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Offline JR

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« on: February 19, 2007, 08:05:44 AM »
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  • By:  Prof.  Vaman H.   Pandit
    Jainism is a significant name in the Religions of India. Students of religions in India have paid there due attention to its claim. It re¬presents a theological mean between Brahamanism and Buddhism. It has made a distinct appeal over the centuries in moulding the pattern of Indian way of life. According to the last census report nearly 1800000 profess Jain faith out of the total population of 439, 235,021.


    But still greater temptations were set like a trap for the old Aryan religion after the arrival of the Aryans in India. It is certain, that in India several races were settled before the arrival of the Aryans, whose vestiges we recognise in some of the Indian hillmen, e. g. Bhils, Santals, Todas etc. At present we know these tribes as Adivasis.

    We do not know anything about the religion of these pre-Aryan races or Adivasis of India; but modern researches do confirm that they had some form of creed; still we can make out several features of those religions by studying the popular Indian religions of today and the sacred literature of the pre-historic times, with the help, however, of comparative ethnography and with the help of the monuments and antiquities which still exist in India - remnants of the old period.

    The result of these studies is that the historians assume at-least two types of pre-Aryan religions in India. We are at a loss to know whether they have been both animistic or one animistic and the other fetishistic, but we know fairly well, how they manifested themselves. The- one type which has been perhaps a fetishistic one by nature mani¬fested itself by exuberant devotion, accompanied by mystical excite¬ment, becoming sometimes a real ecstasy. The other one, surely of an animistic character was accompanied by strong inclination to asceti¬cism. Under the influence of these two elements the original Aryan religion developed in several sects or rather different religious schools, in which all these elements, viz., intellectuality, formalism, devotion, bhakti and asceticism, appear as indispensable constituent parts. Be¬sides this, it is not impossible that some influence of Christianity and Islam worked on the developing of later sects.

    To comprehend fully the impact of Jainism, it was necessary to give in details an introductory background. And now let us turn to Jainism and have a scholarly look at it. Jainism is generally dealt with as an offspring of the religious currents started in India in the eighth century B. C. as an opposition against the Brahmanic formalism, which in those times led often to forms not always worthy to be called religion.
    Various opinions have been cited by the scholars but the oldest opinion is that Mahavira is the founder of Jain religion, being himself an older contemporary of Buddha. The current opinion, which is a fact is, that the Jain religion had been started already by Parsvanatha, Mahavira being only its reformer. But this Jain tradition teaches us something quite different. According to it the Jain religion is eternal and there were several reformers of this religion, who are identical with the twenty-four Tirthankaras. Who are Tirthankaras? According to Jainism, the explanation given is that, a Tirthankara, is one who has made, has founded, the four 'tirthas' What is a tirtha? Tirtha, derived from the root tr, *to save', is they affirm, a technical term indicating 'the means of salvation', the means par excellence; and the chaturvidha snagha, or that 'fourfold Communion' within which all who take refuge find ultimate salvation, consists of four tirthas, or 'orders', namely, those of (1) sadhu or monk, (2) sadhvi or nun, (3) sravaka or lay-brother, and (4) sravika or lay-sister. These four tirthas are thus, as it were, four boats that will infallibly carry the passengers they bear unto the desired haven of deliverance (moksa). Hence the Tirthankara is one who is the founder of the FOUR ORDERS that collectively constitute the COMMUNION or Sangha.


    This Jain tradition ts striking one, and has surely a concrete fact behind itself because no Indian tradition is without a background of reality. What is the background of this tradition? It is a little difficult to understand it. Some of the scholars of Jainism, think that Jainism took some views from older animistic religions. And this opinion is not unimportant as far as it refers to the Jain belief, that not only animals, but also plants and even the minerals, have an animated substratum of life, '"Jiva".
    It follows, therefore, that Jainism is a very very old religion, for a scholar can hardly suppose eternity of any religion, the roots of which reach back to very remote past of the pre-Aryan races in India, which took from the Aryan religion every-thing, that was the best or at least better than its own ideas, and which had developed itself parallel to the Brahmanic forms of the Aryan religion.

    Jainism as a religion of the masses can be dealt with only in its final form, viz., after the reform of Mahavira, or better in the present form as it is taught by both the most important schools of Jainas, viz., the Svetambaras and the Digambaras. The most important feature of Jainism is, that it has overcome the Brahmanic scepticism which was threatening the very roots of religion as well as the pure forma¬lism to which the Brahmanical rites sank at the time just before the reform of Mahavira. And by means of Mahavira's reforms Jainism, although it did not spread as much as Buddhism, was of much greater importance for India than the latter.

