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jain religion and teachings of bhagwan mahavir

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SECTION – III : JAIN SPIRITUAL PATH

CHAPTER – 8

THE FUNDAMENTAL APPROACH OF JAIN RELIGION

Jains believe that Jain religion is an eternal religion embracing the entire universe and in keeping with the assumption that time is eternal and cyclical with an ascending (Utsarpini) and a descending (avasarpini) period in each cycle. In each cycle, each period has six divisions, and it is in the fourth division (unhappy-happy time) that 24 Tirthankaras appear to preach the Jain path of self-purification and liberation from karmic bonds.

THE JAIN UNIVERSE

1. Upper world (Urdhva Lok), Abode for celestrial beings. 2. Middle world (Madhya Lok), Abode for humans, animals, plants and other forms of life (Terrestrial world). 3. Lower world (Adho Lok), Living place for hell beings – Hell.

Since there have been innumerable such cycles throughout eternal time, Jain belief is that their religion is at the heart of this eternal cycle. Indeed, Jain scriptures mention the names of Tirthankars in the previous cycle as well as in the next cycle to follow in the next cycle. Many ancient Jain temples in different parts of India have choubisi idols depicting 24 Tirthankars each in the past, present and future cycle of time.

Jain religion stands out from other religions with its unique feature of not being a one-Book or one-God religion like Christianity or Islam, or a religion of multiple Gods and Goddesses like Hinduism. In the Jain conception, there is no God sitting in heaven directing or regulating the universe as creator, preserver or destroyer. The universe has always existed and will continue to exist in exact adherence to the laws of the cosmos. There is nothing but infinity both in the past as well as the future.

The Emblem of Jain Religion

The Emblem of the Jain religion mirrors the Jain perception of universe in the shape of a polygon. The Swastika in the emblem represents the four innate qualities of the eternal soul, namely Infinite knowledge (Anant Gyan), Infinite perception (Anant Darshana), Infinite bliss (Anant Anand), and Infinite strength (Anant Veerya). The four dots in the Swastika stand for the four gatis (destinations) for a soul in the ongoing cycle of birth and death, namelt heaven (celestial), human beings, animal beings (tiryanch), and hell beings. The single dot on the very top represents the liberated souls- the Siddhas. The three dots just below it stand for the three jewels of the Jain spiritual path viz., Samyak Darshana, Samyak Gyan, and Samyak Charitra.

Six Fundamental Entities (Dravyas) and nine TatTvas

Six fundamental elements or substances or entities (dravya) constitute the creative and constantly interactive force. They have existed in perpetuity and are eternal. No one has created them nor can anyone destroy them. The six fundamental elements broadly consist of living beings (Jiva) on the one hand and five non-living objects (Ajiva) on the other. These six entities of the universe are eternal, but continuously undergo countless changes. During the change, nothing is lost or destroyed. Everything transforms into another form.

Jain religion is rooted in the realization of the intrinsic nature of the soul (Vastu Swabhavo dharma). Jiva (the animate souls) embody infinite perception, knowledge, consciousness, energy and bliss, and have inherent in them the energy, eligibility and opportunity to shed karmic accumulations, attain salvation and become supreme all-knowing (Sarvagya) and all-pervasive (Sarva-darshi) souls (Parmatma). The other five elements are AJIVA (inanimate or non-soul ) viz., matter (pudgal), space (akasa), time (kala), the medium of motion (Dharma) and the medium of rest (Adharma). A liberated soul has the ingredients of eternity, consciousness and bliss respectively called sat, chit and anand or sachchidanand.

Mahavir preached :

Every being has infinite latent energy. Activating it depends on individual’s endeavours. If one becomes aware of one’s potential and resolves to progress, then one can change the fruits and consequences of karmas and even destroy them.”

By itself, the Jiva (soul) has no form. It is intangible, colorless, odorless and formless. Scriptures describe it as Neti—Neti (not this—not that). It can only be experienced by dwelling deep within oneself. However, during its worldly life, it gets invested with a physical body, and becomes the object of the inflow of karmic dust (asravas). These are subtle material particles that are drawn towards a soul because of its worldly activities.

Jain religion has elucidated nine tatvas or fundamentals that are basic to the theory of karma, which provides the basis for the path of liberation. Without proper understanding of these nine tatvas, a person cannot progress spiritually. The nine tatvas are :

Jiva (consciousness), Ajiv (non-living substances), Asrava (influx of karma), Bandh (bondage of karma), Punya (virtue), Pap (sin), Samvar (stoppage of the influx of karmas), Nirjara (partial exhaustion of accumulated karmas, Moksha (total liberation from karmas. Of these, Jiv and Ajiv are ‘Jneya’ (to be known), Asrava and Bandha are ‘Heya’ (to be avoided), Samvar, Nirjara and Moksha are ‘Upadeya) (to be adopted), Pap is ‘Heya’, and Punya is upadeya.

<to be continued

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