Excellent book on jainism
Very intersting book on a foreigner's view on what jainism is. Was written circa 1897
This Blog contains links and articles on Jainism, most of them written by those who understand it and understand it well.
Very intersting book on a foreigner's view on what jainism is. Was written circa 1897
I found an article on "No Gods..Just Natural Laws" motto of Jainism in Hindustan Times. Click Here to directly access the link.
Jainism does not accept the concept of a god who created the universe and who for that reason wields a kind of authority to which the whole of his creation, including people, must submit itself. The idea that religious scripture is a kind of lawbook and that there is a god who functions as a kind of judge, is thoroughly alien to Jainism.I really liked the title..
Are Jains Hindus?
Intro to Jainism
As per my conviction, the aim of life is "A life that is clean, a heart that is true, and doing your best, that's success" and following a religion with unwavering faith helps one reach that goal.
Let me start with a brief introduction to Jainism, as unfortunately I think most of the people don’t really know a lot about Jainism (except that it is based on non-violence). Further, at some point in time, we have all been asked to cram all kinds of ‘sutras’ and I do not think there are a lot here who know meaning of any sutra other than the most revered ‘Navkar’ mantra.
We as Indians are the fortunate inheritors of the great tradition of faith. However, do not get me wrong, I am not asking for a blind belief, but am referring to the fortune to be able to look upon the cultural heritage for inspiration in solving the present day problems. And regarding blind faith, I totally agree that blind faith is dangerous. That is precisely why we are in this community discussing what is deeper meaning of various things that have been prescribed to us (here by virtue of our religion).
It is distressing that most of the fundamental ideologies of conduct (acharan) that Jainism advocates are rarely found amongst Jains today. I've always felt that we have been lacking in this kind of education and as generations go by, this keeps on decreasing. Sometimes I wonder about the future of Jainism, because until now, there has been tremendous stress on the theories and rituals and hardly anyone tried to explain the logic behind them. This to a good extent kept the younger generation away from Jainism. Fortunately, the trend has reversed as more and more people among our generation are turning to understand the philosophies rather than inanely follow the rituals, thus resulting in prosperity of Jainism as a religion, given the propensity of the youth to question the supposed dogmatic practices. Education and access to knowledge has helped us get a better understanding of Jainism.
As we all understand, the ultimate aim of Jaina philosophy is to maintain equanimity under all circumstances and to enable us to put an end to all vices, passions and lustful desires in thought, speech & action and observe harmony in the soul through the study of scriptures.
There are a few vows (anuvratas) described in the scriptures and all the vows are to be observed in true spirit. These vows help to lay out a rational course of life and tend to lead to liberation. By performing and practicing all these vows, one leads a righteous, spiritual, and pious life. I personally regard Jaina philosophy as more spiritual than religious.
Then there are four constituents of the path to liberation mentioned in the scriptures as (1) right knowledge (2) right faith (3) right conduct and (4) right penance. A spiritual practitioner can attain liberation by an integrated practice of the above four and can steadily march forward according to his own competence by sincere self-effort.
Some ascetics also describe Jainism as a path following which you will come out of the vicious circle of life and death.
In addition, I would like to say that Jainism is more like Druidism (worship of nature) when it talks about human’s inescapable ethical responsibility environmental protection and harmony and preaches ahimsa in all forms.
I cannot emphasize enough the fact that merely being born in a Jain family does not teach us aspects of Jainism. Moreover, believe me, if we really understand Jainism it would be a lot easier (and even enjoyable) to follow it.
Actually, in the present day scenario it is imperative for us to read the religious scriptures with an open mind. Further, it is easy to misinterpret individual passages and call it hypocrisy unless you read a chapter or topic as a whole in all its continuity & entirety and it is very easy to read a few texts and then improve upon them by reading the intricate ones.
Further, Jainism doesn’t have a missionary style of philosophy to persuade others. It has always been purely on the initiatives taken by the followers. So we ourselves need to be motivated enough to grope for a good source of information (Jain canonical or Agam Sutras).
It is just fortunate that we were born a Jain, but we shall be a true Jain only when we make an effort to understand and imbibe these principles in our life.
