Essentials of Jain philosophy

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • February 2003

Jina & Jaina       

The term Jaina is derived from the term Jina. And the term Jina is the common name for the supreme souls who are totally free from all the feelings of attachment, etc that defile the soul. It is a noun from Sanskrit verbal rcot ‘ji’ meaning ‘to conquer’. Arhan (the Worthy) and Vitaraga (One free from attachment) and Paramesthi (the Supreme Divinity) are the synonyms of Jina. And devotees of Jina are called Jaina. And the Dharma propounded by Jina is called Jaina Dharma. Arhata Dharma (dharma propounded by the Worthy), Anekantadarsana (Philosophy of Non-one-sidedness), Nirgranthasasana (Teachings of the Knotless), Vitaragamarga (Path made and enlightened by one who is free from attachment) – these are the terms employed for Jaina Dharma & Philosophy.

Tirthankara (TR)
A soul attains full manifestation of its sentiency as soon as all the possible karmic veils are totally removed. This happens when the practice of spiritual discipline reaches its highest point. The birth in which this event takes place is the last birth for that soul. And such a soul is said to have become the supreme soul in that birth. Such supreme souls are divided into two broad classes.

The first class comprises TR(Makers of Tirtha) who are from the very birth endowed with miraculous cognitive powers & extraordinary grandeur and sublimity. These TR’s are not omniscient from the very birth and hence do not have tirthankarahood yet they are called TR from their very birth, keeping in mind that they are going to attain tirthankarahood in future in that very birth. Having renounced their household life and taken to monk life, when they, on attainment of the highest plane of the spiritual discipline, completely remove the nature-obscuring karmic evils and as a result acquire manifestation of their natural omniscience, they establish tirtha. Tirtha means the fourfold order of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. The principal directs disciplines of a TR to compose scriptures on the basis of the preaching’s of the TR. These scriptures are divided into 12 books, which are known as ‘Dvadasanga’ (a group of 12 Anga works). Angas are so called because they are limbs of the entire body of scriptures. Tirtha also means this group of 12 Anga works. Thus, TR’s are so called because they are the founders of the fourfold order as also because they were authors of the meaning embodied in Anga works composed by their direct principal works.

The second class comprises the omniscient, attachment-free, supreme souls who lack the above-mentioned specialties. So they care called ‘samanya-kevalins’ or ordinary omniscient ones.

In the Vedic tradition, the Dharmasastras divide one Time-cycle into four divisions called Yugas (ages); they are called Krtayuga, Tretayuga, Dvaparayuga and Kaliyuga. Each succeeding Age is having less duration than that of the immediately preceding one. It is also supposed that the regularly descending length of the Ages represents a corresponding physical & moral deterioration in the people who live in that age. So also, according to Jainas, Cycle of Time ceaselessly and eternally moves on. One half represents the period of progress while the other half represents the period of decadence with decrease in life span, prosperity etc. At present India is in the firth part of the descending half-cycle. TR’s and the ordinary omniscient ones are never born again in this transmigratory world once they attain the state of absolute freedom from embodiment. Thus TR’s are not different incarnations of God but they are souls different from one another. Jaina philosophy does not accept reincarnation.

The 9 reals constitute the subject matter of the Jaina philosophical works. These 9 reals are – jiva (soul), ajiva (non-soul), punya (auscipious karmic matter), papa (inauscipious karmic matter), asrava (inflow of karmic matter), samarava (stoppage of the inflow of karmic matter), bandha (bondage of soul with the inflowed karmic matter), nirjara (partial disassociation of the bound karmic matter from the soul) and moksa (total & absolute disassociation of the bound karmic matter from the soul).

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