Jainism: The Eternal and Universal Path for Enlightenment: 00.3 Preface

Published: 18.09.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

Amongst the various "religions", "faiths" or philosophical sects known to mankind, Jainism is not a "religion" or "faith" in the normal sense. It is actually a "path" enunciated by the Enlightened souls (Arihants) who were born ordinary persons and attained enlightenment by following this path. These Arihants belonged to any nation, religion, creed, class or society and therefore Jainism is not restricted to any particular group of people. In this sense it is universal. It is said that at any time there are millions of enlightened souls (Kevalis) in the universe. There may surely be other paths, with which Jainism has no conflict, but Jainism surely is one path for attaining enlightenment, enunciated by the Enlightened beings for those who seek enlightenment. It has well defined milestones (Gunsthāṇs). They are fourteen in number (Chapter 5). Gunsthāṇs (stage) 1 and 2 are starting points and stage 14 is considered to be the ultimate goal of every living being. The procedure for completing this journey is the main goal of Jainism. One is born in various yonis (species) which should be treated only as a detour from this path to enlightenment and once, one is back from these loops as a human being on the main path, one can continue the pursuit of this goal.

Jainism has given equal importance to the understanding of the physical universe and individual's physical, mental and spiritual development. All these aspects are equally important for achieving the goal. Unlike some other oriental religions, it does not consider the world as an illusion, nor does it believe in a supreme "God", the Creator. It claims that both, living and non-living are governed by certain laws and in this sense it claims itself to be quite scientific. It believes in the laws of Causality in spiritual as well as physical realms, as modern physics claims for the physical universe. There are, of course questions of fundamental import for both, those who believe in God and those who do not, that cannot be answered satisfactorily and are beyond logic. If God created everything, who created God? The answer is that he is eternal, self-created or swayambhu. The same questions arise for those who believe in nature or laws that govern the universe. Who created laws and why the laws are as they are and not different. The theist can take refuse behind God who created the laws as they are, but then this takes the question only one step back. We can only say that the nature is like this, like what we observe; the laws are eternal and are in the nature of things. To find a deeper meaning to the answer one must strive for enlightenment. This is the purpose of Jainism.

The basic approach of Jainism is that the purpose of all living beings is to develop consciousness to the fullest extent so that the true nature of the universe is experienced.The sensory organs have limitations of perception and cannot know the true nature. Jainism has given highest status to humans, even above "heavenly" beings (devas) and other forms because only humans are capable of conscious evolution, by will or by thinking, by adopting certain methods. No other species has this capability and all other species are at the mercy of the environment to evolve either in a passive way or by active interaction.

The Universe consists of two entities: Jiva (living, which can be called bios) and Ajiva (non-living, which includes matter and other non-living entities that control its transformation). The ultimate goal of jiva is to completely dissociate itself from material and attain a pure state where after it resides on an edge (the upper edge: Siddha śhilā) of the Universe, separated completely from the material world. That is probably the ultimate state, where jiva and ajiva are completely separated and free of each other’s influence, towards which the whole universe is evolving. To understand the basic approach of Jainism and to understand the path to enlightenment, it may be desirable to reinterpret Jainism in terms of modern thought and amalgamate it, as far as possible, with modern scientific knowledge.

Jain darśan (or philosophy) is one of the oldest and original systems, independent of all other thoughts, conceived and enunciated by Risabha, who reigned over India. The time of his rule is not well determined. It is prehistoric (Older than Mahabharat and Ramayan), certainly pre-Indus (older than 1500 BC) since seals depicting Jain saints and practitioners of Jainism are found in Mohan Jo Daro, Harappa, Mathura and other sites and inscriptions of Siddhas and Arhats are found in Udaigiri hills and Hathigumpha. It is also mentioned in Rigveda, considered to be one of the oldest books in the world (ca ~3000 BC) and also Yajurveda, written a little later. Lot of research has been done on the antiquity of Jainism, to ensure that it is not an offshoot of Vedic or Hindu philosophy (as is sometimes mistakenly believed). In fact many Jain concepts are contradictory to Vedic concepts. I do not wish to go into these details here, except to mention that Jain Arhats (Risabha and his parentage) and sādhus (called Vratya or Vatarsana muni or Nigantha) are quoted in some of the oldest sacred Hindu scriptures like Shri Bhagvatpurana, Vishnu Purāna, Padma Purāna etc. The inquisitive reader may like to refer to some of the references, given later in this chapter to appreciate the originality of thought and antiquity of Jainism.

