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the Annual Jain Camp, held in Ontario Canada. Hence, it was meant for a younger audience of people who were from a Jain background. However, the project has grown from that time. Although I know many intelligent children as young as ten or eleven who could read and understand this booklet, it is now directed at older children and adults, both from Jain and other diverse backgrounds. This booklet has been written in simple language, but with an academic mindset. Many Jains appreciated an explanation of Jain philosophy in a comprehensive and technical manner, within the limits of a short writing. There has been a focus on being clear, maintaining internal logical consistency, and improving upon English translations of Jain terminology. Rituals and traditions of the Jain community have differed in the centuries and among some of the Jain sects. This booklet emphasizes principles over rituals. The principles are the essence Jainism, and I hope that rituals and practice will be analyzed through this lens. In modern and ancient times, issues such as human rights, environment, poverty, animal welfare, are an essential part of Jain Dharma. The traditions of modern Jains deserve thought and analysis; principles are timeless though practices need to evolve. This booklet is not meant to proselytize or boast about Jain Dharma. The language has been kept factual, and judgment is only for the reader to make, though I do believe that people will be inspired of their own accord. My goal is to foster a better understanding of Jain philosophy, and to stimulate thoughtfulness about philosophical and spiritual issues. Regardless of ones background and personal beliefs, we can all grow through reflection on the diverse religious and secular philosophies of the world. For now, I have left a few school bookish exercises to give readers pause to think or reflect. Remember, they are not meant to promote any particular opinion, but for people to enhance their own. I hope that people will find this booklet enjoyable and thought provoking. Remember, it is always a work in progress, and I appreciate your thoughts and feedback for future improvements. Please email me any suggestions at Tushar_toronto@hotmail.com . Namaste! Tushar Mehta MD CCFP
What do you think? (Remember, there are no right or wrong answers!) 1) Do you believe in God?
2) What do you think happens to people after they die?
3) What is Jainism?
Compiled by the IMJM Camp Counselors 2004
I. A Jain view of life
According to Jain philosophy, a living being (plant, animal, human, etc.) is composed of matter and a soul.
Living beings have a limited lifespan, whereas their souls are eternal. When a living being dies, it is only the material form that dies. The soul is the real life in a being -- the real “self”. It gets reborn as another living being in a new body. This is called reincarnation. For an individual soul, the cycle of birth and death can continue forever.
Birth of a living being
Death of a living being
Soul reincarnates intoto understand how the universe works (enlightened worldview, However, if a soul begins another living enlightened knowledge) and being its behaviour to be in harmony with the universe adjusts
(enlightened conduct), then the soul becomes increasingly pure and may eventually
detach itself from matter permanently. The soul achieves a state of ultimate peace, energy, freedom, knowledge, and bliss (a state called moksha or nirvana). It becomes free from the cycle of birth and death. According to Jain philosophy, it is the nature of all souls to achieve this fullest potential.
Soul in a state of purity and peace, free from cycle of birth and death (Moksha/Nirvana) Birth Death
Enlightened Worldview Enlightened Knowledge Enlightened Conduct The States of a living being: As a soul progresses and develops itself, it will be born as a more advanced living being. Jain philosophy considers the human form to be very advanced because it is capable of thinking and choosing how it behaves. Complex animals such as mammals are thought to have the capacity for many feelings and senses, but not as much for thinking. Lower animals have less senses, and many plants and tiny animals have the least awareness and senses. Some believe that trees are also very advanced beings, especially the older ones. Perhaps these advanced plants have a knowledge, wisdom, and feeling of the world that is shaped by their great age and ability to experience. From ancient times, Jains have believed that the more senses that a living being has, the more developed its mind and consciousness will be. Therefore, a living being with more senses will have stronger feelings, and a greater experience of consciousness. They can feel more happiness and sadness; more pleasure and pain. They can have stronger feelings of friendship and anger, and so on. The following table gives an example:
Number of senses
Only have the feeling of touch; cannot even move by own will; able to feel a small amount of pain.
Two sensed Three sensed Four sensed Five Sensed Five sensed with more complex intelligence
Have sense of touch and taste; therefore have more experience of the world. Have touch, taste and smell; may have small sight instead of taste, etc. Have touch, taste, smell and sight. Have touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Have touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing; also have advanced thinking ability.
Plants and other tiny beings living in soil, earth, water, air, and maybe even in fire. (However, perhaps plants such as trees have a much higher consciousness than this are more than this.) Worms, some insects, mollusks, etc. More complex worms and insects. More complex animals such as reptiles, lizards, and some fish. All mammals, birds, some reptiles and fish, etc. Humans (and possibly some aliens from other planets!).
The Sex of a Soul: The soul is considered to not have a gender, male or female. Though many plants and animals do have a gender (male, female or both), there are also beings that do not have a gender. Gender depends on a soul’s karma, and can change from one lifetime to another. In its liberated form, a soul is not male or female.
II. The Three Pillars of Jainism
The three “pillars” are also commonly called the 3 “jewels”. They refer to the 3 major processes, or modes of development, that all living beings pursue in order to become more pure, and eventually reach their purest form (moksha). 1) Enlightened Worldview (Note: this is called Samyak Darshan, and can be more fully translated as enlightened/rational worldview/perspective) According to Jain philosophy, living beings should develop an enlightened and rational perception of the universe. The “universe” includes a) one’s own self, b) other living beings, and c) the material aspects of the universe such as space, time, and matter. The understanding of each is interdependent. This means that to understand one’s self, we must also understand others. To fully understand ourselves, we must also understand matter, energy, space, time…and visa versa. Ultimately, things must be understood as a whole.
