Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Excellent book on jainism

Very intersting book on a foreigner's view on what jainism is. Was written circa 1897

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jainism & Anabaptism - An Analogy!

For some of you who haven't heard about Amish communities, wikipedia has a reasonably well written page on them. They are primarily found in US and Ontario, Canada!

Jainism & Anabaptism

A high view of the Kalpasutra/Bible

Jainism & Anabaptism

Emphasis on "Moksha" (Jesus) as a center of religion.

Jainism & Anabaptism

Importance of discipleship

Jainism & Anabaptism

Insistence on a "sangh"/"church" without classes or divisions

Jainism & Anabaptism

Moksha/separation from the world

Jainism & Anabaptism

A commitment to the way of peace

Jainism & Anabaptism

Religion and Recreation are tightly coupled

Jainism & Anabaptism

Restriction on the use of automobiles and technology

Monday, July 17, 2006

No Gods ..Just Natural Laws

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..

If you want you can read the whole story here itself:

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.

Jainism can be considered a kind of system of laws, but natural rather than moral laws. However, nature is thought of as something that encompasses more than the average modern person tends to think.

In Jainism, actions that carry moral significance are considered to cause certain consequences in just the same way as, for instance, physical actions that do not carry any special moral significance. When one holds an apple in one's hand and then lets go of the apple, the apple will fall: this is only natural. There is no judge, and no moral judgement involved, since this is a mechanical consequence of the physical action.

Jainism teaches that in the same manner consequences occur when one utters a lie, steals something, commits acts of senseless violence or leads the life of a debauchee.

Rather than assume that moral rewards and retribution are the work of a divine judge, the Jains believe that there is an innate moral order to the cosmos, self-regulating through the workings of karma. Morality and ethics are important not because of the personal whim of a fictional god, but because a life that is led in agreement with moral and ethical principles is beneficial: it leads to a decrease and finally to the total loss of karma, which means: to ever increasing happiness.

The more the effects of karma are diminished, the more the innate qualities of the soul, including its innate selfsufficiency and happiness, manifest themselves. The Tirthankaras are considered extremely important because they understood the working of the moral universe and taught the correct darshana and right conduct, achara.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jainism Search Trends

Query: Jainism


Some comments:

1) Am surprised to see Philippines as no. 2 Jainism search query originator
2) Seems like Mumbai has maximum search queries (and maximum Jains too?)
3) Tagalog (???) is the most preferred language for Jainism search.
4) Interestingly though not surprisingly during Paryushan times, there are maximum number of search queries.

Now if I look for the query Jain:


1) Maximum search in English and I don't see Phillipines in the Region list??

This doesn't look right. So looking into the details, I found that Tagalog is the language of Filipinos. I still couldn't figure out what does the word "Jainism" translates to in Phillipines.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Are Jains Hindus?

Are Jains Hindus?

1. Joins in the Minorities’ Commission

One of the least vocal communities in India is the Jain community. When the Minorities’ Commission was formed in 1978, the Jains were somehow overlooked, though Sikhs and Buddhists were invited to join. No Jain protest was heard. It seemed that as a prosperous business community, the Jains were not too interested in the politics of grievances, and therefore they didn’t care too much whether they were entitled to minority status. In 1996, however, a delegation of prominent Jains submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Deve Gowda requesting recognition of the Jain community as a religious minority.1 In 1997, the Minorities’ Commission did invite the Jains.

The Sangh Parivar was angry at the 1997 move, though it merely confirmed the minority status accorded to the Jains in the Constitution (Art.25). The RSS weekly Organiser went out of its way to collect pro-Hindu statements from Jain sages and lay authorities. Thus: “Jain saint Acharya Tulsi has categorically asserted the Jains to be an integral part of Hindu society. In a statement released here, the Acharya asked the Jains to desist from any attempts to put them among minority communities. Hinduism is not a specific religion but refers to nationality or society, according to him.”2

So far, nothing has been gained: if “Hindu” merely means “Indian” (as the Sangh Parivar often claims), then Acharya Tulsi’s assertion amounts to no more than the trivial claim that Jains are Indians. It becomes more pertinent when he adds: “In a Hindu family, one member can be a Vaishnavite, another an Arya Samaji and yet another a Jain, all belonging to Hindu society”.3 Another Jain Muni, Anuvarta Anushasta Ganadhipati Acharya “pointed out that Jainism is an inseparable part of Hinduism, even though it believes in a different way of worship, follows distinct samskâras and has its own spiritual books”.4 And Sadhvi Dr. Sadhana, who leads the Acharya Sushil Kumar Ashram in Delhi, asserted that “the Jains and the other Hindus are the inheritors of a common heritage”.5

The Jains are divided in a few castes, some of which intermarry with (and are thereby biologically part of) Hindu merchant castes: Jain Agarwals marry Hindu Agarwals but not Jain Oswals.6 They function as part of the merchant castes in the larger Hindu caste scheme. If the observance of caste endogamy is taken as a criterion of Hinduism, then Jains are Hindus by that criterion. In September 2001, the Rajasthan High Court ruled that the Jains are Hindus, not a separate non-Hindu minority; but in some other states they are counted as a separate minority. Clearly, there is no consensus about this in lay society.

2. Joins in Hindu Revivalism

Given the actual participation of Jains in Hindu society, it is no surprise that we find Jains well-represented in the Hindu Revivalist movement, either formally, e.g. J.K. Jain, BJP media specialist and MP in 1991-96, and Sunderlal Patwa, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister in 1990-93, or informally, e.g. the late Girilal Jain, sacked in 1988 as Times of India editor when he developed Hindutva sympathies, and his daughters Meenakshi Jain and Sandhya Jain.

In a collection of Girilal Jain’s columns on the triangular Hindu-Muslim-secularist struggle (that is how he understood the “communal” problem)7, we find his explicit rejection of Jain separateness: “Though not to the same extent as in the case of Sikhs, (…) neo-Buddhists and at least some Jains have come to regard themselves as non-Hindus. In reality, however, Buddhism and Jainism have been no more than movements within the larger body of Hinduism.”8 According to Girilal Jain, what difference there was between Brahmins and Jain renouncers has been eliminated by competitive imitation, e.g.: “the Brahman would have adopted vegetarianism so as not to be outdone by the renouncer qua spiritual leader”.9 Whatever schisms may have taken place in the distant past, the ultimate origin is common, and ever since, coexistence was too close to allow for permanent separateness.

When BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi visited the predominantly Jain Indian diamond community in Antwerp (August 1992), someone in the audience asked him whether Jains are Hindus. Pat came his reply: “Jains are the best Hindus of all.”

3. Dayananda Saraswati on Jainism

When considered at the doctrinal level, Jainism may have some aspects which mainstream Hindus would disagree with. But the Sangh Parivar has a policy of deliberate indifference to inter-Hindu disputes, aiming first of all at uniting all sections of Hindu society “including” Jainism. The only written argument against Jainism by Hindu revivalists was developed more than a century ago by the Arya Samaj.

In the introduction to his Light of Truth, Swami Dayananda tones down the polemical thrust of the chapters devoted to other religions and sects: “Just as we have studied the Jain and Buddhist scriptures, the Puranas, the Bible and the Qoran with an unbiased mind, and have accepted what is good in them and rejected what is false, and endeavour for the betterment of all mankind, it behoves all mankind to do likewise. We have but very briefly pointed out the defects of these religions.”10

Many schools of thought and religious traditions which contemporary Hindutva ideologues and even some outside observers would readily include in “Hinduism”, as part of the prolific offspring of the ancient Vedic tradition, are rejected in strong terms by the Arya Samaj. This class of substandard varieties of Hinduism includes the Puranic tradition and Sikhism.11 With even more emphasis, the Arya Samaj rejects the Nâstika or non-Vedic traditions. Chapter 12 of Light of Truth is titled: “An exposition and a refutation of the Charvaka, the Buddhistic and the Jain faiths, all of which are atheistic”.12

The Charvaka (“polemicist”) sect, founded in pre-Buddhist antiquity by one Brihaspati, can be considered a cornerstone in the spectrum of Indian philosophies because of its radical clarity in proposing one of the possible extremes in cosmology, viz. atheistic materialism.13 The several materialistic schools of ancient Indian philosophy have naturally been highlighted by Marxist scholars, even with a streak of patriotic pride.14 The ancient Indian atheists are also quite popular as reference among crusading “rationalists”, i.e. people devoted to debunking claims of the paranormal, quite active in South India.15 For this reason, they belong to the pantheon of the political parties which subscribe to “rationalism”: Dravida Kazhagam (Dravidian Federation, DK), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Dravidian Progressive Federation, DMK) and Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (C. Annadurai’s Dravidian Progressive Federation, ADMK), Tamil chauvinist parties which are (or were) anti-Brahminical and anti-religious promoters of “rationalism”.16

By contrast, since it has been extinct as a separate sect for centuries, Indian Materialism does not figure in modern Hindutva discourse, except as a referent to contemporary secular materialism. It is nevertheless part of an atheistic-agnostic doctrinal continuum to which Jainism and Buddhism also belong, and for that reason, some references to it may appear in the following survey of Dayananda’s argumentation. The major part of this critique is directed against Jainism rather than Buddhism. The reason for this may simply be that Dayananda was more familiar with Jainism as a living presence in society, at a time when Buddhism was practically extinct in India.

Contrary to Dayananda’s refutations of Christianity and Islam, his critique of Jainism and Buddhism is limited to certain highbrow points of philosophy, and avoids attacks on the morality of the founder or on the humanity of the religion’s historical career. We leave the scholastic points on the epistemology and metaphysics of the Nastika schools undiscussed because they are hardly relevant for the effective relationship between the communities concerned, and because similar differences of opinion can easily be found within Vedic Hinduism itself, e.g. between dualist and non-dualist Vedanta.17 In this section on Jainism, we will consider the general argument of religion against atheism, of rationalism against irrational beliefs and practices; and the argument against Shramanic sectarianism.

4. Philosophical materialism in India

Chapter 12 of the Light of Truth starts with the classical counter-arguments against the equally classical arguments of atheism and materialism.18 Thus, against the position that the conscious subject (Self) dies along with the body, which makes short work of the notions of eternal soul, afterlife or reincarnation, Dayananda develops the well-known argument in defence of the soul as an entity separable from the body at death: “Your so-called elements are devoid of consciousness, therefore consciousness cannot result from their combination.”19 Like begets like, so matter cannot generate non-matter, yet non-matter (consciousness) is an observed fact of life, ergo there must be an entity which exists apart from matter. The conscious subject is an entity separate from the body and not bound to die along with it.20

We cannot hope to settle a debate on such a fundamental philosophical question as the “mind-brain problem” here, and will be satisfied with noting that Dayananda uses the classical argument of religious people against this type of materialism. The point is that his is not necessarily the only “Hindu” position. Indeed, those who like to argue for the “tolerance” of Hinduism (including those Hindutva authors who defend the position that Hinduism and fundamentalism are intrinsically incompatible) often claim that “a Hindu can even be an atheist”. Thus, Balraj Madhok writes: “The theist and the atheist, the sceptic and agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life.”21 On this premiss, it becomes much easier to include atheist Jainism in Hinduism.

Surprisingly, even in the hard core of Brahmanical ritualism, we find a strong atheist element. The highly orthodox ritualists of the Purva Mimamsa school developed the doctrine that the Gods, to whom sacrifices were made in expectation of their auspicious intervention, were mere terms used to label the unseen phase (in modern terms, the “black box”) of the purely mechanical process which leads from the ritual performed to the materialization of the effects desired.22 They were possibly the first deliberate atheists in world history, yet they were Âstikas, followers of the Veda.

Dayananda, by contrast, made it clear that he did not want to be associated with atheists, and that the Arya Samaj was a crusading force against atheism. Here we are faced with the fact that Dayananda had no intention of representing the broadest possible spectrum of Hinduism, unlike the Hindutva movement. He was a purist who rejected as unauthentic or un-Aryan all the Nastika (and, at least implicitly, even some Astika) traditions which did not conform to his own conception of Vedic doctrine.

Against the doctrines which reject or simply ignore the notion of a Creator-God, Dayananda argues: “Dead and inert substances cannot combine together of their own accord and according to some design unless the Conscious Being-God-fashions and shapes them.”23

At the time of his writing, it was probably too early for a provincial Indian pandit to realize the implications of the findings of modern science. We see dead substances combine and recombine all the time: even before the first life forms appeared on earth, a lot of chemical processes took place which scientists have explained entirely in terms of the Laws of Nature, without needing the hypothesis of divine intervention. At face value, Dayananda’s point seems to be close to the medieval idea that the planets could only move because of angels pushing them forward; but a more sophisticated reading of his view would be that at least the first beginnings of life and of the physical processes require some kind of divine intervention. Ultimately, the planets and the force of gravity which explains their motions, and more generally all substances and the Laws of Nature which govern them, cannot have come into being without being created by a Creator.