    But the real value of Jainism lies in its inner perfection which appears in the proportionate representation of the religious elements so that none overruns the other. This is the feature, in which all the Indian religions in general, but Jainism in particular, differ from the other religions.


    Every religion consists mainly of three elements, viz. the senti¬mental element, the intellectual element, and the practical element. In most of the religions the practical element, which appears in the shape of rites and ceremonies, overgrows the whole religion in such a way, that the other elements become only subordinate addition, the sentimental element being still a favourite. The cultivation of intellec¬tual element is the special feature of the Aryan religion. But only in Jainism all these elements are well-balanced, whilst in the old Braha-manism and in Buddhism the cultivation of the intellectual element is often exaggerated.

    Jainism, in the first place of importance, gives a dogmatical view of god. It is a very natural one for a thinking being. The god according to the Jains is Paramatman, but not Ishvara, i. e. the god is not a creator and ruler, but he is a perfect being, who cannot be set back to the imperfect condition of this world, and as such is wor¬shipful. In so far as the Jain religion has shown the greatest subli¬mity to do everything in upholding the highest aim of intellectual element and still remaining a religion with its typical features, of which the idea of god is the indispensable one. Therefore the Jain religion can be called with full authority the limit not only of the Aryan religion but of all religions altogether.

    And in this character of a limit lies the great importance of the Jain religion. For, it is the required upper limit, according to which we are able to judge of the other human phenomena, whether they are still religious or not. But this is not the only importance of Jainism but equally important are the Jain metaphysics and Jain ethics, not to speak of its logic.

    An example can be cited about characteristic manifestation of this superiority of Jainism and that is the theory of infinite numbers as it is dealt with in the Loka-Prakasa, and which corresponds with the most modern mathematical theories And the theory of identity of time and space is one of the problems, which are currently most discussed by the scientists owing to Einstein's theory, and which are already solved or prepared for solution in Jain metaphysics.

    Yet another example can be cited from the Jain ethics and that is of co-existence we mean, of happy co-existence of all beings in the whole world. Its solution in Jainism is a very simple one, but the only perfect one, viz. in the commandment of ahimsa or non-injury, which is not only a theory but moreover in practice stricter and more resolute, than the similar commandments in the Christian religion. No nation in the world has given practical shape to these two commandments than India. Mahatma Gandhi picked up the comman¬dment of Ahimsa.

    And yet one more problem which is dealt successfully by Jain ethics with simplicity and perfection is the problem of sexual chas¬tity. In modern parlance it is associated with our FAMILY PLANN¬ING. This is not only an ethical but moreover a biological and social problem of very wide bearing. The efforts of a great political econo¬mist Malthus, who promulgated his ideas in his important work, viz. "An Essay on the Principle of Population" to solve the problem after he had discovered the dangers of overcrowding the world by increasing population, whilst he proved by statistics that the human race is increasing in geometrical progression, the resources, however, only in an arithmetical progression. Although outworn, this theory is the problem really existed in Europe, and that its solution has been already attempted not only by religious reformers, but moreover by the scientists too. '

    The Jain solution of the problem is quite plain, removing the very root of the evil. It is that, what we call brahmacharya. It would be out of place to go in details on this subject here, but I would like to suggest for those who are interested in this subject to read or to study the respective part of Adhyatma-Tattvaloka by Muni Nyaya vijaya.

    The Jain religion is the limit of religion in general and at the same time the limit of Aryan religion in particular. It follows from the fact that the Jain religion is well balanced in respect of the parti¬cular religious elements, that is built up anthropocentrically and the intellectual element is not pushed aside in it, but rather developed as far as possible without injuring the essential of a religion. Undoubtedly it is one of the most important developed religions because of its advanced view of religious matters as well as the methods, for example, how to consider matters, viz. Syadvada. It is the considera¬tion of any subject from different points of view in order to get the right knowledge of the matter, and not to prove any wrong suppo¬sition.

    The services of Jainism to India are very great. In the sixth century before Christ, which in so many countries witnessed an earn¬est aspiration after higher truths and nobler lives, the country of Bihar was strangely agitated by the teachings of many religious re¬formers who founded their own sects. Yet of all these ancient orders, one only has survived in India down to the present day, and that one is the Jainism founded whether by Mahavira himself or by his repu¬ted master Parsvanatha. Its first home was near Kashi (Banaras) or Varanasi, and thus lay to the east of that ‘holy land' which was the seat of Vedic cult. But as the years passed it has migrated westwards and northwards, with the remarkable consequence that today there are no Jains in the land of its origin, elsewhere it is still fairly well represented. The mercantile communities of Gujarat and Marwar owe all their prosperity and enterprise to Jainism.
    (to be continued)

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