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jainism : an introduction


Jaina Dharma –

Jaina dharma is the faith propounded and preached by the enlightened Jina (the spiritual conqueror), on attaining omniscience.

Universal Character Of Jainism –

Jainism, though practised by a minuscule minority of the people of the world, has all the qualities of a universal faith. A religion or faith becomes confined to a particular region or a set of people by virtue of its lack of liberality imposed by its absolutist view–point or dogma. It is this lack of liberality that brings it in conflict with other religions and faiths. Jainism is, possibly, the only faith that has not come into any conflict with any other faith because of its non–absolutist heritage. Universal character is ingrained in its very nomenclature, its outlook, and its actions as well as in its key prayer–verse that we have already cited as ‘BENEDICTION’.

The name Jainism is derived from the word ‘Jina’, which means conqueror (of the spiritual foes like delusion, passions, etc.) and anyone who attains this accomplishment is a Jina irrespective of one’s religious denomination. Its outlook is the most liberal as it maintains that there is a grain of truth in every view – presented by the believers of any philosophies – how–so–ever limited in scope it may be. Therefore, there is no need to refute any view–point as false. It is this liberal outlook that keeps Jainas out of conflicts that rage between various other faiths and gives it its universal character. The Jaina activities or ethics are, again, not in conflict with any other faith as they are based on the principle of universal non–violence and aim at spiritual upliftment and plead a life–style of restraint and penance for its followers – both the clerics and the laymen. The key–prayer incorporates only bowing to five paragons of spiritual virtues and is absolutely qualitative in nature without any emphasis on any particular person or persons. Again, all those who possess those qualities are venerable to the Jainas irrespective of the caste or creed to which they might belong. What could be more liberal, more universal?

Eternality And Historicity Of Jaina Dharma –

Eternality – Jaina mythology holds that Jainism is an eternal faith that is believed to have been preached by infinite number of such Jinas in the beginningless past, is being preached by the Jinas present in another inaccessible region called Mahāvideha Kṣetra at present and which will be preached by infinite number of more such Jinas in the coming times. Each Jina re–emphasises the precepts, preached by the Jinas before Him, as their effect fades with the passage of time.

According to the Jaina belief, each aeon (Kāla–cakra or time cycle) consists of two phases – the ascendant phase known as Utsarpiṇī Kāla and the descendent phase known as the Avasarpiṇī Kāla. Each of these phases is further sub–devided into six eras known as Ārā. In each of these phases twenty–four Jinas or Prophet–propounders propound and preach the faith at widely separated epochs of time in the third and the fourth Ārās of each phase. Presently, we are living in the fifth Ārā of the Avasarpiṇī Kāla or the descendent time phase of the current time–cycle. In the third and the fourth Ārās of this descendent time phase, too, twenty–four Prophet–propounders (Tīrthaṅkaras) propounded and preached the faith to the people of their times. The first of these Tīrthaṅkaras was Lord Ṛṣabhadeva who lived and preached innumerable years ago and the last – twenty–fourth – Tīrthaṅkara, Lord Mahāvīra, lived and preached nearly two and a half millenniums ago. The version of Jainism that we follow today was preached by Bhagvān Mahāvīra.

Historicity – The historicity of the Jaina tradition is amply borne out by both literary as well as archaeological evidence. The traditional history of the Jainas from the earliest times of the first TīrthaṅkaraLordṚṣabhadeva (Circa third period of the present descendent time cycle) to the last Tīrthaṅkara Lord Mahāvīra (Circa 6th Century BC in the fourth period of the same phase of the current time cycle) can be traced from the events mentioned in the Jaina scriptures.

According to the Jaina tradition, ages ago the first Tīrthaṅkara, LordṚṣabhadeva, was the initiator of the transition of the human civilisation from that of the culture of enjoyment (Bhoga saṁskṛti in which one didn’t have to work for one’s livelihood as all one’s needs were fulfilled by divine trees called Kalpavṛkṣās) to that of the culture of action (Karma saṁskṛti in which one had to work for one’s livelihood). He also established the traditions of agriculture, education, warfare, state–craft, legal system, etc. Actually, before Him the society was led by the headmen who were called Kulakaras (Ṛṣabha’s father – Nābhirāj – was the last Kulakara) and He was the first ever king who ruled the country. After firmly establishing the systems of the society and the state and ruling for an immeasurably long period of time Ṛṣabha relinquished His temporal powers in favour


of His eldest son, Bharata, and became the very first ascetic1 engaged in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, after attaining which He preached the faith and established the four–fold religious order referred to as ‘ford (tīrtha)’and became the very first Tīrthaṅkara(founder of the ford), and salvation, which He, ultimately, attained atop Mt. Kailaśa referred to as Aṣṭāpada in the Jaina lore. The eldest of His one hundred sons, Bharata, became the very first paramount sovereign or king–emperor (Cakravartī) of the land that was named as Bhāratavarṣa after him. In this connection Dr. Hermann Jacobi wrote, “there was nothing to prove that LordPārśvanātha was the founder of Jainism. Jaina tradition is unanimous in holding Lord Ṛṣabhadeva, the first Tīthaṅkara as its founder and there may be something historical in the tradition which takes Him as the first Tīrthaṅkara.” With such reliable evidence being available, there is nothing to prevent us from believing that Jainism is the most ancient religious philosophies of the world that started with the advent of human civilisation and evolved with time.

