Origins of Jainism
Jainism originated in India, although its time of origin cannot be determined. Jainism believes in a cyclical nature of the universe. Jains believe in a universe without beginning, end or creator, hence Jains will refer to the present cycle of the cosmos. The word Jain means a follower of the Jinas (spiritual victors). This title, or that of Tirthankara, was given to a succession of teachers who, through their own spiritual struggle, are believed to have attained kevalajnana (infinite knowledge). Jains believe that there have been twenty-four Tirthankaras. In the present cycle of the cosmos the last of these 24 Tirthankaras, Vardhamana, usually called Mahavira (Great Victor) is believed to have been born in 599BC in contemporary Bihar, India. At the age of thirty Mahavira began a twelve year spiritual quest, which resulted in his attainment of kevalajnana and the founding of the fourfold order of sadhus (monks) and sadhvis (nuns), shravakas (laymen) and shravikas (laywomen). Jainism does not believe in God as the creator of universe but as a liberated soul (Siddha) who has attained Moksha (liberation from the unending cycles of birth, death and re-birth). Every human being and every living being for that matter has the potential to attain Moksha and thus become God. One who is liberated is called Siddha.
Although Jainism has been in existence since millions of years..but specially since its recorded existence more than 5000 years ago, Jainism has never compromised its core principle of non-violence. Rather it upholds non-violence as its supreme religion in the following words of Ahimsa paramo Dharmah and has strictly emphasized its practice at all levels.
Concept of GOD in Jainism
Jainism believes that universe and all its substances or entities are eternal. It has no beginning or end with respect to time. Universe runs own its own accord by its own cosmic laws. All the substances change or modify their forms continuously. Nothing can be destroyed or created in the universe. There is no need of some one to create or manage the affairs of the universe. Hence Jainism does not believe in God as a creator, survivor, and destroyer of the universe.
However Jainism does believe in God, not as a creator, but as a perfect being. When a person destroys all his karmas, he becomes a liberated soul. He lives in a perfect blissful state in Moksha forever. The liberated soul possesses infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power, and infinite bliss. This living being is a God of Jain religion.
Every living being has a potential to become God. Hence Jains do not have one God, but Jain Gods are innumerable and their number is continuously increasing as more living beings attain liberation.
Jains believe that since the beginning of the time every living being (soul) is attached with karma and also it is in delusion (ignorant) state of its true nature. The main purpose of the religion is to remove this delusion through self-knowledge and self-effort. This knowledge will remove karma which are associated with it from the beginning of time. When all karma get removed, the soul becomes liberated soul.
Jain Beliefs & Philosophy
- Ahimsa: non-injury to anyone or anything.
- Atman: no personal God, just consciousness.
- Bandha: the effect of karma upon a person which results in bondage.
- Karma: a physical substance which attaches itself to a person’s soul.
- Moksha: the liberation of a living being from the physical realm after innumerable karmic effects leading to reincarnation.
- Reincarnation: perpetual recycling of the person’s being until one attains moksha or nirvana.
- Sallekhana: literally means “holy death” by self-starvation.
- Salvation: self-accomplished through extreme asceticism and multiple journeys through the reincarnation cycle.
- Siddhas: those liberated souls at the top of the Jain universe.
- Three Jewels: right belief, right knowledge, right conduct.
- Tirthankara: literally means “ford maker” or “Conqueror;” an enlightened Jina, or which there are only 24, and Mahavira being the last of them.
Five Great Ascetic Vows for Jain Monks
- Thou shalt not kill any living being.
- Thou shalt not lie.
- Thou shalt not take what is not given.
- Thou shalt not have sex.
- Thou shalt not be attached to anything.
- Thou shalt not eat after dark.
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