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Jainism

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Jain-swastika.jpg



The holiest Jain symbol is the right facing swastika, or svastika, shown above.

Commonly, Jain worshippers also use loose rice grains to create svastika symbols around the temple altar.


Left facing swastikas are not used in the Jain tradition. </div>

Jainism (pronounced Jai-nizm), traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient religion known since early recorded times as an independent faith and philosophy. It is based more immediately upon the teachings of the prince Mahavira (599 - 527 BC), or Lord Mahavira to Jains. According to belief, Jain philosophy is an understanding and codification of eternal universal truths which at times lapse among humanity, but later reappear through the teachings of human beings who have gained enlightenment or omniscience (Keval Gnan). In this part of the universe, in the present half cycle of time, the philosophy is believed to have first been given to humanity by Lord Rishabha. Evidence from the Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3000- 1500 BC) seems to attest to its early existence as shown through seals and other artifacts unearthed since the civilization's discovery in 1921.

Contents

Overview of Jainism

Jainism teaches that "every single living thing is an individual and eternal soul," which is responsible for its own actions. Jains see their faith as teaching the individual to live, think and act in ways that respect and honor the spiritual nature of every living being to the best of one's human abilities. Jains view God as the unchanging traits of the pure soul, chief among them being Infinite Knowledge, Perception, Consciousness, and Happiness (Ananta Gnana, Darshan, Chaitanya, and Sukh). The universe itself is eternal, having no beginning and no end. (Hence, it is said that Jainism is a religious path which does not include the concept of a creator God).

The primary figures of Jainism are the Tirthankaras. Jainism has two main variants: Digambar and Shvetambar. Jains believe in ahimsa, asceticism, karma, samsara, and the jiva. Jain philosophy has many scriptures written over a long period of time. Many Jains consider the primary scripture to be the Tattvartha Sutra, or Book of Realities written over 18 centuries ago by the monk-scholar Umasvati.

As part of its stance on nonviolence, Jainism goes beyond vegetarianism in that the Jain diet also excludes most root vegetables and certain other foods believed to be unnecessarily injurious. Observant Jains do not eat, drink or travel after sunset and always rise before sunrise.

At approximately 8 to 10 million adherents, Jainism is among the smallest of the major world religions. There are 6000 Jain nuns, and 2500 Jain monks -- most of the monks and nuns are members of the Shvetambar (Fisher) in India. Despite their meager number, Jains are said to have stood out for themselves and there are quite a lot of them in various, significant fields, mainly businesses and sciences. Jains have been an important presence in Indian culture, contributing to Indian philosophy, art, architecture, sciences and last but not least the politics of Mohandas Gandhi which led to Indian independence. Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat are likely to have the largest Jain population among Indian states. Another state of India with a relatively large Jain population among its residents is Karnataka.

Jainism has a large following in the Indian region of Punjab, especially the town of Ludhiana. There were many Jains in Lahore (Punjab's historic capital) and other cities before the Partition of 1947. Many then fled to the Indian section of Punjab.

Digambaras and Shvetambaras

The two major sects of Jainism trace their origin to events that occurred about ~200 years after the death of Mahāvīra. Bhadrabahu, chief of the Jain monks, foresaw a period of famine and led all who would follow him (~12,000 people), to southern India. Twelve years later, they returned to find that Svetambara sect had arisen. The followers of Bhadrabahu became known as the Digambaras.

Jain cosmology

The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes the Jain Vow of Ahimsa, meaning non-injury and non-violence. The word in the middle of the wheel reads "ahimsa." This logo represents halting the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth.
The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes the Jain Vow of Ahimsa, meaning non-injury and non-violence. The word in the middle of the wheel reads "ahimsa." This logo represents halting the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth.
.

According to Jain beliefs, the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. It is eternal but not unchangeable, because it passes through an endless series of alternations or swings. Each of these upward or downward swings is divided into six world ages (yugas). The present world age is the fifth age of one of these "swings," which is in a downward movement. These ages or "swings" are known as "AARO" as in "Pehelo Aaro" or First Age, "Beejo Aaro" or Second Age and so on. The last one is the "Chhatho Aaro" or Sixth Age. All these ages have fixed time durations of thousands of years.