The claim that nothing exists without a cause, and that the world itself must therefore have a “cause”, viz. a divine Creator, is one of the classical proofs of the existence of God, the main proof for Muslims and one of the five proofs given by Saint Thomas Aquinas.24 The atheist counter-argument is that if an eternal entity is admitted, viz. the one which theists call God, then the universe itself might just as well be that eternal and uncreated entity.25 But Dayananda was entirely unaware of the philosophical debates which had taken place in the West, and was not very broadly informed even about those in India.

5. The ethical argument for God

Another argument well-known to Western debaters on the existence of God is the ethical argument: without any kind of punishment and reward, people will not be motivated to do good and shun evil, and since the history of the world tells us about numerous good people ending in misery and evil people enjoying success, the just punishment or reward has to be meted out by God in some future life (whether in heaven or in new incarnations).26 According to Dayananda: “If there were no God (the giver of the fruits of their deeds to souls), no soul will ever, of its own free will, suffer punishment for their crimes.” Dayananda compares it with burglars who will not volunteer for getting punished, “it is the law that compels them to do so; in like manner, it is God Who makes the soul reap the fruits of its actions, good or bad, otherwise all order will be lost; in other words, one soul will do deeds while the other will reap the fruits thereof.”27

Dayananda’s argument is unlikely to convince those who hold the opposite view. indeed, one can think up several ways in which people do “reap the fruits of their actions” without requiring divine intervention, in a purely mechanical way. Jains conceive of Karma as a mechanical process, in which experiences in this life are preserved in seed form to determine the contents of one’s next life, without any need for a personal God who records man’s sins and metes out appropriate punishment at some later time. They share Dayananda’s moralistic view that any good we do is ultimately rewarded and any evil we do is ultimately paid for, but they are satisfied with their non-theistic model of explanation.

Alternatively, the non-moralistic possibility should be faced that we are not bound to “reap the fruits of our actions”: if you kill someone, he definitely reaps the fruits of your action, viz. by losing his life, and that is where the causal chain ends. You yourself also reap indirectly in the form of that which you wanted to take from the murdered man (the money he carried, the shared secret which he threatened to divulge, etc.), but you are not going to undergo punishment for this murder unless the human law machinery catches up with you. It is perfectly conceivable, as indeed the Indian Materialists hold, that there is no justice in this world except as a human artefact, that evil is not punished nor good rewarded except (with luck) in this lifetime by ordinary human means.28

In that case, ethical behaviour comes without future reward, whether divine or mechanical. Or rather, it will have to be its own reward, by giving a feeling of serenity, peace of mind. This approach is a lot closer to what we can glimpse of the original Vedic conception of ethics than the “divine punishment”-mongering which the alleged Veda fundamentalist Dayananda offers. The Rigveda, at least, is a very unmoralistic book. It praises certain virtues (generosity, truthfulness etc.) without trying to lure anyone into practising them: those who don’t practise them merely reveal their own ignoble character, but they are not threatened with any divine punishment for that. This is but one of many occasions at which Dayananda holds theistic and moralistic opinions which are classically enunciated not in his revered Vedas but in the reviled Puranas and Smritis.

At any rate, anyone familiar with the old debate about the existence of God and related fundamental questions will notice that Dayananda is not offering any compelling argument to make committed atheists change their minds.

6. With the joins against priestcraft

Swami Dayananda is in agreement with the Nastikas on another issue which figures prominently in standard atheist discourse: the absurdity and non-efficacity of funeral rites and other priestly practices. He welcomes the atheist argument that if one can benefit one’s ancestors in heaven by throwing food into the fire, how come one cannot save a relative on his journey through the desert from hunger and thirst by similar means?29 Thus, “the practice of offering oblations to the manes of departed ancestors is an invention of priests, because it is opposed to the Vedic and Shastric teachings and finds sanction in the Puranas (…) Yes, it is true that the priests have devised these funeral rites from motives of pecuniary gain but, being opposed to the Vedas, they are condemnable.”30

On this point, the contrast between the Arya Samaj and the contemporary RSS Parivar is complete: whereas the latter tries to group all Hindus and implicitly condones all existing Hindu religious practices, the former takes objection to everything which, in its opinion, is not well-attested in the Vedas. Veer Savarkar rejected all superstitious practices too, and even forbade any funeral rites for his own departed soul, but he never waged an ideological campaign against such practices, as this would have greatly harmed his effort to unite all Hindus. In the case of the RSS Parivar, the same concern for unity stands in the way of this type of religious purism, except when it comes to superstitions which directly affect the unity effort, most notably untouchability, or which harm Hindu interests otherwise, e.g. the taboo on widow remarriage with its negative effect on the Hindu birth rate.

However, the “protestant” objections to priestcraft, which are in effect similar to Luther’s objections against Roman Catholic practices, do not define an antagonism between Hinduism (even if limited to the Vedic tradition) on the one and Jainism and Buddhism on the other hand. The antagonism between ritualists and non-ritualists cuts through both Hinduism and the Shramanic traditions. The shift in emphasis from Vedic Karmakânda (ritual) to Jñânakânda (contemplation) is a central theme of the Upanishads, while Buddhism, supposedly a revolt against empty ritualism (among other things), had its limited array of non-icon-centred rituals from the beginning, and soon developed its own rich array of rituals in temples before impressive Buddha statues, culminating in the near-suffocation of silent meditation by endless rituals in Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Jainism, too, has its network of temples where idols of the 24 Tirthankaras (“ford-makers”, founding saints of Jainism) are venerated.

The Arya Samaj itself, though professing a decided skepticism (which most Westerners would readily qualify as “healthy”) vis-à-vis mûrti-pûjâ (idol-worship), pilgrimages and other rituals, has some rituals of its own. Indeed, rather than being a rationalistic rejection of all ritual per se, it represents a restoration of Vedic ritual to the detriment of rival ritual practices. If the ritual of feeding the departed souls is incapable of affecting the souls of the deceased, why should the Arya/Vedic ritual of Homa or Agnihotra be taken to have any effect upon any being whether living or dead? Here, we are faced with the common phenomenon that apologists of a religion are very rationalistic when it comes to evaluating the supernatural claims of rival traditions, but do not extend the same logic to an evaluation of their own doctrine.

