Jain Dharma

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Jainism recognizes two fundamental principles – the jivatattva (living objects) and the ajivatattva (non-living objects). These two principles come into contact with one another and forge certain energies that bring forth birth, various experiences of life, and death.

There is a five-fold ethical code in Jainism:

Ahimsa – non-violence Satya – truth Asteya – non-stealing Brahmacharya – celibacy Aparigraha – non-acceptance of gifts

Jains consider themselves Hindu[1], and it was actually Dayanand Saraswati who had urged government legislation to have them recognized as distinct from the Hindu community.

"the kinship of the religions of India stems from the fact that Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs look back to Hinduism as their common mother."[2] - S. Vernon McCasland

Pan-Hindu monarchs, while being devout to a particular sect themselves were open to accepting and supporting their family members being of any other sect. King Kharvela the Jain king of Kalinga was called a "sarva pasanda pujaka" (worshiper of all sects) and "sarva devayatana samskarana"[3] (builder of temples for all sects.) Line 17th of his Hatigumpha inscription also reveals that he repaired the temples of all deities ("Sava devayatana sanakara karako.")[4]

Brahm in Jainism

Although Jain scriptures normally focus achieving the statehood of the Jina, rather than explain a Supreme Jina to which all Jinas belong, there latter does find mention. The notion of a Supreme above all is clear in some Jain scriptures. There has been association between Tirthankaras and Brahm (Brahman) within the texts. The second, Tirthankar, Ajita in the Svayambhu Stora (sloka 10) is described as "Brahma-nistha" (engrossed in Self) and is requested to bestow "Jinasri" on the devotee.[5] Later in the same scripture (sloka 119), Brahma is described of as being the highest principle, "ahimsa bhutanam jagati viditam brahma paramairT." There is also Jinesvara Suri's Gaharayanakosa scripture which begins first with a prayer to Jina, and then Brahman.[6]

The name Brahma (not to be confused with Brahmā) has been used in Jainism also in titles conferred on both Jain scholars and temples. Hasmukhlal Dhirajlal Sankalia suggests that names like Brahmasaranu suggest the person has realized or is after Brahman [7] There were some great scholars who took this title and examples are Brahmachintamani, Brahmagunadasa, Brahmajinadasa, Brahmajinasagara, Brahmananka, Brahmapunyasagara, and Brahmasantidas. Furthermore, the Parsvadeva Basadi, a temple of Parshvanatha of Tailangere is known as Brahma Jinalaya.

Some scholars make it clear that Brahman is an entity and Supreme Brahman, and even compare it to personifications of God Almighty. The Jain Scholar Yogindu called Paramatma by many names including Brahman and Jinadeva.[8] He writes, "Jinadeva is present in all temples of the body, and man would be fool to seek him in temples." He compares the perfection of Jina to other names that the perfect entity is called. The body, etc., are not the highest self that is here known stainless (nirmala), timeless (niskala), pure, Jina, Siva, Visnu and peaceful (shanta.) He also says, "If the highest Brahman is not realized through great meditation one has to wander infinitely suffering the miseries of transmigration."

A few scholars have made it a required belief to believe in the Supreme Jina. Acarya Vijay Bhuvanbhanusuri writes, "If philosophers do not believe in the omniscient Jinendradeva as the reverend Supreme Lord, then there is no Jainatva (Jainhood) in them."

A Jain scripture says one "should centre one's mind, heart and soul in mastering intellectual recognition-perception of the Supreme Self through philosophic erudition and thus ultimately become himself the Lord of Lords namely the dispassionate Jinendradeva."[9]

In the Mahapurana of Jinasena-Gunabhadra, the Jina is called the creator and destroyer of the universe.

