By Swami Harshananda
Jainism is one of the religions of the world which is great in principles though the number of adherents are small. It is sometimes considered as a ‘rebel child’ of Hinduism, if the word Hinduism is taken in a geographical sense. It is also accounted as an independent religion, though allied with Hinduism closely.
It propagates the way of life which is in consonance with Jaina philosophy. It recognizes two fundamental principles:
- The jīvatattva - living beings
- The ajīvatattva - non-living objects
These two principles come in contact with one another and forge certain energies that bring forth birth and various experiences of life and death. This process can be stopped and the energies forged already can be destroyed by a course of discipline which leads to salvation.
Propogators of Jainism
The Jains claim great antiquity towards their religion. The earliest Tirthañkara or the propagator of the spiritual wisdom of this sect is the sage Rṣabhadeva. He is designated to be as ancient sage as the Visnupurāna. But at present only two Tirthañkaras are given recognition as per recorded history. They are:
- Lord Pārśvanātha (8th century B. C.)
- Lord Mahāvīra (599-527 B. C.)
Mahāvīra is also known as Vardhamāna. He left behind him a very well-organised religious Order of Jaina monks. Due to the missionary activities of the Jaina teachers, the religion attracted kings, nobles as well as the common people. Hence it spread to many parts of the country. The Mauryan emperor Candragupta is said to have transformed to Jainism. He settled in Sravaṇabelagola of Karnataka during his last days.
Etihical Code of Jainism
The prescribed ethical code is fivefold:
- Ahimsā - non-violence
- Satya - truth
- Asteya - non-stealing
- Brahmacarya - celibacy
- Aparigraha - non-acceptance of gifts
Since certain relaxations are allowed to householders in the observance of these vows due to necessity, they become ‘aṇuvrata’. But for monks their observance is absolute. They therefore become ‘mahāvratas’ in their case. The anekāntavāda or syādvāda is an important aspect of Jaina philosophy.
- Anuvrata means ‘the small vow’.
- Mahāvratas means ‘great vows’.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore