Jain Religion and its Antiquity

Published: 03.04.2012

The paper, published in September 1977 in Hindutva (Vol. VIII, No. 6, pp. 19-25, 32), was primarily adressed to a Hindu readership to improve their knowledge on Jainism. In this sense the essay gives an interesting overview of some aspects of Jaina religion, even if the information on the Dravidas, given in the last section, is not reliable from an academic point of view.


Before the 19th Century, the predominant religion in India was the Hindu religion derived and transformed from Vedic cult and influenced by the Jain religion, particularly after Lord Mahavir, the last of the 24th Tirthankars of the Jain religion.

Among the non-Jains, very few people knew the true dimensions of the Jain religion. Only the Jains, the followers of Jina, asserted the view based partly on history and partly on Jain Scriptures, such as Mahapuran, that the Jain religion was independent and one of the oldest religions.


View of European scholars

After the first decade of the 19th Century, a host of eminent European scholars came to study oriental religion in India, giving close attention to the origin and development of Vedas, Jainism and Buddhism. German scholars showed special interest, besides British and French scholars, in particular. In this country this subject was studied by Indian scholars, particularly after 1870, when Buddhist influence had diminished to a large extent in India.


View of Sir S. Radhakrishnan

The world renowned scholar in Philosophy in India, Sir S. Radhakrishnan, who became President, and late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister, devoted substantial time in evolving a view on Jain religion. Both the scholars have stated in their well-known books that Jain religion is an Independent religion. There were a number of scholars who held the same view even long before. As there is similarity in the bodies of human beings yet there are different races. So also, religions resemble in general yet they are separate. The test is to be applied to the Gods worshipped, customs in religion, the basis of worship and the philosophy Jain religion presents to the world.


Worship of 24 Tirthankars

It was found from the stone inscriptions and other ancient relics at Mathura discovered in the 19th Century that 24 Tirthankars were worshipped by the Jains and the European scholar determined his opinion that there must have been existence of all the Tirthankars in the most remote times in pre-historical period. The proof of the existence of Lord Neminath, Lord Parshwanath and Lord Mahavir is not difficult to find as historical figures. Even from Buddhist records scholars have found that father of Gautam Buddha was worshipping Lord Parshwanath and Gautam Buddha was taken to a Jain Ashram after he left his palace, by a Jain, where Gautam became a monk. Thereafter he went to a Jain Ashram and joined Mahavir and other Jain monks. Mahavir had already attained reputation for giving advice against animal sacrifices and preaching Ahimsa in thought, speech and action as the only solution of world peace and salvation of the soul. The father and mother of Mahavir were followers of Parshwanath, who was a Prince of Banaras 2500 years before Mahavir, as is discovered in the Hathi caves near Bhubaneshwar in Orissa which was inscribed by the Jain Emperor Kharwel. Hindu scholars do not deny these historical facts.



Depiction of an enthroned Ganadhar with a lotus beneath the throne (West India, 1411 CE).


Lord Neminath

22nd Tirthankar Neminath attained Nirvan after Jain way of penance at Mount Girnar. There is a clear reference in Mahabharat of Sage Vyas, which indicates Neminath as a Jain high sage, He was a direct cousin of Lord Krishna. These clear references are found in Jain Scriptures also.


References in Vedas

In Rigveda, the oldest Veda, and in Yajurveda, Lord Adinath, Lord Ajitnath and Lord Aristanemi are mentioned showing great respect. Same is the position in Upanishads. In Bhagwat Puran Lord Adinath is given a prominent place as a founder of Jain religion. European scholars, have stated the same in their books and in Germany there is no other view taken in the sphere of scholars from 19th Century onwards.


Name of India as Bharatvarsha

In all Hindu Scriptures such as Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and in other classical works of old time in Hindi and in Marathi it is clearly stated that the name of our country as Bharatvarsha is given after the name of Emperor Bharat. Bharata was the eldest son of Lord Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankar. A book in Marathi has been published about two years ago with the title 'Bharatvarsha Namkaran' written by Dr. Jinendra Dada Bhomaj, M. A, Ph D., a scholar of Poona University. This book has got more than 400 pages. Readers will find actual quotations of the Vedas, poets, etc., as stated above, with translation in English of each quotation. Besides, quotations of English writers are also put in this book. I do not want to lengthen more on the point of antiquity of Jain religion.

Now I give below for the readers how scholars like Sir S. Radhakrishnan and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took the view that Jain religion is quite independent. Even late Lokmanya Tilak of Poona, veteran fighter for the independence of India through Home Rule League, gave his view once upon a time at Baroda at a Jain conference at which he had presided by saying that Jain religion is far more refined and very old. There is no basis at all to hold the view that Jain religion is an offshoot of any other religion. Some points of similarity exist in every religion.

