|IoJ activities had created considerable interest in Jainism and to meet the growing demand from people wanting to know more about Jainism, IoJ commissioned publication of two leaflets, ‘The Jains’ and ‘Jainism for the Modern World’ explaining the Jain philosophy, history, people and practices and quotations from Acharanga Sutra showing how relevant Bhagwan Mahavir’s thinking was to Modern world.
THE JAINSSouls render service to one anotherNON VIOLENCE IS THE SUPREME RELIGION
I grant forgiveness to all living beings
Jainism preaches friendship with all living things. Its aim is the welfare of the whole universe, not only human beings. Jain philosophy emphasises that animals and plants have souls, and even the elements of earth, air fire and water are made up of tiny souls. All contain life, and therefore are not to be violated and exploited by humanity, but to be treated as our benevolent friends. Violence towards our fellow human beings or towards other species is violence to the self.
The Jain dictum parasparopagraho jivanam “souls render service to one another” offers an enduring alternative to the modern Darwinian formula of 1. survival of the fittest”. The fundamental Jain principle of ahimsa, non violence extends to all forms of life. It should be our firm conviction that amity between all humanity and all life is the true wealth of our planet.
HISTORY OF JAINISM
Jainism is one of the oldest living religions. The term Jain means the follower of the Jinas (Spiritual Victors), human teachers who attained omniscience. These teachers are also called Tirthankaras (Ford makers), those who help others escape the cycle of birth and death. It is believed that there have been twenty four Tirthankaras in the present cosmic cycle.
The twenty fourth Tirthankara. Vardhamana, usually called Mahavira (the Great Hero), was born in 599 BCE into a ruling class family of what is now the Indian state of Bihar. At the age of thirty, he left home on a spiritual quest. After twelve years of trials and austerities he attained omniscience. Eleven men became his ganadharas, chief disciples, and during the next thirty years, it is thought that his followers grew to about 50,000 male and female ascetics and half a million lay people. At seventy two Mahavira died and attained nirvana, that blissful state beyond life and death.
Jains do not believe that Mahavira was the founder of a new religion. He consolidated the faith by drawing together the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, particularly those of his immediate predecessor, Parsva, who lived about 250 years earlier in Varanasi.
Initially the followers of Jainism lived throughout the Ganges Valley. Around the time of Ashoka (250 BCE) most Jains migrated to the city of Mathura on the Yamuna River. Later, many travelled west to Rajasthan and Gujarat and south to Maharashtra and Karnataka where Jainism rapidly grew in popularity.
Jains believe that to attain the higher stages of personal development or enlightenment, lay people must adhere to the five anuvratas (small vows). The vows taken by monks and nuns are the five mahavratas (great vows), a more rigorous interpretation of the vratas for the laity. These five vows are:
1. Ahimsa (non violence). This is the fundamental vow from which all other vows stem. For lay people, it involves not killing or causing intentional harm. Jains are strictly vegetarians and many devout Jains observe further restriction on foods said to support large amounts of microscopic life such as figs, honey, alcohol and root vegetables. Ahimsa also prohibits Jains taking up occupations that harm humans or animals.
2. Satya (truthfulness). This is enjoined in order to not harm another by speech.
Asteya (not stealing). This is the principle of not taking what belongs to another. Monks and nuns must only take what is specifically given, and :hen, only if it is in accord with monastic rules.
1. Brahmacharya (chastity). For lay Jains, this means avoiding sexual promiscuity. For monks and nuns it is complete celibacy.
4. Aparigraha (non materialism). For lay Jains, this means limiting their acquisition of material goods. For monks and nuns, ownership is extremely restricted. The monks of the Digambara sect do not even own clothes.
In addition to these five vows, many Jains voluntarily undertake austerities (tapas) for a time such as eating only one meal a day or fasting.
Anekantavada (non onesidedness). This philosophy states that no single perspective on an issue contains the whole truth. Substance, time, place and the conditions of the observer all effect the viewpoint, so any event should be considered from different points of view. Ideally, this should result in a non dogmatic approach to the doctrines of other faiths.
Loka (the universe). According to Jain scriptures space is infinite but only a finite portion is occupied by what is known as the universe. Everything within this universe, whether sentient (jiva) or insentient (ajiva), is eternal, although the forms that a thing may take are transient. Human beings inhabit the middle of the universe, with the heavens above and hells below. Jains believe that this uncreated, eternal universe has always existed, so they do not believe in a creator god.
jiva (Soul). Jains believe that all living beings have an individual soul (jiva) which occupies the body, a conglomerate of atoms. At the time of death, the soul leaves the body and immediately takes birth in another. Attaining moksha /nirvana and thereby ending this beginningless cycle of birth and death and death is the goal of Jain practice
Ajiva (non soul). Ajiva is everything in the universe that is insentient, including matter, the media of motion and of rest, time and space.
Karma. All jivas are equal in their potential for infinite knowledge, energy and bliss. However, during the soul’s beginningless embodied state, these innate qualities are obscured by different types of karma. Karma is understood as a form of subtle matter which adheres to the soul as a result of its actions of body, speech and mind. This accumulated karma is the cause of the soul’s bondage in the cycle of birth and death. The amounts and types of karmic particles bound to the soul determine the type of body which it inhabits.
