I bow to the Arahants, the perfected human beings.
I bow to the Siddhas, liberated bodiless souls.
I bow to the Acharyas, the masters and heads of congregations.
I bow to the Upadhyayas, the spiritual teachers.
I bow to the Sadhus, spiritual practitioners in the universe.
This fivefold obeisance mantra, destroys all sins and obstacles, and of all auspicious repetitions, is the first and foremost.
Jainism, traditionally known as Jaina dharma, is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. It is one of the oldest religions of the world finding its roots in ancient India. Tradition says that this belief has been preached by a succession of twenty-four propagators of faith known as tirthankara. Jainism emphasises spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Practitioners of this religion believe that non-violence and self-control is the means by which they can obtain liberation from the cycle of reincarnations.
Jainism is a religious minority in India, with 4.2 million followers, and has adherents in immigrant communities in Belgium, the United States, Hong Kong, Japanand Singapore. Jains have the highest degree of literacy for a religious community in India, and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country.
The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is the most distinctive and well known aspect of Jain religious practice. The Jain understanding and implementation of ahimsa is more radical, scrupulous, and comprehensive than in other religions. Non-violence is seen as the most essential religious duty for everyone.
When Mahavira revived and reorganised the Jain movement in the 6th century BCE, ahimsa was already an established, strictly observed rule. Parshva, the earliest Jain tirthankara now known to be a historical figure, founded the community to which Mahavira's parents belonged, and ahimsa was already part of theCaujjama, four vows taken by Parshva's followers. For centuries following Mahavira's time, Jains were at odds with both Buddhists and Hindus, whom they accused of negligence and inconsistency in the implementation of ahimsa. In the practice of ahimsa the requirements are less strict for laypersons who have undertakenanuvrata (lesser vows), than for the monastics who are bound by the mahavrata (great vows).
The Jain diet, one of the most rigorous forms of spiritually motivated diet found either on the Indian subcontinent or elsewhere, is observed by the followers of Jain culture and philosophy. Completely vegetarian, it excludes onions and garlic, and may additionally exclude potatoes and other root vegetables. The strictest forms of Jain diet are practised by the ascetics. A scrupulous and thorough application of non-violence to everyday activities, and especially to food, shapes their entire lives and is the most significant hallmark of Jain identity. For Jains, lacto-vegetarianism is mandatory: food which contains even small particles of the bodies of dead animals or eggs is absolutely unacceptable. Jain scholars and activists support veganism, as the production of dairy products is perceived to involve violence against cows. Strict Jains do not eat root vegetables, such as potatoes and onions, because tiny organisms are injured when the plant is pulled up, and also because a bulb or tuber's ability to sprout is seen as characteristic of a living being.
Jains make considerable efforts in everyday life not to injure plants any more than necessary. Although they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival, and there are special instructions for minimizing violence against plants. Jains also go out of their way not to hurt even small insects and other minuscule animals. They often do not go out at night, when it is more likely that they might trample insects. In their view, injury caused by carelessness is like injury caused by deliberate action. Eating honey is strictly outlawed, as it would amount to violence against the bees. Jains avoid farming because it inevitably entails unintentional killing or injuring of small animals, such as worms and insects, but agriculture is not forbidden in general and Jain farmers exist. Additionally, because they consider harsh words to be a form of violence, they often keep a cloth for a ritual mouth-covering, serving as a reminder not to allow violence in their speech. Although every life-form is said to deserve protection from injury, Jains admit that this ideal cannot be completely implemented in practice. Hence they recognise a hierarchy of life that gives less protection to immobile beings than to mobile ones, which are further distinguished by the number of senses they possess, from one to five. A single-sensed animal has touch as its only sensory modality. The more senses a being has, the more care Jains take for its protection. Among those with five senses, rational beings (humans) are the most strongly protected by ahimsa.
Nonetheless, Jains agree that violence in self-defence can be justified, and that a soldier who kills enemies in combat is performing a legitimate duty. Jain communities have accepted the use of military power for their defence, and there have been Jain monarchs, military commanders, and soldiers.
Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and through reliance on self-control through vows. Jains acknowledge that every person has different capabilities and capacities, and therefore they accept different levels of compliance for ascetics and lay followers. Ascetics of this religion undertake five major vows:
-Ahimsa: Ahimsa means non-violence. The first major vow taken by ascetics is to cause no harm to living beings. It involves minimizing intentional and unintentional harm to other living creatures.
-Satya: Satya literally means "truth". This vow is to always speak the truth. Given that non-violence has priority, other principles yield to it whenever they conflict: in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence is to be observed
-Asteya: The third vow, asteya, is to not take possession of anything that is not willingly offered.[ Attempting to extort material wealth from others or to exploit the weak is considered theft.
-Brahmacharya: The vow of brahmacharya requires the exercise of control over the senses by refraining from indulgence in sexual activity.
-Aparigraha: Aparigraha is to observe detachment from people, places and material things. Ascetics completely renounce property and social relations.
Soul and Karma
According to Jains, souls are intrinsically pure and possess the qualities of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite bliss and infinite energy. In contemporary experience, however, these qualities are found to be defiled and obstructed, on account of the soul's association with a substance called karma over an eternity of beginning-less time. This bondage of the soul is explained in the Jain texts by analogy with gold, which is always found mixed with impurities in its natural state. Similarly, the ideally pure state of the soul has always been overlaid with the impurities of karma. This analogy with gold further implies that the purification of the soul can be achieved if the proper methods of refining are applied. Over the centuries, Jain monks have developed a large and sophisticated corpus of literature describing the nature of the soul, various aspects of the working of karma, and the means of attaining liberation.
Jain metaphysics is based on seven or nine fundamentals which are known as tattva, constituting an attempt to explain the nature of the human predicament and to provide solutions to it:
- Jīva: The essence of living entities is called jiva, a substance which is different from the body that houses it. Consciousness, knowledge and perception are its fundamental attributes.
- Ajīva: Non-living entities that consist of matter, space and time fall into the category of ajiva.
- Asrava: The interaction between jīva and ajīva causes the influx of a karma (a particular form of ajiva) into the soul, to which it then adheres.
- Bandha: The karma masks the jiva and restricts it from having its true potential of perfect knowledge and perception.
- Saṃvara: Through right conduct, it is possible to stop the influx of additional karma.
- Nirjarā: By performing asceticism, it is possible to shred or burn up the existing karma.
- Moksha: The jiva which has removed its karma is said to be liberated and to have its pure, intrinsic quality of perfect knowledge in its true form.
One of the most important and fundamental doctrines of Jainism is anēkāntavāda. It refers to the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, and to the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, no single one of which is complete.
Jains contrast all attempts to proclaim absolute truth with adhgajanyāyah, which can be illustrated through the parable of the blind men and an elephant. In this story, each blind man feels a different part of an elephant: its trunk, leg, ear, and so on. All of them claim to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant but, due to their limited perspectives, can only partly succeed. This principle is more formally stated by observing that objects are infinite in their qualities and modes of existence, so they cannot be completely grasped in all aspects and manifestations by finite human perception. OnlyKevalis—omniscient beings—can comprehend objects in all aspects and manifestations; others are only capable of partial knowledge. Accordingly, no single, specific, human view can claim to representabsolute truth.
Anekāntavāda encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. Proponents of anekāntavāda apply this principle to religions and philosophies, reminding themselves that any of these—even Jainism—that clings too dogmatically to its own tenets is committing an error based on its limited point of view. The principle of anekāntavāda also influenced Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to adopt principles of religious.
