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2550th Mahaveer Nirvan Mahotsav

Context

  • Recently, the Prime Minister of India inaugurated the 2550th Bhagwan Mahaveer Nirvan Mahotsav on the auspicious occasion of Mahaveer Jayanti at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi.

About Mahaveer Jayanti (aka Mahavir Janma Kalyanak)

  • It celebrates the birth of Mahavira, the last Tirthankara and the founder of Jainism.
  • Mahavira was born on the 13th day of the bright half of the Hindu month of Chaitra, which usually falls in March or April.

Mahavira Swami

Birth and Early Life:

– He was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala of the Ikshvaku dynasty, in 540 BC at Kshatriyakund (part of the well-known Vaishali republic) in Bihar.

– He was named Vardhaman, which means continuously increasing.

– He was a Kshatriya prince of the Lichchhavis, a group that was part of the Vajji Sangha.

– Though he was born with worldly comforts and luxuries, they never attracted him and at the age of thirty, he left home and went to live in a forest. For twelve years he led a hard and lonely life.

Kevaljnan:

– At the age of forty-two he attained Kevaljnan (omniscience) through right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct (Three Jewels of Jainism).

– He became a Jina (conqueror) and the twenty-fourth Tirthankara.

a. Rishabh Deva was the first Tirthankara.

Teachings and Contributions:

– All living beings have a soul and all souls are equal.

– He questioned the authority of the Vedas and also emphasized individual agency and suggested the masses attain liberation from the trials and tribulations of worldly existence.

– This was in marked contrast to the Brahmanical position, wherein, an individual’s existence was thought to be determined by his or her birth in a specific caste or gender.

– He added one more vow to the four great vows from the time of Lord Parshvanath. The five great vows are:

a. Ahimsa (non-violence);

b. Satya (truth);

c. Asteya (non-stealing);

d. Aparigraha (non-possession);

e. Brahmacharya (chastity, added by Mahavira).

– There are two forms of these five vows:

a. Mahavrata: The 5 great vows followed by Jain monks and nuns.

b. Anuvrata: The less strict version of great vows followed by Jain lay people.

– As the last Tirthankar, he revived the Tirth (religious order) and this order is known as the Jain Sangh (order).

Language:

– He used the Prakrit language so that ordinary people could understand the teachings as Sanskrit was not understood by many.

– There were several forms of Prakrit, used in different parts of the country and named after the regions in which they were used.

a. For example, the Prakrit spoken in Magadha was known as Magadhi Prakrit.

Death:

– He attained mahaparinirvana at the age of seventy-two at Pavapuri near Patna in 468 BC and became a Siddha (free from the cycle of birth and death).

Jainism

  • The word Jain comes from the term Jina, meaning conqueror.
  • The basic philosophy was already in existence in North India before the birth of Lord Mahavira.
  • According to Jain tradition, Mahavira was preceded by 23 tirthankaras (teachers), literally, those who guide men and women across the river of existence.
  • The most important idea in Jainism is that the entire world is animated and even stones, rocks, and water have life.
  • Non-injury to living beings, especially to humans, animals, plants, and insects, is central to Jain philosophy.
  • According to Jain’s teachings, the cycle of birth and rebirth is shaped through karma, and asceticism and penance are required to free oneself from the cycle of karma. This can be achieved only by renouncing the world, therefore, monastic existence is a necessary condition of salvation. To do so, Jain monks and nuns had to take the five vows.

Seven Tattvas (elements) of Jain Philosophy:

  • Jiva (living substance);
  • Ajiva (matter or non-living substance);
  • Asrava (influx of Karmic matter in the soul);
  • Bandha (bondage of soul by Karmic matter);
  • Samvara (stopping of Asrava);
  • Nirjara (gradual removal of Karmic matter);
  • Moksha (attainment of perfect freedom or salvation).

Karmas responsible for distortions of the soul:

  • Ghati (Destructive) Karma: These obstruct the true nature of the soul.
  • Jnanavarniya (Knowledge obscuring) Karma;
  • Darshanavarniya (Perception obscuring) Karma;
  • Antaräy (Obstructing) Karma;
  • Mohniya (Deluding) Karma
  • Aghati (Non-destructive) Karma: These affect only the body in which the soul resides. As long as Aghati karmas are present, human souls will stay caged in some kind of body and will have to experience pain and suffering in many different forms.
  • Vedniya (Feeling producing) Karma;
  • Nam (Body determining) Karma;
  • Gotra (Status determining) Karma;
  • Ayushya (Age determining) Karma;
  • Vedniya (Feeling producing) Karma

Spread of Jainism:

  • Over hundreds of years, it spread to different parts of north India and Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.

Literature:

  • Jain scholars produced a wealth of literature in a variety of languages namely Prakrit, Sanskrit, and Tamil.
  • Jain literature is classified into two major categories
  • Agam Literature: This consists of original scriptures compiled by Ganadhars and Srut-kevalis. They are written in the Prakrit language.
  • Non-Agam Literature: This consists of commentary and explanation of Agam literature and independent works, compiled by elder monks, nuns, scholars, etc., and are written in many languages such as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Old Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil, German, and English.

Jain Councils:

Jain Councils Year Place Chairman Development
1st 300 BC Patilputra Sthulabhadra Compilation of Angas.
2nd 512 AD Vallabhi Devardhi

Kshmasramna

The final compilation of 12 Angas and Upangas.
Sects of Jainism
  • Famine in Magadha led to the division of Jaisim into two sects namely Digambar (meaning sky-clad) and Shwetamber (meaning white-clad).
Digambar Sect:
  • It was led by Bhadrabahu, a leader of monks who moved to the south. It is more austere and is closer in its ways to the Jains at the time of Mahavira.
  • In recent centuries, it has been further divided into various sub-sects.
Major sub-sects: Minor sub-sects:
BisapanthaTerapanthaTaranapantha or Samaiyapantha GumanapanthaTotapantha
Shwetambar Sect:
  • It was led by Sthulabhadra, the leader of Monks who stayed in the North.
  • Like the Digambar Sect, it has also been divided into three main sub-sects:
  • Murtipujaka
  • Sthanakvasi (avoided Idol Worship/Murtipujak)
  • Terapanthi (simpler worship pattern than Digambar TeraPanthi)
Differences Between Digambar and Shwetambar:
Dimensions Digambar Shwetambar
Clothes They live completely naked. They wear white clothes.
Women Women cannot achieve liberation. Women can achieve liberation.
Images Digambara images of Tirthankaras have

downcast eyes, are plain, and are always carved as

naked figures.

Svetambara images have prominent staring eyes

and are richly decorated.

Difference Between Jainism and Buddhism
Dimension Buddhism Jainism
Soul Does not believe in the soul. No soul theory is

propounded (Nairatmyavada).

Believe in the soul, which is present in

everything.

God Generally silent on questions related to the

existence of God.

Does believe in God, not as a creator, but as a

perfect being.

Varna System Condemn it. Do not condemn it.
Incarnation Do not believe in incarnations. Believe in incarnations.

 

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