7. Critique of Jain chronology

Another example of the same tendency to judge others by more exacting standards of rationality than one’s own tradition is Dayananda’s critique of Jain chronology. The 24 Jain Tirthankaras, among whom the historical teacher Parshvanath is listed as 23rd and Mahavira Jina as 24th, are credited with astronomical lifetimes and body sizes, e.g. the first in the list, Rishabhadeva (claimed to be attested in the Vedas)31 was 500 dhanush (= 500 x ca. 2 metres) tall and lived for 8,400,000 years. Dayananda laboriously criticizes this scriptural hyperbole, and additionally blames it for similarly grotesque claims in the Puranas: “Let the wise consider if it is possible for any man to have so gigantic a body and to live so long. If the globe were inhabited by people of such dimensions, very few would be contained in it. Following the example of the Jainees, the Pauraniks have written of persons who lived for 10,000 years and even for 100,000 years. All this is absurd and so is what the Jainees say.”32

True, if ever there was a human being called Rishabhadeva, he probably lived for less than 8 million years. But if the Jain tradition is highly unrealistic at this point, how should we judge Dayananda’s claim that the four Vedas were given in complete form at the time of Creation itself? This claim, made in accordance with a long-standing Vedic tradition, implies a rejection of any historical interpretation of all factual mundane data (e.g. the Battle of the Ten Kings, sung in the Rigveda). It necessitates forcing a universal symbolical interpretation on mundane data such as names of rivers, mountains, places and persons, and thereby replaces the real and complex meaning of the Vedic text with a simplistic though elaborate Hineininterpretieren. Worst of all, the belief that a book has been in existence since millions of years, though it was written in a historical language which only came into existence several thousands of years ago as a dialectal development from Proto-Indo-European, is really little better than the Jain claims about the sizes and lifetimes of the Tirthankaras.

8. Dayananda on Jain sectarianism

Swami Dayananda rebukes the Shramanas, particularly. the Jain monks, for keeping a haughty distance from others: “The Jains are strictly prohibited to 1) praise a person belonging to another religion or to talk of his good qualities, 2) to salute him, 3) to talk much to him, 4) to talk to him frequently, 5) to bestow upon him food and clothes, 6) to supply odoriferous substances and flowers to enable him to worship his idol. Let the wise consider with what feelings of hatred, malice and hostility the Jainees are actuated in their relations with those who profess a religion different from theirs.”33

Similarly: “Again, the Jain teachers teach: ‘Just as a ruby, which is embedded in the head of a venomous snake, should not be sought after, even so it behoves the Jainees to shun the company of a non-Jainee, no matter how virtuous and learned he is.’ It is clear, therefore, that no sectarians are so much biased, perverse, wrong-headed and ignorant as the Jainees are.”34 Similar quotations to the same effect include: “Let not the Jainees even look at those that are opposed to the Jain religion.”35

Here, Dayananda definitely has a point. The Shramana sects, consisting of people who had given up all worldly responsibilities and had thereby acquired ample leisure to concentrate on doctrinal matters, were quite literally sectarian. Spending a lot of their time and energy on polemic against rival sects as well as against non-sect beliefs and practices, they produced a polemical literature which has no counterpart in pre-Buddhist Brahmanism. The need, not so much of a sect’s founder but of his followers, to set the founder apart from his contemporaries, automatically leads to a somewhat hostile attitude towards other traditions, specifically those closely related. It is part of this same tradition that contemporary Buddhists and Jains go out of their way to magnify the differences with Hinduism.

An aspect of Jain history not considered by Dayananda, is the influence of Islam on the Sthanakvasi branch of Jainism, founded by a Muni who lived at the court of Mohammed Shah Tughlaq 1325-51, and on its Terapanthi offshoot. In imitation of Islam, these communities denounce temple-going and idol-worship, common enough among the Shwetambara mainstream (contrastively also known as Murtipujaka Sangha, “image-worshipping assembly”)36, and from there it is but a step to assuming that the social separatism enjoined in the passages quoted by Dayananda is equally due to Islamic influence; that interpretation has at least been given to me by Hindutva-minded Jains. In my opinion, however, the purity notion intrinsic to Jain tradition (conceived as a need to avoid accumulating Karma) is sufficient as an explanation for this Jain practice of keeping distance from the uninitiated.

The allegation of haughtiness and keeping distance would of course fit orthodox Brahmins as well as Jain sectarians, but the Arya Samaj cannot be accused of double standards here, i.c. of neglecting to produce a similar anti-Brahmin invective. On the contrary, it can take a certain dubious credit for “hinduizing” the anti-Brahmin rhetoric propagated by Christian missionaries. What may, however, be held against the Arya Samaj, is that it is similarly sectarian itself, sometimes in a more aggressive way than the Jains as per Dayananda’s description.

In the early decades of the Samaj’s existence, its more zealous activists would disrupt traditional devotions and insult priests, with “pope” as a common taunt for Brahmins. Some would even go into Hindu “idol temples” and relieve themselves right there to show their contempt for idolatry in no uncertain terms.37 Dayananda’s own writing against more traditional forms of Hinduism is very intemperate, full of harsh words and lacking in patience and human sympathy. Sectarianism has made school inside Hindu society.

9. Did Hindus demolish Jain temples?

During the Ayodhya conflict, Muslim and secularist polemicists tried to counter the Hindu argument about the thousands of Hindu temples razed by Islamic iconoclasm with the claim that Hindus had likewise destroyed or desecrated Buddhist and Jain temples. While the few cases of alleged Hindu aggression against Buddhism are either of doubtful historicity or easily and credibly explainable from other motives than religious intolerance, there are a few cases of conflict with Jainism which seem more serious. They have formed the topic of a debate between Marxist historian Romila Thapar and Sita Ram Goel.

For a start, in the 12th century, “in Gujarat, Jainism flourished during the reign of Kumarapala, but his successor [i.e. Ajayapala] persecuted the Jainas and destroyed their temples”.38 According to D.C. Ganguly: “The Jain chronicles allege that Ajayapâla was a persecutor of the Jains, that he demolished Jain temples, mercilessly executed the Jain scholar Ramachandra, and killed Ambada, a minister of Kumârapâla, in an encounter.”39

Here, the alleged crime is related by the victims, not by the alleged aggressors (as is usually the case for Muslim iconoclasm). It is possible that they exaggerated, but I see no reason to believe that they simply invented the story. However, since the Jains had been dominant (“flourishing”) in the preceding period, one might suspect a case of retaliation here. We shall see shortly that in South India, what little of Hindu aggression against Jainism occurred was due precisely to earlier oppression by the Jains.