When this reaches its lowest level, even Jainism itself will be lost in its entirety. Then, in the course of the next upswing, the Jain religion will be rediscovered and reintroduced by new leaders called Tirthankaras (literally "Crossing Makers" or "Ford Finders"), only to be lost again at the end of the next downswing, and so on.

In each of these enormously long alternations of time there are always twenty-four Tirthankaras. In the current world age, the twenty-third Tirthankar was Parshva, an ascetic and teacher, whose traditional dates are 877-777 BC, i.e., 250 years before the passing of the last Tirthankar Mahavira in 527 BC. Jains regard him and all Tirthankaras as a reformer who called for a return to beliefs and practices in line with the eternal universal philosophy upon which the faith is said to be based.

The twenty-fourth and final Tirthankar of this age is known by his title, Mahāvīra, the Great Hero (599-527 BC). He too was a wandering ascetic teacher who attempted to recall the Jains to the rigorous practice of their ancient faith.

Jains believe that reality is made up of two eternal principles, jiva and ajiva. Jiva consists of an infinite number of identical spiritual units; ajiva (that is, non-jiva) is matter in all its forms and the conditions under which matter exists: time, space, and movement.

Both jiva and ajiva are eternal; they never came into existence for the first time and will never cease to exist. The whole world is made up of jivas trapped in ajiva; there are jivas in rocks, plants, insects, animals, human beings, spirits, et cetera.

Any contact whatsoever of the jiva with the ajiva causes the former to suffer. Thus the Jains believed that existence in this world inevitably means suffering. Neither social reform nor the reform of individuals themselves can ever stop suffering. In every human being, a jiva is trapped, and the jiva suffers because of its contact with ajiva. The only way to escape from suffering is for the jiva to completely escape from the human condition, from human existence.

Karma and transmigration keep the jiva trapped in ajiva. Achieving release from the human condition is difficult. The Jains believe that the jiva continues to suffer during all its lives or reincarnations, which are of an indefinite number. They believe that every action that a person performs, be it good or evil, opens up channels of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell), through which an invisible substance, karma, filters in and adheres to the jiva within, weighing it down and determining the conditions of the next reincarnation.

The consequence of evil actions is a heavy karma, which weighs the jiva down, forcing it to enter its new life at a lower level in the scale of existence. The consequence of good deeds, on the other hand, is a light karma, which allows the jiva to rise in its next life to a higher level in the scale of existence, where there is less suffering to be endured. However, good deeds alone can never lead to release.

The way to moksha (release or liberation) is withdrawal from the world. Karma is the cause-and-effect mechanism by virtue of which all actions have inescapable consequences. Karma operates to keep the jiva chained in an unending series of lifetimes in which the jiva suffers to a greater or lesser extent. Thus the way of escape must involve an escape from karma, the destruction of all karma and the avoidance of new karma.

Then, at death, with no karma to weigh it down, the jiva will float free of all ajiva, free of the human condition, free of all future embodiments. It will rise to the top of the universe to a place or state called Siddhashila, where the jiva, identical with all other pure jivas, will experience its own true nature in eternal stillness, isolation and noninvolvement. It will be totally free. The way to burn up old karma is to withdraw from all involvement in the world as much as possible, and close the channel of the senses and the mind to prevent karmic matter from entering and adhering to the jiva.

Beliefs and practices

On the one hand, there are the monks, who practice severe asceticism and strive to make this birth their last. On the other hand, there are the lay people, who pursue less rigorous practices, striving to attain rational faith and do good deeds in this birth. Due to the strict ethics embedded in Jainism, the laity must choose a profession and livelihood that does not involve violence to self and other living beings.

In their effort to attain their highest and most exalted state of beatification (Siddhatva), which is the permanent release of the jiva from all involvement in worldly existence, the Jains believe that no spirit or divine being can assist them in any way. The Jains consider that gods cannot help the jiva to obtain release. This has to be achieved by individuals through their own efforts. In fact, the angels cannot even gain their own release until they are reincarnated as humans and undertake the difficult life of a Jain monk.

