What is Jainism?
Bhagwan Mahavir has asked every one to live one's life following these five core principles.
- Ahimsa or Non-violence
(No killing or hurting any life by thought, speech or action),
- Satya or Truthfulness
(Speak the truth that is pleasant (Madhur) and beneficial (Hitkari)
- Asteya or Non-stealing
(Do not take/use things that do not belong to you),
- Brahmacharya or Celibacy
(Win over worldly and sensual pleasures) and
- Aparigraha or Non-possessiveness
(Possess only what you need. Differentiate needs from wants).
Follow them with the Rational
Knowledge (Samyag Gnana), Rational Perception/Faith
(Samyag Darshan), and Rational Conduct (Samyag
Charitrya) that reflect a true understanding of the teachings of
Bhagwan Mahavir. In our day-to-day lives, we can imply Rational
Knowledge with the true knowledge about the things we say and do,
Rational Perception/Faith with the self-confidence in our ability
(as opposed to lack of esteem as well as arrogance and over confidence)
and Rational Conduct with our behavior that reflects true synchronization
of our thoughts, speech and actions.
Jain Monks/Nuns (Sadhu/Sadhvi) follow these at a much higher level or degree. They are known as Mahavrat for them. For people like us, we should follow at slightly lower level (but much higher than the prevailing standards). They are known as Anuvrat for us. Irrespective of which faith (or religion) one follows or which God one believes in, these things should help any one to lead a happy, peaceful and spiritual life.
is the God in Jainism?
The concept of God in Jainism is quite different from other prevailing religions. Jainism does not believe in the God as the creator of the Universe (like Monolithic faiths, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam). It also does not believe in God as the trinity of Hinduism, i.e., Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (as Creator, Maintainer and Destructor). It does, however, believe in the eternity of a soul and the supremacy of the liberated soul. A soul is present in the every living being, i.e. Humans, Animals, Birds, Insects, Fish, Plants, etc., but that soul is not liberated and has not realized (revealed) its full potential. It is known as Jeevatma, which goes through endless cycles of birth and death. Each soul (Jeevatma) is the possessor of the infinite knowledge, infinite power, but it cannot realize/reveal its full potential and goes through an eternal cycle of births and deaths. However, by following the principles in the manner described above with Samyag Gnan, Darshan and Charitrya, it is possible to realize the full potential of a soul and liberate it from the cycle of birth and death. The journey is long, difficult and full of obstacles. This liberated soul, Omnipotent and Omniscient, is the God in Jainism. It is also known as Paramatma (also Siddha or Siddhatma). Arihants or Teerthankars are those special people who in their last life as a human being show and open up the path to salvation by practicing what they preach and enable common people like us to achieve salvation by following the path shown by them. One sees the Pratimas of these Arihants being worshipped as Gods in Jain Temples.
are Teerthankars? What are their teachings? What are the main scriptures
of Jainism? Who is the founder of Jain Religion? (Was Bhagwan Mahavir
the founder of the Jain religion?)
According to the Jain scriptures, there is no founder of Jain religion. Shri Rishabhdev was the first Teerthankar of the current era, who opened the path to salvation (Mokshamarg). Twenty-three teerthankars that followed him imparted the same core message and showed the same path in tune with the prevailing times and circumstances during their lives. In each time cycle, there can be only twenty-four teerthankars. Shri Parshwanath was twenty-third and Shri Mahavir Swami was the last or twenty-fourth Teerthankar. Other names for a Teerthankar are Jina, Arhata, Arihant, Veetrag Prabhu. The meaning of the word Teerthankar is the one who establishes a Teerth. This teerth does not imply beautiful temples carved out of marble and precious stones, but a group of people who follow on the path shown by the Teerthankar. The Jain word for this is Chaturvidh Sangh or simply Sangh. The followers are divided into 4 categories, i.e. Sadhu (Monk), Sadhvi (Nun), Shravak (Ordinary Male folks) and Shravika (Ordinary Female folks). This Sangh is the Teerth established by a Teerthankar. Jina or Arihant is not only a truly enlightened soul (Buddha), but shows and opens the path of true enlightenment to the entire universe. That is why they are held in such high reverence and are worshipped.