On a serious note, reading some of the scriptures intermittently would give a deeper insight & sometimes show you the door that you might have otherwise easily missed... and scriptures just like a tourist guide at an old fort can show you the intricate details!
As per my experience, each fort has its own uniqueness and some have been a legacy as they have unparalleled legends of being unconquered. And Jainism as a religion has survived the onslaught of time without any significant controversies and I feel that we are fortunate to be followers of the Jaina philosophy.
Again, from my personal experience, I have seen that to most of us at first it maybe like “I hardly ever have to read anything with that much attention. It sounds like hard work.” A lot of us feel we don't have the time: “I just have too much to do to be sitting around thinking about what a scripture means.” Many of us don't trust ourselves to probe deeply: “I'll start asking silly questions & feel stupid. I might even start asking weird questions that will just get me confused & make me think the scriptures can't hold up, & then I might lose my testimony & become a heretic.” Some of us haven't yet realized that we can actually learn from the scriptures. In our own study & this community, we have found that asking certain questions helps us to discover & understand important details.
We might ask why the scriptures have to be pondered, understood & appreciated - unlike newspapers or magazines we understand at a first reading. What makes the scriptures different?
Let me try to explain it in a subtle way. An analogy might help. The scriptures are like a symphony. The problem with a symphony, if it can be called a problem, is that there is so much going on at the same time that an inexperienced listener feels bewildered, not knowing what to listen for, or how to make sense of everything. However, the music lover knows what to do. He picks out a theme carried by the string section, compares it to a variation on that theme, & hears the composer being playful, reflective or joyful. Unlike the novice, he hears & feels the effects of the details that give the symphony, in all its complexity, power & impact.
Not everything that cannot be seen, heard or felt can be announced as nonexistent. It is always subject to faith & a slow process of discovery. If you read the scriptures, you shall find that even subtle questions of metaphysics, which stand based on intellect or argument, have been dealt in an impressive manner in the vast Jain Literature. Since it is a very old religion, it has a well-developed doctrinal basis comprising of metaphysics, ontology, cosmology, cosmography, theology, mythology and ethics. In the hindsight, I have found that I am able to relate almost everything that Jainism is preaching since years to some scientific reasoning or another and the most astonishing fact is that it was discovered without the use of any modern day scientific equipment.
Set of rules
In crude form, some people describe a religion as "A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices, generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects." Further some consider religion as "set of rules" specified by smart people in old times to guide people live their life happily and peacefully. For such group of people ignorant of religious & cultural heritage I intend to emphasize that people of all religions are trying to turn their religions into world religions. But unfortunately most of the Jains are totally inactive on this front. We fail to comprehend the greatness of Jaina philosophy that easily qualifies as a world religion. Here is a quote from the scriptures to bolster my faith in Jainism being the foremost contender to be a world religion.
Sivam astu sarva jagatah
Parahita nirata bhavantu bhutagana
Doshah prayantu nasam
Sarvatra sukhi bhavantu lokaha
Blessings be to the entire cosmos.
May every one be completely engrossed in each other’s well-being.
May all weaknesses, faults, illnesses, and karmas be removed and evaporated.
Everywhere let everyone be in peace, prosperity, health, and bliss.
Jainism, Buddhism & Vedanta of Bhakti are all very deep philosophies and give you a value system to make your travel through the cycle of life &death easy. Most of the people today are professionals and in professional life, there is always this war going in our mind where we are not able to understand how to fit our religious values in our day-to-day lives. Hence if you wish, you may think of the Jaina philosophy as a template, and do minor modification to suit your needs. Moreover those "set of rules" that are prescribed in our religion are not enforced on you, but if you accept those you will not sway away from the path of humanity & lead a venerable life. It’s always good to be conscious about your actions and be aware about your value system and ensure there are no conflicts. However, the final goal would be to abide by the value system with full faith & understanding.
Further, there is a common misunderstanding about Jain religion that it is too rigorous to be acceptable to all and an average person is attracted more towards a religion, which can be easily practiced. Also it is not uncommon to find people who claim to be atheist and discard all the religious theories even without ever exploring a single religion. But I sincerely suggest that, just like people read novels, they should also try to read some religious books. It might be a good experiment. For some reason, most of the kids of our generation don't feel like reading those, probably because it is not hyped!
