There have been
twenty-four Tirthankaras or prophets of the Jain religion. The first
one was Lord Rishabh and the twenty-fourth one was Lord Mahavir. Contemporary
Jainism has Lord Mahavir’s pronouncements as the basis. They
include some of the principles enunciated by the twenty-third Tirthankara
Lord Parsva also.
Lord Mahavir preached his doctrine after attaining omniscience. He
propounded Religion by giving central importance to the soul. For
him, caste, creed and colour were not significant. Religion or Religion
came to acquire a comprehensive scope by upholding the principle that
casteism is not real.
Religion and sect as two separate things reinforced the basic unity
of Religion. There can be a plurality of sects but there can be no
plurality of Religion. True Religion consists in subduing attachment
and hatred. It is the same for everyone and for all times and all
Mahavir gives us the anekanta Philosophy (non-absolutism) to look
at the world. It is a widely used metaphysical concept and is an important
method in the quest for truth. According to this theory, you cannot
arrive at the entire truth with the help of sense perceptions because
senses have their limitations- they can at best arrive at partial
truth. Besides, there are as many facets of truth as there are ideas.
Therefore, before declaring that a particular idea is false, one must
try to discover its latent fragment of truth. This humble but comprehensive
viewpoint of the Jain Religion regarding the quest for truth is enough
to give it the status of a world religion.
Acharya Tulsi was camping in Hissar (Haryana). It was a summer afternoon.
Suddenly Kaka Kalelkar emerged as if from nowhere. The Acharya wondered
how Kaka had come without any prior information. The latter said I
was sitting in my office in Delhi thinking about anekanta. While doing
so I felt very unhappy about the inactivity of the followers of the
Jain Religion. People of all religions are trying to turn their religions
into world religions. But the Jains are totally inactive on this front.
They have a great philosophy like the anekanta, which qualifies as
a world religion, and yet they are least bothered about it. I was
distressed by it. I could not contain my grief and it explains why
I have come here in this scorching heat.
Kalelkar’s complaint did not merely have a tinge of grief; it
also had a lot of truth. The Jain Religion is a fit candidate for
being a world religion. For it supports human unity, explains religion
from a non-sectarian angle and concedes partial truth in the doctrines
of all other sects.
Stages of Soul
Religion postulates three stages of the soul: (1) the external soul.
(2) The internal soul and (3) the omniscient or liberated or supreme
soul. The external soul is characterized by an aversion to the quest
for truth. The internal soul is fully dedicated to the quest for truth.
One who attains self-realization is a liberated soul. Supreme soul
or paramatman. Lord Mahavira was a supreme soul. All those who are
fully devoted to spirituality have the right to become supreme souls.
Anyone who follows the spiritual practice that Mahavir preached and
followed can like him become a liberated soul. This principle of attaining
the status of a liberated soul transcends time, space and individuality.
It is a universal principle.
can be ascertained in two ways: scientific appraisal and popular estimate.
know the ultimate nature of the reality of subtle truths. We use scientific
appraisal. Popular estimate is used to know empirical truth. The form
of religion exclusively based on scientific appraisal cannot take
the place of a world religion. On the other hand a religious code
of conduct based on empirical truths has the potentiality of becoming
a world religion. The code of conduct comprising the vows enunciated
by Mahavir is universal. That code can command wide acceptance from
human beings living in any society.
Religion as a World Religion
universality of a religion can be assessed on the basis of the following
God, man the world
Intuitional perceptions or direct experience
Ethics and path of spiritual practice
Rituals and regular observances
picture of Jain religion, which emerges on the basis of the above
six, points automatically reveals its universal acceptability.
God: God is not the controller of the world. God is pure unattached
consciousness, eternal, unborn, desire less and not subject to reincarnation.
All souls, which attain the above characteristics, belong to the category
of a God. There have been countless souls of this kind and there will
be countless of the kind in future.
The World: The world is real. The constant natural and causal changes
of the modes of conscious beings, matter and other substances constitute
the sentient and non-sentient world. This perfectly tallies with the
concepts of modern science.
Man: Man is a living being endowed with special abilities. By birth
there is no difference between one man and another man. By awakening
his discriminating faculty. Man can make his present individual, as
well as collective life, happy and peaceful. For this what is needed
is not the worship of a God. But heroic self-effort. Any man can attain
the highest good through his valorous effort. Irrespective of caste,
nationality, creed or sex.
Intuitional perception or direct experience: Everyone can have the
kind of direct experience that the Tirthankaras had. It is possible
through dedicated spiritual practice. One who methodically practices
meditation? Yoga etc. Can attain direct experience. The maxim appannaa
sachchamensanjjaa (discover the truth yourself) gives the same direction.
