RELIGION

 

RELIGION_Jainism  
(A handbook of religion was published by the Foundation for Pluralism in August 2004. All the groups were given the same set of questions, and some are really silly like denominations in Atheism.  Here is the production of such writings from Atheism to Zoroastrianism and every one in between; it is in two parts, essence of the faith and general information about it. We invite you to send your suggestions to suggestions@foundationforpluralism.com  for updates and new information.- Please send us the preferred websites to be linked at the bottom - THE INFORMATION IS IN TWO PARTS)

PROFILE & ESSENCE

Dr. Pradeep Shah

 

Traditional Greetings: Jai Jinendra

Origins: Jainism is one of the oldest living religions from the Indian subcontinent. It predates recorded history and is referenced as highly evolved faith in the earliest of the Hindu Scriptures . Recent scientific researches have also validated the historic references going back 3000BC around the times when Aryans began migrating from central Asia and settling in Indian subcontinent  as verified by the physical evidences of carvings found in “Indus Valley”( Mohanjaro and Harrappa) excavations.


Originator: Principals and Jain philosophy are eternal not attributed to a single originator but only revived through the current time cycle by the individuals (Jinas) who attained perfection by conquering the worldly bondage established path to self purification. First of these “Thirthankars” is Lord Rishabhdev (Also known as Adinath)


People who shaped the religion: About 2600 years ago Lord Mahavir (599 to 527 BC), the twenty fourth and the last Tirthankara of this era revived the Jain philosophy preached by his predecessor Lord Parshva (950 to 850 BC) in
India.  He expanded the code of conducts and implemented daily rites for his followers applicable to his time.  The present Jain scriptures reflect only his teachings.

 

People who wrote the books:

Disciples of Thirthankars called Gandharas documenting the preaching followed by first written text starting about two thousand years ago.

Who is worshiped?

Jainism preaches to worship the virtues not individuals. The sacred prayer is Namokar Mantra in which homage is paid to the five worshipful personalities: Arihanta (enlightened human beings), Siddha (liberated soul), Acharya (head of Jain congregation), Upadhyaya (ascetic teacher), and Sadhu (all ascetics)


Holy Books (Original Language)


Lord Mahavira's preaching were orally compiled by his immediate disciples in Jain scriptures known as Jain Agam or Agam Sutras, which consist of many texts. The Agam Sutras teach great reverence for all forms of life, strict codes of vegetarianism, asceticism, nonviolence, and opposition to war.  These Agam Sutras were not documented in any form but were orally passed on to the future generations


Holy Places of Worship:  Group rituals such as Pujas are conducted temples, individual worship and rituals can be performed at home in a clean environment.
Key Tenets: Tenets and Path of liberation:

Every life in the universe struggles for happiness and shuns suffering. Pain and sufferings are results of individual actions, thoughts, Karma and bondage due to attachment, aversion and passions of anger, greed, deceit and ego.

Jain path of liberation is through understanding the true nature of self and follow path of self-purification.  Jain religion believes individual is responsible for his thoughts, actions and alone is only responsible for self-purification.

Jainism emphasizes both thought and actions. Stronger the thought more magnified is the result… both good and bad.

Path of liberation is based on the combination of “Right Knowledge, Right faith and Right conduct”…right (Samyak) being the important operative word.

Tenets of Jain philosophy provide means for religious purity, ethical tolerance, and spiritual contentment of self and to harmonize with the surrounding. They are

1.Ahimsa (Non violence); is most fundamental principal demanding to respect every life and its journey...as our own. To Cause or support no harm in action and thought. Love, respect and compassion for all life are its natural outcome. Principle of Vegetarianism is direct consequence of this tenet. Mahatma Gandhi one of the most revered centurion found his inspiration and principles of non-violence in Jainism in his spiritual formative years.

2.Equanimity:  Spiritual balance with animate and inanimate surroundings without aversion or attachment (Dwesha or Raga)

3.Anekantvad (Multiplicity of perceptions) with a realization that our view of truth is imperfect, incomplete and multifaceted, resulting in respect for all viewpoints, thoughts, and personalities

4.Vratas (Vows) Householders and Monks with limited and absolute vows respectively, of nonviolence, truth, non-stealing, control of sensory desires and non- possession


Prayer Rituals: 
Daily worship, study, penance, introspection, repentance and meditation. Jainism advocates six essential rites to be performed daily by its followers:

Samayik (Meditation) - to remain calm and undisturbed for 48 minutes.
Praying of Thirthankars - to pray and appreciate the qualities of the twenty-four Thirthankars.
Vandana – to respect Ascetics.
Pratikraman – to repent and confess past bad thoughts and deeds.
Kayotsarg – Non-attachments to the body
Pratyakhan(Vows)– Religious vows renouncing certain activities for some time to discipline one's self
 

Myths: Most common misconceptions are is Jainism is an offshoot of Hinduism and started by Lord Mahavir.

