spikereinhard

Salutations to you fellow Journeymen.  I have been doing some research on Jainism recently, and I am extremely impressed with the logic and the boldness of this ancient tradition.  Indeed, the ideal is release from the body through uncompromising nonviolence and renunciation.  One thing strikes me as rather paradoxical, however, and that is its doctrine of Anekantavada, or "No-one-endedness".  This doctrine, although thoroughly logical and affirmative of the relative nature of "truth", seems to be inevitably self-refuting.  The philosophical conundrum, as I see it, is that by categorically denying any absolute position on truth whatsoever, the Anekantavada throws into question the necessity for all of the other Jain doctrines and practices that define Jainism as a distinct religion.  Once one asserts that all is relative, he undermines his very assertion; for how does one account for the truth of the statement itself?  Where is the "fact of the matter", so to speak.  Clearly, the reason for the doctrine is to foster compassion for the views of others, and clearly, the doctrine adheres to strict logical analysis.  But in the FINAL analysis, the doctrine simultaneously dissolves Jainism and all other religious sects into ONE.  Namaste.

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JayaramV
Anekantavada asserts that there is no one particular argument for any truth and that an argument may appear acceptable from one perspective and unacceptable from another. It is based on another concept of Jainism known as Syadvad. Properly understood anektantavada should promote tolerance for all points of view rather than their negation or refutation. Anekantavada does not attempt to disapprove opinions or points of view but only expose their limitations and calls for a comprehensive approach to understand truth. It suggests that if we want to know about a truth correctly we need to examine it from different standpoints and take the best from each of them to arrive at the truth.

This is what the modern Gestalt theory attempts to do in resolving deep psychological issues. Perhaps if we take Jainism seriously, we should believe that no one particular religion is good, but each has something to contribute. Jainism in a way calls for collective wisdom rather than absolute wisdom and to some extent the same principle is followed in science. Every major scientific discovery and invention is the outcome of the work of several individual researchers. Jainism is a beautiful religion. Because of its commitment its extreme tolerance of other religions, it gradually lost ground to more aggressive religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. When Alexander came to India, he met Jain monks and was greatly impressed by their knowledge and wisdom. Chandragupta Maurya died as Jain monk. And Ashoka had such a tough time fighting the Jain king of Orissa. In south and in the eastern belt of India Jainism was patronized by many kings and queens till the devotional Hinduism gained ground through the efforts of Alvars and Nayanars.
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mdejess

I am curious why Buddhism has become popular among Westerners today but not Jainism.

Please enlighten me.