The ethical code of Jainism is taken very seriously. Summarized in the Five Vows, they are followed by both lay people and monastics. These are:

  1. non-injury (ahinsa, or ahimsa)
  2. non-lying (satya)
  3. non-stealing (asteya)
  4. chastity (brahmacharya)
  5. non-possession (aparigrah)

For lay people, chastity means confining sexual experience to the marriage relationship. For monks, it means complete celibacy. Non-injury involves being strictly vegetarian. The Jain is expected to follow the principle of non-violence in all his thoughts, words and deeds. There are some Jains who wear masks over their mouths and noses to avoid any possibility of breathing in tiny insects.

Mahatma Gandhi, the great son of India, was deeply influenced by the Jain emphasis on a peaceful, non-harming way of life which is common to the Jain philosophy and made it an integral part of his own philosophy.

The Jain rituals for marriage and other family rites are distinct and uniquely Indian. Jains have built temples where images of their Tirthankaras are venerated. Jain rituals are elaborate, and include offerings of symbolic objects, with the Tirthankaras being praised in chant.

Jains have few core symbols. One Jain symbol incorporates a wheel on the palm of the hand. The holiest one is a simple unadorned swastika.

Jain Prayer

Every day Jains bow their heads and say their universal prayer, the Namokar-mantra. All good work and events start with this prayer of salutation and worship.

Namo Arihantanam: - I bow to the Arahantas, the perfected human beings, Godmen.
Namo Siddhanam: - I bow to the Siddhas, liberated bodiless souls, God.
Namo Aariyanam: - I bow to the Acharyas, the masters and heads of congregations.
Namo Uvajjhayanam: - I bow to the Upadhyayas, the spiritual teachers.
Namo Loe Savva Sahunam: - I bow to all the spiritual practitioners in the universe, Sadhus.

Eso Panch Namoyaro: - This fivefold obeisance mantra,
Savva Pavappanasano: - Destroys all sins and obstacles,
Mangalanam cha Savvesin: - And of all auspicious repetitions,
Padhamam Havai Mangalam: - Is the first and foremost.

- These five salutations are capable of destroying all the sins and this is the first happiness among all forms of happiness.

In the above prayer, Jains salute the virtues of their five benevolent. They do not pray to a specific Tirthankara or monk by name. By saluting them, Jains receive the inspiration from the five benevolent for the right path of true happiness and total freedom from the misery of life. Jain prayers do not ask for any favors or material benefits from their Gods, the Tirthankaras or from monks and nuns.

Jain Epistemology

Ahimsa is not only the foundation of Jain morality, but also Jain epistemology. Jainism asserts that absolutism (especially moral absolutism) leads to fanaticism and violence, so Jain epistemology supports tolerance amongst beliefs, claiming that no single belief holds truth exclusively. Anekantavada -- literally Nonsingular Conclusivity or Non-one-ended-ness -- is the position that all non-omniscent truth claims are partially based on the fact that all observations, and therefore all individual conclusions derived from a given observation, are by themselves limited and biased.

Underlying Jain epistemology is the idea that reality is multifaceted (anekanta, or non-one-sided), such that no one view can capture it in its entirety; that is, no single statement or set of statements captures the complete truth about the objects they describe. This insight, illustrated by the famous story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant, grounds both a kind of fallibilism in epistemology and a sevenfold classification of statements in logic.

Every school of Indian thought includes some judgment about the valid sources of knowledge (pramanas). While their lists of pramanas differ, they share a concern to capture the common-sense view; no Indian school is skeptical. The Jain list of pramanas includes sense perception, valid testimony (including scriptures), extra-sensory perception, telepathy, and kevala, the state of omniscience of a perfected soul. Notably absent from the list is inference, which most other Indian schools include, but Jain discussion of the pramanas seem to indicate that inference is included by implication in the pramana that provides the premises for inference. That is, inference from things learned by the senses is itself knowledge gained from the senses; inference from knowledge gained by testimony is itself knowledge gained by testimony, etc. Later Jain thinkers would add inference as a separate category, along with memory and tarka, the faculty by which we recognize logical relations.

