The Genesis

The term Jainism originates from the Sanskrit word ji, to conquer. It alludes to the battle that a Jain adherent must overcome against the lusts and bodily senses of oneself so as to gain purity of the soul that culminates in the highest goal in the Jain system of belief. The ascetic who attains this omniscience and wholesomeness is described as a Jina, or conqueror, and devotees of the practice are referred to as Jainas, or Jains.

A philosophy that has evolved into a way of live, Jainism achieved prominence round the 6th century, in the time of Vardhamena, or more commonly known as Mahavera (The Great Warrior, 599-527 BCE). According to Jainism beliefs, Mahavera is the 24th Jina of all ages, and is the personification of all that is good and holy amongst humanity. He was born the son of a local chief, of the Neta clan, a Ksatriya (warrior) caste. He was mentioned in Gautama Buddha's journal as Netaputra (the son of Neta), and there are many parallels between their lives. In fact, there are scholars who believe that the character and history of the Buddha is an amalgamation of the both of them.

At the age of twenty-eight years old, he took up the life of an ascetic. He meditated for fourteen years in Pevipur, in what is now Bihar in modern India, before achieving enlightment. He then spent the rest of his life preaching in the areas around the region before finally returning to his spiritual home to die. While there are no historical records to corroborate this, Jains the world over has made it their favorite pilgrimage destination over the years.


The Doctrine

Jainism arose in protest against the Vedic ritualistic cult of the period and its earliest practitioners could have belonged to a cult that went against against the practice of blood sacrifices that was prevalent in the Vedic community then. According to Jains, their faith is eternal and provides the means of breaking free from the cycle of rebirths.

However, by the 4th century AD, a theological schism broke Jainism into two divergent movements, the dogmatic Digambaras and the more mainstream Uvetembaras. While the Digambaras consider that advocates the complete release from material possession and belongings, the Uvetembaras maintains that the choice lies within the heart of any practitioner of Jainism.

Despite sharing the concept of Karma, unlike Hinduism, Jainism subscribe to the belief that the soul's molecular purity, and not spiritual cleansing, is the key towards achieving liberation from the material plane. If that sounds a little farfetched to you, consider their principals on time, which borders on the metaphysics.

In Jainism, time is beginning, end or direction. It is envisage as a 12 alternately arching struts (dravyas) representing the ages and dimensions of the universe. The arc of the dravyas corresponds with the growth or decline of humanity, and each turn that the wheel makes represents an age, called kalpa. The cycle of the kalpa is eternal and it is indestructible.


Scriptures

Pjrvas (The Foundations)

A semi-mythical book that has been lost in time and is only available through references from other classic texts, such as Niryuktis and Bheziasant Cirdis (written by Bhaderabehu)

Egama

Consisting of the authoritative texts of Aeges, Prakardakas, Upeegas, Milasitras, Chedasitras and Cilikesitras


The Practitioners

The ancient practitioners of Jainism are believed to consist mainly of traders and merchants. This probably explains why, despite its relative small number of devotees, it has spread quite extensively the world over, with diasporas in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Conservative estimates ranges from 5-10 million followers worldwide for Jainism.








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