Ganguly adds that Jains had opposed Ajayapala’s accession to the throne: “After the death of Kumârapâla in AD 1171-72 there was a struggle for the throne between his sister’s son Pratâpamalla, who was apparently backed by the Jains, and Ajayapâla, son of Kumârapâla’s brother Mahîpâla, who seems to have been supported by the Brâhmanas.”40 Clearly, a political intrigue is involved of which we have not been given the full story. Predictably, Goel comments: “The instance she mentions from Gujarat was only the righting of a wrong which the Jains had committed under Kumârapâla.”41

Next, there was the attack by the Paramara king Subhatavarman (r. 1193-1210) on Gujarat, in which “a large number of Jain temples in Dabhoi and Cambay” were “plundered” in retaliation of plundering of Hindu temples in Malwa by the Gujaratis during their invasion of Malwa under Jayasimha Siddharaja (d. 1143) who was under great Jain influence. Harbans Mukhia cites this as proof that “many Hindu rulers did the same [as the Muslims] with temples in enemy-territory long before the Muslims had emerged as a political challenge to these kingdoms”.42 However, it is well-known that the Muslims did more than just plunder: even temples where there was nothing to plunder were desecrated and destroyed or converted into mosques in many places, for the Muslims’ motive was not merely economic.

The most important and well-known case of “persecution of Jains” is mentioned by Romila Thapar: “The Shaivite saint Jnana Sambandar is attributed with having converted the Pandya ruler from Jainism to Shaivism, whereupon it is said that 8,000Jainas were impaled by the king.”43 To this, Sita Ram Goel points out that she omits crucial details: that this king, Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman, is also described as having first persecuted Shaivas, when he himself was a Jain; that Sambandar vanquished the Jainas not in battle but in debate, which was the occasion for the king to convert from Jainism to Shaivism (wagers in which the second or a third party promises to convert if you win the debate are not uncommon in India’s religious literature); and that Sambandar had escaped Jain attempts to kill him.44 This Shaiva-Jaina conflict was clearly not a one-way affair, and as per the very tradition invoked by Prof. Thapar, Jains themselves had been the aggressors.

It is even a matter of debate whether this persecution has occurred at all. Nilakanth Shastri, in his unchallenged History of South India, writes about it: "This, however, is little more than an unpleasant legend and cannot be treated as history.”45 Admittedly, this sounds like Percival Spear’s statement that Aurangzeb’s persecutions are “little more than a hostile legend”46: a sweeping denial of a well-attested persecution. However, Mr. Spear’s contention is amply disproves by contemporary documents including firmans (royal decrees) and eye-witness accounts, and by the archaeological record, e.g. the destruction of the Kashi Vishvanath temple in Varanasi by Aurangzeb is attested by the temple remains incorporated in the Gyanvapi mosque built on its site. Such evidence has not been offered in the case of Jnana Sambandar at all. On the contrary: “Interestingly, the persecution of Jains in the Pandya country finds mention only in Shaiva literature, and is not corroborated by Jain literature of the same or subsequent period.”47

On the other hand, the historicity of the Jain-Shaiva conflict in general is confirmed by Shaiva references to more cases of Jain aggression, none of which is mentioned by Romila Thapar. Dr. Usha Sivapriya, before duly quoting classical Tamil sources, argues that the literatures posterior to Manikkavasaghar (an ancient Tamil sage, author of Thiruvasagham) “had plenty of reference to the nature, torture and terrorism of Jaina missionaries and rulers in Tamil kingdom”.48 It all started with the invasion by Kharavela, king of Kalinga, at the turn of the Christian era: “Kharavela defeated the Tamil kings headed by Pandiyans and captured Madhurai. The Kalinga or Vadugha king enforced Jaina rule in Tamil kingdom. People were forcibly converted at knifepoint, temples were demolished or locked down, devotees were tortured and killed.”49

And it continued intermittently for centuries under Pandya and Pallava rule: “When the Digambara Jaina missionaries had failed in converting the masses, they tried to torture and kill them. (…) After failing in the attempt of converting Pandiyans the Digambara Jains tried to kill the Pandiyan Kings through various means, by sending a dangerous snake, wild bull and mad elephant.”50

Dr. Sivapriya links the advent of Jainism in Tamil Nadu with an episode of conquest by non-Tamils. Goel adds: “The persecution of Jains in the Pandya country by some Shaivas had nothing to do with Shaivism as such, but was an expression of a nationalist conflict which I will relate shortly. What 1 want to point out first is that most of the royal dynasties which ruled in India after the breakdown of the Gupta Empire and before the advent of Islamic invaders, were Shaiva (…). The Jains are known to have flourished everywhere; not a single instance of the Jains being persecuted under any of these dynasties is known. (…) M. Arunachalam, in a monograph published eight years before Professor Thapar delivered the lectures which comprise her pamphlet (…) has proved conclusively, with the help of epigraphic and literary evidence, that the Kalabhara invaders from Karnataka had occupied Tamil Nadu for 300 years (between AD 250 and 550), and that they subscribed to the Digambara sect of Jainism.”51

So, this is where “nationalist” resentment against the conquerors came to coincide with resentment against Jainism: “It so happened that some of the Kalabhara princes were guided by a few narrow-minded Jain ascetics, and inflicted injuries on some Shaiva and Vaishnava saints and places of worship. They also took away the agrahâras which Brahmanas had enjoyed in earlier times. And a reaction set in when the Kalabharas were overthrown. The new rulers who rose subscribed to Shaivism. It was then that the Jains were persecuted in some places, and some Jain places of worship were taken over by the Shaivas under the plea that these were Shaiva places in the earlier period.”52

In such cases, “Professor Thapar does not mention the Jain high-handedness which had preceded. (... ) Professor Thapar should have mentioned the persecution of Shaivas practised earlier by the Pandya king who was a Jain to start with, and who later on converted to Shaivism and persecuted the Jains. This is another case of suppressio verb suggestio falsi practised very often by her school.”53