Since reality is multi-faceted, none of the pramanas gives absolute or perfect knowledge (except kevala, which is enjoyed only by the perfected soul, and cannot be expressed in language). As a result, any item of knowledge gained is only tentative and provisional. This is expressed in Jain philosophy in the doctrine of naya, or partial predication (sometimes called the doctrine of perspectives or viewpoints). According to this doctrine, any judgment is true only from the viewpoint or perspective of the judge, and ought to be so expressed. Given the multifaceted nature of reality, no one should take his or her own judgments as the final truth about the matter, excluding all other judgments. This insight generates a sevenfold classification of predications. The seven categories of claim can be schematized as follows, where a represents any arbitrarily selected object, and F represents some predicate assertible of it:

Perhaps a is F. Perhaps a is not-F. Perhaps a is both F and not-F. Perhaps a is indescribable. Perhaps a is indescribable and F. Perhaps a is indescribable and not-F. Perhaps a is indescribable, and both F and not-F. Each predication is preceded by a marker of uncertainty (syat), which I have rendered here as perhaps. Some render it as from a perspective, or somehow. However it is translated, it is intended to mark respect for the multifaceted nature of reality by showing a lack of conclusive certainty.

Early Jain philosophical works (especially the Tattvartha Sutra) indicate that for any object and any predicate, all seven of these predications are true. That is to say, for every object a and every predicate F, there is some circumstance in which, or perspective from which, it is correct to make claims of each of these forms. These seven categories of predication are not to be understood as seven truth-values, since they are all seven thought to be true. Historically, this view has been criticized (by Sankara, among others) on the obvious ground of inconsistency. While both a proposition and its negation may well be assertible, it seems that the conjunction, being a contradiction, can never be even assertible, never mind true, and so the third and seventh forms of predication are never possible. This is precisely the kind of consideration that leads some commentators to understand the syat operator to mean from a perspective. Since it may well be that from one perspective, a is F, and from another, a is not-F, then one and the same person can appreciate those facts and assert them both together. Given the multifaceted nature of the real, every object is in one way F, and in another way not-F. An appreciation of the complexity of the real also can lead one to see that objects are, as they are in themselves, indescribable (as no description can capture their entirety). This yields the fourth form of predication, which can then be combined with other insights to yield the last three forms.

A Critical Opinion of Anekantavada: Perhaps the problem with this doctrine is one that troubles all forms of skepticism and fallibilism to one degree or another; it seems to be self-defeating. After all, if reality is multifaceted, and that keeps us from making absolute judgments (since my judgment and its negation will both be equally true), the doctrines that underlie Jain epistemology are themselves equally tentative. For example, take the doctrine of Anekantavada. According to that doctrine, reality is so complex that any claim about it will necessarily fall short of complete accuracy. The doctrine itself must then fall short of complete accuracy. Therefore, we should say, Perhaps (or from a perspective) reality is multifaceted. At the same time, we have to grant the propriety, in some circumstances, of saying, Perhaps reality is not multifaceted. Jain epistemology gains assertibility for its own doctrine, but at the cost of being unable to deny contradictory doctrines. What begins as a laudable fallibilism ends as an untenable relativism.

Jainism and the Faiths Originating in Southern Asia

It has been advanced that the pervasive influence of Jain culture and philosophy in ancient Bihar gave rise to Buddhism.

The Buddhists always maintained that by the time Buddha and Mahavira were alive, Jainism was already an ancient and deeply entrenched faith and culture in the region. Buddhist scriptures record philosophical dialogues between the wandering seeker Buddha and Jain teachers such as Udaka Ramaputta. Early Buddhists posited the existence of 24 previous Buddhas (Buddhas who walked the earth prior to Siddhartha Gautama) many of whose names are identical to those of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras and other traditional Jain figures. Buddhist scriptures attest that some of the first Buddhists were in fact Jains (Nirgranthas as they were then called, meaning "the unbonded ones") who "converted", whom Buddha encouraged to maintain their Jain identity and practices such as giving alms to Jain monks and nuns. The famous ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant illustrates the Jain science of Anekantavada, and is found in the Buddhist Pali text called Udana. Like any other splinter group, writers of the ancient Pali texts clearly rejoiced in criticizing (and at times ridiculing) the Jains and celebrating the conversion of another Jain to Buddha's path. The texts show that Buddha vigorously appealed to the Nirgranthas that his path was nothing different from that with which they were already familiar, simply better.