After Lord Ṛṣabhadeva, there was a succession of twenty–three Tīrthaṅkaras who propounded and preached almost the same precepts and practices that the first Tīrthaṅkara had propounded with due modifications felt necessary due to the changing times and the changing human nature. Lord Mahāvīra (599–527 BC) became the last Prophet–propounder (Tīrthaṅkara).

Lord Pārśvanātha, the twenty–third Tīrthaṅkara, is accepted as a historical personality by the modern historians such as Vincent Smith, RC Mazumdar and RK Mukerjee, who regard Him as a great preacher of Jaina Dharma. He was the prince of Varanasi, who became an ordained monk, practised grave penance and achieved spiritual enlightenment, propounded the faith and preached it for nearly seventy years before He ultimately attained nirvāṇa atop Sammedaśikhara (Pārasnāth Hill) in the Jharkhand state. Before Him, the twenty–second Prophet, Lord Ariṣṭanemi, was a cousin of Lord Kṛṣṇa and there could be little doubt about His historical veracity. He lived and preached in the Saurāṣṭra region in the western India and attained nirvāṇa atop the U+rjayantagiri or Mt. Girnār.

Similarly, historical instances are found in the Jaina lore about the remaining twenty–one Tīrthaṅkaras as well and there is no reason to question Their historicity in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Also, there is ample archaeological evidence to prove that the Jainism did not originate with the accepted historical figure – Lord Pārśvanātha, but aeons ago with Lord Ṛṣabhadeva, who is referred to as Ādinātha (the first lord) for this very reason. The following is an account of such archaeological evidence: –

A. It has been recorded that king Khāravela of Kaliṅga, in his second invasion of Magadha in 161 BC, brought back an idol of Agrajina or the first Jina(Ṛṣabhadeva), which had been carried away from Kaliṅga three centuries earlier by king Nanda–I. This shows that in the 5th century BC, Lord Ṛṣabhadeva was worshipped and that His idol was highly valued by His followers.

B. In the Indus valley excavations some nude male terracotta figures were found. It clearly shows that Jaina faith was followed by the people of the Indus valley civilisation as the worship of nude male deities is a very well–established practice in Jainism.

C. On one of the seals were found engraved nude figures of six male deities standing in contemplative mood with their hands held very close to their bodies’ (Kāyotsarga mudrā). This practice of contemplating in standing posture is peculiar only to the Jainas. This shows that the figures were of Jaina ascetics.

D. The figures of male deities in contemplative mood in standing or sitting postures resemble the currently worshipped figures of Jaina Tīrthaṅkaras.

E. On some seals we find the figure of a bull engraved under the figure of a nude male deity practising penance in the Kāyotsarga mudrā i.e. in a standing posture. These figures appear to be those of Lord Ṛṣabhadeva as in the Jaina tradition there is an established practice of depicting the emblem (lāñchana) of each Tīrthaṅkara below their figures and that a bull is the emblem of Lord Ṛṣabhadeva.

F. Sacred signs of swastikas, drawn in Jaina and Hindu style are also found engraved on some seals.

G. Some motifs on some seals found in Mohan–Jo–Daro resemble those found in the ancient Jaina art of Mathura and suggest that Jainism was prevalent in that civilisation at that ancient time (3500–3000 BC).

Recently, reputed scholar saint Ācārya Vidyānandaji, has concluded from his research on the relics from the excavations at Mohan–Jo–Daro in the Indus valley, that Jainism was prevalent at least 5000 years ago.

All this evidence points at a very ancient origin of Jainism and it is now recognised as one of the oldest religions of the world.

We, therefore, can justifiably conclude that all the twenty–four Tīrthaṅkaras mentioned in the Jaina scriptures and religious lore were historical persons and that Jainism originated an immeasurably long time ago with the advent of the first Tīrthaṅkara,Lord Ṛṣabhadeva, and that twenty–three Prophets that followed down the ages preached essentially the same precepts with certain modifications necessitated by changing times.

