February 26, 2018



Origin of Jainism:

  1. Jaina doctrine is much older than Buddhist one.

  2. Buddha and Mahavira were contemporaries and there are some similarities between their teaching.

  3.  Jaina means follower of a jina which means a victor, a person who has attained infinite knowledge and teaches others how to attain moksha. Tirthankara is another word for jina which means "ford builder".

  4.  Jaina concept of Time and Tirthankara:

    • There are endless sequences of half-cycles called Utsarpinis (Progressive in terms of happiness) and Avasarpinis (Regressive in terms of happiness). These are further divided into Kalas.

    • There are 24 tirthankaras in each half-cycle of time.

    • In our time, which is an avasarpini, the first tirthankara was Rishabhadeva.

    • 22nd Tirthankara called Neminatha was from Saurashtra.

    • 23rd Parshavanatha was from Benaras.

    • Vardhamana was the 24th Tirthankara and came to be known as Mahavira.

    • All the jinas are supposed to have taught the same doctrine.


Rise of popularity of Jainism as a religion:


Shramana Tradition: It was a movement which originated parallel to Hinduism and the vedic tradition. The śramaṇa refers to a variety of renunciate ascetic traditions from the middle of the 1st millennium BCE.

For Buddhism: Part-I  (click here)

For Buddhism: Part-II  (click here)



Causes for popularity of Jainism:

  1. Rising economic might of vaishya.

  2. Policies under Brahmanism like animal sacrifice. Animals were important for the business of vaishyas.

  3. Subjugation of Kshatriyas under Brahmanas due to the varna system.

  4. Orthodox character of Brahmanism.


Similarities between Buddhism and Jainism: 

  • Rejection of the authority of the Veda.

  • Non-theistic doctrine.

  • Emphasis on renunciation and human effort as a means to attaining salvation.

  • Establishment of monastic order for men and women.

Mahavira Life:


  • He was born in 599 BCE at Kundagrama, a city near Vaishali, capital of Videha. His father Siddhartha was chief of the Jnatri clan and his mother Trishala was the Videha King sister. Jnatri clan is same as Licchavi clan.

  • As per Shevatambara tradition, he married Yashoda and had a daughter named Priyadarshana.

  • According to Digambara, he never got married.

  • He wandered for 12 years practising sever austerities, including meditation and fasting.

  • He attained Kevaljnana (infinite knowledge, omniscience) outside the town of Jrimbhikagrama, on the banks of the Rijupalika river, in the field of a house holder name Samaga.

  • He died at Papa/Pava at the age of 72 and became a siddha- fully liberated and forever free of embodiment. The day of his passing marks the beginning of the Vira-nirvana era.


Jaina Understanding of Reality:

  • Anekantavada Doctrine

    1. As per Jainism, reality is manifold (Anekanta).

    2. Everything that exists (sat i.e. Being) has three aspects:

      1. Substance (Dravya)

      2. Quality (Guna)

      3. Mode (Paryaya).

    3. Jaina doctrine of Anekantavada holds that reality is very complex and has multiple aspects.

  • Syadavada Doctrine

    1. This doctrine emphasizes on the relativity of all knowledge.

    2. Every judgment we make is relative to the particular aspect of the object we are judging and the point of view from which we judge it. No judgment is true without qualification.

  • Anekantavada and Syadavada together to tell about Reality

    • Both together tell that reality cannot be grasped in its entirety and complexity. All that is possible are a number of partially true statements about it. Every statement about reality should be prefixed with the word syat (maybe) and eva (in fact). Thus Jiva (soul) is eternal would be accepted as partially true from a certain point of view.

    • Every statement about any aspect of reality is conditional on four factors-

      • The Specific Being (sva-dravya)

      • Specific location (sva-kshetra)

      • Specific Time (sva-kala)

      • Specific State (sva-bhava) of the thing that is being spoken of.

    • Existent reality consists of three basic categories-

      • Sentient (that which has consciousness): It is represented by jiva.