A living being must come to understand that they are a soul in a long journey of selfdevelopment, as are all others. All living beings desire to live a good life, and as souls they are ultimately equal and have the potential for moksha. Living beings can learn from each other in this process, which can take countless lifetimes. However, most living beings are in a state where they do not realize their full nature. To progress, all beings should cultivate a true sense of what the universe is, instead of accepting teachings blindly or being superstitious. They should be able to analyze, examine, test, and verify their beliefs through thinking and meditation. Furthermore, an enlightened worldview affects one’s basic approach to daily life and fellow beings. 2) Enlightened Knowledge (Note: this is called Samyak Gnana, and can be more fully translated as enlightened/rational knowledge) Jain philosophy states that our enlightened worldview should evolve into detailed and specific knowledge of life and the universe – this is called “enlightened” or “rational” knowledge. According to Jain philosophy, the following spiritual knowledge is fundamental examples of enlightened knowledge: • All things in the universe can be categorized into 6 “substances”: o Soul o Matter o Motion o Rest o Space o Time The above substances are eternal; they cannot be created or destroyed. Each living being is composed of matter (a body) and a soul. All souls are equal. However, individually, all beings are at their own independent stage of development. They may be as humans, animals, plants, and other divine beings, etc. Some have achieved moksha. Living beings often forget that they are a soul, and instead focus their time on the material world. They forget that when they die they will leave all material things behind (body, wealth, education, family, car, etc). Focusing on the soul, and realizing that the body and material things are not the true self, helps beings develop compassion for other souls and equanimity towards the material world. By becoming overly attached to the material world and having negative emotions such as anger, ego, deceit, and greed, along with hatred, aversion, etc., a soul will degrade itself and hold back its own progress. Thoughts, words, and actions cause the gaining and releasing of different Karma. This is a natural process.
• • • • • • •
Negative thoughts, feelings, words, and actions (anger, ego, greed, deceit, and violence of any type) cause the accumulation of negative karmas and also degrade a soul. Positive thoughts, feelings, words, and actions result in good karmas if a being has attachment to the things it loves. Although good karmas are important to a get the soul to a certain level, the soul must ultimately release itself from good karmas as well as negative karmas in order to be truly free. Freeing the soul from all karmas means it has achieved moksha, the ultimate pure form of the soul. The soul reaches its infinite potential (infinite knowledge, freedom, energy, peace, and bliss).
The above points are stated in a basic way, but can be studied very deeply. Enlightened knowledge also includes the study of science, mathematics, philosophy, art and all other types of knowledge, including human relations, psychology, the environment, and so on. Knowledge is infinite, but there are complex relationships and Jain philosophy considers all of life and knowledge to be interconnected. Again, beings should learn from each other, respect each others views, but still come to understand things for themselves. Only a fully enlightened soul has infinite knowledge and understanding. Thinking Exercise Do you agree with “enlightened knowledge” as described above? Which statements do you agree with, and why? Which statements do you not agree with, and why? 3) Enlightened Conduct (Note: this is called Samyak Charitra and can be more fully translated as enlightened/rational conduct/action) Enlightened worldview and knowledge leads one to enlightened conduct, but this also works the other way. For example, if we realize that animals have a soul and feel pain, then we are more likely to be vegetarian. However, if we are taught to be vegetarian from childhood, most of us will come to develop compassion for animals. The word “conduct” includes all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Jain Philosophy encourages that people should adopt/observe various vows, or “vrats”. Note that these are intended as a discipline to free the self from material things, develop inner strength and to live a peaceful and positive life. Vrats are not made externally to any god, society, person, or other authority. Rather, these vrats are adopted internally, i.e. they are vows to one’s own conscience. The 5 most important vows are called Anuvratas/Mahavratas: 1. Non-violence (Ahimsa): Being peaceful in actions, words, and thoughts towards all living beings, including one’s self; not to contribute to violence in any direct or indirect manner.
2. Truth (Satya): Being true and sincere to yourself and to others in your actions, thoughts, and words. 3. Non-stealing (Asetya): Refraining, as much as possible, from stealing possessions or peace away from all other living beings. This includes not stealing from plant and animal life; it does not only apply to stealing from humans. 4. Freedom from Physical Passions (Brahmacharya): Limiting and becoming free from indulgences in all sensual pleasures (such as food and sexuality). 5. Non-attachment (Aparigraha): Being unattached, and therefore free, of material and non-material possessions (i.e. limiting the possessions one owns but also being mentally free from their desire. One should be unconcerned about things like reputation, and feel love for other beings equally, without being attached to any. Love and attachment are different. Obviously, it is difficult to love all beings equally and to not be attached to one’s own body or family, etc.). To fully implement these 5 Main Vows, one must practice the philosophy of Ahimsa, Aparigraha, and Anekantavada (the three of which will be discussed later). Householders, Monks, and their Manner of Conduct: The Jain community is broadly divided in two categories: “householders “and “monks”. The following is a brief explanation of the two, which shows the difference in their lives. 1) Householders (laypersons): Most Jains are householders. Householders participate in routine life: they work, live in some type of home, raise families, etc. The 5 main vows are called Anuvratas for householders, who try to observe them in their daily lives. The extent to which a householder observes the 5 main vows is dependant on his/her ability and circumstance, though standard recommendations do exist. (Note that nothing in Jain philosophy is dictated by an external authority, so there are never external requirements, only internal ones.) Jain philosophy states that one should always try to grow and aspire to achieve the vrats to their maximum, and perhaps eventually do so at the level of monks. 2) Monks (Sadhus = male monk, Sadhvi = female monk): Monks are people who have committed themselves to the highest ideals. They “renounce” worldly life and desire, meaning that they dedicate their life only to the development of their souls, to learn, and to teach others. They try to develop their worldview, knowledge, and conduct to the maximum. Monks are revered and respected by the lay community as very sacred people, teachers, and examples of what we should work towards. All living beings must reach the stage of a monk to progress even further.
