Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jain Dharma

"Jainism is believed to be by its followers, without beginning or end. --The Jains by Paul Dundas

The Jain Way of Enlightenment has been described by writers
in many ways; stereotypically the Jain practitioner is described as ascetic, naked and filthy. He engages in bizarre practices such as self-induced suffering, hair pulling, abstaining from physical contact with others, and more.

What Jainism has traditionally done throughout the centuries in its native India, is to reject the traditional pantheon of gods who both create and destroy within the Hindu tradition. Jainists have often mocked Hindu scholars. They rejected Brahmanism, the belief that as the highest caste in India, Brahmans are the natural religious leaders, who claimed both social and religious authority. While there may be a shred of truth in regard to certain ascetic practices, the modern Jain, like his ancestors seeks enlightenment through non-violent means.

Further, Jain thought holds to views such as: re-birth is undesirable; that like Buddhists, they share a belief in Dharma and Kharma "as representing basic facts of human experience." Within the Jain Way or Dharma, there developed a practice of non-violence, and a corresponding antagonism towards Brahmans, human sacrifice, even 'sacrifices in substitution.' Historically certain castes of Hindus were made sacrifices; it was this practice that Jains specifically abhorred, favoring purification rituals that abstained from any type of violence. Finally it is the developed Jain concept of freedom from action as the way to spiritual purity, and thus enlightenment which illustrates the principal beliefs of Jainism.

Through lack of attention to their physical selves, Jains sought inner, spiritual purity. In seeking this Way, modern Jains, like those of former times may live in monastic communities, as monks or nuns; they may be lay persons, living a typical life, or they may be ascetics or mystics. All these different persons in their various Jain denominations wish to live a life that will bring to them an inward, interior spiritual purity.

While one of the world's oldest religions, Jainism is native to India. It is believed that it is perhaps among the few of the most ancient religions which survives in the near east today, with perhaps three million practitioners within India, especially in Maharashtra, and perhaps another 100,000 world wide in primarily English speaking countries. In his book, The Jains by Paul Dundas, he writes of the faith, "The Sanskrit word Jaina derives from 'jina' meaning conqueror... who, having overcome the passions and attained enlightenment, teach the true doctrine of non-violence... these spiritual conquerors act according to the teaching of the three jewels, namely, right knowledge, right faith and right conduct." Many traditionally Hindu practitioners, especially in the north of India, have adopted a number of traditional Jain practices, writes Dundas.

A Jain Prayer

"Friendship to all living forms,
delight in the qualities of the virtuous ones,

unlimited compassion for all suffering beings,
equanimity toward all who wish me harm,

may my soul have these dispositions now and forever."

1 comment:

sachin jain said...

Nice post. Such a wonderful information about Jain Tirth and Jain Temples in India.

Jain Dharma