Jainism - Origin, Principles, Sects and Literature

Jain Prateek Chinha

Origins and Teachings:
  • Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that traces its roots back to the 6th century BCE.
  • It was founded by Lord Mahavira, who was born in the present-day state of Bihar.
  • Jainism emphasizes non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness, non-possessiveness, and compassion towards all living beings.
  • The central teachings revolve around the concept of karma, soul purification, and liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death.

Principles and Beliefs:

  • Ahimsa (non-violence) is the most significant principle of Jainism. Jains strive to avoid harm to any living being intentionally.
  • Jains follow a strict vegetarian diet and often practice fasting as a means of self-discipline and purification.
  • Jainism upholds the belief in the existence of countless souls (jivas) that are trapped in physical bodies due to karmic bondage.
  • The ultimate goal for Jains is to achieve liberation (moksha) by shedding all karmic attachments and reaching a state of spiritual purity.

Three Jewels of Jainism:

  • Right Faith (Samyak Darshana): It entails having a deep and unwavering faith in the teachings of Jainism and the path to liberation.
  • Right Knowledge (Samyak Jnana): It refers to acquiring knowledge about the true nature of the soul, karma, and the principles of Jainism through study and contemplation.
  • Right Conduct (Samyak Charitra): It involves leading a moral and ethical life by adhering to the principles of non-violence, truthfulness, and non-possessiveness.

Sects and Literature:

  • Jainism has two major sects: Digambara (sky-clad) and Shwetambara (white-clad). The Digambara sect believes in complete nudity as a means of renunciation, while the Shwetambara sect allows the use of white garments.
  • Jainism has a rich collection of sacred texts known as Agamas. These texts contain the teachings of Lord Mahavira and subsequent Jain scholars.
  • Some of the important Jain scriptures include the Acharanga Sutra, Sutrakritanga, Uttaradhyayana Sutra, and Bhagavati Sutra. (Also Read: Jain Literature)

Contributions and Influence:

  • Jainism has made significant contributions to Indian art, literature, and philosophy. The ancient Jain texts contain valuable insights into various aspects of life, ethics, and metaphysics.
  • Jain temples, known as Jain derasars or basadis, are architectural marvels, showcasing intricate carvings and sculptures.
  • Jain principles of non-violence and compassion have influenced the socio-cultural fabric of India, promoting harmonious coexistence and respect for all living beings.

Prominent Figures:

  • Lord Mahavira is considered the most important figure in Jainism as the last and 24th Tirthankara (spiritual leader).
  • Other notable Jain figures include Bhadrabahu, Kundakunda, Hemachandra, and Acharya Haribhadra, who made significant contributions to Jain philosophy, literature, and religious practices.

Also Read: Rise of Buddhism and Jainism

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