For Monks, the 5 main vows are called the Mahavrats. They give up their homes, families, possessions, etc., and focus ALL of their energy on a spiritual life. As a monk increases in his/her spiritual progression, he/she increases the strictness of adhering to the vrats.
Examples of four out of the Five Main Vows are provided in table below: Non-violence
Householders (Householders may also follow some/all of the vows as strictly as monks do if they can.) -Minimize harm to ALL living forms/beings -Follow a vegetarian diet (vegan is better) -Have non-violent and ethical occupations -Do not kill plants or insects needlessly -Support environmental protection Monks -Refrain from harming any or all living forms in thought, word, or deed -Sweep their seats before sitting down to avoid killing any insects -Do not use vehicles when travelling, and do not even wear shoes, to minimize harm to the environment and insects -Reduce impact on the environment by consuming almost no resources
-Limit possessions; buy only what is needed, own less, and learn to be happy with the essentials -Give to charity -Do not worry about reputation or fame -Treat people equally and do not be possessive of people -Have no possessions, except some white cloth to cover themselves (Some monks even choose to renounce all clothing.) -Renounce one’s birth family identity, but rather consider all living beings to be equal family. Be equal towards all beings!
-Minimize stealing from all living forms -Act socially fair -Do not steal a persons confidence by insulting them -Promote fair trade and business practices -Take as little from the environment as possible -Never damage or take advantage of any person, animal, or plant -Never steal a person’s happiness by speaking badly towards them -Do not eat unless given food -Consume almost no environmental resources
Freedom from Physical Passions
-Practice monogamy (one intimate relationship) -Refrain from using alcohol or drugs -Limit indulgences in food and worldly luxuries
-Refrain from any/all worldly indulgences, luxuries, and resource consuming activities -Do not indulge in fancy foods but eat simple bland food -Be celibate (no intimate relationship)
In summary, people are encouraged to live as simply, humanely, ecologically, intelligently, and peacefully as possible. In the past, there were many householder Jains who would strictly give away all money beyond what met their most basic needs without any luxuries. They would live in the smallest home, or not even build or own a home. This was due to the massive environmental damage and harm to all living beings that building a home caused. Therefore they stayed with other family members, which was a very common practice. Unfortunately, there are fewer Jains who do this nowadays. Exercise: 1) How do most people, including current Jains, live up to these ideals? 2) How would you have to change your life if you wanted to follow these ideals? 3) Why do less people follow these ideals than in the past?
III. The Three Major Principles of Jainism (aka The Three A’s)
The 3 main principles of Jainism are Ahimsa, Aparigraha, and Anekantavada. They are the major principles of life that a soul tries to achieve through the three pillars. Jain philosophy recommends them for individuals, but also for the whole of society. Although they were mentioned in the previous section, here they will be discussed in detail. 1) Ahimsa: Ahimsa is the principle of nonviolence. Many people consider this the most essential and brilliant principle of Jainism. Nonviolence in Jain philosophy is extremely exacting, comprehensive, and rigorous. Jain philosophy considers any and all violence to be unacceptable. Beings that have the capacity to think and choose (i.e. humans) are especially responsible for being non-violent. Jainism considers beings to be responsible for violence in all of the following ways: 1) violence committed directly or indirectly 2) intentionally or unintentionally 3) in thought, word, or action 4) having done it oneself, having another do it for you, or even appreciating the fact that another person has committed violence According to Jain thought, violence not only hurts other beings, but it also harms the being/person committing the violence because it degrades one’s soul. This is due to the universal process of karma, which will be discussed in the next section. Note that violence committed unknowingly or unintentionally has less of a negative impact on a soul than committing it knowingly or on purpose, and a violent thought is not as bad as the same thought followed by words or action. Nevertheless, these are still forms of violence and do create negative karma.