      • Material

      • Neither Sentient or Material: It is known as arupi-ajiva. It includes four substances.

        • Space (akasha)

        • Principle of motion (Dharma)

        • Principle of Rest (Adharma)

        • Time (Kala).

  • Jiva:

    • Jaina philosophy conceives of an infinite number of jivas.

    • Jiva has three main qualities-

      • Consciousness (Chaitanya)

      • Bliss (Sukha)

      • Energy (Virya)

    • Jaina doctrine holds that jivas transmigrate due to Karma.

  • Karma:

    • Karma is understood as consisting of material particles floating about in space.

    • Karma matter is of different kinds, some have a directly negative effect on the jiva, others do not. The major culprits are the mohaniya (delusion-causing) Karmas.

    • Some important terms:

      • Asrava: When the karma particles actually begin to flow towards the jiva to bind it.

      • Bandha: A jiva associated with karma particles is considered to be a jiva in bondage.

      • Bhavyatva- Capability of becoming free of Jiva from karma.

      • Samvara- By exertion and right knowledge, the influx of fresh karma can be stopped.

      • Nirjara (wearing out)- Wearing out of Karma from Jiva.

      • Moksha: When every particle of Karma is evicted, the cycle of samsara is broken and moksha is attained.

    • There are 14 rungs or stages of purification called gunasthanas. One who has entered the 13th stage of kevaljnana is known as an arhat. An arhat who has also already acquired the capability of teaching the doctrine is known as tirthankara. 14th stage is achieved by an arhat just before death.

  • Final abode of liberated soul is a world called siddha-loka.


The Jaina discipline:

  1. Triratnas: The three gems of Jainism are:

    1. Right Faith (Samyag-darshana)

    2. Right Knowledge (Samyag-jnana)

    3. Right Conduct (Samyag-charitra).

  2.  Five Great Vows of Monks and Nuns (Pancha-Mahavrata):

    1. Not to injure any living being (Ahimsa):

      1. It is central to Jainism.

      2. Injuring living beings is seen as detrimental from two points of view- it causes the victim to suffer and it harms the person who causes injury.

      3. Thus strict vegetarianism is important. Figs, Honey and Alcohol are forbidden. However, Shevatambara made an exception that meat could be eaten if there was a famine or to cure an illness.

    2. Not to utter any falsehood (Satya/sunrita)

    3. Not to take what is not given i.e. not to steal (Asteya)

    4. Lead a celibate life (Brahmacharya)

    5. Non-Possession, to call nothing one's own (Aparigraha).

    6. Aim of these vows is to bring about inner purification.

  3. Four main forms of existence:

    1. Of Gods (Deva)

    2. Humans (Manushya)

    3. Hell Beings (Naraki)

    4. Animals and Plants (Tiryancha).

      1. Lowest category comprises the single sense bodies (ekendriya). Lowest of these is Nigodas.

Highest form of death for a person, whether renunciant or a lay person, involved entering death by fasting or meditating. (Sallekhana)


Social Composition in the Jaina Sangha and the Laity:

Jaina texts reflect the idea of the superiority of the Kshatriya varna over all others. People of all varnas and social backgrounds could enter the sanghas.

The Uttaradhyayana Sutra narrates the story of a monk named Harikeshiya who came from a shvapaka(Chandala) family. After a long fast, when he went on a search for food, he was insulted by Brahmanas who later apologised to him. At his, he argued about the uselessness of performing sacrifices to the gods and how true sacrifice consisted in practising the discipline of the Jaina monk.


Social Composition (role of women) in the Jaina Sangha and the Laity:

  1. Malli, 19th Tirthankara is considered as female by Shvetambaras. However, Digambaras call 19th Tirthankara as Mallinatha who is a male.

  2. Jaina text present women as danger to the celibacy of the monks, though Jainism did establish a monastic order for women.


Digambaras emphasised the necessity of nudity for the members of the order. For them, clothes counted as possessions and were associated with passion, sexual desire and shame. According to Shvetambaras, wearing or not wearing clothes was optional.










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