 

Denominations; Two major groups are Digambar (unclad) and Swetamber (clad in white) latter further sub grouped as Murtipujak (worshiping the idols) and Sthanakvasi.

 

Major Festivals: The most important religious holidays are:

Mahavir Jayanti: the birthday of Lord Mahavir, the last Tirthankar (April).
Paryushan (Swetambar) and Das Lakshan (Digambar): eight or ten days in a year are marked by prayers, meditation, fasting, penance, introspection, confession, and forgiveness (August or September)

Diwali: celebrating Lord Mahavir attaining Nirvana

Dietary Laws: Most important element of the dietary consideration is Vegetarianism…stemming from the fundamental principal of respect for all life no matter how small or primitive. Jains also do not eat root vegetables and are advised to eat before sunset. Food is means to sustain the body, vitality  and senses for spiritual activity rather than end in itself or satisfy sensual pleasures.

Sensitivities: Protection and respect for all life in speech, thoughts and actions

Customs from birth to death: Self-purification, equinamity through shedding of attachments and aversions based Karmas.

Textual support for Pluralism: One of the Key tenet Jainism Anekantvad ( multiplicity of view) emphasizes acceptance and respect of  multiplicity of views, religions, faiths and interpretations of the truth.

World Population: About five  Million primarily in India


US population:
About 100,000

North Texas Population:300 families

ESSENCE

Compiled by Pradeep Shah


Jainism is one of the oldest living religions of India. It predates recorded history as per referenced in oldest of the Hindu scriptures(Vedas) as Saman tradition, or the religion of Nirgantha and more recent physical evidence of excavation artifacts from Indus Valley (Mohanjdaro) dating back 3000 BC.

 

It is an original system, quite distinct and independent from other systems of Indian philosophy. Jainism is a religion of purely human origin and is preached and practiced by one who has attained perfect knowledge, omniscience and self-control by his own personal efforts and has been liberated from the bonds of worldly existence, the cycle of births and deaths.  Such human beings are considered Gods of Jainism.  The concept of God as a creator, protector, and destroyer of the universe does not exist in Jainism.  Also the idea of God's reincarnation as a human being to destroy the demons is not accepted in Jainism. .

Founder:
About 2600 years ago Lord Mahavir (599 to 527 BC), the twenty fourth and the last Tirthankara of this era revived the Jain philosophy preached by his predecessor Lord Parshva (950 to 850 BC) in India.  He expanded the code of conducts and implemented daily rites for his followers applicable to his time.  The present Jain scriptures reflect only his teachings.

Philosophy:
Jainism assumes that the universe, with all its components, is without a beginning or an end, being everlasting and eternal.  The wheel of time incessantly revolves like a pendulum.  Mahavir explained that every living being (soul) due to its ignorance is in bondage of karmic atoms known as karma. These karma are continuously accumulated by our actions of body, mind and speech.  Under the influence of karma, the soul is habituated to seek pleasures in materialistic belongings and possessions.  This is the deep-rooted cause of self-centered violent thoughts, deeds, anger, hatred, greed, and such other vices.  Which results in further accumulation of karma.

The doctrine of karma occupies a significant position in the Jaina philosophy.  It provides a rational and satisfying explanation to the apparently inexplicable phenomena of birth and death, happiness and misery, inequalities in mental and physical attainments, and of the existence of different species of living beings.  It explains that the principle governing the successions of life is karma.  Our actions of body, mind, and speech bind us.

One can get rid of karma and attain liberation by simultaneously following the path of right faith (samyak-darshana), right knowledge (samyak-jnana), and right conduct (samyak-charitra).   The proper knowledge of the six universal substances (six Dravya) and the nine fundamental truths (nine Tattva) is called right knowledge and true faith in that knowledge is called right faith. The right conduct includes nonviolence, self-purification, compassion, penance, austerity, and meditation. Jainism strives for the realization of the highest perfection of man, which in its original purity is free  from all pain, suffering, and the bondage of birth and death.