Syādvāda is the theory of conditioned predication, which recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet Syād to every phrase or expression. Syādvāda is not only an extension ofanekānta into ontology, but a separate system of logic capable of standing on its own. The Sanskrit etymological root of the term syād is "perhaps" or "maybe", but in the context of syādvāda it means "in some ways" or "from some perspective". As reality is complex, no single proposition can express its nature fully. The term "syāt" should therefore be prefixed to each proposition, giving it a conditional point of view and thus removing dogmatism from the statement. Since it comprises seven different conditional and relative viewpoints or propositions, syādvāda is known as saptibhaṅgīnāya or the theory of seven conditioned predications. These seven propositions, also known as saptibhaṅgī, are:
- syād-asti—in some ways, it is;
- syād-nāsti—in some ways, it is not;
- syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not;
- syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable;
- syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable;
- syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable;
- syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.
Each of these seven propositions examines the complex and multifaceted nature of reality from a relative point of view of time, space, substance and mode. To ignore the complexity of reality is to commit the fallacy of dogmatism.
Nayavāda is the theory of partial standpoints or viewpoints. Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words: naya ("partial viewpoint") and vāda ("school of thought or debate"). It is used to arrive at a certaininference from a point of view. Every object has infinite aspects, but when we describe one in practice, we speak only of relevant aspects and ignore the irrelevant. This does not deny the other attributes, qualities, modes and other aspects; they are just irrelevant from a particular perspective. Authors like Natubhai Shah explain nayavāda by analogy to a description of a car: when we speak of a blue BMW, for instance, we are merely considering the colour and make. This does not imply that the car is devoid of other attributes like engine type, number of cylinders, speed, and price, but represents what is called a naya or partial viewpoint. As a type of critical philosophy, nayavāda holds that philosophical disputes arise out of confusion of standpoints, and the standpoints we adopt are "the outcome of purposes that we may pursue"—although we may not realise it. While operating within the limits of language and perceiving the complex nature of reality, Māhavīra used the language of nayas. Naya, being a partial expression of truth, enables us to comprehend reality part by part.
Jain beliefs postulate that the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. It is independent and self-sufficient, and does not require any superior power to govern it. Elaborate description of the shape and function of the physical and metaphysical universe, and its constituents, is provided in the canonical Jain texts, in commentaries and in the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks. The early Jains contemplated the nature of the earth and universe and developed detailed hypotheses concerning various aspects of astronomy and cosmology.
According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into three parts, the upper, middle, and lower worlds, called respectively urdhva loka, madhya loka, and adho loka. It is made up of six constituents: Jīva, the living entity; Pudgala, matter; Dharma tattva, the substance responsible for motion; Adharma tattva, the substance responsible for rest; Akāśa, space; and Kāla, time.
Time is beginningless and eternal; the cosmic wheel of time, called kālacakra, rotates ceaselessly. It is divided into halves, called utsarpiṇī and avasarpiṇī. Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity, where happiness increases, while avsarpiṇī is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality.
(D) Prominent figures
According to Jain legends, sixty-three illustrious beings called Salakapurusas have appeared on earth. The Jain universal history is a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious persons. They comprise twenty-four tīrthaṅkaraa, twelve cakravartī, nine baladeva, nine vāsudeva and nine prativāsudeva.
Tīrthaṅkara are the human beings who help others to achieve liberation. They propagate and revitalize Jaina faith and become role-models for those seeking spiritual guidance. They reorganize the fourfold Jain order that consists of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. Jaina tradition identifies Rishabha (also known as Adinath) as the first tirthankara. The last two tirthankara, Parshva and Mahavira, are historical figures whose existence is recorded.
A cakravarti is an emperor of the world and lord of the material realm. Though he possesses worldly power, he often finds his ambitions dwarfed by the vastness of the cosmos. Jaini puranas give a list of twelve cakravarti. They are golden in complexion. One of the greatest cakravarti mentioned in Jaina scriptures is Bharata; tradition says that India came to be known as Bharata-varsha in his memory. There are nine sets of baladeva, vāsudeva and prativāsudeva. Certain Digambara texts refer to them as balabhadra, narayana and pratinarayana, respectively. The origin of this list of brothers can be traced to the Jinacaritra by Bhadrabahu (c. 3rd–4th century BCE). Baladeva are non-violent heroes, vasudeva are violent heroes and prativāsudeva can be described as villains. According to the legends, the vasudeva ultimately kill the prativasudeva. Of the nine baladeva, eight attain liberation and the last goes to heaven. The vasudeva go to hell on account of their violent exploits, even if these were intended to uphold righteousness.