To clinch the issue and confirm that the Pandya incident of persecution of Jains is atypical and disconnected from Hindu doctrines, Goel adds: “But the reaction was confined to the Pandya country. Jainism continued to flourish in northern Tamil Nadu which also had been invaded by the Kalabharas, where also the Shaivas and Vaishnavas had been molested by the Jains, and where also the Shaivas had come to power once again. It is significant that though Buddhists also invite invectives in the same Shaiva literature, no instance of Buddhists being persecuted is recorded. That was because Buddhists had never harmed the Shaivas. It is also significant that the Vaishnavas of Tamil Nadu show no bitterness against the Jains though they had also suffered under Kalabhara rule.”54

10. Jains and Virashaivas

A later offshoot of Shaivism, viz. the Virashaiva or Lingayat sect, also showed its hostility to Jainism repeatedly. Indeed, Prof. Thapar’s next piece of evidence is that “inscriptions of the sixteenth century from the Srisailam area of Andhra Pradesh record the pride taken by Veerashaiva chiefs in beheading shvetambara Jains”.55 Concerning such cases, she alleges that: “The desire to portray tolerance and non-violence as the eternal values of the Hindu tradition has led to the pushing aside of such evidence.”56

Now, the Veerashaivas were an anti-caste and anti-Brahminical sect. As these are considered good qualities, secularists have tried to link them to the influence of Muslim missionaries (“bringing the message of equality and brotherhood”), who were indeed very active on India’s west coast, where and when the Veerashaiva doctrine was developed. If we assume there was indeed Muslim influence on the Veerashaiva sect, the secularists should acknowledge that the Veerashaivas’ occasional acts of intolerance may equally be due to the influence of Islam. At any rate “Brahminism” cannot be held guilty of any misdeeds committed by this anti-Brahminical sect.

But it seems well-established that the Lingayats did give the Jains a hard time on several occasions. Prof. Thapar’s continues: “The Jaina temples of Karnataka went through a traumatic experience at the hands of the Lingayats or Virashaivas in the early second millennium AD.”57 After a time of peaceful coexistence, which Romila Thapar acknowledges, “one of the temples was converted into a Shaiva temple. At Huli, the temple of the five Jinas was converted into a panchalingeshwara Shaivite temple, the five lingas replacing the five Jinas in the sancta. Some other Jaina temples met the same fate.”58

Could this be a case of a peaceful hand-over? Maybe the community itself had converted and consequently decided to convert its temple as well? After all, the temples were not destroyed. No, because: “An inscription at Ablur in Dharwar eulogizes attacks on Jaina temples as retaliation for Jaina opposition to Shaivite worship.”59

It may be remarked at the outset that the element of retaliation sets this story apart from Christian or Islamic iconoclasm, which did not require in any way that some form of aggression had first been committed by the other party. When Saint Boniface, the Christian missionary to the Frisians and Saxons, cut down the sacred trees of the Frisians, he was not taking revenge for any wrong committed by them against him: he was unilaterally destroying cultic objects of what he believed to be a false religion (in glorification of his chopping down sacred trees, he is iconographically depicted with an axe in his hand). When Ghaznavi invaded India and took great strategic risks to venture as far as Prabhas Patan and destroy the famous Somnath temple there, he was not retaliating but unilaterally initiating an aggression.

In this case, however, the inscription cited by Prof. Thapar herself justifies the unspecified “attacks” on Jain temples as an act of retaliation. This proves that either the Jains had indeed been the first aggressors, or if they were not, that the Shaivas felt the need to claim this: otherwise, attacking someone else’s temple didn’t feel right to them. Christian and Islamic iconoclasts had no such scruples. No Hindu revivalist historian could have mustered better evidence for the radical difference between the alleged cases of intolerance by Hindus and the Islamic and Christian religious persecutions, than this brief information given in passing by Romila Thapar.

There is a second aspect to this inscriptional evidence. Here again, Mr. Goel accuses Prof. Thapar of distorting evidence by means of selective quoting. The inscription of which she summarizes a selected part, says first of all that the dispute arose because the Jains tried to prevent a Shaiva from worshipping his own idol.60 It further relates that the Jains also promised to throw out Jina and worship Shiva if the Shiva devotee performed a miracle, but when the miracle was produced, they did not fulfil their promise. In the ensuing quarrel, the Jina idol was broken by the Shaivas. The most significant element is that the Jain king Bijjala decided in favour of the Shaivas when the matter was brought before him. He dismissed the Jains and showered favours on the Shaivas.

Again, in this story the conflict is not a one-way affair at all. We need not accept the story at face value, as it is one of those sectarian miracle stories (with the message: “My saint is holier than thy saint”) which abound in the traditions surrounding most places of pilgrimage, be they Christian, Sufi, or Hindu. Goel cites the testimony of Dr. Fleet, who has edited and translated this inscription along with four others found at the same place. He gives summaries of two Lingayat Puranas and the Jain Bijjalacharitra, and observes that the story in this inscription finds no support in the literary traditions of the two sects, and that Bijjala’s own inscription dated 1162 AD discovered at Managoli also does not support the story either.61 The fact that the inscription under consideration does not bear a date or a definite reference to the reign of a king, does not help its credibility either. And do authentic inscriptions deal in miracles?

I do not think that historians working with conflicting testimonies are in a position to make apodictic statements and definitive conclusions, so I will not completely dismiss this inscription as fantasy. It is possible that the Jainas had indeed fallen on hard times, and I do not dispose of material that would refute prof. Thapar’s contention that “in the fourteenth century the harassment of Jainas was so acute that they had to appeal for protection to the ruling power at Vijayanagar”.62 But note that the ruling power at Vijayanagar, whose protection the Jains sought, was of course Hindu. Clearly, the Jains’ experience with Hindus was such that they expected Hindu rulers to protect religious freedom and pluralism.

Not much is left of the allegation of “Hindu persecution of Jains”, and in that light, Goel’s conclusion must be considered relatively modest: “It is nobody’s case that there was never any conflict between the sects and sub-sects of Sanatana Dharma. Some instances of persecution were indeed there. Our plea is that they should be seen in a proper perspective, and not exaggerated in order to whitewash or counterbalance the record of Islamic intolerance. Firstly, the instances are few and far between when compared to those listed in Muslim annals. Secondly, those instances are spread over several millennia (…) Thirdly, none of those instances were inspired by a theology (…) Fourthly, Jains were not always the victims of persecution; they were persecutors as well once in a while. Lastly, no king or commander or saint who showed intolerance has been a Hindu hero, while Islam has hailed as heroes only those characters who excelled in intolerance.”63

And even if all the claims of a Hindu persecution of Jains had been true, they would still not prove the non-Hindu character of Jainism. From the history of Christianity, Islam and Communism, great persecutors of outsiders to their own doctrines, we know numerous instances where the worst invective and the choicest tortures were reserved for alleged heretics within their own fold.

