householders), and shrävikäs (female householders). This means that first, we should strive to be a true shrävaks or shrävikäs, and when we can beat our social attachments, we should renounce the worldly life and follow the path of a sädhu or sädhvi to be liberated.
The three dots above the swastika represent the three jewels of Jainism: Samyak Darshan (Right Faith), Samyak Jnan (Right Knowledge), and Samyak Charitra (Right Conduct). We should have all three: right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct together, then only we can achieve the liberation. The right knowledge means having the knowledge that soul and body are separate and that the soul, not the body attains the salvation. The right faith means one must have faith in what is told by Jinas, who were omniscient. The right conduct means that our actions should be void of attachment and hatred.
At the very top part of the Jain Universe symbol is a small curved arc. This arc represents the abode of the Siddhas. It is known as the Siddhashila. It is the final resting place of the liberated souls. The dot represents a siddha. In order to achieve this stage, a soul must destroy all attached karmas. Every living being should strive for this state of the Salvation or Liberation.
4 4. Jainism and war
Jainism is known as religion of non-violence. That is why the Jains, followers of this unique faith are peaceful people. But Jainism allows violence in defense. When someone attacks you or your family, it is your duty to defend yourself. If your community or nation is attacked by an enemy, Jainism says ‘Go ahead and fight.’
In fact, most Tirthankaras were from warrior families. Four of the 24 Tirthankaras were chakravartis. To become a chakravarti, they had to conquer other kingdoms. Neminatha became commander of Yadavs and defeated Jarsandh, who had attacked his family before. Parshavanatha helped Dharnendra, the Naga king in battles with enemies.
Chandragupta, a Jain and founder of the Mourya Dynasty was the first emperor of India. He brought almost all of south Asia under his control and he defeated many kings, including a General of Alexander the Great. Mahameghvahan Kharvel was a very brave Jain emperor who rose in the 2nd century B.C. He came in power at the age of 24 and defeated Satvahan kings of western India when he was just 26. After two years, he attacked Ratthiks & Bhojaks of western India and defeated them. Two years later he attacked powerful Magadh and then North India and then South India. Thus, whole of India including present day Pakistan and Afghanistan became under his control.
Also monks broke with Ahimsa. Adishankaracharya, who had declared to finish Jains and Buddhists and converted millions of them into Hinduism, was killed by two Jain monks while putting Jain religious literature on fire.
Thus we see that Jains have shown bravery whenever necessary. Today also many Jains, especially from farming communities are in armed forces of India, ready to show courage whenever necessary.
5 5. Jainism in India
In general, Jains are extremely well-represented inspite of the fact that they form only 0.35% of India's total population. Many of them are rich and an overwhelming majority is well to do. As such, it can be said that they hold power and wealth disproportionate to their small population. According to the India Census 2001, Jains have the highest literacy rate (religion-wise) of 94.1% compared to the national average of 64.8%. The question is how that can be.
One reason of the great influence of Jainism in modern India is the political engaged Gandhi family. This family dominated the Congress Party for most of its history. Three family members were Prime Ministers during the last 60 years. Mahatma Gandhi himself grew up in Gujarat, which is next to Rajastan, one of the Jain influenced regions in India. The Jain principles ahimsa and satya inspired his philosophies extremly. This political branch supported the Jain religion greatly.
Another reason is that Mahavira, being the son of King Siddartha, was already a prince. He was born in the Kshatriya caste, were many warriors, lords and kings belong to, and most of his early followers came probably from similar castes. So the first Jains were already families having a great influence on society back then.
A third reason is that “normal” Jains try to adjust their lifestyle as close as possible to the Jain monks. The profession of a Jain is chosen by the ethic principle ahimsa. This is why most Jains practice more sophisticated and intellectual jobs, e.g. gem traders or other commercial occupations. For a farmer it’s much harder to follow the code of non-violence, than for a clerk.
6.1 Dharmic religion / Dharma
A dharmic religion is a religion which recognizes the concept of dharma. All of the Dharmic Religions originate from the Sanatana Dharma (meaning eternal faith) form of Hinduism, which is the oldest form. Dharmic religions include:
Dharma is the way of the higher Truths. Beings that live in harmony with Dharma proceed quicker towards nirvana or personal liberation, a concept first taught in Indian religions.
Karma (meaning deed) is a term in several Indian religions that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done and is currently doing. The effects of those deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well.
The law of Karma is central in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. All living creatures are responsible for their karma and for their salvation.
In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, samsara refers to the concept of reincarnation or rebirth in Indian philosophical traditions. The word samsara means "to flow together", to go or pass through states or to wander.
In most Indian philosophical traditions, including the orthodox Hindu and heterodox Buddhist and Jain systems, an ongoing cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is assumed as a fact of nature. These systems differ widely, however, in the terminology with which they describe the process and in the metaphysics they use in interpreting it.
In Jainism karma plays a central role in the samsara cycle. Liberation from samsara is called moksha.
Asceticism denotes a life which is characterized by refraining from worldly pleasures (austerity). Those who practice ascetic lifestyles often perceive their practices as virtuous and pursue them to achieve greater spirituality.