The Religion Of Jainism Essay, Research Paper
The Religion of Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion. This religion has its historical origins in the same region of northern India as Buddhism. Jina or Victor who is the leader of the movement was a “contemporary of the Buddha” (Smart 277). The teachings of Jainism were transmitted orally. The Jain religion split into two sects one being the Digamabaras and the other being the Svetambaras. The Digambaras sect is also known as the ‘Sky Clad’ the monks in this sect practice nudity as a sign of complete rejection of possessions. The other sect Svetambaras also known as the ‘White Clad’ and they think that the transmission of oral teachings has become corrupt. Jainism also developed a philosophical literature. According to the Jain theory they believe that they need to hang on to the memories and practices of the past. There philosophical doctrine is “rich and subtle” and there are two main aspects of this religion (277). The first is a strong emphasis on non-injury to all living creatures and the second would be the great vows that they undertake.
There are a few key ideas to Jainism. The first one is the existence of many souls. Second there is the reality of the world. Next there is the operation of karma. Finally there is a need to take responsibility for your actions and there is also a possibility of liberation (283). There is a short prayer that is used by lay persons to express their devotion to give up everything and enter the state of being a monk or a nun. The prayer states: ” Ceasing of illfare, ceasing of karmic effects, death in contemplative trance, gaining enlightenment: Let these be mine, friend of the whole universe, conqueror for I have come for refuge in your path.” (284). Jain temples are distinctive in two ways. First the innermost shrine is an image of Tirthankara. The temple is also marked with a central Jain symbol, which is a swastika. This swastika is surmounted by three dots and half a moon. All of these have meaning. The four arms of the swastika represent the four levels of life. First there are those who are born in one of the seven hells, then there are those born as plants, animals, or insects. Next there are those who are born as humans, and finally there are those who are born as divine beings. The three dots represent the three jewels and the half moon represents liberation (Smith 545). Their community is focused on forms of monastic life, which is supported by laypersons. Monks and nuns take five vows and practice three jewels. The first is the right of belief, second the right knowledge, and finally right conduct. Monks adopt a wandering way of life and the only time of the year that they retire is during the rainy season. The reason that they retire during this time of the year is to avoid injuring any of the small creatures that swarm in the mud. Every year the monks and the nuns of this religion spend part of their lives in a retreat together. This retreat is usually during the rainy season and during this time they are given many different rules to live by. First they are not to speak any harsh words after they arrive at the retreat and if they fail to do this they will be excluded from the retreat. They are also not allowed to become engaged in a dispute and if one occurs they are required to ask for forgiveness from the superior. Finally they are not allowed to travel for more than four or five leagues before they have to return to the retreat site (Smart 285).
The religion of Jainism also believes in higher meditation. This high or pure meditation is said to be the achievement of a person who has become a liberated one. In this meditation the first thing that must be done is to stop of the entire mind then the body and then finally they must stop breathing. During the required time of this pure meditation they destroy the four remnants of karma – ” determining pain and pleasure, life span, destiny and environment” (286). After this the soul takes the form of a straight line.
One of the main ethical values to Jainism is the belief no harm should be done to any living being. They are not to kill anything and this leads to Nirvana, which consists in peace. They are also not supposed to do harm to anyone by word acts or thoughts (287).
Finally there are five vows that they are said to be the basis for an ideal life for the lay person to aspire to and for the monks and nuns to live by. The first vow being to renounce all killing to all living beings. The second is to renounce all thoughts of speech that contains any anger or greed and never speak lies. The third is to not take anything that is not given. They are not to take anything whether they are in a village or in the woods. The forth being to give up all sexual pleasures with either gods men or animals. Finally the fifth vow is to renounce all attachments whether they be big or small (289). These are the main vows for the monks and nuns to live by in the religion of Jainism.