I fail to understand why so many people are willfully ignorant about our own religion. Unless we understand the whole essence of any religious philosophy, people are always sure to misinterpret the scriptures.
Another significant feature of Jaina philosophy is non-absolutism (Anekantvada). Lord Mahavir gives us the anekanta philosophy to look at the world. It is a widely used metaphysical concept and is an important method in the quest for truth. According to this theory, you cannot arrive at the entire truth with the help of sense perceptions because senses have their limitations - they can at best arrive at partial truth. Besides, there are as many facets of truth as there are ideas. Therefore, before declaring that a particular idea is false, one must try to discover its latent fragment of truth. This humble but comprehensive viewpoint of the Jain religion regarding the quest for truth is enough to give it the status of a world religion/ philosophy.
If we see a thing in part, it is called Naya (truth in one frame of reference). Now even one Naya is so big and intellectually stimulating that it is not surprising that people liked one Naya and began following it as full truth. This resulted in abandonment of anekantvad (multifaceted truth). So strictly speaking, there is no absolute way of doing the right thing. Its only the level of ones concentration and level of soul (Gunasthan) or spiritual growth that decides what one should do.
If the people are wedded to a philosophy and fanatically, deny everything else to be false and immoral, they pose a great threat to the society as they are also prepared to die to defend that philosophy. Hence, we need to understand the importance of paradigm shift and be open to amendments for an ever-evolving society. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite with best intentions, but the chain of events that followed with a horrifying end result was not what he had imagined. So I feel that we need to change our paradigm and see a broader picture and I guess it’s our moral responsibility to urge people to choose the right means to the right end. I only wanted to say that the payoff for efforts in the right direction is that it makes you a better person and it makes the world a better place.
With the growing globalization, almost everyone has been subjected to the western culture, in one form or the other and this has resulted in procreation of a generation of people who are intolerant of tradition and suspicious of the alleged wisdom of age. This perplexed population is eager to imitate the material achievements of Western states, and tear up the roots of the ancient civilization, so as to make room for the novelties imported from the West.
Conversely, one of the most common arguments of the conservatives is that truth is not affected by time and cannot be superseded. Indeed truth is immutable, and we ought to take our morale from the past, for the germinal ideas are still vital, but the body and the pulse must be from the present. It is often forgotten that religion, as it is today, is itself the product of ages of change; and there is no reason why its forms should not undergo fresh amendments. It is essentially possible to remain faithful to the letter and yet pervert the whole spirit. In today’s world to uphold the true spirit of any religion or philosophy, it is only pragmatic for the conservative mind to open itself to the necessity of change. Since it is not sufficiently alive to this need, we find in the realm of philosophy a strange mixture of penetrating sagacity and frivolous confusion. Hence it is imperative that the vital energies of thinking Jains, or anyone for that matter, be thrown into the problems of how to disentangle the old faith from its temporary accretions, how to bring religion into line with the spirit of science, how to organize the divergent influences on the basis of ancient faith.
In today’s scenario, the radicals and the conservatives, who stand for the new hope and the old learning, must come closer and understand each other. We cannot live by ourselves in a world where aircraft and steamships, railways and telegraphs are linking all men together in a living whole. Our system of thought must act and react on the world progress.
Rituals & Ceremonies
Theologically speaking, Jainism teaches you the way of life. More emphasis is laid on righteous thinking as compared to performing rituals or ceremonies. And I think everyone would agree that in scriptures more emphasis is paid on reading, understanding and following the principles than holding ceremonies. Also I feel that it is imperative to understand the logic of any ritual/ ceremony/ activity that you perform as following the simple austerities make you more aware of your actions and makes you conscious of your duties and responsibilities towards the society. However, there is a still higher state than having this good tendency, and that is the desire for liberation. It’s all about renunciation. And I personally feel that Jainism is a renunciation dominant religion (nivrtti pradhana dharma). It emphasizes mental attitude more than the external act.
