What's Jainism

  • Jainism, as the name indicates, is the religion preached by the Jinas. Literally, the word Jina means a conqueror, but Jinas who prescribed the set of beliefs known as Jainism were no ordinary conquerors. However, the Jinas were conquerors of their own selves. They were victors over their senses (Indriya), their passions (Kashaya) and desires (Ichha). Jinas achieved Godhood-became perfect beings blessed with perfect faith (Kshayik Darshan), perfect wisdom (Keval Gyan) and eternal bliss (Anant Sukh). They became free from worldly miseries (Moh-Raag-Dwesh) and bondage (Karma) for all times to come. The way of life these Jinas prescribed was the same as they had practiced - right faith (Samyak Darshan), right knowledge (Samyak Gyan) and right conduct (Samyak Charitra) - and thereby reached the stage of perfection. They preached the same religion for the benefit of tormented beings (Santapta Jeev) of the universe for their salvation (Moksha) from miseries. The followers of Jinas are known as Jains. The religion practiced by these Jains is known as Jainism.

    In the present cycle of time, there have been numerous Jinas out of which 24 became Tirthankars, prophets, or enlightened beings. They propagated institutions (Tirth) for right faith (Samyak Darshan), right knowledge (Samyak Gyan) and right conduct (Samyak Charitra) for salvation of humanity. The first of these Jinas was Lord Rishabhdev also known as Adinath (the first Lord) who first preached the Jain tradition in the present time cycle. The last one of these prophets was Lord Mahaveer who lived about 2542 years ago and who is erroneously considered the originator of Jainism.

    The institutions set up by the Jain prophets consisted of four groups that is, (i) monks (Muni), (ii) nuns (Arjika), (iii) laity (males) (Shravak) and (iv) laity (females) (Shravika). These institutions known as Tirth or centers of worship are continuing and this shows that Jainism is a living religion flourishing throughout India.

  • The hallmarks of Jainism are right belief (Samyak Darshan), right knowledge (Samyak Gyan) & right action (Samyak Charitra). These three jewels are preached and practiced by Jinas & four Tirths. Every soul can practice three jewels for eternal peace. This fact demonstrates broadmindedness of Jainism. The followers of this path irrespective of caste, color or creed can rightfully be considered Jains.

    We have touched upon the catholicity and broadmindedness in approach as evident in Jain thought. Similarly, other significant attributes of Jainism are its harmonious and peaceful approach to life and optimistic and healthy outlook about the future of humanity. Jain community is richly endowed educationally and economically. They lead in the fields of industry, business, education and politics. The contribution of Jainism to the Indian thought and life has been very significant. Actually, vegetarianism as a habit prevailing throughout the Indian continent, practice by a large majority, is an evidence of Jain influence. Jainism has significantly influenced Indian literature, sculpture, architecture and painting as all other aspects of life.

    There are Jinas at present preaching the principles of Jainism in all their purity and glory in other lands and other galaxies as per Jain scriptures. Here, Tirthankars (prophets) are born in every epoch of time and will continue to be born and preach the same holy precepts from time to time. Thus as the universe is beginning less and endless so are the Jain precepts/principles and practices, which have flourished in all ages and will continue to do so in future.

  • In Jainism, God is not accepted as creator of the world. Similarly, emphasis is laid on one’s action and not devotion for one’s liberation from miseries of the world. They also considered the division of life span and distinction between different classes of humanity as artificial. Jainism clearly propounded that soul should not be condemned because of its birth in a group, but soul’s actions should rightly determine its status in the universe. Similarly, it was preached that life is too transitory and uncertain and one need not wait for old age to devote oneself to religious pursuits.

  • Like all philosophies, Jain philosophy answers the fundamental questions about the universe, its creation, man’s origin, his duties and his destiny. It also deals with the question of Godhood at length and shows how an individual soul can achieve God hood by practicing the three-fold path of right faith (Samyak Darshan), right knowledge (Samyak Gyan) and right conduct (Samyak Charitra).

It must be denied emphatically that Jainism preaches atheism. On the contrary, Jainism believes in the potential power of every soul to attain Godhood. It will be clear that Jain thought proves the world to be a beautiful place to live in and man has a higher aim in life. There is no pessimism, but an optimistic approach that with appropriate efforts human destiny could achieve not only super-natural powers but also Godhood…