How does Jainism fit in Hinduism?
A nice article I found on a usenet group:
Vedic, Bauddha and Jaina are branches of Sanatana Dharma. Jainism is
certainly as old as the Vedic dharma. Two of its 24 Tirthankaras, Rishaba and
Arishtanemi, are mentioned in the Rig Vedas. Rishaba, the first of the
Tirthankaras, is believed to be the founder of Jaina dharma while Mahavira is
Jainism, Buddhism and Carvaka systems are considered nastika
(heterodox) sampradaya of Sanatana Dharma while Nyaya, Vaiseshka, Sankhya,
Yoga, Purva Mimansa and Vedanta are the called astika or orthodox systems.
I give below a comparison between Jainism and Hinduism in general and
between Jainism and Sankhya darshan in particular:
Jainism and Hinduism
1. Jainism rejects the rituals of Vedas i.e. the Karma Kanda of the
Vedas and also the caste system. Of course Vedic rituals (Karma Kanda) are
really for beginners. Jains, however, want to have nothing to do with them
from the very beginning. Also the caste system as propounded by Sri Krishna in
the Gita is a merit based system while caste system as seen in Hindu society is
a birth based system. That is Hindus do not follow Sri Krishna's advice.
2. It does not accept God as the creator of the world. According to
Jaina sampradaya the universe is beginning-less (anadi), endless (ananta) and
operates according to natural laws. The various Vedantic sampradayas have
different views on the subject. Advaita Vedanta holds that The Ultimate Reality
is impersonal and the world is a projection and is ultimately unreal. There is
a Personal God but such a God is ultimately unreal also. The other schools of
Vedanta like Vishistadvaita and dvaita hold the Ultimate Reality as Personal
and that the universe is real. There are other Vedantic schools which give
equal importance to impersonal and personal God (Bhedabhed, Sri Ramakrishna's
3.Both Jainism and Hinduism believe in the immortality of the soul and
in the law of Karma. Both accept the doctrine of Ahimsa (non-violence). But
Jainism makes Ahimsa its central doctrine and it is the first of the five vows,
(ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing),
brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-attachment)) taught by the last
4. The goal of life according to Jainism is to attain Kevala. You may
wonder that since there is no Personal God what does attaining Kevala mean?
It is necessary to discuss the concept of Jiva in Jainism to understand this.
There are two independent and distinct categories of Reality, Jiva (soul) and
Ajiva [matter(pudgala), space(akash), time (kala), dharma, and adharma]. A
liberated Jiva has perfect knowledge, purity, peace etc. A bound Jiva has a
body and is associated with karmic forces. Jainism considers karmic forces to
be matter like which actually cover the glory of soul. The analogy given is
like a lamp covered by soot. To attain Kevala means to restore the glory of the
soul by removing the covering of Karma. The Jain teaching is not that different
from Advaita Vedanta. Both Kevala and Mokhsha allow jivas to transcend the
world of names and forms. It is necessary to take the five vows (mentioned in
point (2) and to follow the three jewels (right faith, right knowledge, and
right conduct) to attain Kevala. Kevala can be reached by one's own effort.
There is no savior. The person wanting Kevala must do selfless work without
desire for rewards. Jainism emphasizes ascetism.
So Jainism is infact quite similar to Advaita Vedanta specially to the
path of Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga. There is some similarity with Sankhya
as both reject the idea of a creator God. The differences between them are in
defining certain concepts like jiva. In jainism, jiva is characterized by
consciousness, life, immateriality, and extension in space. The size of the
individual soul is the same as the size of the body it occupies; expanding and
contracting. In Sankhya, purusha is an eternal,immutable, conscious entity
which is nonactive and has neither birth or death. So there is no question of
contraction or expansion of the jiva. It is the phenomenal self, a blend of
purusha and mind, which is subject to change. There are also other differences.
Jainism and Sankhya
All Indian philosophical systems are concerned with four basic issues:
Jiva (individual soul), Jagat (world), Brahman/Ishwar (Absolute/Personal God)
and Mokhsa (liberation). We have to compare the position of Jaina dharma and
Sankhya darshana on these four issues to be able to see the similarities and
Both Jaina dharma and Sankhya darshana deny the existence of a creator
If you deny the existence of a creator then you have to face the
problem of explaining the existence of the world. As we will see these two
systems solve the problem in two different ways.
Jaina dharma denies there is any creation. To understand the Jaina
position we have to know that there are two major categories in Jaina dharma,
Jiva (individual soul) and Ajiva (non-soul). Jiva and Ajiva comprise the whole
of universe and both are eternal. To those who think that there needs to be a
creator to create the universe, the jainas ask: who will create the creator?
In Jaina view it is dangerous to assume the existence of a creator as it will
create the need for more creators. It is best to terminate the series at the
level of jiva and ajiva, both of which are eternal. The world is real in Jaina
view unlike Advaita Vedanta for example.
Sankhya darshana also denies that there is any creation but in a
different manner. Sankhya darshana also has two categories, Purusha and
Prakriti. Purusha is pure Consciousness while Prakriti contains within itself
the materials for the universe which evolves into mind and matter. There are
many Purushas but only one Prakriti. The entire universe has come out of
prakriti by the proximity of Purusha and into it it will return. There has
been no creation and so there will be no destruction. So Prakriti may be
thought of as the uncaused cause of the universe. Sankhya darshana postulates
evolution of a real universe from a primordial prakriti (satkarya vada).
According to Jaina dharma, Jiva (individual soul) is characterized
by consciousness, life, immateriality and is madhyama-parimana (middling size)
. The individual occupies the whole of the body in which he dwells, changing
with the body as it changes. This idea of a changing soul is strikingly
different from the idea of the eternal, immutable, conscious Purusha of
All major sampradayas of Sanatan Dharma agree that Mokhsa is
liberation from the bonds of Karma and rebirth. Jaina Dharma is unique in that
it postulates that Karma is something material albeit very fine as not to be
perceived by the senses. As the soul comes into contact with the material
world it experiences desire for enjoyment, for example, which causes the karma
molecules to flow into the soul and change its size. This flowing in of Karma
particles into the soul is called asrava and is unique to Jaina metaphysics.
Then the molecules become settled and build up a body on the soul called
karmana sarir. Even when the physical body dies the soul together with the
karmana sarira live on until the final liberation. Moksha essentially means
freeing the soul from the weight of the karma particles accumulated over many
In Sankhya darshana a jiva is bound when he identifies through
ignorance with his mind, intellect and body. Liberation is achieved when the
jiva realizes that he is pure consciousness or Purusha. The jiva has apart from
the gross body also a subtle body which consists of the intellect, mind and
the senses. When the gross body dies the subtle body which contains the
impressions due to Karma exists. These impressions on the subtle body
determines the next birth. Thus in Sankhya the soul is kept constant while
Karma which is non-material affects the subtle body of the Jiva.
Was originallly written by Pradip Gangopadhyay