Pristine Jainism ► Introduction

Posted: 03.05.2012

The scenario as manifest at present and if continues to unfold as of now, is fraught with grim consequences culminating in eventual elimination of the very identity of Jainism. The great religion of Sramanas, Jainism which emphasised rational activity and not inaction of mind, speech and body (Pramad), good conduct as preached and practised by liberated souls (Arhats, Tirthankars), is now overwhelmed by mere rituals, ostentations and vulgar display of wealth on the pretext of devotion (Bhakti) flouting even the basic tenets. The twenty four Tirthankars of present Avsarpini era starting from Rishabhdeo to Mahaveer preached the code of conduct, the model of life, the ideals encompassing universal peace and happiness, which they themselves followed, practised and lived. They did not claim to be incarnation of some almighty God, a concept not recognised in Jainism. There is no arrogation of any sort of super powers, magical, mysterious manifestations to allure obeisance of followers. Their precepts are simple and based on scientific principles of cause and effect, action, interaction and reaction. In Jainism every individual soul of all living beings, big and small, high and low, the minutest organisms and mighty ones have all been placed on the same pedestal, all possessing the inherent attributes, strengths to achieve the highest, get eternal happiness (salvation) or ethereal, mundane pleasures of short and long duration or fall to various regressive stages of existence to the lowest forms, suffering agonies of various degrees, according to one's own actions, good or bad.

Samyaktva i.e. Rationality in belief, thought and action, is key word in Jainism which implies most appropriate, reasonable attitude and behaviour in a given situation in space time matrix (Dravya, Kshetra, Kala, Bhava), conforming to basic tenets. Samyaktva and superstition are diagonically opposite. There is no place for superstitious rituals, miracles, mantras etc because the principle of karma, intrinsic in Jainism clearly lays down that one reaps the fruits of one's own Karma (actions) good or bad. The bad Karmas can be mitigated or even neutralised by one's own efforts i.e. good deeds, penance etc. None else can help in this. The role of Arhats and other enlightened saints is only to preach the good path they themselves tread. Begging worldly benefits from the idols of Jain deities is Mithyatva (wrong) and sinful. The liberated souls, the idols of which we worship do not do anything. The only object of worship is to remember their teachings and try to follow them.

Majority of Jains at present do not know these fundamentals and beg worldly benefits from Jain deities. Jainism lays stress on one's own efforts (Purusharth) and not inaction (Pramad) or predetermined destiny by someone else. Our Tirthankaras opposed mere rituals, yagnas etc. but these are now common in Jains. The wrong and superstitious practices are becoming more and more popular. Like others, Jains are also succumbing to false concepts that sins will be removed and good luck will dawn just by performing rituals. Ill-earned money is wastefully spent as if 'Dharma' is marketable commodity and can be purchased by money. It requires efforts, sacrifices, penance and good deeds which Jains have started shirking more and more and taken an easier path of rituals which only require money under the patronage of modern pseudo saints who are also now more concerned with personal fame, comforts and money for their various trusts. More and more gullible Jains are taking to rituals than practice of ideals under the illusion that good fate can be purchased by money. Good conduct and rationality have been superseded by rituals and superstitions.

It is unfortunate that Jains, who till recently, only 6-7 decades back, were known and respected for their good and exemplary character, have now almost lost their very identity. Simple practices like meals before sunset, drinking only filtered water have almost been lost. Earlier it was unthinkable that Jains would ever be non-vegetarian, wine-drug- addicts, gamblers, adulterers, tax-evaders (evading tax is theft as per Jain tenets) and bad characters. However, all these tendencies, transgressions are common and on the increase now. Till Jains followed the teachings and practised the prescribed code of conduct, people held them in high esteem. Even the non-Jain merry-going, sensuous, licentious Rulers, Nawabs appointed Jains as Ministers and Treasurers because of reputation for good conduct and trust-worthiness. All this is history now. The downfall is because of shift from practice of prescribed vows to mere rituals.

It is necessary to bring out the truth, the pristine form of Jainism, the real, rational and scientific, distinct from superstitions, mysteries and miracles, mantra-tantra and superfluous rituals. If the Jains understand the fundamentals and basic tenets of Jainism, the principle of Karma, the rational, right path of Ratnatray (three jewels viz. Rational belief, Rational knowledge and Rational conduct) and start following the teachings and practising prescribed code of conduct, the past glory of this unique scientific religion will soon be restored. The objective of writing this brief treatise is to sift rare, valuable grains of truth from bushals of chaff of pseudo-religious beliefs and rituals, which have intruded from time to time and taken deep roots. Readers alone can judge how much successful this effort is.

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Pristine Jainism
(Beyond rituals and superstitions)


Parshwanath Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, India


Prof. Sagarmal Jain