Over the millennia since Risabha, Jainism propagated through practices and preachings. Parashva, about 2900 years ago (Before Present) preached the Chaturyāma Dharma: the four fold religion based on abstinence from violence (himsā), falsehood and stealing and acquisition of material things. 250 years later, the last of the Arihants, Mahāvir, introduced Brahmacharya, generally equated to celibacy, as an essential requirement for attaining salvation. The basic essence of Jainism was compiled by the immediate disciples of Bhagvān Mahāvir, who preached Jainism about 2600 years ago. These disciples, the "Gandhars" were omniscient (shrut kevalis) and described various theories of Jainism and Jain practices. Later these teachings were memorized verbatim by sages for several generations and were ultimately documented in scripture form known as Āgams, several hundred years after Mahāvira's nirvana. These sūtras were divided into two major groups: Ang Āgams containing direct preachings of Mahāvira which consist of 12 texts. The twelfth text is called Drstivad (which included 14 Purvas) and Ang-bāyha Āgams which provide explanation of Ang Āgams. There is difference of opinion on the number of Ang-bāhya Āgams and their numbers vary from 14 to 34 as accepted by various Jain sects.

Around 350 BC, about 250 years after Mahāvira, there occurred a difficult period of continuous famine for twelve years resulting in a break in the tradition of memorizing Āgams and during this period a significant number of Āgam Sūtras were largely forgotten. The Digambars consider Shatkhand Āgam, written by Ācharya Pushpadant and Bhutbali (and its commentary Dhavala tikâ, written by Ācharya Virsen) and Kasay Pahud written by Ācharya Gundhara between 100 to 900 AD (and its commentary later written in 780 AD by Virsen and Jinsen) and four Anuyogs (which includes about 20 texts) as their main texts. Padma Purān, Harivansh Purān, Ādi Purān and Uttar Purān written between 650 and 879 AD, constitute Dharma Kathanuyog; Charnanuyog (consisting of Mulachar, Trivarnachar and Ratna Karanda-Shravak Achar); Ganitanuyog (consisting of Surya-prajnapti, Chandra-prajnapti, Jaya-Dhavala-tika and Gommat-sar (written 780-1000 AD) dealing with astronomy, astrology, geography, and mathematics. The philosophical doctrine, theories, metaphysics, Tattvajnan, are contained in Dravyanuyog which consist of Niyamasar, Panchastikāyā Pravachanasār and Samaya-sara written by Ācharya Kundakunda (ca 100 AD); Tattvartha-sutra by Umaswati (~200 AD) and its commentaries and Aptamimāmsā by Samantbhadra (600AD) and its commentaries by Akalank and by Vidyanand (800 AD).