(D) Rituals and festivals
Navkar Mantra is the fundamental prayer of Jainism. In this prayer there is no mention of names, including that of the tirthankara. Jains do not ask for favours or material benefits from the tirthankara or from monks. This mantra simply serves as a gesture of deep respect towards beings they believe are more spiritually advanced and to remind followers of Jainism of their ultimate goal, nirvana.
The purpose of Jain worship or prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires, so as to assist in the liberation of the soul. Jains follow six obligatory duties known as avashyakas: samyika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation). Related to the five auspicious life events oftirthankara called Panch Kalyanaka are such rituals as the panch kalyanaka pratishtha mahotsava, panch kalyanaka puja, and snatra puja.
Paryushana is one of the most important festivals for Jains. Svetambara Jains normally refer to it as Paryushana, with the literal meaning of "abiding" or "coming together", while Digambara Jains call it Das Lakshana. It is a time when the laity take on vows of study and fasting with a spiritual intensity similar to temporary monasticism. Paryushana lasts eight days for Svetambara Jains and ten days for Digambara Jains.
Mahavira Jayanti, the birthday of Mahavira, the last tirthankara, is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra, which date falls in late March or early April of the Gregorian calendar. Lectures are held to preach the path of virtue. People meditate and offer prayers.
Diwali is a Jain festival that takes place during the month of Kartik in the Indian lunisolar calendar, around the full-moon day (Purnima). This usually falls in October or November. Mahavira attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon). According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BCE, numerous deva were present there, illuminating the darkness. On 21 October 1974 the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava was celebrated by Jains throughout India.
Most Jains fast at special times, particularly during festivals. A Jain, however, may fast whenever it seems appropriate. A unique ritual in this religion involves a holy fast to death, called sallekhana. Through this one achieves a death with dignity and dispassion as well as a great reduction of negative karma. When a person is aware of approaching death, and feels that all his or her duties have been fulfilled, he or she may decide to gradually cease eating and drinking. This form of dying is also called Santhara. It can take as long as twelve years of gradual reduction in food intake. Considered extremely spiritual and creditable, with awareness of the transitory nature of human experience, santhara has recently been the centre of a controversy in which a lawyer petitioned the High Court of Rajasthan to declare it illegal. Jains see santhara as spiritual detachment, a declaration that a person has finished with this world and chooses to leave—a choice that requires a great deal of spiritual accomplishment and maturity to make.
(D) Meditation and Monasticism
Jain scriptures offer extensive guidance on meditation techniques to achieve full knowledge and awareness. Jains have developed a type of meditation called Samayika, which term derives from the word samaya. The goal of Samayika is to achieve a feeling of perfect calmness and to understand the unchanging truth of the self. Such meditation is based on contemplation of the universe and the reincarnation of self. Samayika is particularly important during the religious festival Paryushana. It is believed that meditation assists in managing and balancing one's passions. Great emphasis is placed on the internal control of thoughts, as they influence behaviour, actions and goals.
In Jainism, monasticism is encouraged and respected. Rules for monasticism are rather strict. Jain ascetics have neither a permanent home nor possessions, wandering from place to place except during the months of Chaturmas. The life they lead is difficult because of the constraints placed on them: they do not use vehicles and always travel barefoot from one place to another, irrespective of the distance. They do not use such basic services as telephones or electricity. They do not prepare food and live only on what people offer them. The monks of Jainism should not be confused with priests, and their presence is not significant to most of the Jain rituals. However, sects of Jainism that practice idol-worship often employ a servant, known as a pujari, to perform special daily rituals.
You can listen to Namakar Mantra to start your journey on this web page and to listen Manglik, which is recited by Guruni Ji click Mangal Path.