The following is an excerpt from a Jain scripture:

That which is formless is given a form (rupa). He is the form of the universe, the lord of the world. It is the embodiment (murti) of enlightenment (kevala-jnana), the one who has conquered all passions, the Jina lord. The embodiment of the Jina shows the teacher of the world as absorbed in the ultimate (Brahma).[10]

Suresvara was the chief disciple of Adi Shankar Acharya, and he used the word atma to connote the Brahman at times and other times the jivatma.[11] Digambara Jain scholar Vijayananda in his Astasahasri quotes Suresvara's Brhadaranyakopanishad-bhasya-varttika.[12]

Many Jains, especially renowned scholars have denied that Jainism is atheist. Renowned Jain philosopher, Vijayasena Suri in the court of Akbar when accused of preaching atheism declared that Jainism's belief is not atheistic and is similar to the Samkhya of Kapila.[13] (Samkhya advocates a Nirguna Atman[14] or a plurality of selves.[15]) Similar to this view, some advocated monism. The Ekavada or monism is discussed by some Jains. One commentator even refers to the Upanishadic idea of Brahman.[16] It corresponds to the Buddhist idea of Ekaccasassatavada mentioned in Brahmajala Sutta.

Jainism and Vedic scriptures

Jainism not nastika doctrine

Scholar Annasaheba Latthe writes that Jainism cannot be called a nastika doctrine because some its Tirthankaras are "worshiped and praised" in the Vedas.[17]

Jains themselves have been branded nastikas for not accepting the Vedas, and they in turn have accused many non-Jains of being Nastikas. According to Jainism, nastikavada is a system of beliefs that are nastika in nature. Jains assign the term nastika to one who is ignorant of the meaning of the religious texts[18] or those who deny the existence of the soul.[19]

The Jains acharyas, Manibhadra and Haribhadra associated Jainism of astika classification and associated the Lokayata (Charvaka) philosophy and pro-Vedic Vedanta with nastika.[20]

Tirthankaras in Vedic scriptures

Some mainstream Hindu scriptures like the Puranas clearly mention the Tirthankaras. It is now accepted that Vedas and other Vedic scriptures do too.

Tirthankara Translation Passage Veda
Rishabha But Risabha went on, unperturbed by anything till he became sin-free like a conch that takes no black dot, without obstruction ... which is the epithet of the First World-teacher, may become the destroyer of enemies Rig Veda X.166
Rishabha Om namo arhato Rsabho, om Rsabhah pavitram.
Om trataramindram Rshabham vadanti amrtaramindram
Arishtanemi So asmakam Aristanemi svaha Arhan vibharsi sayakani dhanvarhanistam yajatam visvarupam arhannidam dayase Rig Veda Astak 2, Varga 7
Arishtanemi Om svasti na indro vrddhasravah
svasti nah pIZsa vis'vavedrih
svasti na sta'rksyo Aristanemih
svasti no brhaspatir dadha'tu
anena svastikena bhagavad durgciya'h
Rig Veda 1.89.6a /
Sama Veda 2.1225a /
Kaivalya Upanishad[21]

The Rig Veda mentions Rishabha the 1st Tirthankara, and Arishtanemi the 22nd. The Yajur Veda mentions both of them, and then Ajitanatha and Suparshva too, in cantos 25 and 92.

Below are documented sections of scripture that reference one or more of the 24 Jinas venerated in Jainism:

Jain interpretation of Vedas

As mainstream Hindu scriptures don't declare the Vedas themselves fundamental to achieving Moksha but as holy texts, so too many Jains view them as sacred but not fundamental for Moksha. Vasishtha Rishi for instance, in his Dharmasutra (VI, 3) declared, "acharahinam na punanti vedah" ("Vedas do not purify one.")

Some historical Jain scholars have believed the Vedas actually represent metaphorical sacrifices (a claim which the Upanishads also endorse!) In this view, the sacrifices are seen as proper human behavior to destroy desire. The Uttaradhyayana Sutra outlines the story of Jain Brahmin Jayagosha confronting a staunch orthodox Vedic sage and when the sage asks Jayagosha to tell him the meaning of Vedas, the latter supplies the Jain view. Uttaradhyayana Sutra, Chapter 25

Orthodox Vedic Sage: Tell us the most essential subject in the Vedas, and tell us what is most essential in the sacrifice; tell us the first of the heavenly bodies, and tell us the best of dharmas.
Jayagosha: The most essential subject in the Vedas is the agnihotra, and that of the sacrifice is the purpose of the sacrifice; the first of the heavenly bodies is the moon, and the best of dharmas is that of Kashyapa (e.g., Rishabha).
Jayagosha: The beautiful (gods) with joined hands praise and worship the highest Lord (i.e. the Tirthankara) as the planets, &c., (praise) the moon.

