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RLGA01 Reading notes Jainism.docx

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Henry Shiu

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RLGA01 Reading Notes (Jainism)
Following the Jain path means you must withdraw from all aspects of the world
‘Jinas’ are the people who have accomplished finding eternal happiness by conquering attachment to
the world and the most recent of this is Mahavira
Jainism is a tradition that expresses itself through the worship and following of the Jinas who are also
known as the ‘Tirthankaras’ which means the builders of bridges across the ocean of samsara
The starting point of a Jina life to turn his back to the world is to start leading a life of nonviolence
and self-discipline
They live by the path of ‘ahimsa paramo dharma’ which means nonviolence is the supreme path
The reason to live like this and adapt to this is because through this we slow down the accumulation
of karma
They also recognize that everything has a soul (‘Jiva’)
When Jains are attached to things, they prevent themselves from knowing their true Self
Self’: its deep, silent tranquility is indifferent to the chaos of the world, it is so deep that we can
barely sense it nor see it due to all the distractions and it’s like a soul; when we do recognize this,
Jains call this wakening as samyak dharsan (right faith or correct intuition into the workings of world)
and this is seen as the starting point of Jainism
200 years after the death of Mahavira, Jainism was split into two sections: Digambara (naked or ‘sky-
clad’) and Svetambara (white-clad); the split occurred due to the differences in the view of ascetic
practices, women’s rights, etc.
Jainism started around the 9th and 6th centuries BCE as part of the shramana movement; this group
shunned the caste system
Mahavira’s life story is resaid and re-enacted during the festival Paryashuna (Svetambara Jainias)
and Daslakshna (Digambara Jainas)
Mahavira established Jainism as a four-fold community (caturvidhyasangha) that are made up of
monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen
According to Jains moksha is a state of complete detachment from the world, a state from which
communication with those still in the cycle of samsara is impossible
One cause for the split = some groups of people moving to the south due to the famine in the north
The northern group dismissed Mahavira’s principle of nudity and adopted to the white robe…this is
one of the way they are distinguished and the northerner came to be known as the white-clad
Another distinguishing factor is Digambaras did not permit women to take any vows of renunciation
while the Svetembara allowed the women to do so
However both groups believe that the women’s bodies are weaker compared to men’s but this does
not stop Svetembara from letting them do full initiation while Digambaras only let them do semi-
renunciation and become ariyakas (noble women)
Digambaras believe when Jina’s omniscience when embodied (while in life) they don’t need sleep or
consumption and elimination of food
Svetembaras believe the opposite where the Jina needs to sleep, eat, poop
The sacred literature of the Jains is said to have been transmitted by Mahavira to his followed but
not originated from him
The eternal teachings were first propounded by the Jina Rsabha
Mahavira’s teachings were first orally taught and his closest disciples (ganadharas) wrote them down
This written down text is called Agama and this consists of 3 branches: Purva (‘the ancient’
concerned with Jaina metaphysics, cosmology, philosophy), Anga (‘the limbs’ includes discussion of
RLGA01 Reading Notes (Jainism)
mendicant conduvt, donctrine, karma and religious narratives), Angabahya (‘ancillary limbs’ a
subsidiary collection of commentaries from Anga with dialogues on astrology and the cycles of time
Jains believe that the entire cosmos (loka) is made up of 6 eternal substances called dravya and this is
an important step towards self-protection
These 6 substances are split into 2 sections: jiva (soul) and ajiva (non-soul)
Jiva is an enternal substance with consciousness; samsara jiva are souls that are caught in samsara
and the liberated souls are called mukatma
Ajiva is a substance without consciousness and concists of 5 types: pudgala (pure matter, attributes
to touch, taste, smell, and colour, basis of all matter and energy, all activities of the mind and body,),
kala (time), dharma (principle of motion), adharma (principle of rest), akash (space)
Jains have idol worship and have temples not only for praying but also for social gatherings
Jain practices: ascetic discipline, dietary restrictions, fasting, samayika (state of equanimity),
pratikramana (prayer of forgiveness), sallekhana (fast to death), Jina worship
These practices are followed by both renouncers and householders
Renouncers life structure is by a series of vows called Mahavratas to make it nearly impossible for
new karma to develop due to their limited contact with the outside world
Householders are at more risk of accumulating more bad karma due to their constant contact with
the outside world so therefore they limit their contanct through lay practices called anuvratas which
includes fasting or limiting possesions, travel, cosmetics, etc.
Mahavratas are 5 vows that is taken by renouncers to prevent themselves from gaining more bad
karma; they are: Ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharaya
(celibacy) and aparigraha (non-possession/non-attachment)