Jain philosophy states that the mere act of living causes violence, except for enlightened souls who no longer have a body, and for very advanced souls that are just about to achieve moksha. The idea is that there are even tiny beings that one cannot see, as well as small insects and plants that we routinely kill by accident. Even if we are vegan, we still kill plants for food. The philosophy suggests that harming beings that are at a higher form of existence is worse than harming those at a lower form. This is because developed beings have a greater capacity for suffering. However, Jainism states that we should avoid hurting or killing any insects, plants, or even simpler beings, no matter how insignificant they may seem. “Live and Let Live” is the motto. This leads to the practices of vegetarianism and veganism, but goes even further. One should not hurt another’s feelings or even think a violent thought. Monks are very critical about this. They will never use a vehicle because of the harm it causes to so many beings and the environment. Furthermore, they always walk barefoot no matter how harsh the conditions in order to be sensitive and step as lightly on the earth as possible. Nor will they own any possessions because the manufacturing or mining of any thing from nature will hurt the environment and cause violence to violence to many forms of life. Lay people should minimize the use of vehicles and have homes that have the lowest environmental impact. There are Jain lay people who minimize their travel, especially in cars, avoid walking on grass, and would never build new homes. Building anything on fresh ground is considered to be one of the most harmful activities, and using large amounts of material is considered devastating to other beings. Every small bit of earth harbours an enormous amount of life, including the countless living beings that have yet to be born. Every bit of the earth is shared by all beings on the planet because whatever happens there will affect all, either directly or indirectly (i.e. all beings have at least some right as to what happens on the rest of the planet). The standards of a monk are the ideal for all intelligent beings, and Jain philosophy strongly teaches that all should work towards this. Unfortunately, most people forget about these teachings. Exercise In modern times, many people feel that the philosophy of non-violence should be changed because it is out of date; it is not compatible with our modern western lifestyles. Others feel that this philosophy is more necessary than ever in its exact form in order to stop the tremendous harm to all beings on the planet. What do you think? 2) Aparigraha Aparigraha means both non-possessiveness/ non-attachment as a mental attitude, as well as the actual practice of minimizing possessions. According to this ideal people should live with as few possessions as possible. It is interlinked with the ideal of Ahimsa in that every possession or man-made item has disturbed other beings in order to get the materials from the earth. All materials are taken from the earth, and after being used up, the waste is put back into the earth. When we
create and possess any item or thing, we also take away from what other beings need for their lives. For example, when people build cities, roads, and homes, they kill the countless plants and animals that live there, and take away from all future beings that would have lived there. The more we possess and consume, the more we hurt other beings on the earth. Monks will minimize every drop of water they consume and keep only a small amount of cloth to cover themselves. Some will wear no clothes at all. Being “non-attached” is also a mental idea. One may have few possessions, but still be overly attached to them. In addition to material possessions, one may be attached to their reputation, status, and loved ones. According to the ideal of aparigraha, one should not be attached to any of these. When it comes to family, a person should love all people the same, and not be particularly attached to anyone. One should not even be attached to their own body or their life as a particular being, understanding that it is only a temporary state. For example, there are some people, including many monks, who limit bathing and will not even take medicine if they get sick. They are not worried if their life will end or not. People should only concern themselves with their enlightenment as souls. This is difficult and it requires a lot of time to reach such an attitude. Most people are not expected to achieve this in their lifetime. However, it is something to think about and work towards. Practices such as fasting are used to help develop this mind-set. Note that the idea is not to make people feel limited by having restrictions. The goal is to develop a pure and total inner freedom, so that life has maximum happiness and spiritual growth. Jain philosophy does not recognize that any thing truly belongs to anyone, except for their own soul. Living beings such as humans (and animals) may feel that there are things that belong to them (i.e. this is “my car” or “my land”), but there is no such thing as true ownership. This is in contrast to the idea of “private property” in most societies. However, Jain philosophy does recognize that most people and animals believe that they own things, and it is often hurtful or unfair to take things away from them. Hence there is the principle of non-stealing, or astaya. Property and ownership are recognized as a “convention” so that one can live in harmony with others in society. 3) Anekantavada Anekantavada is one of the most confusing and misinterpreted concepts in Jainism. It literally means “non-one-ended-way of thinking”, or “non-one-ended-ness”, etc. Jain philosophy states that the universe is infinitely complex, and so is every “thing” in it. A “thing” may be an object, an idea, a feeling, one’s self, another person/being, etc. No single or even multiple points of view can fully understand it. Only an enlightened soul with infinite knowledge, who can understand a “thing” from infinite perspectives, can have a full understanding. Beings that are not enlightened may still have a valid understanding, but their knowledge will a) be finite/incomplete and b) have some errors/misunderstandings. Therefore, people must realize that no matter how much they know, there is always more to learn. Any opinion that views itself as complete is mistaken.
Understanding this principle suggests that one must always respect the opinions of others, and to try to see their point of view. They may not always be correct, but there is always something more to learn. Different perspectives have their own good and weak points. These must be rationally combined to gain a greater understanding of individual “things” and of life in general. This concept also fosters tolerance and respect of other people’s viewpoints. Have you ever head the story of six blind men and the elephant? Each was trying to describe the elephant by feeling it. One man felt the tail and said that the elephant was like a rope. Another felt the trunk and stated that the elephant was like a snake. The third felt a leg and said that it was like a tree, and so on. None would agree. However, all of them were partly correct and partly incorrect from their limited points of view. This describes anekantavada, and is probably the most widely known Jain story. The importance of knowledge is outlined by the principle of anekantavada. Obviously, if a soul needs to work towards infinite knowledge, it is important to constantly learn about the self and the world from as many different perspectives as possible. The arts, philosophy, literature, religions, sciences, mathematics, the experiences of people, meditation, etc., are all extremely important things to study. Exercise 1) Can you think of other things we should learn from other than the list in the paragraph above? 2) According the principle of anekantavada, what would Jain philosophy say about other religions?
