Thursday, 10 November 2016

Nasthika Darshanas – 2


Jainism is a NasthikaDarshana, whose practitioners believe that nonviolence and self-control are the means by which they can obtain liberation. They trace their history through a succession of twenty-four Tirthankaras, or liberated souls who are the spiritual leaders, with Rishabha as the first and Mahāvīra as the last.  Mahavira is the one who gave Jainism its present form and the texts containing the teachings of Mahavira are called the Agamas.  These comprise forty-six works: twelve angas, twelve upangaagamas, six chedasutras, four mulasutras, ten prakirnakasutras and two culikasutras.  Mahavira was a contemporary of Buddha and is generally regarded as founder of Jainism.  Jainism incorporates the Hindu concepts of Karma and re-birth, but rejects the authority of Vedas and the idea of a creator God. Jainism accepts three Pramanas: Prathyaksha, Anumana and Sabda.  The Jain community today is divided into two major sects, Svetambaras and Digambaras.  The two sects agree on the basics of Jainism and they differ on - 1) details of Mahavira’s life; 2) the spiritual status of women; 3) rituals and 4) clothes for monks. Digambara monks do not wear any clothes because they believe them as possessions that increase dependency. Svetambara monks and nuns wear white robes.

Jains believe that the universe we perceive really exists and is not an illusion. It contains two classes of things: jivas, living souls (Athma), and ajivas, non-living objects (anathma), which include everything else, including space. Nothing in the universe is ever destroyed or created; they simply change from one form to another. Jains believe that the universe has always existed and will always exist.  It is not created by any God and it is regulated by cosmic laws and is kept going by its own energy processes.  Their prayers tend to recall the great qualities of the Tirthankaras and remind the individual of various teachings. Their rituals centre around sacred images and mantras. The Jain system also includes various gods, goddesses and protective deities who serve the Jinas, the liberated Jivas.  The Jain universe is in five parts. They are – 1) Siddhashila where liberated beings live forever; 2) Urdhvaloka where celestial beings live, but not forever; 3) Madhyaloka where human beings live; 4)Adholoka where beings are tormented by demons; 5)The base where lower forms of life, ekendriyas, live.
Jains believe that Jivas (souls) are infinite in number and their essential characteristics are consciousness (Chetana), bliss (sukha) and energy ( Virya).  The body is only an inanimate container for the animate Jiva. Jiva assumes the dimensions of whatever body it occupies though not identical with the body. Body only, perishes at death; Jiva continues to live taking a different body to live a different life.  This process continues until it attains liberation. According to Jains, souls are intrinsically pure and possess the qualities of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite bliss and infinite energy and exist forever.  But these qualities are defiled and polluted on account of the Jiva’s association with Karma over an eternity of time, that is beginning-less.
For Jains, Karma is a physical substance that is everywhere in the universe. Karma particles are attracted to the Jiva by the actions of that JivaKarma particles, on their own have no effect but when they stick to a soul they affect the life of that soul.  Jivas attract Karma particles through their actions, verbal, physical and mental i.e. when they say or do or think things. Karma works without the intervention of any other being - Gods or angels have no part to play in dispensing rewards or punishments.  A Jiva can only achieve liberation by getting rid of all the Karma attached to it.  The quantity and nature of the Karma particles sticking to Jiva cause Jiva to be happy or unhappy and affect the events in the Jiva’s present and future lives.  Karma sticks to the jiva because negative characteristics of the Jiva, passions like anger, pride and greed, make the jiva sticky.  Karma can be warded off by avoiding these negative characteristics.  Jivas can avoid Karma sticking to them by leading a religiously correct life. By living according to the Jain vows strictly, Jivas can get rid of Karma. The Jiva takes its Karma with it from one life to another.  There are 8 forms of Karma as per Jains, 4 destructive, 4 non-destructive. Destructive karmas are; mohaniya-karma (delusory),  jnana-avaraniya-karma (knowledge-obscuring), darshan-avarniya-karma (perception-obscuring), and antaraya-karma (obstructing).  The non-destructive karmas are vedaniya-karma (feeling-producing), nama-karma (physique-determining), ayu-karma (life-span-determining) and gotra-karma (status-determining).

The five vows of Jains relate to five abstinences:
·         Ahimsa (non-violence)
·         Satya (truthfulness)
·         Asteya (not stealing)
·         Aparigraha (non-acquisition)
·         Brahmacharya (chaste living)
The strict observance of these vows is called Mahavrata, which are followed by Jain monks and nuns. The less strict version of these vows to be observed by lay people is called Anuvrata.  These follow from the three guiding principles of Jainism which is called “Three Jewels”. They are; the right belief (Samyak darshana), right knowledge (Samyak jnana) and right conduct (Samyak charitra).  Ahimsa is the cardinal principle of their Dharma. A scrupulous and thorough application of nonviolence to everyday activities, and especially to food, is the most significant aspect of Jain religion. Ahimsa is more radical, and comprehensive than in other religions. Jains follow a vegetarian diet that excludes onion and garlic, while strict followers adopt Vegan diet.  Jains also take special efforts not to hurt even small insects and other minuscule animals.

Jain philosophy classifies non-liberated Jivas in five groups depending on the number of active senses. Human beings come in the highest class Panchendriyas (beings with five senses), ones who have the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. Others in the group are:
·   Higher animals: This includes all non-human animals above insects
·   Infernal beings: Jivas in Adholoka. This form of jiva experiences the greatest suffering
·   Heavenly beings: Jivas in Urdhvaloka.  This form of jiva is the happiest
The other groups are Ekendriya (with sense of touch only), Beindriya (with sense of touch and taste), Treindriya (with sense of touch, taste and smell) and Chautindriya (with sense of touch, taste, smell and sight).  As for Ajivas, they are divided into two categories: non-sentient material entities and non-sentient non-material entities like space, time etc. 

One other unique doctrine of Jainism is anekantavada, or the “many-sidedness of reality.”  The doctrine of anekantavada states that all entities have three aspects: substance (dravya), quality (guna), and mode (paryaya).  Dravya serves as a substratum for multiple gunas, each of which is itself constantly undergoing transformation or modification. Thus, any entity has both an abiding continuous nature and qualities that are in a state of constant flux. So according to this doctrine, all statements can be judged as true or not true or as both true and not true and thus inexpressible, depending on the point of view. The combinations of these possibilities can be stated in seven logical alternatives called saptabhangi. These seven propositions are:
1.   syad-asti—in some ways, it is;
2.   syad-nasti—in some ways, it is not;
3.   syad-asti-nasti—in some ways, it is, and it is not;
4.   syad-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable;
5.   syad-nasti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable;
6.   syad-asti-nasti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable;
7.    syad- avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable
Their notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view and no single human view is complete by itself and can claim to represent absolute truth can serve as a cure for dogmatism and fanaticism in all fields at all times.
Once a major religion, Jainism declined due to a number of factors, including proselytizing by other religious groups, persecution, withdrawal of royal patronage, sectarian fragmentation and the absence of central leadership.  But still it is a major religion, though the smallest. It had a significant  impact on art and architecture and on the philosophy of other religions in India.

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