In an endeavor to understand Jainism I found that, it is slightly different from the vedantic Hindu religion. In essence, as per my understanding of Jainism, our aim should be to affirm prayerfully and sincerely, that our heart be filled with forgiveness for all living beings and that we sought and receive the forgiveness of all beings, and that we crave the friendship of all beings, and assure that, that all beings give them their friendship and that there is not the slightest feeling of alienation or enmity in their heart for anyone or anything. We also pray that forgiveness and friendliness may reign throughout the world and that all living beings may cherish each other. In distinction between other beliefs and prayers is that we are not supposed to pray for material wealth or possessions and hence our Gods are different from the ‘Generator, Operator & Destroyer’ form proposed by other mythologies.
Jainism believes in ideal worship and that the soul in its purest form is all-powerful, and it’s the worship of this soul in its form that eventually leads to salvation. However, the soul is shapeless and it’s hard for the common man to concentrate on something which they can't see. Hence, through idols, we try to perceive the ideal image of the soul in its purest form, and thus worship them. Further worshiping on a regular basis helps one in making a conscious effort to become a better person and being close to the religion. As we rise in pursuit of our spiritual growth, we shall realize idol worship becomes unnecessary, though idol worship/ chanting acts as a reinforcement in the earlier stages of spiritual growth. Though some Jains believe in idol worship (murtipujak) and the others believe in internal form of worship (meditation), there is no hard rule and the choice is yours. It is my perception that Jaina image-worship was sanctioned by Jaina acharyas, though they were not really proclaimed in the sacred books, to strike a reasonable balance and must be understood as meditational; the icon is seen merely as an ideal, a state attainable by all embodied souls. It should be stressed that Jains do not look upon these celestial beings as “Gods” in the conventional sense of the term, and they are referred to as “Shasan Devatas”, or “Angels of the Order”, in contrast to the Jinas who are called “Bhagavan”, the Lord.
I personally think one of the reasons why people worship other god/ goddesses is partly their desire (knowingly/ unknowingly) to get something favorable (read materialistic desires) or the fear of incurring the wrath if stopping some long followed tradition. All this at the core has to do with raag or moh. That everyone would agree is wrong.
The original Jain dharma, to the best of my knowledge, does not permit the worship of angels, and furthermore does not acknowledge the existence of Hindu deities. In fact, Jain philosophy makes no accommodation for the praise or persuasion of any being whatsoever for worldly favors, especially the Tirthankara or Arihant who is perfect, passionless and unattached (and who therefore exemplifies the actual Jain concept of God). Yet after centuries of social interaction with Hindu communities, typical Jain shravaks did begin to recognize such deifications of angelic beings. Jains share a general acknowledgement of the fact that centuries ago the monastic order supported the modification and inclusion of these wish-fulfilling deities so that people would not start worshipping the passionless Jina in the same manner. By this invention, the common lay-people can vent their worldly concerns on inferior beings, while the sanctity and purity of the Jina-concept is maintained and preserved. The incorporation these deities from the Hindu pantheon (which is by no means consistent or universal within the Jain tradition) is thus a cultural aspect of lay Jains, and has no relevance to the philosophy and conduct which are unambiguously structured in the Jain system, and adoration of the tirthankaras is more a reminder of the state of perfection than worship. I guess Jainism lays the greatest stress on the necessity of character and purity of conduct (samyak charitra).
This article is purely my opinion and may not represent the opinions of the Jain community in general. In the end I would like to say ‘Micchami Dukadam’ as we all know ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
Author : Chaturvedi Badrinath
Publication : The Times of India
Date : May 15, 1997
The Jaina perspectives of syadavada hold that a proposition is true only
conditionally and not absolutely. This is because it depends on the
particular standpoint, naya, from which it is being made; that logically a
thing can be perceived from at least seven different standpoints,
saptabhangi-naya; which lead us to the awareness of the many-sidedness of
reality, or truth, anekanta-vada.
At no time were these limited to epistemological questions, of concern
only to the philosophers. Since human relationships, personal or social,
are determined by our perceptions of ourselves and of others, which we
mostly assume also to be true absolutely, giving rise to conflicts and
violence because the others believe the same about their judgments, the
very first step towards living creatively is to acknowledge the
relativistic nature of our judgments, and hence their limits. While being
a distinct contribution to the development of Indian logic, the Jaina
syada-vada has been, most of all, a realist ethics of not-violence,
ahimsa. The two are inter-related intimately.
