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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

5. Mythology

6. Ultimate goal.

The picture of Jain religion, which emerges on the basis of the above six, points automatically reveals its universal acceptability.

1(a). God:

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 modern science.

(c) Man:

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 place.

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.

5. Mythology:

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.

See Also:

Jainism

About the Author

ACHARYA MAHAPRAGYA is 10th acharya of terapanth for More articles at http://www.articlesworld.com

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