Another important religion that cropped up during the
period of Hinduism and Buddhism is Jainism. It is an
ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss
is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. The aim of Jain life
is to achieve liberation of the soul. Jainism is an Indian religion that emphasizes complete non-violence and
asceticism. Followers of this religion
which believes in renounciation and harmlessness are called Jains, and there
are about 4 million worldwide. According to the philosophers of this religion people should
fight against the passions and bodily senses to gain enlightenment, or
omniscience and purity of soul. Jains trace their
history through 24 Thirthankara. The 1stThirthankaraha was
Rishabhanatha. The last two Thirthankaraha were Parshavantha (872-772B.C.)
Mahavira was the 24thThirthankaraha. His predecessor Thirthankaraha Parshavantha was said to have lived 250 years before Mahavira. It is said that Jainism existed even before Indus Valley Civilisation. The seals engraved by the people of Indus Valley Civilisation seem to suggest that this religion existed at the time of Indus Valley Civilisation. The scriptures in Vedic period also make references to the teerthankaras or Jain prophets including Lord Rishabadev, Lord Aristanemi and Lord Ajitanath.
Mahavira too was born in a royal family of Vaishali which is located in modern
state of Bihar. When Mahavira was 30 years, he renounced the worldly pleasures
for finding the cause of his existence. After wandering for many years he got
enlightment at the age of 42 years and devoted rest of his life meditating and
preaching the noble truths of this religion.
The Three Jewels constitute the basis of the Jain principles and ethics are having right knowledge, faith, and practice must be cultivated together because none of them can be achieved in the absence of the others. Right faith leads to calmness, detachment, kindness, and the renunciation of pride of birth, beauty of form, wealth, scholarship, prowess, and fame. Right faith leads to perfection only when followed by right practice. Yet, there can be no virtuous conduct without right knowledge, the clear distinction between the self and the non self. Knowledge without faith and conduct is futile. Without purification of mind, all austerities are mere bodily torture. Right practice is thus spontaneous, not a forced mechanical quality. Attainment of right practice is a gradual process, and a lay person can observe only partial self-control; however, is able to observe more comprehensive rules of conduct.
Two separate courses of conduct are laid down for the ascetics and the laity. Because thought gives rise to action, violence in thought merely precedes violent behaviour.
The main aim of Jain preaching's rests on the understanding of the working of karma its effects on the living soul. They believe in complete Ahimsa, this can be explained by the fact that Jainis wear mask to avoid inhaling small organisms.
Sects of Jainism:
Jainism is divided into two sects Digambar and Svethambara. The Digambars are people who do not wear clothes because they believe that clothes are for external attractions and this increases our dependency and desire on material things. Digmbara’s believe that women cannot attain Moksha in the same birth As per this sect they believe that Mahavira was not married. The Digambar monks believed that nudity was an essential part to renounce world and that some are incapable of achieving liberation from worldly existence. Unlike Digambaras, svethambara are quite opposite. They wear only white clothes as they consider that there is nothing written in Jain scriptures related to wearing or not wearing of clothes. In Sanskrit Svetha means white clad. Svethambara’s believe that women can attain moksha and that Mallinath a Thirthankara was a female.
Svethambara’s are further divided into subsects such as Stanakavasi, Terapanthi, Deravasi. Many Jains do not do any idol worship. However, Jain temples have images of many Thirthankaraha and this is for the remembrance and not for worship. . The Jains celebrate five major events of the life of Mahavira viz. conception, birth, renunciation, enlightment and finally death. The major festivals of Jains are Mahavira Jayanthi( birth of Lord Mahavira). Another important festival is Paryushana in this all Jains fast and the spiritual gurus read out and explain Kalpasutra the sacred book of Jains. Major pilgrimage centres in India are Palitana, Rankpur, Shravanabelogola, Dilwara temple khandagiri caves and Udayagiri caves near Bhuvaneshwar in Odisha.