6. Jainism

 

I. Origins
A. Historical Context
1. Dissatisfaction with the growing power of the Brahmins and Caste System
2. Axial Age

B. Mahavira (c. 599 -527 BCE)
- last of 24 Tirthankaras (crossing builders) who established Jainism as it exists today

C. Early Life
- born into the Kshatriya caste
- his father was a minor ruler and his family was wealthy
- he married and had a daughter, yet he was unhappy
- after meeting a group of wandering ascetics, he longed to join them but waited until his family responsibilities were fulfilled

D. Life as an Ascetic
- he joined the wandering ascetics but came to believe a more severe asceticism, meditation and the practice ahimsa was needed to achieve release from samsara
- after 12 years he achieved enlightenment and he devoted the next 30 years of his life to helping others achieve liberation
- he died at the age of 72 and having achieved moksha is completely detached from this world

II. Mahavira’s Teachings
A. Dualism
- all things are comprised of two substances: soul (jiva) and matter (ajiva)

B. Cause of Samsara
- karma (past actions) that produce ajiva and clings to the soul preventing liberation

C. Path to Liberation
- release can be achieved through the practice of asceticism, ahimsa (non- injury), meditation and the study of the Agamas
- once liberated, the soul rises to the top of the universe and enjoys an eternity of bliss and omniscience

D. The Agamas
- Jain scriptures

III. Jain Practice
A. Fourfold Community
- Renouncers - Householders
1. Monks 3. Laymen
2. Nuns    4. Laywomen

B. Goal
- to purge the soul of ajiva by eliminating karma
- defensive and offensive strategies

C. Renouncers: The Five Great Vows
1. Ahimsa (non-injury)
- cause no harm to one-sense beings and beings with souls

2. Truthfulness
- truth can be relative

3. Non-Stealing
- take only what is given

4. Celibacy
- to denounce all desire as well

5. Non-possession, Non-attachment

D. Householders
1. take the same but lesser vows

2. symbiotic relationship exists between the renouncers and householders

E. Worship
1. Idol Veneration
a) Jinas
- for inspiration and good karma

b) Traditional Hindu Deities
- for assistance in daily life

2. Temples
- places where renouncers and laypeople can worship together
- built and maintained by laypeople

3. Worship in the Home

4. Religious Festivals
- celebrating events in the lives of the Jinas

IV. Jain Sects
A. Reasons for Division
- possibly due to one group moving south in the 4th century BCE

B. Svetambara – White Clad
- most popular sect found primarily in northern India
- interpret the Agamas liberally
- allow women adherents and nuns as women are believed capable of achieving moksha

C. Digambara – Sky Clad
- found mostly in the south and is conservative
- women are considered man’s greatest temptation and not capable of moksha
- women are not allowed into temples and monasteries

V. Jainism Today
A. A minority religion
- with 4.2 million adherents

B. Current Revitalization
1. rooted in the colonial past (1857-1947) when reformers sought to modernize and achieve national recognition > highly successful
2. since Independence focus has been on:
a) achieving religious minority status in India as Indian law continued to place Jainism under the heading of Hinduism > achieved Jan. 20, 2014
b) gaining recognition as a world religion
- motivated by the desire to be modern as well as the existence of a Jain diaspora resulting from out migration
- Jains outside of India emphasize ahimsa rather than renunciation

 

 

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