IV. Karma Theory
Do you believe that all souls (plants, animals, humans) are equal? If yes, then why are some souls born as plants, others as insects, and others as humans? Why are some born sick and lonely, while others are born healthy and loved? If souls are equal, why do some souls suffer greatly during their life, while other souls experience a more happy and peaceful existence? Karma theory describes how thoughts, words, and actions have a positive or negative impact on a soul’s development, and the circumstances of its present and future lives. Basically, all living beings “reap what they sow”. There is no external “god” that punishes or elevates a being for its actions. All beings bear 100% responsibility for their own actions and fates. Events in a being’s life, and the conditions of their birth, are determined by the karma they have generated in their past and current lives. In fact, all living beings are loaded with huge amounts of karma that affect every aspect of their lives. Much of this karma may be dormant, or buried “deep in the pile”, so to speak. Hence there are karmas that affect a soul in its current life, and others that will have an effect in future lives.
As a living being thinks, breaths, speaks, and acts, even in the smallest ways, it is always generating karma, and/or releasing karma. The bigger and more intense the thoughts/words/actions, the more karma is generated. At the same time, our karma is always expressing itself, by having an effect on every small and big thing that happens in our lives and in the environment around us. So, depending on their karmas, some living beings may experience great suffering while others are prosperous and healthy, why some are born as animals and some as humans, etc. But two points must be kept in mind. Karma theory does not mean that living beings “get what they deserve”. For example, if a person does something cruel, and it affects her in some tragic way via the negative karma she acquires, it does not mean that she “deserved” it. According to Jain philosophy, all living beings, no matter how violent or cruel they may be, ultimately deserve to reach their full potential. However, when they act in negative ways, not only do they hurt others, but they are also hurting themselves by degrading their own soul. The negative karma they get is simply a natural process. Secondly, we must keep in mind that living beings can take control of their karma. That is what Jain philosophy recommends. This process will be explained further. Classifying Actions and Karmas: Let us try to understand karma theory better. Our actions can be either “positive” or “negative”, but we can say “good” or “bad” for short. Good actions have a positive influence on the soul and bad actions have a negative influence on the soul. Each thought, word, and action causes a soul to accumulate karma. 1) Good thoughts/words/actions are called punya. Punya has a positive effect on one’s karma, and therefore a “good” impact on current and/or future lives. 2) Bad thoughts/words/actions lead to paap. Paap has a negative effect on one’s karma, and therefore a “bad” impact on current and/or future lives. There are countless types of karmas, all relative to the thought/word/action of a being. Jain philosophers have categorized them in many ways. The two most broad and important categories are: 1) ghati (“destructive” karma) and 2) aghati (“non-destructive” karma). 1) Ghati (Destructive) Karma: refers to karma that obscures the essential inner nature of the soul. All ghati karma is bad. It can take away from a being’s capacity for perception, thought, knowledge, insight, blissfulness, peace, energy, freedom etc. As a soul develops itself, it gets rid of ghati karma over time. This is critical for the progression of a soul. 2) Aghati (Non-destructive) Karma: refers to karma that mainly affects the material circumstances of a living being. This includes a being’s body (human, animal, etc.), family, health, wealth, location, birth, etc. Aghati karma can be either good
or bad, and is considered less influential on the progress of a soul, though it still has a great impact.
Type of Action Bad thought/speech/action Good thought/speech/action Paap Punya Destructive Type NonDestructive
-Impairs one’s perception and knowledge, making it more difficult for one to understand the true nature of the universe -Takes away from a souls energy, freedom, peace, bliss - Harms quality of life form (plant, animal, human) health, lifespan, physical appearance, and position in society in the current and future lives -Helps one gain vision, knowledge, and the ability to pursue good works -Part of the process of developing a soul’s freedom, energy, peace, and blissfulness - Improves quality of life form, health, lifespan, social community, etc. in current and future lives
Karma Can Be Complex, i.e. Gaining Good and Bad Karmas at the Same Time: A single thought, speech, or action can have many different aspects and therefore generate many different types of karma. For example, Sarena may take a friend out for dinner because she just lost her job and is feeling depressed. She picks her friend up on the way (why bother taking two cars?) and the friend decides to have a steak dinner. Sarena will generate good karma from helping a friend when she is down, and from trying to save on pollution by remembering to carpool. However, taking her to a place where animal flesh is served and buying a steak for her has made the Sarena partly responsible for the suffering and killing of the cow. Even though she carpooled, there was still an impact to the environment and people hurt by oil politics. Hence there are also negative karmas that she has collected. These simple examples of karma are just the beginning. Countless more karmas would be generated in this one dinner outing, from supporting the meat industry to showing all sorts of kindness to her friend. Remember, every breath and movement is generating karma. Karma and Intentions: The amount and type of karma depends a lot on one’s intentions. For example, to obtain good karma, one’s thoughts/words/actions must be genuine. If one does good actions only to gain good karma (i.e. for a “profit motive”), then the act will not result in much real benefit, and may even result in some negative karma from being selfish. On the other
hand, a lot of good karma can come from even small actions that are done with great sincerity. Likewise, negative karma also depends on the intentions one has. If one has extremely violent thoughts, they will get a lot of negative karma even if they never acted on these thoughts. If they act on it, the result is even worse! However, if a harmful word/action was unintentional, there is still some negative karma, but much less. Karma is an operating principle of the universe: we are all completely responsible for all of our thoughts, words, and actions. This is especially important in the Jain definition of nonviolence. The Jain Definition of Violence/Non-violence as it to relates to Karma: Jain philosophy has an extremely rigorous and comprehensive definition of violence. Violence can be committed in four ways, and living beings are responsible for ALL violence they commit: 1) 2) 3) 4) violence committed directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, in thought, word, or action, having done it oneself, having another do it for you, or even appreciating the fact that another person has committed violence.