Svetambars, on the other hand, held several conferences[1], at Patli Putra (about 367 BC), Orissa (~150 BC), Mathura (~310AD) and two at Vallabhi (~454 and ~300 AD) to document the scriptures, as far as they could be remembered. The Swetambar texts are Achārang Sūtra (Aayārang) describing the conduct and behavior of ascetics and penances of Bhagwan Mahāvir; Sūtrakratāng Sūtra (Suyagdang) describes nonviolence, Jain metaphysics, and the refutation of other religious theories such as Kriyavâda, Akriyavâda, Ajnanavâda, and Vinayavâda; Sthānanga Sūtra (Thānang) and Samavayanga Sūtra) describing various aspects of Jain metaphysics; Vyākhyā Prajnapti and Bhagavati Sūtra (Viyah Pannati): This Āgam explains the subtle knowledge of soul, matter, and other related subjects. Thirty-six thousand (36000) questions and answers are presented in this text for clarification of doubts. It is the largest of the eleven Ang-Āgams. Jnātā Dharma Kathānga Sūtra (Nayadhammakahāo) explains Jain principles through examples and stories. This text is useful in understanding the mode of Bhagvān Mahāvir's religious preachings. Upasaka Dashanga Sūtra (Uvasagdasao) explains the code of conduct of the ten followers (Shravaks) of Bhagvān Mahāvir. This Āgam is useful for understanding the code and conduct of individual seekers (Shravaka Dharma). Antah Kradashanga Sūtra (Anatagadasao) tells the stories of ten sacred monks attaining liberation (Mokṣa) by destroying their karmas. Anuttaroupa Patika Dashānga Sūtra (Anuttarov Vaiya Dāsāo) contains the stories of additional ten monks who attained the top-most Anuttara heaven. Prashna Vyākarana Sūtra (Panha Vagarnai) describesthe five great vows (mahavratas) and the five worst sins defined in the Jain religion. Vipāka Sūtra (Vivagsuyam) explains the results of good and bad karmas through (several stories. Drstivad [2], the twelfth Ang-Āgam is of vital importance but is considered lost by all Jain Sects. Its description, which is found in other Jain Sūtras, indicates that this Ang-Āgam was the largest of all the Āgam Sūtras. It was classified in five parts: (l) Parikarma (2) Sūtra (3) Purvagata (4) Pratham-anuyoga and (5) Chulika. The third part, Purvagata contained 14 purvas. They contain the Jain religion's endless treasure of knowledge on every subject. Some scholars believe that it was named as Purva because it contained the knowledge which existed before Bhagvān Mahāvira, largely the preachings of Bhagvān Parshvanath. The legend has it that Srimad Rajchandra, born about a hundred years ago could recall the 7th purva through the knowledge ofhis previous births (Jāti smaran), which he heard directly from Bhagvān Mahāvir as one of his disciples in a previous birth. He summarized it in his book Ātmasiddhi and this narration can be taken as authentic (see Chapter 2) version of this section of Drstivād.

The various Swetambar Upangs illustrate the teachings of Bhagvān Mahāvir by stories and include Aupa Patika Sūtra (Ovavaiya) which describes the view of King Konika when he visited Bhagvān Mahāvir. It also explains how a person can attain heaven in the next life; Raja Prashniya Sūtra (Raya Pasen Ijja) describes the story ofsage Keshi. Keshi was the Ganadhara of Bhagvān Parshvanath. He removed the doubts of King Pradeshi regarding the existence and attributes of the soul. Jivabhigama Sūtra describes the universe and the subtle description of all living beings (souls) of the universe. It deals with various aspects of biology and botany. Prajnapana Sūtra (Pannavana) describes the form and attributes of souls from a different perspective. Surya Prajnapti (Surya Pannati) and Chandra Prajnapati dealing with astronomy, motion of Sun and Moon; Jambudveepa Prajnapti deals withgeography and history: The Nirayavali Sūtra, Kalpa Vatansika Sūtra (Kappavadamsiao), Pushpika Sūtra (Puspiao), Pushpa Chulika Sūtra, Vrashnidasha Sūtra (Vanhidasao) describe some events and stories during ancient times. Besides there are several mool Sūtras like Āvashyaka Sūtra describing through several stories. Dâstivada1, the twelfth Ang-āgam is of vital importance but is considered lost by all Jain Sects. Its description, which is found in other Jain Sutras, indicates that this Ang-agam was the largest of all the Agam Sutras. It was classified in five parts;

(l) Parikarma (2) Sutra (3) Purvagata (4) Pratham-anuyoga and (5) Chulika.

The third part, Purvagata contained 14 purvas. They contain the Jain religion's treasure of knowledge on every subject. Some scholars believe that it was named as Purva because it contained the knowledge which existed before Bhagvān Mahāvira, largely the preachings of Bhagvān Pārshvanath. The legend has it that Srimad Rajchandra, born about a hundred years ago could recall the 7th purva through the knowledge of his previous births (Jāti smaran), which he heard directly from Bhagvān Mahāvir as one ofhis disciples in a previous birth. He summarized it in his book Atmasiddhi and this narration can be taken as authentic (see Chapter 2) version of this section of Dâstivad.

7th Purva is referred as Atmapravād and deals with six fundamentals. They were described by Acharya Siddhsen Diwakar in Sanmati Prakaran about 1800 years ago (cf Atmasiddhi by Srimad Rajchandra).