There was a great opposition to Buddhism in India particularly by Vedic people. Proper study and analysis will disclose that Buddhism was adopted by Gautam Buddha after studying and practising Jain religion at the Ashram of Lord Mahavir at Rajagriha near Patna. It is found in Buddhist book, Tripitika, Buddha saying that Mahavir possesses super knowledge to know past, present and future. The middle path which is so much spoken of as advocated by Gautam Buddha, was not a new outlook. Jain religion does not preach excessive penance which would undermine strength and efficacy of a monk's body. But Gautam Buddha practised penance far in excess of his own accord and gave up the same for leaving the Jain Ashram.

There is great dissimilarity in the fundamental principles of Jain religion. No Tirthankar has ever stated that this universe is created by Ishwar who is himself a product of Brahma and Parabrahma as is stated in the theory of creation by the Vedas. The Jain theory of creation is in clear-cut words that the Universe and its creation is eternal, without the beginning and without an end. Still, Vaidikas have disfigured the name of Jinas by calling Jainism as an atheism. Jains do not accept the preaching of animal sacrifice and the theory of creation as stated in Vedas and yet Jainism is not an atheism because Jains believe in rebirth, in the evolution of the human soul by good actions in thought, speech and deeds.

Jains believe in the Heaven and the Hell and the ultimate goal of Jain religion is the emancipation of the bodily soul which rests permanently and as a separate entity of each person at the highest point of Cosmos which is termed as 'Siddhasheela' according to the viewpoint of Digambar Jains. To be more clear, each individual soul of a human being releases itself from the body as a result of prescribed way of penance and the liberated soul has a same shape as the human body of the particular person and such liberated soul rises straight up in the sky and rests permanently with the attributes of infinite knowledge, infinite faith and infinite 'charitrya'. This theory of soul emancipation is entirely of Jain religion propounded by every Tirthankar.



Torture in Hells: Ratna prabha, Sharkara prabha and Valuka prabha.


It may be perhaps in Theosophy that this theory of human soul is adopted. In the sphere of theory relating to the existence of the universe the Jain view is quite different as is found in the preachings. In a view holding the whole visible universe within the limit sphere of 'Lokakash' which holds heaven, earth and hell, while outside this sphere remains indefinite 'Aloka-kash' which has altogether remained from time without beginning and still remains without an end, that is everlasting.


No incarnations in Jain religion

Jainism does not preach that any Tirthankar is an incarnation such as Lords Adinath, Ajitnath, Neminath and Mahavir. To attain salvation, Jain religion prescribes monk's life, austerity and penance to wipe out effects of past deeds, good and bad, as a result of which a person gets 'kewal jnāna', a knowledge perceiving at one and the same time through the past, present and future of everything. To practice this, Yoga and penance are considered essential as was done by all Tirthankars. This is the only religion in the world which has prescribed to the house-holders and ascetics complete way of life of Ahimsa and this extends to all animals, insects and microbes - visible and invisible. Yet it must be noted that house holders are allowed to defend themselves in war and in battle and even to defend for independence against aggression. For ascetic life, after renouncing the world, killing for protection is totally forbidden even by thought and deed. This religious philosophy of Ahimsa for an ascetic is not so strange if we consider the attitude of Sage Vashistha towards Sage Vishwamitra in Hindu Mythology.

Worship of tree, river, ocean, mountain is forbidden. Jain scholars have considered that only Paramatma, Tirthankar, Guru and Jain Scriptures are the only objects of worship in the temples or outside. Such attitude will not be found in any other religion. Even Muslims are supposed to pay their reverence to a place occupied by stone at Mecca.

World renowned scholar Hermann Jacobi has clearly stated in his book on Jain Sutras that Jainism is not derived from Buddhism. Many scholars do not know many things about Jain religion They propound the same old rejected view by writing that Jain religion is an offshoot of Buddhism. But this view is incorrect fully if we bear in mind the attitude of Gautam Buddha who did not hesitate to take meat. Some European scholars do not think that this view is correct. But the writer has seen Buddha statue at Singapore on his way to Japan for attending World Religion Congress in 1954. This statue was prominently erected and by the side of Buddha a large pig was made to stand with a butcher ready to kill the pig with his short sword held in his hand. This is the view of Gautam Buddha taken by the Yellow Race of nearly 50 Crore population in the eastern Asia.


View of Vaidikas on Buddhism

Hindus often write that Buddhism is an offshoot of Vedic religion, putting Jain religion still more below due to lack of real knowledge for which Jains are responsible more or less for not spreading true knowledge of Jain religion and philosophy. It can be again stated that Jain house-holder is allowed to make battle for self defence, to save innocent man's life and to fight for independence of his country. Many people do not know this glaring fact and think that complete Ahimsa must be practised by every Jain house-holder as an ascetic.


