Morning Explorations: Jainism

Ṛṣabha sculpture excavated in Khajuraho

One of my favorite all-time songs is Buffy Saint-Marie’s “The Universal Soldier”. I love both Donovan and Buffy’s version and well anyone else who sings this song. The song speaks the truth about religion and war. Here are the opening verses of the song.

He’s five foot-two, and he’s six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He’s all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen,
Been a soldier for a thousand years.

He’a a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn’t kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you.

Now the reason that the “Universal Soldier”  popped into my head today was that I was surfing around Wikipedia this morning and I went to the religion portal where I found an article about Jainism. As I started to read, I was fascinated by the tenets of this ancient religion. I knew I had to Find out more about Jainism.

Mahavira (599 BCE–527 BCE[1]), also known as Vardhamana  is widely regarded as the founder of Jainism, Actually, Mahavira was the twenty-fourth and last tirthankara of Jainism. A tirthankara is a person who has conquered samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth, and can provide a bridge for Jains to follow them from samsara to moksha (liberation). So  Mahavira should be regarded as more of a reformer of Jainism.  The first of the 24 Tīrthaṅkaras was R̥ṣabha or Ādinātha (Original Lord”), also known as the “Lord of Kesariya”).,

About Jainism, from Wikipedia……

Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul toward divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state of supreme being is called a jina (“conqueror” or “victor”). The ultimate status of these perfect souls is called siddha. Ancient texts also refer to Jainism as shraman dharma (self-reliant) or the “path of the nirganthas” (those without attachments or aversions).

The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Among the five great vows taken by Jain ascetics, non-violence is the first and foremost. Jains believe in reincarnation; the soul is trapped in the cycle of birth and death (samsara) due to the actions of karmic particles. They emphasize that liberation can be achieved through the three jewels of Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. Read More

Ahimsa outlines this cardinal virtue of Jainism……From Wikipedia

Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues[5] and an important tenet of major Indian religions (Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism). Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept,[6] inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. Ahimsa has also been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism.[5][7] Most popularly, Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of ahimsa. Read More

From BBC Religions…..

Jains believe that the only way to save one’s own soul is to protect every other soul, and so the most central Jain teaching, and the heart of Jain ethics, is that of ahimsa (non-violence).

Ahimsa is often translated simply as non-violence, but its implications are far wider; it is more than not doing violence, it is more than an attitude, it is a whole way of life. And for modern Jains the concept also includes the positive elements of working for justice, peace, liberation, and freedom, if doing so does not involve violence. Read More

The Jain Scripture states the following….

Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being.
Jain scripture

The following outlines some of the basic lifestyle actions one must make to live according to Ahimsa

Refraining from violence

One should refrain from violence to any living creature. Violence includes:

physical violence
mental violence
verbal violence

Ahimsa touches every area of life, so Jains:

  • are vegetarian
  • don’t use cloth whose production hurts animals or humans
  • take care to preserve life in everything they do
Mahavra - Jainism reformer

Māhavīra employed anekānta extensively to explain the Jain philosophical concepts (painting from Rajasthan, ca. 1900) 2

Ok so far I agree with the basic tenets of this religion, As I read on, I discovered more interesting things about the doctrines of Jainism…..another doctrine of  Jainism is Anekantavada……

 Anekantavada is one of the most important and fundamental doctrines of Jainism. It refers to the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth.

Ok so I found out a boatload of intriguing information about Jainism this morning. After reading and agreeing with many of the basic tenets of Jainism, I think that I will definitely be exploring Jainism mor fully in the future!

Links and References

1. “Rishabha khajuraho”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia

2. “Mahavra 1900 art” by Jules Jain – Photograph of Art taken by Jules Jain. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

BBC:Religions Ashima

Wikipedia Portal Jainism