Science In Jainism ► 01 ► [01.01] Science In Jainism - Religion

Posted: 19.01.2007

Jainism is an ancient eastern religion. The cardinal principles of Jainism propounded by Lord Mahavira twenty-five centuries ago are based on reverence for life, equanimity and a sense of mutual interdependence. The Jain philosophy has enriched the freedom of human thought by its principle of Anekant i.e. Non-absolutism. The Jain culture has exercised profound influence on the lives of millions of people through their non-violent attitude, compassion and friendly behaviour to have peace in our material world.

It is significant to find that the Jain community is well known for the characteristic qualities of vegetarianism and of non- involvement in any area of violence, directly or indirectly. The Jain way of life is based on the great vows of Jain ethics i.e. non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-hoarding of material substances. The Jains have kept the principle of non-violence alive for thirty centuries by their literature and the living institution of ascetics. The Jains have no political institution; they purely practice religion for individual emancipation or for the welfare of society. The Jains do neither criticise any other religion nor do they have any intention or programme of religious conversions. The meaning of the term Jain is, 'Conqueror' but to conquer one-self and not others. The quintessence of Jain scriptures may be viewed under three major ideological under-pinnings: religion, philosophy and science.

1. Religion

One of the less realised but an important problem in the area of religion is the fact that there is no agreed definition of what religion is? Various definitions have been proposed over the centuries but as a matter of fact it is impossible to define religion without reference to religious activities.

Fundamentally, the Jain Religion emphasizes more on the practice of the conduct based on non-violence and non-possession. Jains believe that the spiritual soul is eternal and characterised by consciousness. But the soul co­exists with physical matter i.e. Karma from the very beginning of time. The suffering in life is due to the karmic bondage to the soul. The ultimate goal of Jain religion is to liberate the soul from the karmic bondage by righteousness. The specialty of the Jain religion is that it has proposed a two-fold religion.

  1. Righteousness proper
  2. Righteousness popular

The Jain ascetics, the nuns and monks who have renounced the world follow religion rigorously. They essentially and fully observe the five great vows and are known as Mahavratis. They observe severe penance and say prayers and do meditation to achieve 'Right knowledge, Right belief and Right conduct'. The religion practised only for the salvation of soul is known as righteousness proper. Chinese Pilgrim Hiuentsiang who visited India nearly two thousand years ago called Jain ascetics Li-hi (Nirgranthas). He wrote about Jain ascetics as follows "Jain ascetics distinguish themselves by leaving their bodies naked and pulling out their hair. Their skin is all cracked. Their feet are hard and chapped like rotting trees that are seen near rivers."

On the other hand Jain laymen who have to discharge moral duties related to the customs and conventions of society may observe the five vows to a lesser degree. They are known as Anuvratis. Different classes of people have different types of moral rules for their worldly duties. Jains have therefore called the moral duties as righteousness popular to distinguish them from righteousness proper. A layman cannot escape from all types of violence while performing his social duties, however he can avoid any deliberate type of violence. Jains emphasize more on religious activities, which are performed with a pure mind rather than the ritualistic part of religion.

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