The Twenty–four Tīrthaṅkaras –

The twenty–four Tīrthaṅkaras, who propounded and preached the Jaina precepts to the people of their times in the current descendent time phase are –

1. Lord Ṛṣabhadeva,

2. Lord Ajitanātha,

3. Lord Sambhavanātha,

4. Lord Abhinandana,

5. Lord Sumatinātha,

6. Lord Padmaprabha,

7. Lord Supārśvanātha,

8. Lord Candraprabha,

9. Lord Suvidhinātha,

10. Lord Śītalanātha,

11. Lord Śreyāṁsanātha,

12. Lord Vāsupūjya,

13. Lord Vimalanātha,

14. Lord Anantanātha,

15. Lord Dharmanātha,

16. Lord Śāntinātha,

17. Lord Kunthunātha,

18. Lord Aranātha,

19. Lord Mallinātha,

20. Lord Munisuvrata,

21. Lord Naminātha,

22. Lord Ariṣṭanemi,

23. Lord Pārśvanātha, and

24. Lord Vardhamāna Mahāvīra.

The faith preached by these Tīrthaṅkaras – fordmakers –was essentially the same with modifications incorporated by each to suit the needs of His time. For example, the first and the twenty–fourth Tīrthaṅkaras preached a five dimensional faith (Pañcayāma dharma), consisting of the five great vows of completely refraining from violence, untruth, stealing, sexualindulgence and possessions or attachment thereto, for the members of the clergy of their religious order while the remaining twenty–two Prophets preached a four dimensional faith (Cāturyāma dharma) consisting of only four great vows except that of refraining from sexual indulgence. It, however, does not mean that they propounded a permissive monastic order but only means that their monks and nuns perfectly understood that completely refraining from any possessions or attachment thereto also had an implied injunction against sexual indulgence.

The Three Hallmarks Of Jainism –

When we talk about any creed our attention goes to the very basic components that give it a distinct identity. In the case of Jainism the three very basic ingredients that characterise it are 1. Non–violence (Ahiṁsā), 2. Restraint (Saṁyama) and 3. Penance (Tapa). These three can, very easily, be said to be its hallmarks.

The word ‘Dharma’ has very wide connotations and various seers and thinkers down the ages have defined it variously. One view holds that Dharma is nothing but a capacity to distinguish between the right and the wrong and then doing the right and to avoid the wrong. In this sense it is the very philosophy of life. Another view, very close to the first one, holds that Dharma is to do one’s duty. The Jaina view is that to act in accordance with one’s true nature is Dharma (Vatthu–sahāvo dhammo).

In keeping with the Jaina concept and definition of Dharma, the Jaina faith emphasises only those activities for its followers that lead them towards their true selves. The three hallmarks of Jainism – Non–violence, Restraint and Penance – are the means to lead the soul towards its true nature – purity – and to its ultimate destination – freedom from the misery of mundane existence, which is variously stated as Spiritual salvation, Spiritual emancipation, Liberation, Final deliverance, Mukti, Nirvāṇa or Mokṣa.

Three Hallmarks –

The ultimate aim of any endeavour of any living being is to gain pleasure. Pleasure could be either physical that feels good to the body and senses or it can be spiritual in which case it is called bliss. It is a matter of common experience that what is auspicious is blissful and what is inauspicious is painful. Dharma, which is sublime, ought to be auspicious. The Jaina seers have said that Dharma is the foremost auspiciousness. However, they have specified that only that Dharma is auspicious, which is characterised by Non–violence, Restraint and Penance and they have stated that even the heavenly gods bow to them that have their minds always firmly established in such a faith. The very first verse of famous Jaina scripture ‘Daśavaikālika–sūtra reads–

Dhammo maṅgalamukkiṭṭhaṁ, Ahiṁsā Sañjamo Tavo ™

Devā vi taṁ namaṁsanti, jassa Dhamme sayā maṇo ™™”

Non–Violence (Ahiṁsā) –

Non–violence is the first and the foremost tenet of Jainism. Every Jaina proclaims that it is every follower’s foremost duty to practice non–violence (Ahiṁsā paramo dharmaḥ). This concept is so central to Jainism and it is it’s so important a hallmark that I have devoted entire third chapter of this book to it.

Restraint –

The second hallmark of Jainism is self–restraint or Saṁyama. Saṁyama means control. Hence restraint is nothing but proper self–control. The Jaina thought places great emphasis on Saṁyama (Vinaya), so much so that the faith is said to be rooted in Vinaya (Viṇaya mūlao dhammo). Restraint is an exact opposite of lack of restraint, which is nothing but recklessness dealt with in the last section on non–violence. As recklessness arises from negligence, restraint is an outcome of vigilance. In more specific terms restraint is control on one’s body, mind and speech as well as on passions – anger, pride, guile and greed. It is not difficultto appreciate that a person under the influence of these passions and not vigilant enough to control the activities of his body, mind and speech will tend to be unrestrained and reckless.