Atma and Anatma of Gautam Buddha

Scholars are now coming to the point in their writing that Gautam Buddha did not deny existence of Atma and that his view about this world as such was almost the same as held by Vedas. Gautam Buddha did not want to describe to his disciples about the nature of the soul as he stated it was very difficult to explain and to understand and therefore, as he says, he lays stress on the benevolent working of a man in life. But in Jain religion the body soul and the liberated soul are the two basic points between which the world philosophy of action and reaction in the whole entire living world exists with due effects in the next birth and the next birth and so on. There are many other important factors in Jain religion which are not stated here for want of space. But it may be noted that Gautam Buddha adopted such terms as 'Arhat', 'Pudgal' and he, as is often stated by scholars, gave liberty to take animal food provided the animal is killed by others and not by the eater. This concession has made it possible to spread Buddhism after centuries in the east of Asia. It is found in the account of Chinese travellers coming to India that they had in the day-light visions of Buddha giving inspirations for dauntless travel for the study of Buddhism through original books and through other books written by Buddhist scholars of renown.


Mohenjo Daro discoveries

It may be considered that European and Hindu scholars have taken a view that the discoveries in vast excavations at Mohenjo Daro reveal a life of people inhabiting in the Indus Valley. From certain seals discovered there, the scholars have stated that there may be existing Jain society 5,000 years ago. Even the language seen on the seals has not yet been deciphered. It is stated that one seal shows clearly a naked monk and the bull both together which is interpreted to be a picture of a Jain Sadhu.

Moreover, historians have said that a person by name Menes left the Indus Valley with his way of life and philosophy of rebirth, soul development and worship. This kind of cult was introduced by Menes in the ancient time in Egypt, the land of pyramids, and he was the person who lived before Pharaohs became the masters of the land of the Nile. At Mohenjo Daro, it is said, no weapons were discovered and yet plenty of ornaments of gold, silver and jewels were discovered. In Rigveda Lord Rishabhanath is described as the first pioneer of introducing agriculture.

In the Tenth Mandal of Rigveda it is clearly mentioned about Lord Rishabhanath, a naked Jain Muni, that he was the pioneer of introducing agriculture and other crafts as is clearly found in the Jain Scriptures. A reference of 'Vata Rashana' is taken to be the reference about Jain Munis as is found in the Vedas. The same view is taken by European scholars.


Entry of Dravidas in Great Britain

All educated people are in the know of the thing, as stated in the books of history, that the people who first entered the land now known as Great Britain were Dravidas who were vegetarians, believed in rebirth and salvation of soul. This is the same Dravidian culture and these Dravidian followers are considered to be Jains living in the South of India. Lord Angiras may be the same as Lord Neminath, 22nd Tirthankar and cousin of Lord Krishna. I do not mention here about the Sage Angiras of the time of Lord Neminath or before him.


Literature before and after Lord Mahavir

Invasions by wild tribes at times took place over India from outside. Writing of literary books was mostly confined to religion and philosophy as the subject matter and it is not a surprise if such literature is lost or destroyed by foreign tribes as was done by Muslims in Alexandria, Persia and India. Muslims spread out all over south Europe and they went to Central Asia with sword and Koran in their hands. With this state of affairs it was yet found out from records that Jain and Buddhist literature was written down in the 5th Century A.D. But at the time of Chandragupta and Ashoka conferences holding discussions on religious literature were held in Patna and Rajagriha. If literature written on tree leaves was written 4,000 years ago in Egypt and even in Iraq, it cannot be argued that no writing took place in this country on religion and culture. Almost all Muslim Rulers after 10th Century A.D. have destroyed literary books wherever they went and converted Hindus, Jains and Buddhists to the Muslim religion except that some people managed to escape by making payment in money, land and property.



Compiled by PK

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  1. Adinath
  2. Ahimsa
  3. Ajitnath
  4. Aristanemi
  5. Ashoka
  6. Atma
  7. Banaras
  8. Baroda
  9. Bharata
  10. Bhubaneshwar
  11. Body
  12. Brahma
  13. Buddha
  14. Buddhism
  15. Chandragupta
  16. Crore
  17. Digambar
  18. Ganadhar
  19. Girnar
  20. Guru
  21. Hermann Jacobi
  22. Hindutva
  23. Ishwar
  24. JAINA
  25. Jacobi
  26. Jaina
  27. Jainism
  28. Jina
  29. Jinendra
  30. Krishna
  31. Mahabharat
  32. Mahavir
  33. Mandal
  34. Mathura
  35. Mohenjo Daro
  36. Muni
  37. Munis
  38. Neminath
  39. Orissa
  40. PK
  41. Pandit
  42. Paramatma
  43. Parshwanath
  44. Patna
  45. Poona
  46. Puranas
  47. Rajagriha
  48. Sadhu
  49. Singapore
  50. Soul
  51. Space
  52. The Pioneer
  53. Tilak
  54. Tirthankar
  55. Tirthankars
  56. Upanishads
  57. Veda
  58. Vedas
  59. Vedic
  60. Yoga
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