Moksha or nirvana (eternal liberation through enlightenment). The ultimate aim of life is to emancipate the soul from the cycle of birth and death. This is done by exhausting all bound karmas and preventing further accumulation. According to Jainism, one must be human to achieve this and must lead an ascetic life following the Jain principles. When the soul has progressed from its state of limited perception obscured by karma to its pure state of omniscient knowledge free of all karma, it rises to the summit of the universe where it exists forever. Such a soul is a Siddha, Perfected Being.
To achieve moksha, it is necessary to have the following three qualities known as the Three jewels:
1. Enlightened world view: belief in the essentials of Jainism.
2. Enlightened knowledge: knowledge of the operation of karma and its relationship to the soul.
3. Enlightened conduct: adherence to the five vows.
The Jain canon contains some sixty texts and is divided into three main groups, the Purvas (old texts:12 books), the Angas (limbs: 12 books) and the Angabahya (subsidiary canon). Not all are extant. In addition to the three canon itself, there are extensive commentaries written in Sanskrit by the monk scholars. The Tattvartha Sutra, written in the second century CE, belongs to this group. This important text summarizes the entire Join doctrine and forms the basis for Jain education today.
THE JAIN COMMUNITY
Through the millennia, the Jain community has contributed enormously to the arts, politics and philosophy of India. Its most visible contribution in be seen in the nation’s sculpture and architecture.
There are two main groups of ascetics in the Jain community Shvetambaras, and Digambaras.
Shvetambara (white robed) monks and nuns wear three pieces of white clothing and carry a set of begging bowls, a whisk broom, a walking stick rid a blanket. A Shvetambara sub group called Sthanakvasis and a sub group of them called Terapanthis also wear a cloth over the mouth to avoid swallowing insects.
Digambara monks renounce all property including clothes and begging bowls. They carry a peacock feather whisk broom and a gourd containing washing water. Digambara nuns wear a white sari.
The terms Shvetambara, Sthanakvasi, Terapanthi and Digambara are also used to define the lay followers of these ascetics. There are approximately 7 million Jains in the world, about 100,000 of whom live outside India in North America, Britain, Belgium, East and South Africa, Indian Ocean Islands, South East Asia and Australia.
23 November 1995
JAINISM FOR THE MODERN WORLDThe way of eternal truth
Non violence is the supreme religion
Live to let live the way of co existence
for all living things
Anger destroys goodwill,
Jainism originated for the benefit of all beings. Its main aim is the welfare of the whole universe, not only of humanity. It teaches us to love and help one another for the benefit of all. it preaches friendship with all living things. This is the central theme governing Jain philosophy.
Modern. science gave us a formula survival of the fittest. This formula, based on the idea of the struggle for existence, infers that you have to live at the cost of others. But true science, cannot exist for long without spirituality. Many scientists and thinkers have replaced the Darwinian formula with the theory of coexistence live and let others live. But while this second formula is interesting, it also lacks respect for life and allows one to evade reality: “I am not killing him. 1 allow him to live but, if he dies on his own, why should 1 bother?” This is escapism.
That is why the sarvodaya approach of India corrected this second formula to say Live to let live. You are a human being; you should live in a way that helps others to live. This dictum is not new to Indian civilization. Mahavira, the twenty fourth Tirthankara, gave this mantra 1600 years ago. Furthermore, when Mahavira said “Live to let others live”, he was not only referring to human beings; he was speaking for all life, including animals, earth, water, fire, air and trees. All are living elements and all serve humanity. We should honour this debt, this obligation.
Nature and its cycle (of cause and effect) are integral to the sustenance and protection of thisearth. The elements of nature are not just useful materials for us, but living beings who should be treated as beneficent friends. The present state of Mother Earth as spoiled and deformed is the reflection of our own mind. The moot question is why humanity should kill other living things; why should we hate and neglect our fellow beings? It should be our firm conviction that amity between all humanity and all life is the real wealth. Non violence is the only way to revolutionise humanity. Only through nonviolence can we survive. When humans despoil (pollute) nature, we pollute the very environment we need in order to live, we issue an open invitation for our own destruction.
It is high time we turned back from the path of unlimited and thoughtless misuse of nature which is destroying Mother Earth. Self imposed restraint is the call of the day for the bright future of humanity. It can only be achieved if we adopt a policy of invest more, use less.
The philosophy of Tirthankara Mahavira goes beyond the principles of modern science. It teaches us to live a life that allows all the elements of nature to remain in peace and harmony, without fear. Fearlessness is the foundation of supreme truth. It is rooted in nonviolence.
Pujya Shris Sheelchandravijayji &
QUOTES FROM JAIN SCRIPTURES
Quotations from Uttradhyayana Sutra
Mahavira’s admonition to his chief disciple Indrabhuti Gautama.
As the fallow leaf of the tree falls to the ground when its days are gone, even so the lives of men (come to a close). Gautama. be careful all the while.
A rare chance in the long course of time
Though one believes in the law,
When your body grows old,
Cast aside all your attachments
Leave your friends and relations,
Now you have entered the path cleared of thorns,
You have crossed the great ocean,
Going through the same religious practices as perfected saints, you will reach the world of perfection, Gautama, where there is safety and perfect happiness
[Ven.Sudharma then said:]