Indian History - Jainism
Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient Indian religion. Followers of Jainism are called "Jains", a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) and connoting the path of victory in crossing over life's stream of rebirths through an ethical and spiritual life. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who is believed to have lived millions of years ago, and twenty-fourth being the Mahavira around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.
24 Tirthankaras of Jainism are following:
6. Padmaprabha-------The Jains believe that the Indus Valley
7. Supaarshva---------Civilization flourished during the times
8. Chandraprabha--------between the third and the ninth
10. Shitalnatha--------- The Aryans arrived into India
19. Mallinaatha-------The Aryanization of India complete
The 23rd and the 24th Tirthankaras had tremendous impact on Hinduism which had degenerated because of
(a) the practice of the untouchability of the shudras,
(b) the animal sacrifices in the yajnas, and
(c) the dominance by the brahmin caste in the religious matters. Both these Tirthankaras were kshatrias and were princes.
Such a person undertakes the following five vows of Jainism:
Ahimsa, intentional 'non-violence' or 'noninjury': The first major vow taken by Jains is to cause no harm to other human beings, as well as all living beings. This is the highest ethical duty in Jainism, and it applies not only to one's actions, but demands that one be non-violent in one's speech and thoughts.
Satya, 'truth': This vow is to always speak the truth, neither lie, nor speak what is not true, do not encourage others or approve anyone who speaks the untruth.
Asteya, 'not stealing': A Jain layperson should not take anything that is not willingly given. A Jain mendicant should additionally ask for permission to take it if something is being given.
Brahmacharya, 'celibacy': Abstinence from sex and sensual pleasures is prescribed for Jain monks and nuns. For laypersons, the vow means chastity, faithfulness to one's partner.
Aparigraha, 'non-possessiveness': This includes non-attachment to material and psychological possessions, avoiding craving and greed. Jain monks and nuns completely renounce property and social relations, own nothing and are attached to no one.
Doctrines of Jainism:
Mahavira laid great stress on a pure and austere mode of living. He prescribed a threefold path for leading a pure and austere life namely, Right belief, Right knowledge and Right conduct. This threefold path is called as Tri-ratna (three jewels).
The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a form of Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi, and may be classified as follows:
14 Purvas/Parvas – the oldest text of Mahavira’s preachings.
Besides this, the important texts are:
Kalpasutra (in sanskrit) – Bhadrabahu
Parishishta Parvan (an appendix of Trishashthishalaka Purush) - Hemchandra
Decline of Jainism:
Several factors worked behind the decline of Jainism in India.
Lack of Royal Patronage: The liberal days of royal patronage had passed away. The great rulers like Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, Udayin, and Kharavela had extended royal patronage to Jainism. But later on Buddhism eclipsed Jainism. The rulers like Ashoka, Kanishka and Harsavardhan had embraced Buddhism and worked hard to spread this religion.
Lack of Efforts: The jaina workers lacked missionary zeal. They were not enthusiastic in spreading the religion in villages and towns.
Severity of Jainism: The practice of severe austerities of jainism worked as a potent factor in bringing about its downfall. The jainas practise rigorous asceticism and self- mortification. Mahavira himself practiced physical hardships to realize the truth. But these severe practices were disliked by the people and they alienated themselves from it.
Spread of Buddhism: The rise of Buddhism worked as a powerful factor for the decline of Jainism. Buddhism was very simple. Buddha was opposed to extreme hardship and prescribed a “Middle Path”. Even a house holder could follow it. So it posed a threat to Jainism. Moreover, due to the rise of Vaishnavism, Saivism and Saktism, the process of the decline of Jainism became quick.