Ethical Code:


The supreme ideal of the Jain religion is nonviolence (Ahimsa), equal kindness, and reverence for all forms of life in speech, thought, and action.  Above all it is a religion of love and compassion to all living beings. At the heart of right conduct for Jains lie the five great vows:

Nonviolence (Ahimsa)  - Not to cause harm to any living beings
Truthfulness (Satya) - To speak the harmless truth only
Non-stealing (Asteya) - Not to take anything not properly given
Chastity (Brahmacharya) - Not to indulge in sensual pleasure
Non-possession/ Non-attachment (Aparigraha) - Complete detachment from people, places, and material things

These vows can not be fully implemented without the acceptance of a philosophy of non-absolutism (Anekantvad) and the theory of relativity (Syadvad).  Monks and nuns follow these vows strictly and totally, while the common people follow the vows as far as their life styles will permit.


Ahimsa (non-violence)

Ahimsa is a key principle that Jains teach and practice not only towards human beings but also towards all nature. The scriptures tell us: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being." The teaching of ahimsa refers not only to wars and visible physical acts of violence but to violence in the hearts and minds of human beings, their lack of concern and compassion for their fellow humans and for any other living being.  Ancient Jain texts explain that violence (Himsa) is not defined by actual harm, for this may be unintentional.  It is the intention to harm, the absence of compassion that makes action violent. Without violent thought there could be no violent actions.

In a positive sense ahimsa means caring for and sharing with all living beings, tending, protecting and serving them.  It entrails universal friendliness (maitri),universal forgiveness (kshama) and universal fearlessness (abhaya).


Anekantavada (the doctrine of manifold aspects)
The concept of universal interdependence underpins the Jain theory of knowledge, known as anekantavada or the doctrine of manifold aspects. In this ever changing universe (reality) there exist an infinity of viewpoints depending on the time, place, nature and state of the one who is the viewer and that which is viewed. Because it is rooted in the doctrines of anekantavada and syadvada, Jainism does not look upon the universe from an anthropocentric, ethnocentric or egocentric viewpoint.  It takes into account the view points of other species, other communities and nations and other human beings.


Non Possessions or Non-acquisitiveness
Accumulation of possessions and enjoyment for personal ends should be minimized.  Giving charitable donations and one's time for community projects generously is a part of a Jain householder's obligations. Wants should be reduced, desires curbed and consumption levels kept within reasonable limits.  Using any resource beyond one's needs and misuse of any part of nature is considered a form of theft. Indeed, the Jain faith goes one radical step further and declares unequivocally that waste and creating pollution are acts of violence.

 

Significant points of Teachings of Lord Mahavir:
Mahavir made religion simple and natural, free from elaborate ritual complexities.  His teachings reflected the internal beauty and harmony of the soul. Mahavir taught the idea of supremacy of human life and stressed the importance of the positive attitude of life.

 

Mahavir's message of nonviolence (Ahimsa), truth (Satya), non-stealing (Achaurya), celibacy (Brahma-charya), and non-possession (Aparigraha) is full of universal compassion.

 

Mahavir said that, "A living body is not merely an integration of limbs and flesh but it is the abode of the soul which potentially has perfect perception , perfect knowledge , perfect power, and perfect bliss (Anant-sukha).  Mahavir's message reflects freedom and spiritual joy of the living being.

Mahavir emphasized that all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, and form how spiritually developed or undeveloped, are equal and we should love and respect them.  This way he preached the gospel of universal love.

Mahavir rejected the concept of God as a creator, a protector, and a destroyer of the universe.  He also denounced the worshiping of gods and goddesses as a means of material gains and personal benefits.

Jain Scriptures:
Lord Mahavira's preaching were orally compiled by his immediate disciples in Jain scriptures known as Jain Agam or Agam Sutras, which consist of many texts. The Agam Sutras teach great reverence for all forms of life, strict codes of vegetarianism, asceticism, nonviolence, and opposition to war.  These Agam Sutras were not documented in any form but were orally passed on to the future generations.

In course of time many of the Agam Sutras have been were remembered and some were modified.  About one thousand years later the memorized Agam Sutras were recorded on leafy papers (Tadpatris). 

Religious Holidays and Festivals
Jains celebrate their religious holidays by fasting, worshipping, recitation of sacred texts, holding religious discourses,  taking certain vows and other such acts of piety. Annual holidays are observed based on the lunar calendar. The most important religious holidays are:

Paryushan (Swetambar) and Das Lakshan (Digambar): eight or ten days in a year are marked by prayers, meditation, fasting, penance, introspection, confession, and forgiveness (August /september

Mahavir Jayanti: the birthday of Lord Mahavir, the last Tirthankar (April).

