The Sramana traditions- Upanisads, Jainism

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9 Feb 2011
World ReligionsNovember 29th, 2011.
The Sramana traditions: Upanisads, Jainism
Reading: Ch. 7 “The Jain Tradition,” pp. 353-375
The Sramana Tradition – groups of people who rejected Verdic tradition and
who left their home, wandered off into wilderness searching for answers to
different kinds of questions
Such individuals characterized by giving up social world and embrace of a
lifestyle of homeless wandering and focusing on larger spiritual understanding
Ascetic tradition, tradition that focuses fair bit on disciplining body, depriving it
of luxuries or basic comfort, e.g. bed, limiting food, and expose themselves to
various extremities (extreme cold, extreme heat)
Backdrop of how all Indic traditions develop, origins of Jainism among Sramana
Somewhere through expanse of history, Jain tradition has 24 teachers in total to
instruct and guide people on the right path
Usually these teachers appear on the downward phase of the cycle – why? Before
you hit rock bottom so you have some guidance with which to go back up again
Teachers are morally disciplines, self mastered characters, set out guidelines on
how to live an orderly, morally informed life, there to refresh human learning on
these points, remind us of the core principles of living
These teachers known generally by 2 names: Tirthankara, meaning a bridge
builder (referring to somebody who construct build from sansaar—the world we
live in, to mokshra—lasting, peaceful place) or Jina, meaning one who has
concurred (concurred a temptation, distress, the experience of living in the world
in a distressed state)
Vardhamana Kasyapa, more familiarly known as Mahavira (meaning a great hero)
often referred to as founder of Jainism
Mahavira lived b/w 599 and 527 B.C.E. and therefore elder contemporary of
He was one who brought happiness to other people, concerned with care of other
people, but in his lifestyle, was sharama, someone who is engaged in ascetic
Developed indifference to pleasure and pain, whos rich in self control, self
discipline and self master, hence Mahavira was great master of shramana
Character of extraordinary passion, kindness for other beings
Hagiography – a faith account of an individual, e.g. Gospels
Assumes role of renouncer and begins search for enlightenment
Eventually discards all sense of person possession, symbol of this discards
clothing, letting go final act of last vestige of his attachment to the norms of
Trying to shed ideal, prejudices, norms of society, begin by leaving home, shed
clothing, eventually realize clinging onto sense of shame to clothing (why do we
wear clothing? why do we want to cover up? – because people react to you
differently when youre naked, you have a sense of embarrassment which tells
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Document Summary

Jain view karma differently than hinduism and buddhism, where karma is viewed as actual material substance: karma visualized as fine, powder-like substance, and it settles on our spirits and it constrains us. Jains all naturally vegetarian, even plants life taken sparingly and respectively as possible. Jain filter water for same reason e. g. root vegetables, hence try to avoid such vegetables. Jain diet structured by such concerns: many monks and nuns typically walk very slowly in monastic practice and often carry broom with them with which they sweep the ground very gently to avoid stepping on insects. Jains also donate to causes such as hospitals for animals, sick and injured birds in. Delhi, jains go to markets where animals are sold to eat to free them. In every way, concern for ahinsa shapes their lives in every way: many occupations jains cannot take part in, e. g. fisherman, farming, butcher.

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