The knowledge gathered through mere intellectualism will be superficial
and indirect in nature. Knowledge born of one’s own experience
is not possible and in the absence of such knowledge no progress in
the direction of self-emancipation can take place.
Ethics and the path of spiritual practice: The ethical code needed
for the practice of religion is much stricter than ordinary moral
values. It is not in the form of sectarian ethical directions, but
aims at intensifying spiritual practice and eliminating the impurities
of inner passions. The practice of self-restraint, control of the
sense organs and mental restraint etc. Constitute its basis. Its universality
is axiomatic. Social and group moral values have limited value in
a large context since they are contingent upon contemporary factors.
The code of conduct prescribed by the Jain Religion can fully satisfy
the above criterion and the needs of the times as well.
Rituals and regular observance: Such practice and props, which could
be easily resorted to. Heap in the progressive development of introspection
and are essential for those who are incapable of intense spiritual
practice. They (simple religious performances) are, on the one hand,
easily accepted and on the other hand. Help the aspirant to attain
spiritual heights through prolonged practice. Other religions lay
greater stress on devotion worship prayer rituals, etc. Where Jain
Religion, being grounded in one’s valorous self-efforts, lays
emphasis on those activities, which strengthen one’s faith in
the spiritual ideal. The famous formula of five-fold salutation given
by the Jain Religion in the form of navakaar mantra is unique. Besides
it there are directions regarding good conduct. Worship of saints,
treating guests properly, etc. Laying emphasis on the ways of worship
can be meaningful only if they are free from violence. Possessiveness
and inequality and the Jain Religion regards only such worship as
valid. Such worship is easy for all to follow.
Mythology: Mythological literature is a storehouse of religious traditions
and historical events. It appeals specially to those who are devotional
in temperament rather than to those who are rational. Children, women
and villagers find it easier to reinforce their faith in religious
ceremonies through mythological tales and illustrations. Mythological
legends, descriptions and discussions may smack of exaggeration and
eulogies, but taken on relative terms, it is not difficult to understand
their real intent. Any statement expressed metaphorically can be properly
understood in its right context. The special feature of the Jain mythological
literature is that most of its characterizations are based on human
behaviour. The accounts relating t deities, hell etc. is also consonant
with the intentions of the original agama literature. Nothing has
been included in them, which may be said to be an expression of mere
imagination and false notions.
Ultimate Goal: Only that religion can command universal acceptance,
which has as its final foal the elevation of the soul to the status
of the supreme soul or fully liberated soul. The sublimity, purity
and exaltedness of a religion gets destroyed if it regards its final
goal of life as the selfish pursuit of mundane goals of life and if
it is reduced to one of the means of solving day-to-day problems.
The Jain Religion regards only liberation (moksha) as the goal of
life. A person who behaves religiously with a view to obtaining worldly
happiness and satisfying selfish desires neither progresses towards
the final goal nor does he grasp the essence of Religion.
is not important when one attains the final goal. What is important
is that the spiritual aspirant marches towards it uninterruptedly
and constantly. Even partial progress marks an attainment of the goal.
Complete liberation is its final fulfillment. The above view urges
the Individual constantly to revel in his real inner sell. Such an
individual leans the art of leading a happy and tension-free even
while living in the mundane world. Passing joys and sorrows do not
deflect him from the enjoyment of inner bliss. The life style developed
by the Jain Religion on the above basis gives man the means to lead
a peaceful, happy and healthy life. On these founds. It is obvious
that the Jain Religion can claim to be a universal religion.
Religion is not to follow
is a common misunderstanding about Jain Religion that it is too rigorous
to be acceptable to all. The average man is attracted more towards
a religion, which can be easily practiced. Therefore, how can a religion
in which harsh penance etc, are obligatory become a world religion?
It can be only for a few individuals.
is important to dispel the above misunderstanding. Nowhere does the
Jain Religion lay down harsh penance as a compulsory practice. One
who goes on practicing spirituality according to his own capacity
and competence keeps marching ahead and scales greater and greater
heights of spiritual practice. Statement like ‘self-mortification
is religion’ or ‘starving is religion’ does not
belong to the Jain Religion.
are four constituents of the path to liberation (1) right knowledge
(2) right faith. (3) Right conduct and (4) right penance. A spiritual
practitioner can attain liberation by an integrated practice of the
above four. He can steadily march forward according to his own competence
by sincere self-effort. No one is bound by it. The possibility of
gradation and amalgamation of self-restraint and penance is so vast
that the above-dedicated practice can be under-taken in the simplest
form possible. Faith is concerned with the mental attitude, which
is free from the distinction between the simple and the difficult.
Right knowledge consists of their basic understanding of the ultimate
principle. No more knowledge is required.