The essence of the teachings of any Teerthankar remains the same. The variation that one may see is only external and is based on the needs of prevailing time and situation during the life of a Teerthankar. By following their teachings one can free oneself from the cycle of birth and death. They show practical ways to lead the life on the path shown by them or how one should follow the core principles. It may not happen overnight or during the current life. One must follow this path with Rational Perception, Rational Knowledge and Rational Conduct in their teachings and maintain a constant balance and synchronization among the three. Jain scriptures go very deep into the theory of Karma, Understand and win over our inner enemies like Krodh (Anger), Maan (Ego), Maya (Deceit), Lobh (Greed), how to lead a very ascetic and spiritual life, how to rise above Raga and Dwesha (Attachment or Favoritism and Hatred or Animosity), etc. The path may be long, but one must make a beginning and start without any delay.
The teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir have been scripted into Agams by Jain Acharyas several hundred years after his nirvana. Bhagwan Mahavir preached in Ardh-Magdhi (Parkrit language of the prevailing time). Many Jain scholars have written authentic books in Sanskrit, Prakrit and other Indian languages like Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada, etc. There is ample literature available on Jainism if one wants to study.
Who are Jains? Are they not all from the
business community? Are there any castes in Jains?
simply put, Jains are the followers of Jina. Jina means Conqueror
(comes from Sanskrit root ji). Jina conquers one's inner enemies
Kaam (Desires), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Deceit), Maan
(Ego), Madsar, etc. Jains are also known as Shraman (e.g. Shraman
Bhagwan Mahavir) or Nirgrantha. In India two schools of thought
were always prevalent, i.e. Vedic and Shraman. Jainism is another
name for Shraman school of thought, which was practiced and preached
by Teerthankars. Hinduism is another name for Vedic school of thought.
Like the word Hindu, the word Jain is also relatively new. People
from all walks of life can practice Jainism. It is not caste driven
and does not preach the superiority of one caste over another. However,
the historical fact has been that the majority of Jains have been
from upper castes. It may be interesting to note that Teerthankars
have been Kshatriyas (Prince or King), Gandhars (chief disciples
of a Teerthankar) have been Brahmins and Sangh members (Sadhu, Sadhvi,
Shravak, Sharvika) have been from all castes. In Gujarat and North
India, a majority of Jains are Vaishyas (from Business community).
Jains are there all over India. Compared to the Jain population
(less than 1% of India's population), the contribution of Jains
to India (in terms of culture, literature, sculptures, temples,
economy, etc.) is disproportionately high and significant. They
are also able to mix very well with other communities and religions
while maintaining a distinct identity.
Why do Jains fast a lot? Does it not mean
torturing your body?
Penance or Tapa is held in a very high esteem both in Hinduism or
Jainism. In fact, every major religion emphasizes on some form of
Penance. Right food in Right Quantity and at Right Time (Mitahar)
is the first step on a spiritual path and there is enough emphasis
in both Hinduism and Jainism. It does not at all involve torturing
or depriving your body. One should look at Penance or Tapa from
a very positive aspect of spiritual development. According to Jainism,
Tapa is an integral part of Rational Conduct. Tapa is divided into
12 types, 6 external and 6 internal. Internal type of Tapa is superior
to External type. Here is the list of all 12 types in increasing
order of importance and significance.
- Anshan (Fasting for a defined period)
- Unodary (Not eating to the full stomach)
- Vrutti-Sankshep (Eating restricted items or things)
- Rasparityag (Avoid taste and tasty items from diet)
- Kayaklesh (Training body with Yoga, Pranayam, etc.)
- Sanlinta (Training body, mind and senses)
- Prayaschit (Repentance)
- Vinay (Respect others, Show humility)
- Vaiya-Vachch (Serve elders, needy, Monks/Nuns, etc.)
- Swadhyay (Learning, Digesting and Practicing from religious
- Dhyan (Meditation)
- Kayotsarg (Meditation to the highest level).
In Jainism, Tapa is the right way to do
Karma Nirjara, which will lead to the salvation. One can now easily
understand why it is so and Tapa does not mean mere fasting in Jainism.
Why does Jain Philosophy emphasize so much
on Non-Violence? What are the practical aspects of Jainism that
any one can adopt in one's present life?