The various Swetambar Upangs illustrate the teachings of Bhagvān Mahāvir by stories and include Aupa Patika Sūtra (Ovavaiya) which describes the view of King Konika when he visited Bhagvān Mahāvir. It also explains how a person can attain heaven in the next life; Raja Prashniya Sūtra (Raya Pasen Ijja) describes the story of sage Keshi. Keshi was the Ganadhara of Bhagvan Parshvanath. He removed the doubts of King Pradeshi regarding the existence and attributes of the soul. Jivabhigama Sūtra describes the universe and the subtle description of all living beings (souls) of the universe. It deals with various aspects of biology and botany. Prajnapana Sūtra (Pannavana) describes the form and attributes of souls from a different perspective. Surya Prajnapti (Surya Pannati) and Chandra Prajnapati dealing with astronomy, motion of Sun and Moon; Jambudveepa Prajnapti deals with geography and history: The other four Nirayavali Sūtra, Kalpa Vatansika Sūtra (Kappavadamsiao), Pushpika Sutra (Puspiao), Pushpa Chulika Sutra, Vrashnidasha Sūtra (Vanhidasao) describes some events and stories during ancient times. Besides there are several mool sutras like Āvashyaka Sūtra describing the daily rituals or routines, which is necessary for purification of soul, are called Āvashyak (essentials; Chapter 6). A description of the six routines Samayika, Chaturvinshatistava, Vandana, Pratikramana, Kayotsarga, and Pratyakhyana are explained in this Āgam. The very important Uttarādhyayana Sūtra containing preachings regarding religious principles and practices, and many stories, dialogues, and examples based on such principles and practices and chulikā Sūtras (e.g. Nandi Sūtra, dealing with various types of jnāns) are also main Upangs.

The purpose of mentioning the principal Jain scriptures above is two fold. Firstly they provide the source material on Jainism so that the readers who are interested in original texts can refer to them. Secondly and more importantly, we want to emphasise that the texts are only "compilations" by knowledgeable saints and scholars. They were documented many centuries after Bhagvān Mahāvir and although they contain answers given by the Enlightened Arihants, they have been recalled from the memorized versions. For this reason, they need not be taken as accurately verbatim because of various limitations in memorizing due to passage of time, evolving interpretation over ages and the influence of other cotemporary thought. The rigidity with which one should take them as the "word of the Lord" should therefore be critically borne in mind.

Science is objective in the sense that it examines and analyses various objects in the universe and is independent of the observer. On the other hand, religion is subjective. It is concerned with the self. Thus science is experimental and religion is experiential. The questions is: Is there another way, other than the scientific approach to arrive at the truth? Can meditation lead to the same end results as the modern scientific tools? And can both of them, science and meditation, be integrated into one holistic methodology? For this purpose, one has to debate issues which have common ground in science and religion.

This book is not intended to be an exposition of the Āgams; rather it attempts to bring out their main aspects in a simplistic and easily understandable way, trying to find some common ground between Jainism and modern science. One should also bear in mind that the original preachings of Mahāvir were in Ardh-Māgadhi or Prākrit, a language long forgotten by the masses and replaced first by Sanskrit and later by Hindi and other regional languages. It is customary to stick to the original texts for sake of purity but although the concepts and cardinal points may be the same, the language has changed over the many millennia and it is extremely difficult to comprehend the original texts, even by the learned scholars since it often includes an element of interpretation. It is difficult to ascertain the veracity of all the texts but, on comparing them with modern scientific observations, we come to the conclusion that some aspects such as the units of time and space, geography and some aspects of observational astronomy as described in these compilations, have been corrupted (Appendix 1) since they are mentioned differently in different places. This is reason enough for a critical assessment and reinterpretation of as many aspects as possible in terms of modern scientific thought.

There are areas where religion and science are exclusive, i.e. in the domains of spiritualism, and there are also some areas where overlap between them exists, since as mentioned above in the subject matter of various texts, Jainism devotes as much importance to physics, chemistry, biology, botany, astronomy and geography, as it gives to spiritual aspects of soul, and procedures for its purification. There are bound to be disagreements but our effort is to reconcile the two where ever and to the extent possible.