We should note that being uncaring or complacent towards violence going on in the world around us is still considered as violence that we are indirectly responsible for, if we are in a position to learn about it and make a difference. This is an extremely important aspect of Jain philosophy that is most often forgotten. Jain philosophy states that there is no god/guru, etc. that can forgive any mistakes or violence that one has committed, or by their power or grace, directly elevate the soul of another who prays to them, as is believed by many religions. All beings are fully responsible for their own actions, and fully responsible for the progress of their own souls, all the way to liberation. People may often feel that this is an immense and seemingly impossible task. Nevertheless, the role of the gurus and great figures is to TEACH, set an example, and to care. That is their only possible intervention. Karma and a Soul’s Liberation: Ancient philosophers thought of karma as small particles that attach themselves tightly to the soul, binding it to the material world and thus blocking its true nature. Some may now think of it as a form of energy that affects the soul, or an inner impurity/corruption of the soul itself. Either way, it binds a soul to the material world and causes it to go through cycles of birth and death, therefore preventing it from attaining moksha/nirvana. According to Jain philosophy, a soul must release ALL karmas in order to attain enlightenment, including good karma. It is nice to have good karmas, and they may even
be a necessary step. After all, one has to attain an intelligent form with a good set of circumstances in order to pursue even higher goals. Eventually, however, one also has to get rid of the good karmas in order to attain liberation and total freedom (moksha). We get rid of karma in two ways: 1) Karmas can simply take their effect, good or bad. Thus they take their effect and are used up, and are released from the soul. This alone is not enough for a soul to become free from all karmas. Remember that a soul is almost always accumulating more karma through its thoughts/words/actions, and that most souls already have vast amounts of karma bonded to them. . 2) A soul can also release karma in a controlled way. It can slow or stop the accumulation of new karma through ahimsa (non-violence and compassion), aparigraha (freedom from possessions and attachment), ascetic practices, etc. Furthermore, it can also actively release karma through ascetic practices. The second point is ultimately the most important way of achieving total freedom and liberation. Beings born in an intelligent form (i.e. most humans) have the ability to choose and mold their destiny. It takes many lifetimes to achieve a human form, and Jain philosophy urges people to not to waste the opportunity. Even though there is so much karma that one has accumulated, a person can take control of it. Ascetic Practices in Jainism: Ascetic practices are done by Jains for many reasons. The idea is to develop self discipline and inner strength, focus the mind, practice the extreme form of nonattachment and non-violence, develop ones knowledge and insight, and experience higher levels of consciousness, bliss, and harmony. Basic examples of ascetic practices are meditation, fasting, study and thought, community service, and sacrificing comforts, but there are a great many other methods. In terms of karma, ascetic practices may help to release karma in a controlled way. One should remember however, that there has to be a genuine intention and understanding of the practice. Things done in order just to show off or with a selfish profit motive are not so effective. Furthermore, if we exercise compassion, we must do it without attachment or possessiveness. And any good action that we do must be done in a way that minimizes harm to other beings or the environment. The Nine Tattvas : The Nine Tattvas are considered the “Operating Principles of the Universe”. They describe the realities of the universe and souls’ existence, including the relationship between souls and karma.
1. Soul – the Living Element of the Universe: The soul is invisible; it is eternal and lasts forever. The soul’s true nature is infinite knowledge, infinite energy, infinite freedom, and infinite bliss/peacefulness. (However, most souls are unaware of their true nature, and start to look for happiness in material things.) 2. The Five Non-living Elements of the Universe: These are matter, motion (energy), rest (stasis), space, and time. (As mentioned before, ancient Jain philosophers considered karma to be material particles of some sort.) 3. Influx of Karmas: Thoughts, words, actions cause the influx of karmas – both good and bad. 4. Bondage of Karmas: These Karmas attach themselves to the soul. The karma will have a “destructive” or “non-destructive” impact, depending on the nature of the thought, word, or action. 5. Punya: Good thought/word/actions lead to positive karmas. 6. Paap: Bad thought/word/actions lead to negative karmas. 7. Stoppage of Karmas: One can stop the inflow of karma by embarking on the path of enlightened worldview, enlightened knowledge, and enlightened conduct. 8. Shedding of Karmas: Following Jain principles and positive ascetic practices will also cause release of past karmas that the soul has accumulated. 9. Moksha/Liberation: A souls reaches its highest potential (infinite knowledge, freedom, energy, peace, and bliss) by developing itself fully and thereby releasing all of its karma. Is There a God? Jain philosophy states that the universe works according to “natural laws”. Jain philosophy does not support the idea of an all-powerful God, or other gods, that create or oversee the universe. As stated before, Jain philosophy does not maintain that one can pray to a god/guru to get forgiveness or favours. All souls are fully responsible for their own actions, and fully responsible for progressing themselves. Gurus and great figures can teach, guide, and support others. Jains greatly respect the souls of all living beings, as they all have the potential to become pure and “god-like”. Jains especially revere and respect souls that have achieved liberation (moksha), especially those few who came to teach others before they left their bodies forever. They also revere souls who have dedicated themselves to this path, such as monks. (See section entitled “Namokar Mantra” for more details.) Mahavir was a normal human being, who lived over 2500 years ago. By working to develop his enlightened worldview, knowledge, and conduct, he achieved perfect knowledge. He spent many years of his life teaching others, and established an order of monks which allowed Jain principles to be taught from generation to generation. Jains believe that he left his body (i.e. let his body die) under his own control, became free of all karma, and achieved moksha. The properties of a pure/liberated soul are as follows:
1) infinite knowledge (of past, present, and future for every thought, idea, movement, particle, etc. in all universes – note that Jain cosmology supports the idea of infinite universes aside from our own). 2) Infinite Freedom 3) Infinite Bliss/Happiness/Harmony/Peace 4) Infinite Energy Some people feel that these properties make Mahavir seem like a “god”. However, he does not meet the definition of a “god” because he does not exert any intentional control or influence over the universe or souls. He has no authority or rulership, and there is absolutely no requirement to worship him. Certainly, he did not create the universe. Also, Jain philosophy states that all living beings have the exact same potential as him. He is not special or unique in that sense, but is loved because he was a great teacher and he represents the highest ideal for all. Though Mahavir was born as a male, his liberated soul is no longer male or female. Though a liberated soul is considered to be of infinite capacity, it is much different than a traditional god.
