Jain Religion as a World Religion
by ACHARYA MAHAPRAGYA
The universality of a religion can be assessed on the basis of the
following six points:
1. God, man the world
2. Intuitional perceptions or direct experience
3. Ethics and path of spiritual practice
4. Rituals and regular observances
6. Ultimate goal.
The picture of Jain religion, which emerges on the basis of the above
six, points automatically reveals its universal acceptability.
God is not the controller of the world. God is pure unattached
consciousness, eternal, unborn, desire less and not subject to
reincarnation. All souls, which attain the above characteristics, belong
to the category of a God. There have been countless souls of this kind
and there will be countless of the kind in future.
(b) The World:
The world is real. The constant natural and causal changes of the modes
of conscious beings, matter and other substances constitute the sentient
and non-sentient world. This perfectly tallies with the concepts of
Man is a living being endowed with special abilities. By birth there is
no difference between one man and another man. By awakening his
discriminating faculty. Man can make his present individual, as well as
collective life, happy and peaceful. For this what is needed is not the
worship of a God. But heroic self-effort. Any man can attain the highest
good through his valorous effort. Irrespective of caste, nationality,
creed or sex.
2. Intuitional perception or direct experience:
Everyone can have the kind of direct experience that the Tirthankaras
had. It is possible through dedicated spiritual practice. One who
methodically practices meditation? Yoga etc. Can attain direct
experience. The maxim appannaa sachchamensanjjaa (discover the truth
yourself) gives the same direction. The knowledge gathered through mere
intellectualism will be superficial and indirect in nature. Knowledge
born of one's own experience is not possible and in the absence of such
knowledge no progress in the direction of self-emancipation can take
3. Ethics and the path of spiritual practice:
The ethical code needed for the practice of religion is much stricter
than ordinary moral values. It is not in the form of sectarian ethical
directions, but aims at intensifying spiritual practice and eliminating
the impurities of inner passions. The practice of self-restraint,
control of the sense organs and mental restraint etc. Constitute its
basis. Its universality is axiomatic. Social and group moral values have
limited value in a large context since they are contingent upon
contemporary factors. The code of conduct prescribed by the Jain
Religion can fully satisfy the above criterion and the needs of the
times as well.
4. Rituals and regular observance:
Such practice and props, which could be easily resorted to. Heap in the
progressive development of introspection and are essential for those who
are incapable of intense spiritual practice. They (simple religious
performances) are, on the one hand, easily accepted and on the other
hand. Help the aspirant to attain spiritual heights through prolonged
practice. Other religions lay greater stress on devotion worship prayer
rituals, etc. Where Jain Religion, being grounded in one's valorous
self-efforts, lays emphasis on those activities, which strengthen one's
faith in the spiritual ideal. The famous formula of five-fold salutation
given by the Jain Religion in the form of navakaar mantra is unique.
Besides it there are directions regarding good conduct. Worship of
saints, treating guests properly, etc. Laying emphasis on the ways of
worship can be meaningful only if they are free from violence.
Possessiveness and inequality and the Jain Religion regards only such
worship as valid. Such worship is easy for all to follow.
Mythological literature is a storehouse of religious traditions and
historical events. It appeals specially to those who are devotional in
temperament rather than to those who are rational. Children, women and
villagers find it easier to reinforce their faith in religious
ceremonies through mythological tales and illustrations. Mythological
legends, descriptions and discussions may smack of exaggeration and
eulogies, but taken on relative terms, it is not difficult to understand
their real intent. Any statement expressed metaphorically can be
properly understood in its right context. The special feature of the
Jain mythological literature is that most of its characterizations are
based on human behavior. The accounts relating t deities, hell etc. is
also consonant with the intentions of the original agama literature.
Nothing has been included in them, which may be said to be an expression
of mere imagination and false notions.
7. Ultimate Goal:
Only that religion can command universal acceptance, which has as its
final foal the elevation of the soul to the status of the supreme soul
or fully liberated soul. The sublimity, purity and exaltedness of a
religion gets destroyed if it regards its final goal of life as the
selfish pursuit of mundane goals of life and if it is reduced to one of
the means of solving day-to-day problems. The Jain Religion regards only
liberation (moksha) as the goal of life. A person who behaves
religiously with a view to obtaining worldly happiness and satisfying
selfish desires neither progresses towards the final goal nor does he
grasp the essence of Religion.
It is not important when one attains the final goal. What is important
is that the spiritual aspirant marches towards it uninterruptedly and
constantly. Even partial progress marks an attainment of the goal.
Complete liberation is its final fulfillment. The above view urges the
Individual constantly to revel in his real inner sell. Such an
individual leans the art of leading a happy and tension-free even while
living in the mundane world. Passing joys and sorrows do not deflect him
from the enjoyment of inner bliss. The life style developed by the Jain
Religion on the above basis gives man the means to lead a peaceful,
happy and healthy life. On these founds. It is obvious that the Jain
Religion can claim to be a universal religion.