If one follows 3 A's of Jainism, it will help any one to lead a
spiritual and peaceful life. The 3 A's are Ahimsa, Aparigraha
Ahimsa means no killing through Thought, Speech and Action. Before one does physical act of violence, one goes through it in one's mind and speech. The time to act is when violent thoughts are going through one's mind or provocative words are spoken. Also one should address the root causes that prompt one to even think along the route of violence. Reply of violence through more violence precipitates only more violence. It takes more courage and willingness of self-sacrifice to pursue the path of Non-violence. Also, it is easier said than done. If one extends the doctrine of Ahimsa to all life, i.e. Humans, Animals, Birds, Insects, Trees, Plants, etc., it is easier to visualize the benefits of Ahimsa not just to mankind but to all living beings. It can bring peace and happiness to everyone. While it may not be possible to stop all the killings, one can at least make a beginning by not doing or committing the acts of violence which are avoidable, unnecessary and just for pleasure. One can develop qualities like Respect for all life, Forgiveness, Humility, etc. and overcome things like Anger, Ego, etc.
Aparigraha means not possessing and accumulating
things that are unnecessary and/or excessive. One must make a distinction
between a need and a want before acquiring anything. Jain Monks
and Nuns observe the Mahavrat of Aparigraha at the highest level.
For ordinary people the directive is to set the limits for the possessions
and diligently stick to those limits. It is known as Parigraha Praman.
An example would be to set an income limit of say $50,000/- or $100,000/-
and live within that. In case the income exceeds the set limit,
donate the extra income as prescribed by the Jain scriptures. The
correct observance of this Anuvrat is the most effective way to
win over Greed (Lobh) and lead a satisfied and peaceful life. The
benefits are very obvious and can be seen in the present life itself.
Anekant means listening to and respecting the opposite or a different
point of view and accommodating it wherever feasible and appropriate.
It recognizes the fact that people (in the same family, community
or country or world) have more than one opinion or point of view
over the same issue or problem. It also acknowledges that each of
these opinions may have an element of truth and one should at least
respect and recognize it, if one cannot agree with that wholeheartedly.
It keeps you away from the absolutist mode of thinking of ‘My
Way or Wrong Way’ and is the most effective tool for Conflict
Avoidance as well as Resolution. One can find the solution of many
of the to-day’s problems in the doctrine of Anekantwad proposed
by Bhagwan Mahavir.
One can easily see that 3 A’s of Jainism has universal appeal
which cuts across religions, communities, states and countries.
For further details, one can always refer to Jain scriptures and
What are Jain Poojas and Rituals? Are they
similar to Hindu Poojas/Rituals?
Like Hinduism, there are many Poojas and Rituals in Jainism that
one can (or should) follow. All Poojas and Rituals are broadly divided
into 2 categories, i.e. Dravya Pooja and Bhaav Pooja. Bhaav Pooja
is superior. Dravya Pooja involves use of materials like water,
flowers, etc. and is prescribed for ordinary folks like us. The
objective of Dravya Pooja, Temples, Pratimas and everything materialistic
is to go towards Bhaav Pooja (our soul). The highest form of Bhaav
Pooja is Dhyan and Kayotsarg, which is the sure path to spiritual
upliftment and salvation. Jain Monks and Nuns do all their duties,
rituals, etc. as Bhaav Pooja only, because they do not have any
Many of Jain Poojas involve Ashta-prakari (8 types) pooja. It involves
8 types of items. The usual order is Jal (water), Chandan (sandalwood
and saffron), Pushp (flowers), Akshat (rice), Dhoop (incense), Dip
(lamp), Fal (fruit), Naivaidhya (sweets). There is also Aarti and
prayer for Universal peace at the end of Pooja. This process is
very common with Hindu Pooja and rituals. The most common Jain Pooja
is Snatra Pooja (for shwetambar sect) and Dev-Guru-Sashtra Pooja
(for digambar sect). Many special Jain Poojas are also built around
good and bad events/occasions that one encounters during the life
and they are performed on appropriate occasions. Another common
pooja is the Panch-Kalyanak Pooja to celebrate the 5 most important
events in the life of a Teerthankar. These events are Chyavan (Conception),
Janma (Birth), Deeksha (renouncing the world), Keval Gnan (acquiring
the supreme knowledge) and Nirvana. Looking from another way, these
are also the events that one will go through on the way to salvation.
An interesting aspect of Jain Poojas is that you do not need a special
priest to do the rituals and proceedings on your behalf and connect
you to the God. As long as you know the process, you can do all
that a priest will do.