The Buddhist formulation of the "Middle Way" was a post-Buddha response by the Buddhist monastic community to criticism by the Jains (as seen in Jain texts such as the Sutrakritanga Sutra and Acharanga Sutra) that the Buddhist Bhikkhus (mendicants) were lax and not living the rigorous life of a true ascetic or Shramana (Samana in Prakrit). In defining the Middle Way, Buddhist scholars branded their faith with a unique identity that distanced itself from Jain tradition by providing an alternative to "extreme asceticism" (i.e., Jainism) on one hand and Buddha's own princely hedonism on the other. In describing Buddha's six-years of spiritual searching after leaving his family, Buddhist scriptures from the early post-Buddha period detail certain fasts, penances and austerities which Buddha undertook whose descriptions are elsewhere found only in the Jain tradition (for example, the penance by five fires and the consumption of food using only one's cupped hands). To this day, many Buddhist teachings, principles and terms remain identical to Jain ones. In short, a large body of evidence suggests strongly that, in large measure, Buddhism is an offshoot of Jainism.

Mahāvīra was a senior contemporary of the Buddha, however there is no evidence the two teachers actually met.

Jainism as a religion was at various times found all over South Asia including Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Additionally, it is practiced by adherents in all the metropolitian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The religion has its presence even in the other prominent cities of India, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad.

Partly due to historical biases within some academic fields related to the study of religion and culture -- namely, (i) a greater emphasis placed on the demographically larger Hindu and Buddhist faiths, and (ii) a tendency to employ historical paradigms peculiar to Judeo-Christian history -- Jainism has been variously labeled an "offshoot" or "reform movement" of Hinduism, and anti-Brahmin social movement, a lesser twin of Buddhism, a religion of "extreme asceticism", a pacifist creed, and other tableaus at odds with both historical evidence and modern reality.

In fact, Jain philosophy and culture have been a major cultural, philosophical, social and political force since the dawn of civilization in South Asia, and its ancient influence has been traced beyond the borders of modern "India" into the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. Jainism is presently a growing faith in the United States as well.

Over several thousand years, Jain influence on Hindu philosophy and religion have been considerable, while Hindu influence on Jain temple worship and rituals can be observed in certain Jain sects. Jain scriptures are many and varied, yet contrary to parochial Hindu claims, the Jain scripture rejects both the Hindu Vedas and non-Jain writings generally as sources of religious authority and practice. The Hindu Vedic (and generally theistic) concepts of divine creation, preservation and destruction are in fact condemned in certain Jain texts such as the Mahavira Charitam. However, Jainism has several schools of thought.

Despite a general doctrinal tolerance in the Hindu tradition, history shows instances of persecution against Jains such as in Tamil Nadu in the 7th century, AD when Hindu Shaiva poets and teachers popularized the notion of Jains (or Samanars in Tamil) as villians opposed to the Shaiva creed.

Today, a concern of modern Jains in post-independence India has been the preservation of ancient pilgrimage sites and holy shrines -- such as Mt. Girnarji in Gujarat -- which in recent decades have come under occupation by certain fundamentalist groups -- in the case of Girnarji, Hindu devotees of a deity known as Dattatreya.

In modern India, Jains share a variety cultural and linguistic affinities with other religious communities, and the same may be said of those other communities.

Jain sites

(Note: A sampling of references appears below. If counterevidence exists to any of the above, it is requested that it be appended to the end.)

References

  • Fisher -- Living Religions (5th Edition) (2003), p.130
  • Bhaskar, Bhagchandra Jain, Jainism in Buddhist Literature. Alok Prakashan: Nagpur, 1972.
  • Thomas, Edward, Jainism, or the Early Faith of Asoka. Asian Educational Services: New Delhi, 1995 (reprint of the original by Trubner: London, 1877).
  • Nakamura, Hajime, Gotama Buddha: A Biography Based on the Most Reliable Texts. Kosei Publishing: Tokyo, 2000.
  • Jain Philosophy, Webb, Mark Owen

http://www.iep.utm.edu/j/jain.htm#Epistemology%20and%20Logic

External links

eo:Ĝajnismo fr:Janisme he:ג'ייניזם lb:Jainismus nds:Jainismus nl:Janisme ja:ジャイナ教 pl:Dźinizm pt:Jainismo ru:Джайнизм sl:Džainizem fi:Jainalaisuus sv:Jainism tr:Jainizm

zh:耆那教

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