11. Conclusion

At the institutional level, the Hindutva opposition to the recognition of Jainism as a separate non-Hindu religion is largely a losing battle. Religious separatism has its own dynamic, feeding egos who feel more important as leaders of a religion in its own right rather than a mere sect within a larger tradition. Anti-Hindu separatists are also assured of the support of secularist bureaucracies such as the Minorities’ Commission, of the secularist media and of all the non-Hindu religious lobbies. All of these are eager to fragment and weaken Hindu society.

Yet, at the sociological level, the Jain community is entirely part of Hindu society, caste and all. Even more importantly, a great many Jains (certainly a larger portion of the community than in the case of Sikhism or Buddhism) come forward themselves to affirm their Hinduness. Historically, Jainism has always enjoyed a place under the umbrella of Hindu pluralism, suffering clashes with southern Shaivism only a few times when its own sectarianism had provoked the conflict.

Deciding the question whether Jainism is a sect of Hinduism requires a proper definition of Hinduism. The answer varies with that definition. If Hinduism means veneration of the Vedas, then Jainism may formally be taken to be outside the Hindu fold, though it remains closely akin to Hindu schools of philosophy springing from Hindu thought (particularly Nyaya-Vaisheshika). If Hinduism implies theism, then Jainism should definitely be counted out; but a theistic definition of Hinduism is highly questionable, eventhough after centuries of theistic devotionalism, many unsophisticated Hindus would accept it.

On the other hand, if Hinduism means the actually observed variety of religious expressions among non-Muslims and non-Christians in India, then there is nothing in Jainism that would make it so radically different as to fall outside this spectrum. If Hinduism means all traditions native to India (as per Savarkar and the original Muslim usage), then obviously Jainism is a Hindu tradition.

Note: This article is taken directly from http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/books/wiah/ch7.htm

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fundamentals of Jainism

Hi All,

I am back again. I recently got an email from Hemail Modi expressing his interest in reinstating this blog. So here it is: online access to a book on "Fundamentals of Jainism".


The book can also be accessed at

Please leave comments if you are an active reader of this blog and I can accordingly share the rights with other people to make sure that this blog remains active. I too will personally try to keep it as active as possible.

Jai Jinendra


Saturday, July 30, 2005


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.

(Compassionate appeals.)

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.

Western influence

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.”

I shall also like to take this opportunity to mention the Kshamapana Sutra with Meaning:

Khaamemi save jeeva (I grant forgiveness to all living beings)

Savve jeeva khamantu me (May all living beings grant me forgiveness)

Metti me save bhuyesu (My friendship is with all living beings)

Vairam majham na kenai (My enemy is totally non-existent)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Jainism and Relativity!!

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.

Realist Ethics

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.

Subsequent Proof

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
clearly manifest.

Friday, October 01, 2004

faith's view on issues

How should we respond to terrorism?

My thoughts (after a good enough debate with my sister) -
As little violence as possible should be used. If terrorism reaches the point where many are threatened, then violence used to end it is acceptable because the intent is to bring peace to many. Jains believe that a small act of violence intended to avert a much greater violence is a form of nonviolence. Self-defense is acceptable. That doesn't propose going to war, as there are no just wars, but I guess its okay to be prepared to avert a threat.

    Reply from Mohit @ orkut:
    In past acharyas were closely realted to kings and even helped establish many kingdoms, no doubt there must have been fights involved.

    Personally even I dont mind a war as long as it is intended for the betterment of human beings. By passively watching the terrorism override us, its better we get up and counteract. (I also feel that it was our passsiveness to good extent that have caused a huge loss of our old literature etc)

    But it should only be used if that becomes necessary and should be used only to its minimum.

    Reply from Abhishek @ orkut:
    terrorosm + language
    I would just like to make ur views little technical. Jain Ahinsa is not the same as gandhian ahinsa that is to forward ur cheek when hit. Ahinsa is divided in four parts, Sankalpi, udyogi, Aarambhi, Virodhi. The first three mean dont kill the innocent even in thought or due to lazyness.
    As tatvartha sutra says "prammata yogat pran vyapropanam hinsa" Hinsa caused due to negligence(though for real translation u have to understand 15 parts of Pramad).
    Then hinsa in business and homely work are the other two. Last one is hinsa for self defence. Now for shravak if he is not negligent only first one is a taboo. The classification into four Itself gives u an answer. So as for the terrorist and so for the doctor(death on operation table) the motive behind killing would decide the fairness. Sidharth please dont call Jainism passive. Our acharyas have long supported and guided great kings like Chamundarai(Though they were not allowed to be physically present in the palace which has probably caused misconception). Its only that Jains ceased being a Kshatriya community and other communities overstressed our Non-Voilence as our passivity that now we also beleive. Its only that we read great kings like Kharvel and understand the thought.
    As for the last post on language. we must know translations but original is original. reading Bhaktamar in sanskrit is altogether a different experience. Tramslations are meant to initiate us to the original. As for the underlying science of mantras and temples read B T bajavats article published in tirthankar. It is also reproduced in Jin pooja booklet of maitri samooh.
My views again:
I also had a similar classification of himsa (not Gandhian) as per Jain scriptures.
1. Aarambhi himsa (Violence involved in fullfiling daily needs)(includes udyogi)
2. Virodhi himsa (violence against injustice)
3. Sankalpi himsa (violence with determination)
(in different order for ease)

In Jain scriptures its clearly written that for a lay person/ householders first two types of violence (aarambhi himsa and virodhi himsa) are pardonble.

In first category (aarambhi himsa) - violence involved in preparing food, cleaning and all other activity which are essential for a householder comes in this category.

In second category (virodhi himsa) - its a duty of a householder to protect his country or village or family. If somebody attacks on this its justifiable to fight for protecting above mentioned cause.

But third type of violence (sankali himsa) is not justifiable for a lay person in which military expansionism and terrorism come.