Is Jainism a Religion? In English, Jainism is often described as a "religion". However, there is no exact word for religion in the ancient Indian languages. Jainism has traditionally referred to itself as a “dharma”. Dharma means spiritual philosophy and living path. It is the idea of understanding and living by one’s true nature and working towards ones natural duty to life. Thinking, questioning, and openness are encouraged. There is no central human or superhuman authority that others must obey or serve, or who sets rules. The Universe works according to its natural laws, which beings can grow to understand. In addition to thoughts and beliefs, dharma involves every minute aspect of the way we think, speak, and behave. Jain philosophy suggests that we must be compassionate and peaceful, truthful to others and ourselves, generous and free from materialism, and to be ascetic as much as possible. One should be thoughtful, peaceful, and kind while performing natural duties. Again, this is somewhat summarized by the ideas of “enlightened worldview”, “enlightened knowledge”, and “enlightened actions”. Thus, it is nice to refer to Jainism as a “Dharma”, or as a “spiritual philosophy and way of life”, if we want to use English words. This is a more accurate way than using the word “religion” to refer to Jainism. Religion refers more to a belief system that has a much more centralized authority governing belief and action. There is usually the idea of a single god, who may have multiple aspects, or of many gods. In society, there are religious leaders who are considered to have authority and power over others. People must obey and serve some authorities. It is usually believed that the final destiny of a person or being is not only dependant on himself/herself, but also on a god, and maybe even on human authority. Of course, there is always some overlap between what we would call a dharma and a religion… “Dharma is nothing but the real nature of an object. Just as the nature of fire is to burn and the nature of water is to produce a cooling effect, in the same manner, the essential nature of the soul is to seek self-realization and spiritual elevation.” —Quote from Mahavir, Jain Tirthankar.
Jain Origins and Mythology Jain philosophy considers itself to be universal and timeless. There is no god or creator, but the universe has always existed. Just like the physical “laws” that govern things like gravity and light, Jain philosophy theorizes that it simply describes the laws of karma and soul. These laws have always existed, even before anyone came to believe them on earth. Therefore, according to the philosophy, it is believed that no god or person ever created Jainism. Rather, it was “discovered” as people learned about the laws of the universe, especially by those who worked towards enlightenment. .
Jain cosmology believes that the universe has cycles. For example, in the beginning the universe is very simple, and it grows in complexity until it reaches a peak. This is a progressive phase. In the second half of a time cycle, the universe then slowly “burns out”, or decays. This is a declining phase. Finally, the process starts over, and this cycle goes on forever. Perhaps it is like having a big bang, after which the universe grows, but it eventually runs out of structured energy (a process called “entropy”), and then collapses only to start over. Jain mythology considers Tirthankaras to be enlightened souls who have remained amongst people and continued to teach for a short time. Most souls, once they become enlightened, no longer interact with any other people. All enlightened souls are revered, but especially these teachers. Mahavir was the last Tirthankara, and he existed over 2500 years ago. It is believed that he was the last of 24 Tirthankaras. History is different than mythology of course. There is documented history that Mahavir was an actual person, as was Parswanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara. There may be some evidence for some earlier Tirthankaras (my knowledge is lacking in this area) but it is impossible to prove all of the earlier Tirthankaras for which there is much mythology. The earliest historical evidence of Jain civilization is from 5000 years ago, in what are called the Harappan civilizations in the Indus Valley. . Jainism, Human Rights, and Social Issues The principles of ahimsa, aparigraha and anekantavada support the idea of world peace, refraining from wars, respecting all other peoples and their beliefs, and helping all people. Violence is never justified. Using violence for self defense or the defense of others may be reasonable, but it will still cause negative karma, though it will be very little compared to an aggressive act. Human rights are extremely important. Social issues such as helping the poor, those who have been hurt in any way, and sharing all resources are promoted by Jain philosophy. One should not accumulate possessions, but rather share one’s time and resources. It is okay to become “wealthy” if one is not attached to their possessions; it is not accumulated in a way that harms other beings or the environment, and is ultimately used in a way that helps other beings. Jainism does not recognize that any material thing can be truly owned by a person or being. However, within limits, we must recognize the conventions of ownership and rights over “property” in ways that respect others’ beliefs and help society function. Of course, the conventions can be questioned and adjusted if they are found to be harmful, and we must recognize that different people may have conflicting beliefs about ownership conventions. In addition to respecting the rights and well-being of other people, Jain philosophy strongly asserts that the rights of all living beings, therefore all animals and plants as well as humans, must be respected. Although priority is given to beings that have a higher level of consciousness, it is still extremely necessary to respect even the smallest insects and plants. Water, soil, and air are thought to sustain vast amounts of life, and should be