Part And Whole Restraint – Whole or complete restraint means carefully avoiding and not indulging in any sinful activity, which, in turn, involves complete suppression of passions and media of action – body, mind and speech – and is quite difficult to achieve. Only the very highly righteous monks are able to achieve this supreme accomplishment. However, even giving up one or more means of sinful activities by partly suppressing passions and media of activities is desirable and is, therefore, termed as part restraint. It must be understood that all unrestrained activities are sinful and they soil, tarnish and vitiate the soul as they result in karmic bondage and even part restraint prevents this karmic bondage to the extent that restraint is practised.

Types Of Self–restraint (Saṁyama)2

In the Jaina literature various types of restraints have been mentioned. They depend upon the media, means and victims of one’s actions. Four types of divisions based on these varying considerations are as follows: –

1. This division is based on the control of senses and care in dealing with ten types of vitality of the living beings. The seventeen types of controls that fall in this category are given below: –

A. Restrained Senses (Indriya Saṁyama) involving –

i Restrained sense of touch,

ii Restrained sense of taste,

iii Restrained sense of sight,

iv Restrained sense of smell,

v Restrained sense of hearing,

vi Restrained sense of thoughts (mind is considered to be half a sense–organ),

vii Restrained speech, which is also a function of the mind and the tongue.

B. Restrained activities in relation to the vitalities of the living beings (Prāṇa Saṁyama) –

viii Not hurting touch–vitality (Sparśa–prāṇa Saṁyama),

ix Not hurting taste–vitality (Rasa–prāṇa Saṁyama),

x Not hurting sight–vitality (Cakṣu–prāṇa Saṁyama),

xi Not hurting smell–vitality (Ghrāṇa–prāṇa Saṁyama),

xii Not hurting hearing–vitality (Śabda–prāṇa Saṁyama),

xiii Not hurting respiratory–vitality (Śvāsocchavāsa– prāṇa Saṁyama),

xiv Not hurting longevity–vitality (Āyu–prāṇa Saṁyama),

xv Not hurting Power–vitality (Bala–prāṇa Saṁyama),

xvi Not hurting verbal–vitality (Vacana–prāṇa Saṁyama),

xvii Not hurting thought–vitality (Mana–prāṇa Saṁyama).

2. The second division, also prescribing seventeen self–controls is based on types of victims of our actions and miscellaneous other controls. They are as follows: –

A. Restraints in dealing with five kinds of static one–sensed beings –

i Restraints in dealing with Earth–bodied beings,

ii Restraints in dealing with Water–bodied beings,

iii Restraints in dealing with Air–bodied beings,

iv Restraints in dealing with Fire–bodied beings,

v Restraints in dealing with vegetational–bodied beings,

B. Restrained dealings with four types of mobile living beings–

vi Restraints in dealing with two–sensed beings,

vii Restraints in dealing with three–sensed beings,

viii Restraints in dealing with four–sensed beings,

ix Restraints in dealing with five–sensed beings,

C. Miscellaneous restraints –

x Avoidance of attachment towards possessions,

xi Vigilance in sitting, sleeping, walking, etc.

xii Indifference towards mundane activities,

xiii Careful disposal of the wastes and excretions,

xiv Careful inspection and maintenance of monastic equipage,

xv Thought control,

xvi Speech control, and

xvii Body control.

3. The third division also prescribes seventeen self controls and is as follows: –

A. Restrained Senses (Indriya Saṁyama) involving:

i Restrained sense of touch,

ii Restrained sense of taste,

iii Restrained sense of sight,

iv Restrained sense of smell,

v Restrained sense of hearing,

B. Restricting five means of karmic influx:

vi Restricting violence,

vii Restricting untruth,

viii Restricting stealing,

ix Restricting sexual indiscipline,

x Restricting accumulation,

C. Conquering passions:

xi Conquering anger,

xii Conquering pride,

xiii Conquering guile,

xiv Conquering greed,

D. Restrictions over the media of action:

xv Controlled mind,

xvi Controlled body,

xvii Controlled speech.

4. The fourth division prescribes control over the four media of action –

i Control over mind,

ii Control over body,

iii Control over speech, and

iv Control over the implements of violence.

It is plain from this analysis that Jainism accords very high priority to self–restraint and the comprehensive coverage given to it proves that it is an essential part of Jaina ethics. From this analysis it also becomes quite apparent that self–restraint and non–violence are complementary and that it is impossible to practice one without adhering to the other.