mdejess
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JayaramV
Very good question. Jainism is a very austere religion and demands extreme kind of ascetic practices. Practice of Jainism is not easy even for those who want to be lay Jains. Because of their belief in karma and existence of souls even in inanimate objects, they cannot practice all kinds of professions, especially those that require alteration and cutting of objects like wood cutting, carpentary etc. The Buddha suggested a middle path in which there was no place for extreme austerities. The lay Buddhists were even excluded from the monastic discipline applicable to the monks. So comparitively it is a milder religion and easier to practice. Secondly Buddhism is perhaps the world's first missionary religion. The Buddhist monks travelled far and wide in the ancient world to spread the message of the Buddha. They however did it out of compassion for the world and to deliver the people from the inexorable law of suffering.
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spikereinhard
Hello everybody. Regrettably, I have not visited this site for a while; it is good to return and see that discussions are taking place. Truly, Jayaram continues to do a stellar job at supplying relevant and detailed information. I would simply like to comment briefly on a major difference between the Buddhist and Jain traditions, and that difference lies specifically in the way the traditions conceive of karma. It is important to understand that nonviolence (ahimsa) is the tantamount aim of religion for the Jain. Because ALL action--even that of breathing and digestion--entails violence to atoms, molecules, and microorganisms, it must cease completely before liberation (kavalya--integration, isolation) can be obtained. Hence, the Jains view ALL karma in a negative light: it is strictly binding because it necessarily entails violence. (It should also be mentioned that Jains believe that karma is actually a kind of "matter" that weighs upon the jiva, or individual soul.) Buddhists, on the other hand, view karma more positively, emphasizing that it serves as an instructional force and a basis for moral behavior and compassion. Moreover, the nature of karma (whether "positive" or "negative") is determined by one's intentions, and not necessarily by one's physical actions. Buddhists do not tend to examine the final logical implications of a presiding virtue of ahimsa. (Ultimately, their doctrine of emptiness (shunyata) makes it unnecessary to do so.) It is of interest to note that many scholars believe that Siddhartha Gautama was actually practicing as a Jain prior to his enlightenment. Ematiated and starving physically and mentally, he eventually renounced the path of extreme asceticism and became the leading exponent for the "Middle Path".
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JayaramV
Gautama Buddha and Mahavira were contemporaries and both spent sometime together with Gosala of the Ajivika sect. They were dissatisfied with the fatalism of the Ajiviaka sect and left. Gautama was never a jain. He did practice self-mortification for sometime before he was convinced that extreme asceticism was not helpful in achieving nirvana. In ancient India extreme asceticism was not confined to Jainism. There were several sectarian movements outside the Vedic fold and they practiced different methods of self torture and self denial. In one of his discourses the Buddha mentioned 22 types of self-mortification and 13 different dressing styles used by the monks in his time. Some of these sects were atheistic and some materialistic and they were extremely disturbing to the orthodox people. In the early days the Buddhist and Jains held heated debates and we have some evidence that the Buddha himself often held discussions to clear a point or two about his new path.

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spikereinhard
Hello Jayaram and other viewers. This is a nice discussion. From my understanding, Jainism was well ingrained in the Indian culture well before the time of Mahavira, Siddhartha Gautama, and Gosala. I have read that Mahavira and Gosala had initially shared a common view until Gosala began devaluating the role of human effort in the process of liberation. In short, Gosala claimed that asceticism was not the cause of liberation but rather a sympton of how far along the jiva was on the path. Ultimately, liberation, just like everything else, "just happens". Of course, this was repulsive to both Siddhartha and Mahavira, and they both denounced Gosala's stance as dangerous. Anyway, I digress here. My real point was to ask if you know of any Indian religion/sect that is believed to have existed prior to Jainism? I have kind of been viewing Jainism as the "primordial" pre-Aryan Indian religion. Perhaps this is misguided? I'll look forward to your reply. In the meantime, all the best to you and yours. Namaste.

Todd R.
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JayaramV
Hello Todd,

There are claims and counter claims regarding the antiquity of Jainism. Jains also claim that it was Rishabanath, the first Thirthankara, who brought agriculture, caste system, art forms, education and civilization to the mankind. There are also claims that the Indus people practiced some form of Jainism and that the seated yogi depicted in the indus seals was indeed Rishabhanath, not Siva as claimed by the Hindus. It appears to me that Jainism was one of the most ancient religious sects of India which continued for a longtime as an ascetic tradition before it became a full fledged religion. This development took place in the sixth century BC with the arrival of Mahavira, who just like the Buddha enjoyed considerable popularity amongh the princely families of his time.. I am also not sure which aspects of Jainism entered Hinduism and vice versa. It is possible both religions derived their concepts from a general pool of religious beliefs and practices that prevailed in ancient India. This makes sense when we consider the fact that in ancient India as today individual sampradayas or various religious traditions headed by inspirational gurus or religious heads exerted more influence upon the religious behavior of people rather than organized religions or religious institutions. Having said that I must admit that I came across some references in the Puranas against Jainism that were not particularly adulatory. They suggest that by the early Christian era, Jainims was viewed with antipathy by various Hindu groups, especially so in the east and the south, where Jainism was significantly popular.
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AlexKopf
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was President of India from 1962 to 1967 is quoted as having said: "There is nothing wonderful in my saying that Jainism was in existence long before the Vedas were composed."

