Jainism: A Comprehensive Guide to Its History, Doctrines, and Beliefs


Jainism is one of the oldest religions in India with a rich history and unique doctrines. In this post, we’ll delve into the origins of Jainism and its evolution over the centuries.


Source: wikipedia.org

Jainism; is an ancient monastic religion of India. It is a heterodox religion in denying the validity of the Vedic (ancient Hindu) scriptures, pantheon, and ritual and the authority of the Brahman priesthood. Its approximately 2 million followers are known as Jains (Sanskrit, Jaina).


Jainism is known to have existed in Magadha in northern India in the 6th and 5th centuries b. c., when its doctrines were being preached by Vardhamana Mahavira. Mahavira set out on a religious quest at the age of 30 and in the 13th year of rigorous asceticism won supreme knowledge. From then until his death 30 years later he preached in and near Magadha. Mahavira had been preceded 250 years earlier by Parshva (Parsva), who founded an order requiring of its monks four vows: to avoid injuring living creatures, to be truthful, to refrain from stealing, and to own no property. This order united with Mahavira’s, and Mahavira added a fifth vow, celibacy. Parshva had allowed his monks to wear two garments, but Mahavira permitted none.

Parshva and Mahavira were not the founders of the faith but only the last in a series of 24 teachers, all called Tlrthamkara or Tirthakara (“ford-maker” over the ocean of existence and “founder of an order or church”). They are also called Jina (“conqueror” of the woes of existence), from which is derived the designation Jaina (“follower of the Jinas’ doctrine”).

The Jain Canon, composed in the Ardhamaga-dhi language and transmitted orally, is believed by the Digambaras to have been completely lost in the 3d century b. c.; the preserved portion of the oral tradition is said by the Shvetambaras to have been put into writing in 454 a. d.


Jain Doctrines

Jainism accepts the doctrine of rebirth and karma (action), which teaches that the doer of any act must experience its effect in this or a later existence. Salvation consists in release from the round of rebirth on the attainment of perfect knowledge. This is done through devotion to austerity and meditation, a goal for monks rather than laity. The latter aim only at reaching a better state in future existences. Jainism also accepts the principle of ahimsa (ahimsa), noninjury of living creatures, which it practices in an extreme form.

According to Jain cosmography the universe is eternal and moves through a continuous cycle of progressive decline from an ideal state to a nadir, followed by a progressive ascent until it again reaches a zenith, when decline starts again. The process of decline and ascent is repeated endlessly, very much like the moving hand of a clock.

Jainism acknowledges no supreme or universal god, though it recognizes many lesser deities. The universe operates mechanistically and consists of six elements, which are: individual souls (jiva), right (dharma), wrong (adharma), space, time, and particles of matter. Souls are innumerable and of two sorts: the perfected (siddha), who are in Ishatpragbhara at the summit of the universe, enjoying perfect bliss, and those bound to the world by a subtle body of deeds (karma) and sullied by contact with nonsentient matter.

Transmigrating souls are of various classes, depending upon the number of senses and certain other qualities they possess. First there are beings called nigoda, which are without senses; then

(1) beings with one sense (touch) and with body, respiration, and an allotted span of life; these include stones, clods, minerals, water bodies, fire bodies, and edible roots of vegetables;

(2) beings with two senses (touch, taste) and having, in addition to the qualities of one-sensed beings, the power of speech; among these are worms;

(3) beings with three senses (touch, taste, smell), among them ants, bugs, moths;


(4) beings with four senses (touch, taste, smell, sight), among them wasps, scorpions, mosquitoes;

(5) beings with all five senses, including hell dwellers, higher animals, human beings, dwellers in the various heavens—some of this class also have the quality of mind.

Souls suffer bondage to matter by karma, which may be good (puny a), that is, conducive to progress toward salvation, or evil (papa), retarding progress. When karma is finally destroyed, the soul attains salvation.

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