Penance –

Penance (Tapa) is the third hallmark of Jainism. Observance of non–violence and self–resteraint only result in avoiding fresh karmic bondage with the soul. However, the soul cannot achieve its ultimate goal of attaining spiritual emancipation without shedding the karmic bonds bonded earlier. Penance is the means to achieve such separation of the soul from the earlier bonded karma matter. The glorious place accorded to penance in the scheme of spiritual progress is evident from the fact that it hasbeen accepted as one of the three hallmarks of the faith. When the karmic bonds are destroyed, as a result of penance, the soul becomes purer and purer and there comes a time when all the karmic covers obscuring infinite vision and infinite knowledge are removed and the soul becomes enlightened and omniscient. With the passage of time when even the four non–destructive types of karma are also exhausted, the soul becomes fully emancipated and liberates from the shackles of mundane existence.

Qualities Of Penance –

From the qualitative point of view, penance may be of two types. The first type is the penance of the ignorant (Bāla–tapa), which is undertaken with a view to achieve mundane accomplishments such as wealth, good health, freedom from worldly worries, supernatural accomplishments like changing form at will, walking on water, walking on air, etc. The second type is the penance of the wise (Panḍita–tapa), which is undertaken without any mundane desires and purely with a view to shed the karmic bondage associated with the soul and aims at only the final liberation of the soul. It is the second type of penance, which is the real or the right penance as it is the one that ensures freedom of the practitioner soul from mundane desires and passions.

External And Internal Penance –

From the practice point of view, the penance is either external (Bāhya–tapa) that is the visible type of penance by virtue of its mainly physical nature and relationship with external agencies or internal (Ābhyantara–tapa), which is the invisible form of penance by virtue of its mainly mental and spiritual nature and lack of relationship with external agencies. These two types of penance are respectively interrelated to each other as each type of external penance aids the practice of the corresponding type of internal penance. For instance, fasting aids expiation; reduced diet penance makes the practitioner humble; mendicancy penance is mainly with a view to serving the elders, ailing and the feeble of the order; forsaking taste helps one overcome lethargy and consequent negligence and aids self–study; tolerance for physical pain gives one stability necessary to maintain the concentration while meditating and withdrawal helps in giving up all types of attachments. Each of these types are six in number, as follows: –

External Penance Internal Penance

1. Fasting (Anaśana) Expiation (Prāyaścitta),

2. Reduction (Avamaudarya) Vinaya (Humility)

3. Mendicancy (Bhikṣācaryā) Service (Vaiyāvṛtya)

4. Taste–control Self–study (Svādhyāya)


5. Physical tolerance Meditation (Dhyāna)


6. Withdrawal (Pratisallīnatā) Renunciation (Vyutsarga)

The following are the details of these types of penance: –

External Penance (Bāhya–Tapa) –

1. Fasting Penance (Anaśana Tapa)Aśana means food, which is of four types – Staple food (Aśana), Liquid food and drinks (Pānak), nutrititional supplements (Khādya) and taste improvers or mouth fresheners (Svādya). Fasting means willingly giving up these types of food and the desire thereof. The fasting can be for fixed pre–decided duration (Itvarika anaśana) or for the entire duration of the remaining life (Yāvatkathita or Āmaraṇa anaśana). While the fasts of pre–decided fixed duration could be undertaken in various permutations and combinations, the fasts unto death are of three types, namely 1. Bhakta–pratyākhyāna, which involves giving up foods with no other restrictions, 2. Ingini–maraṇa, which involves confinement to a pre–decided place besides giving up ofall types of food, and 3. Pādapopagamana, which, apart from giving up all foods, involves cessation of all movements and lying motionless, like a fallen tree.

2. Reduction Penance (Avamaudarya or Unodarī Tapa)– Reducing one’s diet, clothing, other equipage and passions is called Avamaudarya tapa or reduction penance. The first two types are physical in nature and are referred to as material reduction penance and the third category is at the psychical level and is called psychic or volitional reduction penance. Each of these categories has several sub types.

3. Mendicancy penance (Bhikśācaryā Tapa) – To beg for one’s means of sustenance, which involves giving up one’s pride, as well as for serving the other old, feeble, ill and students in the monastic groups is called Bhikṣācaryā tapa or mendicancy penance. With reference to matter, place, time and mode, this penance is of four types. Here it must be understood that this form of mendicancy is not out of penury but with a view to rendering service, limiting one’s requirements and conquering pride. The Jaina mendicant has several restrictions placed on the type of food and other necessities that can be accepted as alms and ensures that he accepts only the flawless ones, which help rather than hinder his spiritual practices.

4. Penance of Forsaking Taste (Rasaparityāga Tapa) – The aim of eating, according to the Jaina view is to sustain life and not to eat for tingling the taste buds. In other words a follower of the Jaina faith eats to live rather than living to eat. Also, it is more than probable that tasty food eaten with delight is overeaten and may result in lethargy, which will ultimately result in negligence and adversely affect spiritual performance. The six types of tastes/foods that are considered especially tasteful and result in attachment to food and which a steadfast adherent of the faith gives up are milk, curds, butter, oil, sweets and salts.

