Beliefs of Jainism and Jainism Philosophy
The Jaina stream of thought emerged as a result of its preaching by various Teachers. Tradition ascribes the credit of preaching different aspects of Jainism to 24 Tirthankaras, among whom Mahavira was the last. The 23rd Tirthankara Parsva Nath appears to be a historical person and he preached 4 doctrines to which Mahavira joined one more.
However Jainism as such had a close affinity with Sankhya philosophy and it developed a form of dry logic. The purpose of the logic was to prove that no definite or absolute statement on anything can be made. The Jaina philosophy did not preach the existence of the God or the Creator. It pointed out that man’s emancipation from suffering did not depend upon the mercy of any being or that of God. The Jianism Philosophers believes that man is the maker of his own destiny. A universal, cosmic, continuous law governed the Universe and the man.
What was most important in Jaina creed was the doctrine—soul or Jiva and matter—the Ajiva. Jiva meant two things consciousness and life. Consciousness led to the feeling, suffering of the soul. When the soul comes into contact with matter, it is born again and again and suffers. The highest endeavor of the soul is free itself from this bondage. The salvation can come by attainment of higher knowledge and meditation.
Jainism ascribes Jiva or life to everything both animate and inanimate objects. Plants, animals, stones are infused with life or Eva. The Jiva varies in shape and size according to the body it lives in. But when we talk of the Jiva we talk of the salvation of the soul. Each Jiva is subject to the law of the deed and suffers rebirth. Only pursuit of Supreme Knowledge and meditation and penance can release the soul from Karma. Jainism teaches that Jiva or soul by itself is as pure as sea water. But it loses its purity by contact with matter or Ajiva. Only by pursuit of penance, privation, meditation and seeking after Supreme Knowledge the soul can be released from the bondage of matter.
Mahavira therefore stressed non-attachment which could only destroy desire. Give up all desires and attachment and become pure as a lotus. Jainism is thus a moral code rather than a religion in the modern sense. It did not recognize any Creator, or any Supreme-Being.
After death of Mahavira, Jainism under-went a schism. In the 4th century B.C. large number of Jaina monks migrated to Deccan due to famine in North India, under the leadership Bhadravahu. The latter enjoined on his followers strict observance of the codes laid down by Mahavira including the discarding of garments. The Jaina sect who followed the leadership of Bhadravadu came to be known as Digambaras. Those who remained in North India followed the leadership of Sthula Bhadra and preferred to wear white garments were known as Svetambaras. Sthula Bhadra convened a General Council of the Jaina thinkers at Pataliputra and collated the injunctions of Parsva Nath into 12 Anushasanas or Rules. They came to be known as 12 Angas. The Svetambaras rejected the 12 injunctions adopted at Pataliputra and summoned a General Council of their sect at Valabhi. They selected and adopted 12 Rules called 12 Upangas.
While Buddhism had a rise and decline in India Jainism never vanished from this land during its long existence. From the 4th century B.C. to 5th century A.D. Jainism spread over different parts of India extending from Orissa in the East to Gujrat in the West. Western India, i.e. Rajputana, Kathiwabad, Gujrat became the heart-land of Jainism. The Svetambara sect had predominance in that region. The secrets of the survival of Jainism are its tendency that it never came into open conflict with Hinduism. Jainism did not entirely reject the caste system of Hinduism and accommodated some of the rites and beliefs of Hinduism. Jainism had larger followers among the householders than the Buddhists. Jainism patronized the faculties like economy, honesty and extreme non- violence. As a result it became more popular among the trading communities. Jaina creed deplored concentration of landed properties not wealth. So it became suitable for urban life and trading communities. Because it preached extreme non-violence and ascribed life to plants, insects and animals it was unsuitable for agrarian civilization. The Jaina teachers wrote the scripture in Sanskrit. The great commentator Mallinath was a Jaina and the famous Sanskrit poet Nayachandra was a Jaina. The Jaina devotees built many Viharas like that of the Buddhists.