Dr. Vastupal Parikh writes in his recent book "Jainism and the new spirituality": "When western indologists started studying jainism in the early 19th century, they first believed that both jainism and buddhism were offshoots of hinduism. Further study changed this notion; however, some paralles between the life-stories of Buddha and Mahavira led them to a hasty conclusion that the two stories were of the same person, and therefore, jainism was only a variation of buddhism. This error was also rectfied in time, but left them with another incorrect assumption that Mahavira, like the Buddha, was the 'founder' of a 'new religion' called jainism. It is only in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that western scholars took the study of jain history seriously. Largely because of the pioneering work of Hermann Jacobi, an impressive array of western jainologists have pieced together archaelogical, historical, literary, and religous information to develop, what now appears to be a plausible history of jainism. Among these indologists are jainologists such as J.G. Bühler, Jas Burgess, Carpentier, James Ferguson, A. Guerionot, N. R. Guseva, Hertel, Hurnle, Kuhne, B.C. Law, E. Leumann, J. E. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, Louis Renou, Edward P. Rice, B. A. Saletore, Walther Schubring, Vincent Smith, F. W. Thomas, Albrecht Weber, Wilson, Maurice Winternitz, and Heinrich Zimmer. Indian scholars have also made significant contributions to our understanding of jain history. Notable among these are: B.C. Bhattacharya, A.M. Ghatge, Banarasidas Jain, Kamta Prasad Jain, Jagmanderlal Jaini, H. R. Kapadia, P.C. Nahar, H.D. Sankalia, Chimanlal J. Shah, and A.N. Upadhye. Studies by these scholars support the claim that Mahavira, Parsva, and Nemi - the twenty-fourth, twenty-third, and twenty-second Tirthankaras respectively - did walk this earty and preach a apath to liberation that the Jains follow today. Nemi seems to have preached in Gujarat and to have been a cousin of Krsna. Parsva amd Mahavira have been verfied as spiritual leaders in Bihar. Parsva was born in 850 BCE and Mahavira in 500 BCE. These three are the last of the present series of twenty-four Tirthnakaras, the first aacording to teh jain tradition is Rikhava (or Rishabha). Recent  archaelogical excavations may provide some clues to the historicity of jainism. The food grains found recently in excavations in Afghanistan and along the northern reaches of the indus valley in Pakistan are carbon-dated to ca. 6500 BCE, leading to the conclusion that, "In southern Asia, the cultivation of grain strated ca. 7000 BCE." (Kulke, H. and Rothermund, D. "A History of India", p.5) This date may be pushed back by several thousand years through more research, but the present data confirms that agriculture in the indian subcontinent was well advanced even eight to nine thousand years ago. Excavations of the well-planned cities of Harappa, and Mohenjo Daro, in Northwestern indian subcontinent have yielded many seals and statues. These statues and figurines are in naked meditative poses - sitting in a lotus position or meditating in a standing kayostarga position. Such poses are unique to the jain tradition and are used in both the earliest and the modern Tirthankaras iconography. Based on these seals, some historians have suggested that a philosophy (similar to that of jainism) of the purification of soul by ascetic and meditation practices existed at least 5000 years ago during the indus valley period. (see Kulke, H. and Rothermund, D. "A History of India", p.20). Furthermore, remarkably detailed statues and seals of an asctic with distinctly non-aryan - dravidian - features (western archaelogists have named this one 'Ascetic king') and his iconic bull, supports the jain claim that this represents someone akin to a historical Rikhava or some monk in his tradtion. Those who believe in the misconception of Mahavir as the founder of jainism may have difficulty in discussing or accepting this historical scrutiny. They may continue to cling to the Hindu revisionist's claim that the harappan or indus valley culture was a 'proto-Shiva' culture. However, the jains feel vindicated that in just one century historians have come a long way - from not even accepting jainsm as a distinct religion to proving harrapan era to be that of Rikhav worship." (Vastupal Parikh, Jainism and the new spirituality)

