Jainism: Origin and prospect | By Dr Rajkumar Singh


Jainism: Origin and prospect

IT is an ancient Indian religion that is based on the teachings of Mahavira, who lived around 2500 years ago. It is a non-theistic religion that emphasizes the importance of non-violence, self-control and non-attachment. It was founded by Mahavira, who is considered the last of the 24 Tirthankaras (enlightened beings) in Jainism. Mahavira was born into a noble family in the town of Vaishali, in present-day Bihar. He lived a privileged life until the age of 30, when he renounced his wealth and status to become an ascetic. For the next 12 years, he practiced severe austerity and meditation, seeking enlightenment.

Mahavira’s teachings emphasized the importance of non-violence (ahimsa), non-attachment to material possessions and strict self-discipline. He believed that the path to liberation and spiritual purity lay in following the Five Great Vows (panch mahavrata), which are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession. Mahavira’s teachings and the ascetic way of life he advocated attracted many followers, who came to be known as Jains. Overtime, Jainism developed into a distinct religion with its own scriptures, rituals and practices. Jainism played an important role in shaping Indian culture and philosophy, particularly in the areas of ethics, non-violence and vegetarianism. Today, Jains can be found in India and around the world and the religion continues to grow and evolve.

Development of the religion: Jainism has developed and evolved over the centuries since its founding by Mahavira in the 6th century BCE. Here are some key milestones in the development of Jainism. After Mahavira’s death, his teachings were spread by his disciples, known as Jina Sampradaya. Early Jainism was characterized by a focus on asceticism, non-violence and the pursuit of spiritual purity. The Jain canon, known as the Agamas, was compiled over several centuries after Mahavira’s death, which contains the teachings of Mahavira and other Jain teachers and are considered the authoritative source of Jain doctrine. Over time, Jainism developed into a rich philosophical tradition, with an emphasis on metaphysics, ethics and epistemology.

Jain philosophers developed sophisticated theories of karma, reincarnation and the nature of reality. However, in later years, Jainism split into two main sects, the Digambaras and the Svetambaras, in the early centuries CE. The Digambaras believed in a more ascetic and naked way of life, while the Svetambaras allowed for more material comforts and believed in wearing white clothing. The religion has/had a rich inheritance of art and literature including elaborate temple sculptures, illuminated manuscripts and devotional poetry.In addition, modern Jainism has continued to evolve and adapt to present times. Jains have played an important role in the Indian independence movement and have advocated for non-violence, social justice and environmental conservation. Today, Jainism continues to be practiced in India and around the world and has had a profound influence on Indian culture and society, particularly in the areas of ethics, non-violence and vegetarianism.

Main teachings of Jainism

Jainism teaches a path to enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Here are some key teachings of Jainism: a). Non-violence: Ahimsa, or non-violence, is the most important principle of Jainism. Jains believe that all living beings have a soul and that harming any living being, whether it is a human, animal, or plant, is a sin. Jains practice non-violence by adhering to a strict vegetarian diet, avoiding harm to all living beings and promoting peaceful coexistence. b). Karma: Jains believe in the law of karma, which states that every action has a consequence. Good actions lead to good consequences and bad actions lead to bad consequences. Jains seek to minimize their karmic debt by practicing non-violence, telling the truth, practicing self-discipline and being non-attached to material possessions. c). Non-attachment: Jains believe in non-attachment to material possessions and worldly pleasures. They believe that true happiness comes from within and that attachment to material things can lead to suffering. Jains seek to minimize their attachment to the material world by living a simple lifestyle and avoiding excess. d). Self-discipline: Jains practice self-discipline through the practice of austerity, meditation and adherence to strict ethical and moral principles. Jains believe that self-discipline is necessary for spiritual progress and the attainment of enlightenment. e). Respect for life: Jains respect all forms of life and practice non-violence not only towards humans, but also towards animals and plants. Jains believe that all living beings have a soul and should be treated with compassion and kindness. f). Universalism: Jains believe in the equality of all living beings, regardless of their race, gender, or social status. Jains promote universalism, non-discrimination and social justice. Jainism teaches a path to enlightenment and liberation that emphasizes non-violence, self-discipline and non-attachment. Jains seek to minimize their karmic debt and promote spiritual purity through strict adherence to ethical and moral principles.