Introduction to Jainism
Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient Indian religion.
Followers of Jainism are called Jains.
Jainism is a transtheistic religion, and Jains trace their spiritual ideas and history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as ‘Tirthankaras’.
Their religious texts are called Agamas.
It was founded by Adinath and Rishabha Dev, while the real founder was Mahavira Swami.
The five Mahavrata (important principles) of Jainism are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya (not to steal), Aparigraha (non-attachment) and Brahmacharya (celibacy).
The first four were added by 23rd Tirthankar ‘Parshvanatha’ while the fifth was added by Mahavir.
Namokar Mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism.
He was born in 497 BC at Kundagrama in Vaishali (Bihar).
He was the 24th and last Tirthankar of the Jain tradition.
He was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.
He was a Kshatriya prince of the Lichchhavis, a group that was a part of Vajji Sangha.
The parents of Mahavira were Siddhartha and Trishala.
He married a princess named Yashoda and had a daughter named Priyadarshana.
He renounced the world at the age of thirty to become an ascetic and wandered for twelve years. He also practiced self-mortification for these years.
In the 13th year of his penance, he attained the highest spiritual knowledge under the Sal tree on the bank of river Rijupalika. This is known as Kevala Jnana.
Thereafter he was called Mahavira, Jina, and Kevin.
His followers were called the Jains and this religion came to be known as Jainism.
He gave his first sermon at Pawa to 11 Brahmans.
He died at the age of 72 at Pawa near Rajgriha.
Teachings of Mahavira
Jainism rejects the authority of Vedas and Vedic rituals.
It discards the belief in God but instead worships their Tirthankara.
The three principles of Jainism are also known as Triratnas which are; - Right Faith, Right Knowledge, Right Conduct.
Everyone had to strictly follow the doctrine of Ahimsa.
Mahavira considered all objects, both animate and inanimate, to have souls and different degrees of consciousness.
He even considered the practice of agriculture as sinful because it causes injury to the earth, worms and animals.
The doctrine of asceticism and renunciation was considered the shortest path to salvation by going to extreme lengths for the practice of starvation, nudity and other forms of self-torture.
Spread of Jainism
Mahavira had organized the Sangha to spread his teachings, much like Buddhism.
He admitted both genders in the Sangha.
Sangha consisted of both monks and lay followers.
The rapid rise of Jainism has been attributed to the dedicated work of the Sangha members who caused the spread of Jainism in Western India and Karnataka.
Jainism was patronized by rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, Kharavela of Kalinga and the royal dynasties of South India like the Ganges, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.
The first Jain Council was held at the Patliputra under the chairmanship of Sthulabhadra in 367 BC. It resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas replacing the lost 14 Purves.
The second Jain council was held at Vallabhi under the chairmanship of Devarddhigani in 526 AD.
They were written in Prakit language.
Acharanga Sutra: tells about the meditation of Mahavira for 12 years.
Kalpa Sutra: biographies of Jain Tirthankaras mainly Mahavira.
Bhagwati Sutra: it contains thousands of questions and answers on various topics from four Anuyogas such as soul, entities, matter, ultimate particles, and the universe.
Division of Jainism
The division in Jainism happened by the end of the fourth century BC.
A serious famine occurred in the Ganges valley. Various Jin monks led by Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya went to Sravanbela Gola in Karnataka. These came to be known as Digambaras. They follow the tenets of religion strictly.
The monks who stayed back in North India were led by Sthulabhadra; he changed the code of conduct for the monks. This sect became more liberal and started wearing white clothes. Hence they came to be known as Svetambaras.