5. Penance of Tolerating Physical Discomfort (Kāya–kleśa Tapa)The aim of this type of penance is to make the body so tolerant and pliable that it does not flinch when rigours of spiritual life present themselves. However, body is also the medium of all religious practices and it is not to be hurt or harmed in any way by undertaking unduly harsh measures. To train oneself to overcome the love for physical comforts and to endure the hardships of spiritual life, the spiritual aspirant adopts various bodily postures, endures vagaries of weather, plucks own hair, etc. It is the physical adventure of the spiritualist that gives him the same type of pleasure as a mountaineer feels while enduring hardships while scaling the peaks.

6. Withdrawal Penance (Pratisallīnatā Tapa) – This penance involves withdrawal from mundane pleasures and devoting oneself to spiritual upliftment only. In other words all extrovert interests are subjugated in favour of introversion and means that the body, mind and speech are constantly watched and diverted inwards. This endeavour succeeds best when the physical environment is conducive to such withdrawal and, therefore, lonely residence free from distractions of residents, animals and way–fareres as well as from the attractions wrought by various sounds, smells, touches, tastes and sights is recommended for the aspirant desirous of practising withdrawal. Such withdrawal results in conquest of passions and desires and ensures full attention towards spiritual pursuits.

Internal Penance (Ābhyantara Tapa)

1. Expiation Penance (Prāyścitta Tapa) – To accept one’s faults in observing the accepted vows of right–conduct and sins committed under the influence of passions etc, to atone for them and to resolutely endeavour not to repeat such faults is the expiation penance. It can be achieved through confession and repentance by the defaulter himself and punishment and relegation or rustication awarded by the head of the monastic group.

2. Humility Penance (Vinaya Tapa)– To show reverence and veneration towards one’s superiors in knowledge, virtues and monastic seniority by bowing, welcoming, rising on their arrival, recalling their virtues with admiration etc. is the humility penance or Vinaya tapa. To show veneration to the learned is Jñāna vinaya, to those of steadfast faith is Darśan vinaya, to those of steadfast conduct is Cāritra vinaya, to have reverent thought for such venerated personae is Mana–vinaya, to show veneration verbally is Vacana–vinaya, to do it physically is Kāya–vinaya and to do so formally for the sake of courtesy is Lokopacāra–vinaya. We have to admit that humility and courtesy are important personal attributes in social life of even the laymen, what to say of the ascetics.

3. Service Penance (Vaiyāvṛtya Tapa) – Rendering service to the needy, that is to the elders, the ailing ones, the feeble ones and those engaged in scriptural study, etc. has been called a penance as it requires the noble qualities like tolerance, patience, attention, and extra–ordinary will to serve in the person rendering it. The glory of service is evident from the fact that it has been given priority over gaining knowledge. It has been said in the Uttarādhyayanasūtra (29.43) that one who renders selfless service to the deserving may, when one’s psychic disposition is of the noblest kind, gain the fruit of rebirth as a Tīrthaṅkara. However, such service must be rendered without any selfish motives and includes providing food, accommodation, medicine, etc.

4. Self–study penance (Svādhyāya Tapa)Svādhyāya includes scriptural study, teaching, reflection and dissemination. It is considered to be the extra–ordinarily highest form of penance as it helps one acquire right–knowledge on which the entire edifice of spiritual accomplishments can stand. It involves teaching and learning of scriptures (Vācanā), enquiry to clarify the doubts (Pracchanā), revision (Parāvartanā), reflection (Anuprekṣā) and preaching (Dharma–kathā). Also, through self–study one destroys the knowledge obscuring karma (Uttarādhyayana, 29.19).

5. Meditation Penance (Dhyāna Tapa) – According to the Tattvārthasūtra meditation is the concentration of the inner thoughts of a person of good constitution on a single subject (“Uttamasaṁhanansaikāgracintānorodho dhyānaṁ™ – Tattvārthasūtra, 9.27). For an unenlightened worldly being the duration of concentration on a subject or an objectis said to be one antarmuhurta or a period of less than forty–eight minutes after which his concentration shifts to focus on a different subject or object.

Jaina thought categorises meditation in the following four categories: –

A. Despondent Concentration (Ārta–dhyāna) – The current of thoughts that flows within one’s mind when one is beset with miseries or apprehension thereof is called ‘Despondent concentration or Ārta–dhyāna’. The reasons, which actuate this concentration are – 1. Apprehension of something untoward to happen, 2. Apprehension of separation from the dear ones, 3. Apprehension of illnesses and 4. Acute desire to obtain objects of mundane pleasure. This type of concentration is signified by crying, sorrow, wailing and shedding of tears.