What is the significance of Namokar Mantra
Namokar mantra is the supreme mantra in Jainism. Any one who recites
it on a regular basis will benefit from it. It is also called the
essence of all scriptures. It is also known as Navakar Mantra or
Panch-Parameshthi Mantra. It does not worship a specific God or
Teerthankar or Guru. Also, it does not say anything about any religion
or sect. By reciting it one worships or prays five supreme entities
in the universe to help move further along on the path of spirituality.
The five entities worshipped are Arihant, Siddha, Acharya, Upadhyay
and Sadhu in that order. It has 9 lines. First two pray the Dev
tatva (Arihant & Siddha), next three pray the Guru tatva (Acharya,
Upadhyay and Sadhu) and the last four pray the Dharma tatva (Samyag
Gnan, Darshan, Charirtya and Tapa). Thus one worships Dev, Guru
and Dharma through this mantra.
Who are Digambars and Shwetambars? Who are
Jain Monks/Nuns? What are the main Jain Festivals?
Like any other religion, Jains are also divided into sects and
sub-sects. The core beliefs remain the same, however rituals and
interpretations vary. Jains are divided into two main sects, i.e.
Digambar and Shwetambar. This division came into existence several
hundred years after the nirvana of Bhagwan Mahavir. Digambar monks
do not wear any clothes and carry no possessions at all. Shwetambar
monks/nuns wear white clothes and carry the barest minimum possessions
to help them do their daily rituals. Any Jain monk, however, leads
very ascetic life-style with minimal needs and dependency from the
society. They move bare foot from place to place on a constant basis
(except for 4 months of monsoon). They do not have any worldly possessions
(like house, business, money, bank accounts, property, etc.) and
have renounced their families and family life on their becoming
monks/nuns. They lead a life of total spiritual development for
themselves and receptive society around them.
The major Jain festivals are as follows
Bhagwan Mahavir birthday
Chaitra Sud 13
8 day religious period for
Shravan Vad 12/13 to Bhadrapad
10 day religious period for
Bhadrapad Sud 5 to Bhadrapad
Bhagwan Mahavir Nirvana
Ashwin Vad 30
Jain deities (Pratimas) in our temple:
Shri Rishabdev Swami
First Teerthankar of the current era. (In the center, aka Mul Nnayak,
Shri Rishabdev Swami was the first teerthankar who opened the path
to salvation (Mokshamarg). Twenty-three teerthankars that followed
him imparted the same core message and showed the same path in tune
with the prevailing times and circumstances during their lives.
In each time cycle, there can be only twenty-four teerthankars.
Jainism is said to be the codification of eternal universal truths.
Over time, these truths lapse amongst humanity and then reappear
through the teachings of Omniscient Teachers called Tirthankaras.
Jains do not believe in a Creator God; they define 'God' to mean
omniscient beings who have shed their karmic bondages and are free
from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Jains bow down to the Tirthankaras,
a subset of Gods, for showing them the true path to enlightenment
and aspire to be like them. Jains believe that all living beings
are thus capable of achieving 'Godhood'.
Shri Mahavir Swami
Twenty-fourth (last) Teerthankar of the current era – (on
the left of Shri Rishabdev Swami, Digambar style)
One can find the solution of many of the to-day’s problems
in the doctrine of Anekantwad proposed by Bhagwan Mahavir. He has
asked every one to live one’s life following these five core
- Ahimsa or Non-violence (No killing or hurting any life by thought, speech or action)
- Satya or Truthfulness (Speak the truth that is pleasant (Madhur) and beneficial (Hitkari) to others)
- Asteya or Non-stealing (Do not take/use things that do not belong to you)
- Brahmacharya or Celibacy (Win over worldly and sensual pleasures) and
- Aparigraha or Non-possessiveness (Possess only what you need. Differentiate needs from wants).
Follow the principles with Rational Knowledge (Samyag Gnana), Rational
Perception/Faith (Samyag Darshan), and Rational Conduct (Samyag
Charitrya) that reflect a true understanding of the teachings of
Twenty-third Teerthankar of the current era – (on the right
of Shri Rishabdev Swami, Digambar style)
(In the Left Sanctum)
Shri Padmavati Mata
Sashan Devi for Shri Parshwanath
Shri Dharanendra Dev
Sashan Dev for Shri Parshwanath
(In the Right Sanctum)
Shri Bahubali Swami
He is son of Shri Rishabdev Swami. Shri Gomateshwar in Shravan-Belgoda,
Shri Gautam Swami
He is first and chief Disciple of Shri Mahavir Swami. He is shown
in sitting position.