My personal conclusion is that Jainism (and the shramanic traditions) are rooted in pre-aryan India.
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JayaramV

Hi Alex,

Thanks for sharing your views on this Forum. I appreciate your inputs and you may be even right regarding the antiquity of Jainism. However, I want to add a few clarifications here. It may sound strange but talking about whether Jainism is ancient or Hinduism is ancient is like discussing whether one part of the body is older than another part of the same body. If the entire body of religious knowledge that originated in India is called the Dharma, Jainism represents some parts of the body, Hinduism represents some parts and Buddhism represents some. comparatively, Hinduism represents a larger part of the body than the other two. Now one may argue which part of the body was older, ignoring that their nourishment came from the same soil. I hope I have used the right metaphor.

It is wrong to put Hinduism and Jainism in the same category as two distinct religions. The fact is the history of India, especially the religious part was never properly studied or researched in independent India. The Europeans did some research, but their aim was basically to find fault with it or show it in poor light in comparison with Christianity. Honestly, the historians of modern India did not do any original works. Most of the elite class of Indian historians chose to gloss over the facts to avoid hurting anyone. They played safe to win research grants, get their books published, get university jobs, or simply to push their ideologies. On the otherside of the spectrum you will find a rather reactionary response to the earlier research done by the European historians. Some people want to tell you that Hinduism is hundreds and thousands of years old and ancient Indians had the knowledge to build large bridges, and fly airplanes and spaceships. India was invaded by a number of foreign powers. Yet, a lot of people scoff at the idea of Aryan invasion. I am not a big fan of this theory, but I do not rule out the possiblity of people coming from other areas into the Indian subcontinent and getting absorbed into the mainstream culture.

If  you study presentday Hinduism, you will see that the so called Vedic religion was almost obliterated except for namesake. Gods like Indra, Varuna, Agni or Mitra or Aditya are no more worshipped with the same reverence as Vishnu or Shiva or Durga. The memory of Aryan kings is preserved in the Upanishads, but their power is gone. Whether they were foreinger or natives and whether they were white or black or colored, I do not know. But they certainly contributed to the knowledge of Samkhya, Yoga, Upanishads, Jainism, Buddhism, and several other sects. Their memory is also preserved in the popular usage of the world Arya, meaning a noble person and its vernacular forms such as Ayya (means father or Sir). I also believe that Indians have been a heterogenous group from the earliest time, like the US today. For example, the ancestors of many feudal castes in a southern state like Andhra Pradesh were not Dravdians but Sakas or Pahlavas who settled in the coutnry under the royal patronage and received large tracts of land under feudal grants. Manuy of these people originally practiced Jainism or Buddhism (Andhra was a popular center for both), but gradually moved to Hinduism while many Buddhist and Jain shrines were converted into Hindu temples. Ancient Indian armies were a major source of cultural integration both in the north and the south, with many foreigners entering the service of Indian rulers and getting absorbed into native culture. There were frequent wars among the native kings and they needed lot of people to fight them. Caravans that came from Africa., Medittteranians and Far East, and the ships that sailed from the coast of Africa were other sources. Unfortunately, this part of the history is never explored in detail and people still keep talking about Aryan and Dravidian divide. Once in a while, I get some angry responses from people for supporting the Aryan invasion theory (where and when I do not know). Few days back also some one said it and I asked her to send me the links of the articles where I said it, and she never replied back.

The truth is India is home to not just four major religions but perhaps a hundred or even more. People followed a number of philosophies and beliefs, and worshipped a variety of gods and goddesses, without assigning any label of a religion. The concept of religion was alien to India until the British came. The Muslim rulers treated all the natives alike and never distinguished a Brahman from a Sikh or a Jain. They persecuted everyone. Around 6th Century B.C. India was dotted with several major religious movements and ascetic traditions. The number was probably between 50-100. When Jesus began teaching his doctrine, he might have had a few hundred followers in Jerusalem. A number of ascetic traditions in ancient India enjoyed a much larger following running into thousands.