B. Cruel Concentration (Raudra–dhyāna) – The current of cruel thoughts that are directed towards violence, lies, theft, and preservation of worldly pleasures is said to be ‘Cruel Concentration or Raudra–dhyāna’. Such concentration is of four types – 1. Constant Cruel thoughts, 2. Comprehensive cruel thoughts, 3. Several cruel thoughts and 4. Life–long cruel thoughts.

C. Pious Concentration (Dharma–dhyāna) – To concentrate one’s mind on the teachings of the Lord, the means of karmic influx and the ways to stop them, the ultimate retribution of the performed actions and karmic bondage incurred therefrom, on the righteous conduct and it’s spiritual benefit is said to be ‘Pious meditation or Dharma–dhyāna’. According to the phases of concentration, the pious concentration is said to be of four types – 1. Concentrating on the scriptural teaching is called Ājñā–vicaya dhyāna, 2. To concentrate on means of refraining from bad thoughts – passions, attachment and aversion, etc – and deeds is said to be Apāyavicaya dhyāna, 3. To concentrate on the inevitable retribution of pious as well as sinful thoughts and deeds is termed as Vipākavicaya dhyāna and 4. To concentrate on the form (Saṁsthāna) of the universe is Saṁsthāna–vicaya dhyāna. A person who remains engaged in Dharma–dhyāna can be recognised by his voluntary inclination, interest and faith in the right faith and the scriptures that contain its teachings.

D. White (pure) Concentration (Śukla–dhyāna) – The concentration achieved when an aspirant totally withdraws from worldly thoughts and concentrates on the spirit and the spiritual subjects is said to be ‘Pure meditation or Śukla–dhyāna’. This concentration is progressive in nature and starting from 1. Concentration on the matter and modes in accordance with the Pre–canons to 2. Concentration on matter or mode of a single object, to 3. Concentration on the final and fine respiratory concentration of the omniscient Lords near their time of liberation to 4. Concentration on the purest soul when even the finest physical, mental and vocal functions are stopped in the final moment of liberation. It follows that this meditation is possible for only those aspirants who have achieved sufficient spiritual purity to be irrevocably on the path to spiritual liberation. This type of concentration is signified by discretion (Viveka), complete renunciation (Vyutsarga), lack of remorse (Avyathā) and lack of delusion (Asammoha).

6. Renunciation Penance (Vyutsarga Tapa) – To renounce everything or being in an ‘other than the Self’ frame of mind is said to be ‘Renunciation penance or Vyutsarga Tapa’. Renunciation can be either material in which the aspirant renounces attachment to own body (Śarīra vyutsarga), the monastic order (Gaṇa–vyutsarga), the monastic equipment (Upadhi vyutsarga) and the food (Bhakta–pāna vyutsarga) or dispositional in which he renounces the passions (Kaṣāya vyutsarga), all mundane desires (Saṁsāra vyutsarga) and the means of influx and bondage of eight types of karma (Karma vyutsarga).

Nature of Reality –

Various Indian philosophies define reality (Sat) variously. The Vedānta says that reality is permanent (dhruva or nitya); the Buddhists believe in an invariably transient (Niranvaya–kṣaṇika) reality; Sāṅkhya philosophy believes in permanent (Kūṭastha nitya) conscious (living) reality and a permanently transient (Pariṇāmī nitya or Nityānitya) non–living reality and the Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika philosophies believe that some elements of thereality are permanent and the remaining elements are transient. However, none of these propositions can explain all the facets of reality and they all have their grey areas. The Jaina philosophy’s stand on the nature of reality is reflected in the aphorist Umāsvāti’s words – “Utpāda–vyaya–dhrauvyayuktaṁ sat ™” (Tattvārthasūtra, 5.29) maintains that the entirety of reality exhibits creation (utpāda), destruction (vyaya) and permanence (dhrauvya).

Every object, either animate or inanimate is composed of two parts – one that remains permanent and ever unaltered while the other part is constantly changing with its one mode being expended when the following mode (paryāya) comes into being. The examples of these seemingly contradictory propositions are very easily explained. The animate reality is the soul that resides in every living being. Its modes (dispositions or paryāya) are constantly changing. When one spiritual disposition gives way to its following disposition the earlier disposition is said to have expended (vyaya) and the latter one is said to have been born (utpāda), while the conscious matter (Jīva–dravya) remains permanent and unaltered (dhruva) in all the time periods – past, present and future. As an inanimate example, let us take the case of water. When the water freezes we say that it has become ice. In this case the water (liquid) mode (taral paryāya) is expended (vyaya) in favour of the ice (solid) mode (ṭ<hosa paryāya), which is created (utpāda) while the water–matter (Hydrogen–oxide H2O) remains permanent (dhruva) in both its forms. It is also the case when water is heated and becomes steam or when it evaporates and becomes water–vapour. While its modes change from liquid to gaseous, the water–matter (Jala–dravya) remains unaltered in both its forms.

