Teachings Or Doctrines Of Jainism

Doctrines Of Jainism:

(1) Mahavira preached that the ultimate goal of man is to attain freedom from worldly bonds to attain Moksha or salvation. It can be obtained by following Triratnas or Three Jewels.

  • Right Knowledge (Samyak Jnana)- to make efforts to achieve knowledge removing the darkness of ignorance. Knowledge can be attained only by following the preachings of the Tirthankaras.
  • Right Faith (Samyak Darshana)- to have faith in the Tirthankaras and devotion to truth.
  • Right Action or Conduct (Samyak Charitra)- to perform good deeds.

(2) Mahavira rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals. He advocated an austere and simple life with the ultimate aim to attain Kaivalya (nirvana or moksha). He was, however, not opposed to the theory of the caste system though he did not approve of the restrictions on food or drink.

(3) Jainism is essentially atheistic, the concept of God is irrelevant. However, it accepts a group of Tirthankaras who were venerated persons in society. Jainism believes in the notion of the apotheosis of the human personality. That every man possesses the potential of becoming as great as they. In a way, it was a sharp break from the Vedic Life when the Brahmanas has been the spiritual custodian of the masses. It also tended to attract more and more people to its fold because of its indication of the vast potentialities of human life. If a parallel is to be drawn, it can be well be compared with Renaissance Humanism.

(4) Mahavira believed in Karma and the transmigration of the soul (atma). Man is punished or rewarded in successive births according to his karma, in the present or previous births. On account of Karma good or bad, the soul creates its own present or future. The body dies but the soul is immortal.

(5) Jains lay great emphasis on equality. Mahavira accepted the caste system yet he said that man may be good or bad according to his karma and not on account of his birth.

(6) Jainism represents the universe as functioning according to universal law, continually passing through a series of cosmic waves of progress and decline. The wheel of life takes its own course and thus becomes full circle.

According to Jainism, since knowledge is a relative quality, no absolute and final affirmation or denial is possible. This is called the theory of Syadvada. There can be as many as seven options before a person determines the degree of truthfulness in a particular statement. Because of the seven alternatives, this theory of Jain Knowledge is called Saptabhanginaya (judgment with seven alternatives).

On the basis of the above philosophical position of non-absolutism, the Jinas divided the elements constituting the universe into two groups namely Jiva or soul and Ajiva or non-soul. Both groups were considered eternal, uncreated, and independent. The second category that is Ajiva, they though, consisted of five elements- Pudgala (matter), Kala (time), Akasha (space), Dharma (dynamic element), and Adharma (static element). The first category that is Jiva, although originally independent gets enmeshed with the matter as a result of the fructification of the actions (Karma) undertaken by human beings. Originally the souls are infinitely pure, infinitely conscious, powerful, and omniscient. But once they are bound by karma and come into contact with matter they become less conscious, powerful, etc. according to the nature of the object.

(7) Every Jaina had to take the five great vows i.e Panch Mahavratas

  • Ahimsa (non-violence)- not to cause harm to any living beings.
  • Satya (Truthfulness)- one should speak the truth and only the truth.
  • Asateya (Non-stealing)- not to take anything not properly given.
  • Aparigraha (Non-possession)- complete detachment from people, places, and material things.
  • Brahmacharya (Chastity)- all kinds of passions, emotions, and desires must be put under control.

The first four vows are attributed to the twenty-third Jaina Tirthankar, Lord Parshvanatha. Mahavira is credited with adding the fifth vow. To free oneself from any worldly possessions, he asked his followers to discard even their clothes.

(8) In Jainism the devotees (Siddhas) have been classified into five categories, in descending order i.e. Tirthankara– who has attained salvation; Arhat– who is about to attain nirvana; Acharya– the head of the ascetic group; Upadhyaya– teacher or saint; Sadhu– a class which includes the rest.

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