An article, 'Syada-vada, Relativity and Complementarity' by Prof. Partha
Ghose, a theoretical physicist says that P C Mahalanobis was the first to
point out, in 1954, that "the Jaina Syada-vada provided the right logical
framework for modern statistical theory in a qualitative form, a framework
missing in classical western logic." J B S Haldane saw a wider relevance
of syada-vada to modern science. And Prof. Ghose speaks of the "most
striking" similarity of syada-vada to Niels Bohr's Principle of
Complementarity, first noticed by D C Kothari. Furthermore, he says: "The
logic of Einstein's special theory of relativity is also very similar to
In Einstein's relativity theory, Prof. Ghose points out, "the conventional
attributes of mass, length, energy and time lose their absolute
significance"; whereas in Bohr's complementarity theory, "the conventional
attributes of waves and particles lose their absolute significance." As in
syadavada, what that means is that the physical value of the former is
only relative to the theoretical framework in which they are being viewed,
and to the position from which they are being viewed. None of them is a
fixed, absolute truth about the physical universe, as was assumed in the
Newtonian physics. It would soon be discovered, too, that they are
relative also to the observer who observed them.
The upanishad-s and the Jaina syada-vada had argued that reality carries
within itself also opposites as its inherent attributes; and, therefore,
no absolute statements can be made about it. But no sooner was this said
than it was shown itself to be subject to the same limitation.
In the wake of the relativity theory, which had already shattered the
classical notions of physical order, de Broglie, a French prince,
demonstrated, in 1924, that an electron is both a particle and a wave,
whereas quantum mechanics had held the particle-wave duality. This
discovery was even more upsetting, but experimentally proved.
The most upsetting was the subsequent proof, provided by Werner Heisenberg
in 1927, that no events, not even atomic events, can be described with any
certainty; whereas the natural sciences were rooted until then, and are so
even now, in the mistaken notion that scientific rationality and its
method gave us exact and certain knowledge of the universe. Heisenberg
called it the 'Principle of Uncertainty'. Its substance was not only that
human knowledge is limited but also that it is uncertain. That is to say,
there are aspects of reality about which nothing definite can be said -
the avyaktam, or the 'indeterminate', of the Jaina syada-vada.
In his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics,
published in 1979, Gary Zukay said: "The wave-particle duality marked the
end of the 'either-or' way of looking at the world. Physicists no longer
could accept the preposition that light is either a particle or a wave
because they had "proved" to themselves that it was both, depending on how
they looked at it."
Syada-vada, and with it anekanta-vada, had held that there are several
different ways of perceiving reality, each valid in its place, and none of
them true absolutely. But how do we judge the validity of our perceptions,
by what criteria, by what method? These are the main questions of
epistemology. Since modem science has been a method of perceiving
reality, even if only physical reality, it is epistemology with a certain
method. Einstein had placed great emphasis upon that fact; and he was one
scientist of modern times who had placed also the greatest emphasis upon
the question of method in theoretical physics. His writings in that
regard are to be found in his Ideas and Opinions, published in 1954. He
said: "Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme.
Science without epistemology is - insofar as it is thinkable at all -
primitive and muddled."
Limits of Logic
Concerning the method, as physics advanced, it became clear that the
theoretical element in scientific laws cannot be abstracted from empirical
data, nor can it be of pure logical induction. There is no bridge between
the two of a kind that one necessarily implied the other. According to
Einstein, the "axiomatic basis of theoretical physics cannot be abstracted
from experience but must be freely invented"; "experience may suggest the
appropriate mathematical concepts, but they most certainly cannot be
deduced from it." Neither can pure logic give us knowledge of the physical
world. On this point also, Einstein was unambiguous. "Pure logical
thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world", he says;
"all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.
Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as
regards reality." The passage from sense impressions to scientific theory,
Einstein says, is through "intuition and sympathetic understanding."
In brief, the two revolutions of relativity theory and quantum mechanics
and what followed, had rendered naive realism, pure empiricism, pure
logical thinking, and materialism, when each claimed to be the only way to
knowledge and its certainty, to be incompatible with scientific method.
What had hitherto been assumed to be the scientific method and, therefore,
also the only true rationality, and was sought to be imposed upon the rest
of the world was, in its absoluteness, discarded, And in all those
movements of the New Physics, the Jaina syada- -vada and anekanta-vada are