FOUNDER OF JAINISM?
Jainism is an eternal religion, whose origin is untraceable. Jainism believes the universe to be eternal, its constituents such as living and non-living substances may change form, but they are basically eternal, not created by any Supreme Being. Time rotates in a cycle, like a wheel moving clockwise, descending and ascending. In each half of the cosmic time cycle (aeon), descending and ascending, twenty-four tirthankaras establish the fourfold order (fourfold order means monks, nuns, lay men and lay women) and teach the path of bliss and perfection to all the living beings in the language they understand. The first tirthankara was Risabhdeva, who is traditionally believed to have lived thousands of centuries ago, founded Jainism in this aeon. The twenty-third was Parsvanatha (c 870BCE to 770 BCE) and the twenty-fourth (and last) was Vardhamana Mahavira who lived, according to generally accepted dates, from 599 to 527 BCE. He revived Jainism practised to-day.
What: Jains are the followers of the Jinas (tirthankaras). Jinas (conquerors of self) are those humans who, through their personal effort and self-realisation, have conquered their desires and passions and became omniscient by shedding the obstructive karma attached to the soul. They teach a simple pathway for eternal bliss and spiritual liberation (moksa) to all and attain themselves liberation by shedding all karma. Moksa is the state of liberated souls who are no longer in bondage to the karmic cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Jains follow the philosophy and teachings of the Jinas to attain moksha for themselves.
When: Jains believe their religion has always existed. It was, however, revived in the time of Mahavira (late 6“ century BCE). The first tirthankara, Risabha, is mentioned in the Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scripture, thought to be over 5,000 years old. Historically, Jainism is therefore one of the oldest organized religions in the world, if not the oldest.
Where: Jainism started in India, and spread throughout Southeast Asia. It has adherents throughout the world, mainly due to immigration, although most adherents still live in India. A sizeable community is found in USA, Europe, East Africa and other parts of the world. Because of the vow of total non-violence and reverence for all life Jain ascetics travel on foot and are only found in India.
According to the Jain belief the universe and its constituents are eternal. They are working by their inherent laws and are not created by any ’Supreme Being’ or the God. Jainism does not accept a god as creator or ruler, but it does accept those other qualities attributed to god, which are attainable practically by all human beings, through their own efforts by shedding karma attached to their souls. Jains believe in ‘godhood’, which can be achieved by any person who attains perfection by following the path of Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. Jains worship the perfected beings that have attained omniscience or spiritual liberation as Gods.
WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
Jains believe in a cyclic view of time with no beginning or end. The souls are eternal, but in case of worldly souls, they are bound by fine subatomic particles of matter known as karma. Jains believe in rebirth of a soul until one gets liberation from karmic bondage. It is very difficult to get a human birth. Only human beings are capable of conquering their desires and passions, and attaining spiritual liberation. Even the heavenly beings have to be born as humans to attain liberation. We might have come from any destiny: heavenly being, human, animal or plant, or infernal being — our past destiny depended upon our attached karma.
WHY ARE WE BERE? The meaning of life for us is to attain godhood or spiritual liberation (moksha) by following the path of Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct.
We have to conquer our passions and desires by following the spiritual path taught by the Jinas and shed the attached karma. It may require many rebirths and lives, but continuous efforts will ultimately attain our desired goal.
Jainism is followed by several million people in India and by a sizable Jain diaspora in the UK, USA and other overseas countries. Jainism is one of the World’s oldest religions providing a code of conduct and a way of life which rejects violence, self-seeking and dishonesty. Its philosophy and teachings of individual freedom, equality regardless of race, sex, caste and colour, reverence for all life, human and animal welfare, concern for the environment and strike a relevant chord in today’s troubled world.
Jain values are based on non-violence and reverence for all life (ahimsa), non-attachment to the material world (aparigraha), pluralism (anekantavad) and introspection, calmness of self and spiritual liberation by self-effort. Jainism believes in friendship to all and malice to none. Its teachings aim for the improvement of spiritual and physical quality of life for all. Compassion, equality, peace and harmony are hallmarks of Jainism. Its motto is “Live and Help to Live ”.
Jains of London have established Jain Network for the Jain unity, representation to the Government, and other institutions and to provide a place of worship and study, where people can practise these teachings.
The Jain values can be described under three headings for easy understanding:
- Art of Loving: to all living beings, whether they are human – irrespective of caste, creed, faith, colour, gender and disability; animal, plant and all the living elements of the earth.
- Art of Living: to live a spiritually and physically healthy life, full of compassion, equality, peace and harmony. Jains aim their day-to-day living on the first four words of Jainism – Justice, Affection, Introspection and Nobility.
- Art of Leaving: is to live a life detached from power, position and wealth. Jainism does not deny from earning power, position and wealth, it teaches to use these for the welfare of others. It also encourages leaving them at the right time to lead a life for the progress towards spiritual liberation.
Those who wish to progress on the spiritual path faster become Monks and Nuns. Jain Monks and Nuns take five great vows of ahimsa (non-violence and reverence for all life), satya (truth), achaurya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (celibacy) and aparigraha (non-attachment to worldly matters). They follow these vows totally, walk barefoot, don’t stay in a place for more than 5 days except during the rainy season, hardly possess any material things, meditation on the self and preach the message of tirthankar to the laity.
To practise these values the Jain Network is developing a magnificent Jain Centre in London with the blessings of Jain Monks and Nuns, Jain Leaders, and National, Civic and Interfaith Dignitaries.
Jain Centre, London will be an architectural splendour of white marble; it will include a place of worship and study for all major Jain traditions, world’s first Aum, and Hrim shaped 108 Parshwanath Jinalay. Jain Centre will also have a Multifaith Centre, a Community Centre, a space to practise peace and harmony. It will also be a resource centre for educational institutions and a global-hub, one-stop for information on Jainism.