The Soul And The Karma –

We have referred to the living matter and the non–living matter earlier. It is the living matter that is called spirit or soul. Jainism believes in plurality of souls and maintains that the universe is inhabited by infinite number of souls, each a conscious unit similar to the other in the sense that in its purest form it is incorporeal, without a wish or a will of its own and is endowed with the infinite quartet of knowledge, vision, bliss and spiritual prowess. The other attributes of the soul are that in their mundane existence they are corporeal and capable of associating themselves with inanimate matter. They assume the shapes and sizes of the bodies in which they are embodied. They have an initial association with karmic matter and depending upon the quality of the actions of their minds or bodies or speech they either attract and bond with particular types of matter called karma pudgala (tangible matter) or shed the earlier bonded karma–matter.

The term ‘karma’ is, generally, taken in two senses. Karma means action as well as the karma–matter that is attracted and bonded with the soul due to the actions of the corporeal mundane soul. In the first sense karma is action and its reaction is the inevitable retribution or fruition that the embodied soul has to experience at some point of time. In the second sense the karma (karma–matter) associated with the soul soils and tarnishes its purity and keeps it bound to the mundane existence. Karma is of two types – meritorious or pious (puṇya) whose fruition is pleasurable and the sinful (pāpa) whose fruition is invariably painful. The only way to rid the soul from the initial as well as the freshly bonded karma is to practise penance. When the soul achieves complete and irresidual separation from karma–matter, it breaks away from the mundane existence and rises to the uppermost part of the universe where the abode of such liberated souls (Siddhaloka or Siddhaśilā or —ṣatprāgbhāra pṛthvī) is. We shall examine this issue in greater detail when we come to the chapter on the ‘Jaina Doctrine of karma’.

The Theism Of Jainism –

According to the orthodox Indian philosophies, believing in the teachings of the Vedas, Jainism is a heterodox atheist religious philosophy that does not believe in the existence of a trinitist God, who is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world and who, thereby, controls the destinies of everything and every being. However, in the context of the Indian religious philosophies, this premise is self defeating as the Mīmāṁsā philosophy, which is accepted amongst four orthodox theist philosophies also does not accept God as creator and stands with Jainism in refutation of the postulate that God is at the root of everything that exists. Actually, theism is a type of religious philosophy that incorporates a conception of God as a unitary being and everything in the world as a part–manifestation of His omniscient omnipresent omnipotence. However, Jainism believes in plurality of souls and maintains that all those souls that attain ultimate purity by irresidual separation from karmic bondage, gain omniscience, omni–vision, infinite bliss and infinite spiritual prowess and become Godheads. The Jaina concept of Godheads, however, does not subscribe to the theory of their reincarnation or their involvement in mundane affairs of guiding the actions and the destinies of the worldly beings as the perfected souls (Siddhas) are totally without attachment (Vītarāga) and do not have any wish or will of their own. They also do not, therefore, reincarnate to settle any untoward worldly affairs.

Against this backdrop, the Jaina concept of theism is that the religious philosophy that believes in the existence of the soul that keeps taking rebirth as long as it is in its mundane form and is responsible for its actions and the inevitable retribution thereof; the soul that is its own master and that, by its suitable actions and when the time ripens, by completely shedding the karmic bondage becomes a ’Perfect being’ or Godhead. It is, therefore, not a Unitarian religious philosophy but a Pluralistic one.

Jainism is, thus, a pluralist theist philosophy that believes in infinite number of souls capable of achieving the status of Godheads.

Jaina Axioms –

The Jaina thought and its logic is based upon certain fore–truths that do not brook any arguments. The following are the Jaina axioms: –

A. There are infinite numbers of souls, which are doers of actions through their bodies and enjoyers of fruits thereof.

B. There is karma–matter, which soils the soul by its association.

C. All souls have an initial association with karma–matter.

D. All worldly existence is miserable.

E. There is liberation from the misery of the mundane existence.

F. There are means to achieve such liberation.

It is because of belief in these fore–truths that every faithful Jaina considers liberation from mundane existence as his foremost aim, and endeavours to achieve it. All Jaina Prophets visualise these truths, preach them and propound knowledge, and conduct that lead their flocks towards spiritual liberation.

Entire Jaina philosophy, metaphysics, cosmology and ethics are based on these fore–truths. We shall examine them in the sections that follow.Svastika

Contents |

  1. “Ādimaṁ Pṛthvināthaṁ ca, ādimaṁ Niṣparigrahaṁ ™

    Ādimaṁ Tīrthanāthaṁ ca, Śrī Ṛṣabhasvāminaṁ stumaḥ ™™”

    Sakalārhat Stavan, 3 []