Jainism – The Spiritual Path

Spiritual means Universal – that which applies to all.

Jainism, like many other Indian philosophies, is a Universal Truth. It is a system, which later on got converted into religion. There is more to Jainism than religion.

According to Jain scriptures, Jainism is eternal and has been revealed time and again by the Tirthankars. The word Tirthankara means founder of the ‘Tirath’ or ‘The creator of the path’- a path which leads to liberation. They are also referred to as Arihantas (‘Ari’ means enemies and ‘Hanta’ means destroyer) who are the victors (Jinas) – the ones who have conquered their inner enemies such as anger, attachment, pride and greed. They reside completely in the dimensions of their soul. The thirst for knowledge to know the Universal or Spiritual truth gave them an insight to observe or see things with their ‘Inner Eye’. After attaining the ‘Pure infinite knowledge’ (kevalajnana), the Tirthankars preached the true Dharma (religion). They said that the true purpose of life (Dharma) is to attain liberation. There are twenty-four Tirthankars in Jainism. Adinath, also called Rishabhnath, is the first Tirthankara and Mahavira is the last Tirthankara. Adinath is said to be the first enlightened being on earth.

Jain word comes from ‘Jina’, meaning the winner. Those who overcome their Raga (attachment) and Dwesha (hatred) are fully balanced. They are calm and are devoid of fear. Today, religions are based on fear. The biggest fear is that if you do not follow the physical rituals, you may end up in hell. People get stuck with them and there is no way out. Religion leads to enslavement whereas spirituality leads to liberation. So today, somewhere, the true spirit of Jainism or the true religion (dharma) preached by Tirthankars is lost for many people.

Jainism is the most spiritual way of living. It is closest to Samanic-Tradition, which is the oldest tradition. Samanic teachings were oral. They were not written. They were passed from guru to disciples. There were no scripted words so the originality got lost while passing through generations. This is the reason why the originality of Tirthankar-teachings was lost. Here are a few examples of Tirthankar-Teachings based on spirituality –

‘Parasparopgraho jivanam’ – This means ‘Co-existence’. This originally means ‘Let live and then live’. This has been twisted to ‘Live and let live’. This is not the same but is reversed in order. It means first live and then let live. This is selfish. When you let others live, you already exist. But if you don’t respect others or hurt others or you kill others, you are not protected either.

Anekantvada – This means ‘Multiplicity of Truth’. Truth can be told in many different ways. There is no absolute truth. This says that every person is right in his own way. We need to understand each other’s points-of-view. Even a criminal or a drug addict can be truthful because they see the truth in their own way. If we follow multiplicity of truth, we observe why they do what they do. This leads to empathy and willingness to help each other. The effort should be to understand the truth at the other end and preach what is true Jainism (dharma) of Tirthankars.

Ahimsa and Aparigraha – This means ‘Non-violence’ and ‘Self restraint from greed’. It says what is disagreeable to one’s self, should not be practiced against others. It is written in Agams that we kill ourselves as soon as we intend to kill others. It is also written that unmindful-possession and attachment to sensuous objects are the source of violence. This means giving up emotional attachments, sensual pleasures and material possessions is a means of liberation. One cannot ignore the hunger or pain of others.

Samanic-Tradition is not a religion. It is spiritual path. Tirthankars were Universal. When we dig out our truth, it becomes spirituality and spirituality is courageous and profound. As Mahavira, the last Tirthankara has said –

“ A man may conquer thousands and thousands of valiant foes, but greater will be his victory if he conquers his own self”.


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