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Jainism

The main problems of the contemporary society are mental stress, violence and conflict among various groups in different forms. Jainism teaches how to escape from suffering in this unstable and changing world full of misery. The three basic tenets, which form the core of Jain philosophy: are Ahimsa (Nonviolence), Aprigraha (Non-acquisition) and Anekantwad (Non-absolutism). These concepts are interrelated and interdependent and form a coherent system of thought, seeking to alleviate the sufferings of mankind.

Ahimsa is the most significant of all the teachings of Lord Mahavir. It has been generally accepted as the highest personal value in the Indian ethos (Ahimsa Parmodharama).


All human beings have an equal right to a peaceful life. Though some amount of violence is unavoidable, yet it cannot be accepted as the guiding principle of life. It is irrational and goes against the Law of Nature i.e., the moral law. Ahimsa towards all beings, including plants and animals, should facilitate ecological balance and sustenance of all beings. Vegetarianism is yet another way of living Ahimsa.

The practice of Aparigraha or non-possessiveness proceeds from the spirit of Ahimsa. And ahimsa cannot be effective without Aparigraha.  The emphasis of modern civilization on the consumerist tendency of satisfying wanton desires poses a serious threat to the attitude of Aparigaraha.

Anekantavad is the third tenet that Mahavir gave to the world. It is a fundamental perspective of life that awakens good will towards one and all. This principle maintains that the universe is a complex fabric of infinite realities, which are interrelated and interdependent because of their essential nature. Those, who consider the presence of total truth just in one particular aspect, necessarily deny the possibility of another aspect. The unique merit of Anekantavad lies in reconciling the extreme viewpoints. It helps establishing the truth not by rejecting the partial views but by treating all viewpoints in a pluralistic spirit, in search of the Ultimate Reality.         

 At 30, Mahavir renounced the world, observed rigorous austerities for twelve and a half years and achieved jnana. He had emerged as an incarnation of forbearance and forgiveness. Wandering from place to place, he began preaching simplicity, austerity, ahimsa and compassion for all. He established a fourfold congregation of monks, nuns, laymen and laymen devotees. Men and women were given equal treatment.

The jewels i.e., right faith, right knowledge and right conduct constitute Dharma. There is a great emphasis on forgiveness, humility and compassion. Don’t hide your faults and shortcomings, observe virtue of straightforwardness. The result of lying is an endless misery. Self-control, austerity and non-possessiveness are great virtues which ensure state of peace. Jainism advocates: fight against your own ego. There is no use fighting the external foe. Conquer your own self (ego) by your own Self (Soul).

Pride, anger, carelessness, illness, idleness are the five obstacles on the path of acquiring knowledge. Control on diet and sleep are highly desirable. Jainism says: The being whom you wish to kill is none other than you. The being whom you wish to govern and enslave is none other than you. Even an intention of killing causes bondage. Be free from fear and let others be free from fear. Faith, knowledge and right conduct, together, constitute the path of liberation.

Belief in the existence of six substances like Dharma are:  right faith; understanding of Angas and the Purvas is right knowledge; and the practice of austerity is right conduct. Knowledge without right conduct, asceticism without right faith and austerities without self control are futile. A wise man should not conceal or distort the meanings of Spiritual Scriptures. Knowledge helps to understand the truth, control the mind and purify the soul. To perform austerities (taps) or observe vows (vratas) without contemplation on the Supreme Self is futile. Right conduct is religion by itself.            

The seven vices, which a householder should abstain from are: sexual contact with a woman other than one’s own wife, gambling, taking intoxicants, hunting, uttering harsh words, giving disproportionate punishment and misappropriation of other’s property. Consumption of meat increases pride, which creates a desire for intoxicants and gambling. Thus one falls into the whirlpool of vices.

One should not tie, injure, mutilate, load heavy burdens and deprive  an animal or human being of food and drink. These five are the transgression (Atichara) of the vow of Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the heart of all stages of life, and sum (pinda) and substance (sara) of all vows and virtues and the core of all sacred texts.

Refraining from major types of falsehood is another vow. This is of five kinds viz., speaking untruth about unmarried girls, animals and lands, repudiating debts or pledges and giving false evidence.

One should refrain from accumulation of unlimited property due to insatiable greed as it becomes a pathway to hell.  Setting limits to the consumable and unconsumable objects of enjoyments, practicing mental equanimity (Samayika), offering food etc., to monks, guests and the needy and performing religious fasts called Ausadha,  are the  four disciplinary vows.

Charity is said to be of four kinds viz., of  food, medicines, scriptural teachings  protection to all living beings. The charity of giving protection to living beings in fear of death is known as Abhayadana and is the supreme amongst all charities, according to Jainism.  

Carefulness in speech (Bhashasamiti) consists in avoiding slanderous, ridiculous, harsh, critical, boastful and meaningless talk.

Internal austerities are:  Atonement of sins, humility, service, study of Scriptures, meditation and renunciation. One ought to confess one’s guilt without deceit and pride. He who hides his faults fraudulently becomes miserable, but he who confesses his faults honestly becomes pure and free from mental affliction.

If an elderly person is insulted, it amounts to an insult to all; and if an elderly person is venerated, all of them are venerated.

Humility is of five kinds: humility in faith, knowledge, conduct, penance and etiquette. Humility is the cornerstone of the Jain faith. The practice of self-restraint and austerity makes one humble and modest. To a person, who is not humble, righteousness and austerity are of no avail.

Perfect meditation is attained through knowledge; and by meditation all karmas are annihilated. Meditation is fundamental to all religious practices. A steady state of mind is the prerequisite of meditation while an active mind is might be engaged either in contemplation, reflection and apprehension.  

Jainism played a significant role in moulding the rich spiritual heritage of India. It saved the Indian society from the ponderous burden of omnifarious and ritualistic ceremonialism with its animal and other sacrifices. The Jains were the first great ascetics. “Don’t injure any and do good to all that you can.  That’s all the morality and ethics. The rest is all nonsense.”
 
 
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