So we were effectively talking about virodhi himsa and to emphasize that we are not passive - but have a no-first-use policy.

    Reply from Siddhi @ Orkut:
    Utilitarian View
    Jainism follows the Utilirarian View (not sure about the spelling hehe)

    Firstly we belive in non voilence.
    But when the choice is bad vs worst, we should opt the bad.
    What i mean by the above sentence is...
    whatever proves to be the larger good of the society (though it might be voilence to some extent) we should do that.

    For this topic, I feel we should actively work hard to end terrorism (but not like Mr Bush), as it would further make the world a better place for everyone.

    Reply from Kinjal @ Orkt:
    I disagree....you can't really destroy terrorism, some factions of terrorism is always going to be here...so whether if its good for the society is very much questionable and mostly biased....who is going to really benefit to get rid of terrorism? what society? The World as a society?

    I feel that the universe tends to unfold on its own...why should we intervene? The cosmic laws are placed in motion for a reason therefore I believe why waste more human life on such matters.

    Note this: United states has a military cost that beats any other worlds military. United States funds more militaristic operations then any other country, and might i add this is all over the world. Now if we really want to do something useful for the Human kind, we should all just join together and put all that money, energy, work force into science. That is truly the betterment of Humans.

    Reply from Nilesh @ Orkut:
    violence in jainism
    I think what you guys are saying is correct on practical point of view.. Is the violence in self-defence is justified??? answer is yes in today's practical scenario.. but not according to fundamentals of jainism.. It is based on self-denial......

    If a man is killing an innocent dear.. Your job is to save the dear without hurting the man.. you may get yourself injured.. but still do not hurt the man.

    All the sutra in pratikamn has three terms..
    " Karyu (to do), Karavyu (to get it done through some one else) or Karta Pratye Anumodhyu (to appreciate a crime) " are all same. If you can not stop violence that is fine but you can try to justify any type of violence..

    Reply from Vineet @ Orkut:
    In my opinions, Ahimsa and non-voilence are not exactly two identical things.
    Although these two things overlap more area than not but there are some places where the two ideologies do not shawod each other word by word. Self defence involving voilence is a part of ahimsa, but at the same time it is exactly opposite of non-violence. On the other hand, for example negligience for others being tortured, without helping them just because it may involve voilence against the attacker, supports non-violence but it does not fall in the set of ahimsa.
    Back to original debate of the theme, countering terrorism, I feel that ahimsa is better way to see this situation depleting rather than indifferently adhering to non-violence blindly.

    Reply from Kinjal @ Orkut:
    But Who is it really benefiting? ;)

    Reply from Mohit @ Orkut:
    I agree with you kinjal that we can not destroy terrorism but that really does not help. We might not be able to destroy terrorism but atleast we can help it stay in the limits, an active participation is needed to keep a watch on it.

    And regarding nature laws and all, what would you do if there is an expected tornado in your town, stay there coz its nature or make yourself safe. Same things apply here. Respecting the universal laws is really good but there is someone at other end trying to destroy the universe we need to take some steps.

    And no doubt, even if 50% of that money is used for human welfare, that would be betterment for a huge section of society.

    Reply from Kinjal @ Orkut:
    Fight terrorism? Why? I mean okay I understand your points but who will benefit if we surpress terrorism? Suppose that you do succeed, what gaurantees are there for another person? What rights will we give up if we try to surpress terrorism? Are you ready to give up all the control that you have to do it? What happens to the people that do it? Do we kill them? How do we exactly as a jainism go against terrorism? And when you answer these questions put this question in all thoughts: WHO IS IT BENEFITING...

    Reply from Siddharth @ Orkut:
    Mankind and humanity as a whole would benefit by suppressing terrorism. Just cause we don't directly come across terrorist acts on an individual basis, doesn't mean that we don't need to do anything about them.

    Fighting terrorism doesn't neccessarily mean, that you need to pick up a rifle, and head to the frontline.... there's a lot more to it. Even vocal support helps, and condemning such acts are the first step in helping root terrorism out.

    Reply from Kinjal @ Orkut:
    It is a never ending battle then...

    We would all love to have some part on anti-terrorism, but has anyone asked how do they become terrorist? Are they born as cold blooded murders? Is there any validation to what they say?

    Example: Castro was put in power by the United States in effort to condemn communism. Saddam was put in also power to fight against Russia, same with afghanistan....All the major terrorists out there have been trained and used by US.

    Simple is this, Why create a monster if you can't be responsible enough to handle it, take care of it...

    I mean okay we say we want anti terrorism, we go out and protest, vocal and what not, the fact is that most of those people were mistreated by US..yes i do know that some terrorist are not in that area. However majority are, so If you would like to do anything in the first place, would be the government policies,regulations, and what not.
My views again:
We never doubted the patriotism of the krantikaris, but it was proved that it was possible to gain independence using non-violence. The point here is the freedom fighters were not passive and they took some action. (Quote kinjal: I feel that the universe tends to unfold on its own...why should we intervene? The cosmic laws are placed in motion for a reason therefore I believe why waste more human life on such matters.) The fact that the British brought substantial new technology to our country didn’t overweigh the fact that we were oppressed and hence the revolution was necessary. Just like that we can’t aim for improvement of science & technology only when the society is in a chaos.

I was just pondering over the necessity of our action against terrorism (many other issues – like protecting our old temples are also important and we need to act before it’s too late).

(I used "terrorism" in a broad sense to include - guerrilla warfare, subversion, criminal violence, paramilitarism, communal violence or banditry.)

Remember the Naxalites (People's War Group) or LTTE or Maoists in Nepal. We may say the Extremists are there only fighting State terrorism. But is that justified?! Perspectives do differ. These people are wedded to a philosophy. They are also prepared to die to defend that philosophy. I never suggested that anyone had the right to annihilate them nor did I say that anybody is happy to be a terrorist. But we know that Ends & Means both matter.

As for your example is concerned - Saddam is a criminal, but America is a bigger criminal. That’s not the point. But the least we could do is avoid those conflicts and try to resolve the matter for the BETTERMENT of the society.

Note (for Kinjal): By society I intend to represent the same society that kinjal meant when he wrote the following:
[Quote: Now if we really want to do something useful for the Human kind, we should all just join together and put all that money, energy, work force into science. That is truly the betterment of Humans.]

Remember I am not talking about the American war on Terrorism... I am concerned about the situation closer to our home.

"It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion."
"Noncooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good."