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What is Jainism?

Jainism is an ancient religion that originated in India, which believes in liberation of the soul by practising and leading an ascetic life. In Jainism, human beings do not seek help from God and hence, is a religion of self-help. It emphasises on self-learning. 

Jainism considers right belief, right knowledge and right conduct as ‘three jewels’. It is because these three principles are guiding principles in a Jain’s life. Ahimsa or nonviolence is considered to be the supreme principle in Jainism.

The end goal of a Jain’s life is to release his soul from the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation. This cycle of birth and rebirth is an effect of one’s actions and attitudes, which Jains call ‘karma’. Karma influences this cycle and hence, Jains worship a group of 24 liberated souls called Jinas or Tirthankaras, to help them achieve the goal of complete liberation.

Who is a Tirthankara?

Tirthankar is the one who has conquered temporal and material existence through self-discipline. Jains worship 24 Tirthankaras, first being Lord Rishabhnath, who lived millions of years ago and the most recent being Lord Mahavir, who is the 24th Tirthankara.

Why is Tirthankara different from god?

Tirthankar is different from God as he is not a divine being. Tirthankar is a human being like you and me who by meditation, self-actualization attained the state of complete entitlement or kaivalya, and liberated himself from the cycle of rebirth and death.

What are the main principles of Jainism?

The main religious principles of Jainism are:

· Ahiṃsā (non-violence)

· Anekāntavāda (many-sidedness)

· Aparigraha (non-attachment) and

· Asceticism (self-discipline).

Jainism teaches five ethical duties, which it calls five vows. These are followed by Jain monks and Jain laypersons at different degrees. They are:

· Ahiṃsā (non-violence)

· Satya (truth)

· Asteya (not stealing)

· Brahmacharya (chastity or sexual continence) and

· Aparigraha(non-possessiveness).

What is so unique about Jain cosmology?

Jain cosmology is different, as according to Jain beliefs, there is no existence of a God who created this universe. The universe is endless, it was not created and it cannot be destroyed. It is everlasting, but it changes as it goes through countless cycles. These cycles are upward and downward cycles which are split into six yugas (world ages).

Jain cosmology tells that even Jainism will degrade completely when the cycle is at its lowest level and in the next course of the upswing, Jainism will be founded and preached again by a set of new 24 Tirthankaras, only to degrade again during the downswing of the endless cycle.

Why did Jainism divide into sects?

There were no sects in Jainism in the beginning. After around 200 years of Lord Mahavir’s death, the doctrine degraded as Jain texts were not written and the knowledge was transferred orally. This led to a difference of opinions and paved the way for Jainism to divide into two sects: Shwetambar and Digambar.

Both Shwetambar and Digambar sects believe the five vows preached in Jainism and also the fundamental principles which form the basis of Jain religion. These sects differ in their views regarding authentication of known and accepted Jain scriptures, the life of Lord Mahavir, few practices to be performed in Jain mandirs etc. however, the religion remains the same despite differences in beliefs and practices.

Why is Jainism known as the world’s most peace-loving religion?

Jainism was the first religion to practice non-violence (ahimsa) as a rule of life. Jainism is respected as the world’s most peace-loving religion as it strictly follows non-violence, to the extent where Jains try their best not to harm the smallest living creatures including microorganisms.

Jainism teaches an individual to respect and look up to the spiritual nature of every living being by teaching them ways to imbibe it in the way they think, live and act.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, a Hindu by birth, was inspired by Jain philosophy of nonviolence and embraced this nonviolence in every aspect of life including it in his movement for gaining India’s independence.

What is the contribution of Jainism to art and temple architecture?

Jain temples are spread all across India in varied styles from rock-cut architecture to North-Indian Nagara style and also South-Indian Dravidian style. These Jain mandirs hold marvellous, grand and mysterious architecture which is mesmerizing and greatly preserved by the followers through these years. 

At secret temples, you will find amazing insights about architecture and mysteries of temples which have passed the tests of time and stand great and grand even today.

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