Diwali celebrating attainment of Nirvana by Lord Mahavir and perfect knowledge by his lead disciple Gautamswami.

Spiritual Practices and Ways of Worship
The sacred prayer is Namokar Mantra in which homage is paid to the five worshipful personalities: Arihanta (enlightened human beings), Siddha (liberated soul), Acharya (head of Jain congregation), Upadhyaya (ascetic teacher), and Sadhu (all ascetics). Jainism advocates six essential rites to be performed daily by its followers:

Samayik (Meditation) - to remain calm and undisturbed for 48 minutes.
Praying of Tirthankars - to pray and appreciate the qualities of the twenty-four Tirthankars.
Vandana – to respect Ascetics.
Pratikraman – to repent and confess past bad thoughts and deeds.
Kayotsarg – Non-attachments to the body
Pratyakhan or Pachchhakhan – Religious vows renouncing certain activities

Also on certain specific days special rituals are performed and special dietary restrictions are followed.

Symbols:
The comprehensive Jain symbol consists of a digit of the Moon, three dots, the Swastika or Om, the palm of a hand with the wheel (Chakra) inset, and outline figure which encompasses all symbols.  Also each individual symbol is separately used in Jainism. The Palm of the hand signifies this assurance; 'do not be afraid' indicating that human being, which are suffering due to karmic bondage, do not need to be disheartened. The Wheel of Dharma (Chakra) with 24 spokes represents the religion preached by the 24 Tirthankaras consist of nonviolence (Ahimsa) and other virtues.

The three Dots represent the Jain path of liberation (Jain trinity): right faith (Samyak Darshan), right knowledge (Samyak Jnana), and right conduct (Samyak Charitra), together lead to liberation.  Also these  Dots represent the three worlds: earth (place for humans, animals, birds, vegetables etc.), hell, and heaven, where all non-liberated souls born, live, die, and suffer. The digit of the Moon represents the region beyond the three worlds wherein reside the liberated souls. The Swastika signifies the cycles of births and deaths due to karma, in any of the four forms; heaven, human, tiryanch (animals, birds, and plants), and hell of the non-liberated souls. 

The outline figure represents the Jain description of the shape of the universe, resembling a person standing with feet apart and arms rested on both hips. The wording underneath translates as the Living beings (souls) render services to one another.

The overall symbol means that the living beings of the three worlds suffer from the miseries of transmigratory existence, can have recourse to the path of religion (dharma) shown by the Tirthankaras, thereby bringing about auspiciousness for themselves, and after obtaining perfection, will live forever in the world of perfected beings.

The Sanskrit word Om is made up of five letters a, a, aa, u, and m:

The first letter "a" represents Arihant (realized human being - living God)
The second "a" represents Ashariry (Siddha or perfected being)
The third letters "aa" represent Aacharya (head of congregation)
The fourth letter "u" represents Upadhyay (monk teacher) and
The fifth letter "m" represents Muni (Sadhu or monks).

Hence the Om represents  salutation of five revered personalities of Jain religion (same as Navakar Mantra).

Greetings
The usual greeting is Jai Jinendra meaning Honor to the Supreme Jina. Michhami Dukkadam is a request for forgiveness usually said after performing annual ritual.

Jainism for the 21st Century:

This simple and scientific philosophy has been a guiding path for millions of JAINS through the Millenniums, and continues to be very relevant today for the modern 21 st century civilization motivating and inspiring giants like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King.  Its basic tenets will

·         Balance the planet harmonizing its habitat...humanity, animal kingdom and nature.

·         “Live and let live” Principle will promote peaceful coexistence without wars, violence.

·         provide Personal peace, health, equanimity With control of passions, possessions, greed.

·         achieve World without  hunger with vegetarianism, balanced consumption & austerity.

In Closing:

In the universe with darkness of the delusions, passions, attachments and aversions Jainism  has been an eternal guiding light for millenniums that emphasizes path of liberation thru self-purification both of thought and action. It is a journey of the soul from external world to internal, from physical actions to spiritual ones, climbing the ladder from “wandering soul” to “internalized soul” to finally the “perfect soul” with eternal bliss and freedom.  

PREFERRED WEBSITE LINKS

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