Jainism and Buddhism managed to emerge as separate religions because of the leadership qualities of people like Parsvanatha, Mahavira and The Buddha, not because they had anything new to say but because they came from royal families and by virtue of their birth and status commanded respect and attention. At the time of the origin of these religions, they were nothing but schools of philosophy which coexisted with several others schools. There never was Hinduism in ancient India. As I stated elsewhere, you had a Vaidkia, a Snataka, a Jaina, a Buddha, a Sramana, a Tantrika, a Yogi, a Sadhaka, a Samkhya Vadin, a Lokayata, an Ajivaka, a Carvaka, a Shakta, a Parivrajaka, a Vaisesika, a Mimansaka, a Kapalika, a Saiva, a Vaishnava, but not a Hindu. And even among these there were many variations and branches. For example, there were over 25 schools of Buddhism and several schools of Jainism in ancient India. The rest of the schools that originated in ancient India, either became part of Hinduism, or disappeared. When the Muslims came, they treated everyone with the same contempt. When the British came, they also lumped initially all the religions of India into one, just as the Muslims rulers did in medieval India. However, later scholars separated Budddhism, Jainism and Sikkhism and identified them as separate religions or movements. The rest of the traditions were all lumped together under the generic term Hinduism. To put it bluntly, they did a major surgery upon the ancient body of Dharma and separated its parts to fit them into their western notions of a religion. They continue with these distinctions because it serves a lot of interests.

While a Jain historian may conveniently speak about the origins of Jainism with some certainty, it is difficult to say the same thing about Hinduism, because when you talk of the history of Hinduism, you do not know where to begin . Should we begin with Indus Valley or with thousands of tribes that existed in the past and continue even today and whose gods and rituals are integrated into popular Hinduism? And if, can any historian tell me that the Indus people practiced only one religion? The skeletons found in the excavations suggest that they belonged to different races and they were not cremated.  They had African, Caucasian and Mongoloid features. The Indus valley civilization covered an area that is larger than the Egyptian empire. Can we say that all the people who lived in those days, in an area of a few thousand square kilometers worshipped the same gods and believed in the same ideas?

It is my observation that until Jainism became distinguished as a separate religion, its history was part of the history of the religious traditions of India which were collectively known as Hinduism in British India and as Dharma in the ancient world. People may jump at me for saying it but it is the truth. Mahavira did not know that his religion was Jainism. He believed in a particular Dharma or religious duty practiced by earlier Tirthankaras, just as Brahmans believed in a particular religious duty or Dharma practiced by ancient seers. While they differed in some fundamental beliefs, they also held several common beliefs, worshipped same gods, and derived inspiration from the ancient doctrines that took root in the soil of the country such as karma and rebirth.

To draw a modern analogy, Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement is said to be registered in the USA as a separate religion. Now, if it is true, one can argue that the Hare Krishna movement is also as ancient as Hinduism because both are derived from the Vedas. We know the truth because it happened recently. However, imagine if it happened in 1000 BC. We would have no clue which gave rise to which.

There can be spelling mistakes. I will correct them later.

Jayaram
Edited on 1/26/2014

 

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AlexKopf
Dear Jayaram

thank you for your explanation. I think I got your point. There is so much we don't know and probably never will lnow about the history of India and ist religions, so ist difficult to talk about it but I hope that scholars will shed more light in that matter in the future. Everyone can contribute something to solve these questions. I will certainly have to Research many years and not only Jainism but also Hinduism and Buddhism. I know that they have similar beliefs but I am afraid to call them one body. And yes, there is a chance that later Hinduism was able to discover further ascpects of truth which were unknown to the old Indians.


-Alex  
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