This book is based on my notes prepared to understand Jainism. It should not be considered as an authoritative treatment but rather as a primer, compiled in a book form. The main purpose is that other seekers like me may find it useful and save time in their quest of getting familiar with Jain thought. The book is intended to introduce the reader to minimum basic concepts of Jainism, both in theory and in practice, and the procedures suggested for achieving enlightenment. It is not meant to be exhaustive, nor we quote much from the scriptures to authenticate the version presented here. A learned reader may find that rigour has been sacrificed for sake of simplification, but that is the approach taken in this book. As far as I could understand, Jainism is based on five pillars: Ātmavād, Karmavād, Anekāntavād, Kriyāvād and Lokavād. They are discussed here briefly. The book is divided in two parts, the first dealing with the first four aspects and the second part dealing with various aspects of Lokvad. Thus, the first part deals with basic tenets of Jainism and the second part compares Jain thought with various branches of science like physics, cosmology, chemistry and biology. After arguing the universal applicability of Jainism (Chapter 1), the book deals, rather briefly, with the main foundations of Jainism i.e. The cardinal truths (Chapter 2), Anekāntavād and Karmavād (Chapters 3 and 4). There are numerous books and treatises from learned and enlightened scholars on these aspects and therefore the purpose here is not to deal with these aspects in rigorous or comprehensive way but just to make the reader aware of the essential aspects of Jainism. The later part of this book, Chapters 5, 6, and 7 deal with the path recommended for salvation, as one goes to higher states (Gunsthāṇs, Chapter 5), by practicing Jain procedures (Chapter 6) which also deals with their physiological and physical effects. The Part II of the book deals with a general discussion on Jain concepts in light of modern scientific knowledge: Modern Physics (Chapter 7), Cosmology (Chapter 8), Combination Chemistry (Chapter 9) and Biology (Chapter 10).

I have borrowed material from various sources and web sites and do not claim anything original. Sometimes the material has been used without verifying their original source and if there is any material which is not authentic, I stand to be excused. Some Hindi words (mentioned in italics) have been retained as they are, since there are no equivalent words in English which can convey the same perception. Translation of some words in to English would have made this book unreadable and difficult to comprehend. Therefore knowledge of both English and Hindi is required to fully appreciate the implied meaning.

I hope that the book will become a bridge in our understanding of Jainism in context of science and provide a philosophical basis, which will be useful for an individual as well as the society and, in howsoever small a measure, make Jainism relevant to the modern way of life.

Narendra Bhandari

Footnotes
1:

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2:

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Sources

Jainism - The Eternal and Universal Path for Enlightenment - Narendra Bhandari- jainismbook_final_28-5-2011.pdf

Edited by:
Acharya Vijay Nandi Ghosh Sūri

Published by:
Research Institute of Scientific Secrets from Indian Oriental Scriptures (RISSIOS), Ahmedabad

Online Edition 2011: HN4U

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Agam
  3. Ajiva
  4. Anekāntavād
  5. Arhats
  6. Arihants
  7. Bhagvān Mahāvir
  8. Brahmacharya
  9. Celibacy
  10. Consciousness
  11. Darśan
  12. Devas
  13. Devendra
  14. Dharma
  15. Environment
  16. Essence of Jainism
  17. Ganadhara
  18. Gandhars
  19. Gunsthāṇs
  20. Harappa
  21. Himsā
  22. Jainism
  23. Jiva
  24. Kalpa
  25. Karmas
  26. Kayotsarga
  27. Kevalis
  28. Kundakunda
  29. Lokavād
  30. Mahabharat
  31. Mahavratas
  32. Mathura
  33. Meditation
  34. Mohan Jo Daro
  35. Mokṣa
  36. Muni
  37. Narendra Bhandari
  38. Nirvana
  39. Nonviolence
  40. Omniscient
  41. Orissa
  42. Parikarma
  43. Parshvanath
  44. Pratikramana
  45. Pratyakhyana
  46. Purva
  47. Purvas
  48. Risabha
  49. Samayika
  50. Sanskrit
  51. Science
  52. Shravaks
  53. Siddha
  54. Siddhasen Diwakar
  55. Soul
  56. Space
  57. Srimad Rajchandra
  58. Sutra
  59. Swetambar
  60. Sādhus
  61. Sūtra
  62. Uttarādhyayana
  63. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra
  64. Vallabhi
  65. Vandana
  66. Vedic
  67. Violence
  68. shravaka
  69. siddhas
  70. Āgams
  71. Āvashyak
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