minimally disturbed. Although we may need plants to eat, etc. the idea is that we take the absolute minimum from the earth, and keep the earth in a state that all beings can live their lives in their own ways. The monk who makes almost no impact on the environment is the ideal for all to strive towards. Jainism, Vegetarianism and the Environment Respect for the environment is essential to the Jainism. According to the philosophy, one should not steal or harm the earth and its beings in any way; no intelligent being has the right to do so. Following the principle of ahimsa, many Jains have restricted their use of vehicles, shoes, and do not eat root vegetables that require digging the earth to obtain (because that would kill the entire plant and disturb so many other beings in the ground). For years, the Jain scriptures were not written down, and part of the reason was that it was considered contradictory to hurt a palm tree by breaking a single leaf, and then write sacred words on it about non-violence. To dig the earth or build on it is considered a terrible hurt to the trillions of life forms that die in the process. Furthermore, larger animals and trees die who depend on that earth. It is also considered to be stealing from all future beings who would otherwise depend on that earth for their food or living space. As for animals, Jainism strictly advises that all humans should be vegetarian if possible in their circumstance. In this day and age, when animals are harmed for dairy and leather production, the philosophy definitely promotes veganism. The principles of ahimsa and aparigraha are relevant in modern times more than they have ever been before. Human harm to all life is spiraling to higher and higher levels than ever before. Jain philosophy promotes a duty towards protecting and helping all life, at least until such a time when a person becomes a monk and refrains from worldly life. Even then, a monk’s example and teachings would be a powerful help for all life forms.
Namokar Mantra The Namokar Mantra is the most common one recited by Jains. It pays respect to great spiritual teachers, liberated souls, and those on the path to liberation of their souls. To “bow” in Jainism means to pay homage to and respect. It does not mean to worship or pray to them as gods, but rather, to focus one’s energy on these advanced souls as a reminder or example for inspiration to achieve the same thing. Most Jains are familiar with a second part to this mantra; however, it is not part of the original and was added at a later time in history. This add-on, which has become standard for most Jains, actually contradicts some of the main ideas of Jainism, and so it has been excluded here. Statement
I bow down to the great teachers (i.e. Arihants, also called Tirthankaras) that have obtained perfect knowledge by conquering anger, greed, ego, and deceit. I bow down to all beings that have obtained perfect knowledge (Siddhas) by conquering anger, greed, ego, and deceit. I bow down to leaders of Jain Congregations (i.e. Acharyas) I bow down to spiritual teachers and scholars I bow down to all those in the universe who live life simply and act as an example for others
Mahavir was a great Jain teacher who lived over 2500 years ago. There were a total of 24 great Jain teachers. . Siddhas are liberated souls. There are many Siddhas. Only a 24 Siddhas, Mahavir the last, remained in society to teach others after their enlightenment. There are many Acharyas living today. They act as heads of monk congregations. These scholars know the scriptures very well, and act as teachers for other monks. These are monks (sadhus and sadhivs) who lead a spiritual life and act as teachers for householders.
Namo Loe Savvasahunam
Do you see Anekantavada in these drawings?
Test your understanding 1) According to Jainism, if we pray to God, good things will happen to us and we will go to heaven. True / False. 2) Jains must worship Tirthankaras in order to go to heaven and attain a better life in the present as well as the next birth: True / False. 3) The ultimate goal of a soul according to Jain philosophy is:
4) What are the three pillars (or “jewels”) of Jainism? a) b) c) 5) The two MAIN categories of karmas are: a) b) 6) Kirpal donates to a charity and he fasts for 8 days because he knows that he will get lots of good karma from it. He wants a good birth in the next life. Will this work for him?
7) Jain philosophy states that we must attain as much good karma as possible to achieve moksha (enlightenment). Please comment.
8) What are the five main vows, or Mahavratas, recommended by Jainism? State the Sanskrit word or English equivalent. a) b) c) d)
e) 9) Dipti is holding a business meeting to get more clients. She wants to serve meat so that she can attract more customers and make more money. She says that this is okay because she has to make a living. Which Jain principles are involved in this scenario?
10) Pick the best description of Anekantvada: a) everyone’s point of view is correct b) everyone’s point of view is wrong b) no single view can contain the complete truth about any subject. Only one with infinite knowledge can know something completely
11) What is your understanding of who is a Jain?
12) Discuss what makes you a Jain?
I would like to give thanks to Neelesh Jain and Nancy Jain, who were my cocollaborators of this initial project years ago. Though most of their content is quite altered, I have still retained most of the text, diagrams, and the spirit that Neelesh put into the three pages. I have used Dr. Jagdish Prasad Jain, Vastupal Parikh, and Amar Salgia as resources in this project. I have learned certain concepts better from them and combined their terminologies to develop a better English vocabulary for Jain concepts that are usually translated inadequately. Finally, whatever quality exists in this document would not have been possible without the dedicated editing abilities of Ms. Samara Nicholson. My gratitude to all of you! Tushar Mehta
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