According to the Dipika commentary of Uttaradhyayana Sutra by Harshakula, the "sacrifice" here means the ten virtues: truth, penance, content, patience, right conduct, simplicity, faith, constancy, not injuring anything, and Samvara.

In the Uttaradhyayana Sutra, Harikesa states:

Austerity is my agni, the soul is fire place, meditation is offering-ladle, the body is the dried cow-dung as fuel and actions are the enkindling wooden-sticks;.[22]

Renowned scholar Vimalasuri in Ussesa (canto XI) in another scripture interprets the Vedic sacrifices as metaphorical to sacrifice the animals within, and that this true way is the Arsa-Veda (Veda of Rishis)[23] or the Vedas:[24][25]

"Body is the altar, mind is the fire blazing with the ghee of knowledge. This fire consumes or destroys completely the heap of sacrificial sticks of sins produced by the tree of karman.
Anger, pride, deceit, greed, attachment, hatred, and delusion-these passions along with the senses, are the sacrificed animals which are to be killed. Truth, forgiveness, nonviolence are the adequate sacrificial fee which is to be paid. Right faith, conduct, self-control, celibacy, etc., are the gods (to be propitiated). This is the true sacrifice as laid down in the venerable Vedas and expounded by the venerable Jinas. This sacrifice, when performed with complete contemplation or profound meditation, brings the reward, not heaven, but the highest nirvana (=moksha) liberation.
Those, however, who perform sacrifices by actually slaughtering animals go to hell just like hunters."

This "Arsa-Veda" spoken of by Vimalasuri is also spoken of by some other scholars such as MadhavaTemplate:Dn and Aurobindo.[26] So then some scholars believe that originally both the Samanic and mainstream Hindu sects had the same Vedas. The Buddhist Suttanipata makes a reference to "the Vedas of the Samanas as well as those of the Brahmins."[27] There are Jains even in modern time that believe the Jainism originates from the Veda. An example is given by scholar T.N. Dhar who visited Mathura and met with a Swami Vijayananda of the Digambara sect that made this claim.[28]

Another scholar that claimed to have the compassionate message of the true Vedas is Thiruvalluvar, who is believed by many scholars to have been a Jain. His parentage is from a Brahmin father and he was addressed "Aravalianthanan" (Brahmin who possesses the wheel of dharma.[29]) Many writers have written of him and in one quote is a relationship made between him and the message of the Vedas, "Of him It is no other than Ayan (Brahma) himself, seated on the beautiful lotus-flower, who, assuming the form of Valluvar, has given to the world the truths of the Vedas, that they may shine without being mixed up with falsehood."[30] Silappadikaram quotes a verse from it. Nikakesi too quotes from it a few times, and whenever it does it proclaims of the Kural, "as is mentioned in our scripture".[31]

Further, Jain Sage Jinabhadra in his Visesavasyakabhasya cites a number of passages from the Vedic Upanishads.[32]

Even many of the Vedic sages are honored by Jain scholars, for their asceticism. Sages like Yajnavalkya, Rajaputra, Nara, Narada, Gautama, Apastamba, Angirasa, and Romapada are also mentioned in the Yasastilaka for their austerities.[33] Somadeva, author of the Yasastilaka goes on to honor the priest craft of Pingala, Matanga, Marichi, and Gautama chanting the Saman, and quotes some Vedic authorities like Manu, Vyasa, Vasistha and others.[34]

Jains partaking in Vedic ceremonies

Historically Vedic ceremonies have been a part of several members of the Jain laity.

Some Jain royal families of southern Kanara had Somanatha as their monarchy's official deity and even conducted worship ceremonies officiated by Jain priests.[35] The pattabhiseka ceremony for the Jain king of Vandar was performed by a Vedic Srauta priest.


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  34. P. 21 Brahmanism, Jainism, and Buddhism in Andhra Desa By P. Arundhati
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