Brief introduction of Jainism
Jainism in its origin seems to be as old as the Vedic religion.This is because,the Rigvedic literature mentions two of it's saints-Tirthankara. However foundations of modern-day Jainism are the result of teachings, practices and sayings of the great Mahavira- the twenty fourth Tirthankara.
Modern day Jainism is practiced by several million people, most of whom, stay in Bharat. Keyword in Jain philosophy is Ahimsa-i.e. non-violence in total. A look on the Hindu society 2500 years ago throws a good light on the emergence of Jainism.
During this later Vedic period, utmost importance was attached to sacrificing various items-those including life of animals, to attain the favors of god. Animal slaughter was a distinctive feature of all these days. Eating flesh of all these animals was very popular in all walks of life. Mahavira believed that, if no body likes pain and even these animals have a soul, principle of non-injury is universal to all living beings. In Ahimsa three kinds of violence should be prohibited. One the physical violence-killing or wounding or causing pain. Secondly, violence with use of harsh words. Third kind of violence is mental meaning having an ill feeling or feeling of hatred towards another being.
MAHAVIR Born in 599 B.C.in a village near Patana, Mahavira (meaning the great hero) received a princely education in his young age. His family followed teachings of Parshva, the twenty third Tirthankara.These teachings were later on consolidated by Mahavira.He renounced worldly life, at the age of thirty-two, soon after the death of his parents. From the Eastern part of Bharat,he led a life of a wanderer,to the Gangetic plain in Bharat. He preached the Jain religion to a large audience and organized the Jain community into monks and nuns. At the age of seventy-two while sitting alone, he passed peacefully into 'Nirvana' (emancipation).
The Universe according to Jain philosophy has no beginning and no end. The Universe according to them operates by natural laws. In Jainism reality exists in two states, Jiva (soul, alive) and Ajiva (inanimate). In its liberated state Jiva is perfect knowledge, purity, peace, power. In it's 'bound' state,, Jiva is associated with the body and Karmic forces.Ajiva,the second component of reality, consists of five entities,matter (pudgala), space (akash), time (kaal), dharma and adharma. These entities govern the material phenomenon in the Universe. Time in Jain philosophy is an unbroken, never-ending succession of cosmic cycles. These cycles swing in an upward swing (Utsar-pini) and one downward swing (Awa-sarpini) Jainism in it's daily course of life, follows the principles, enunciated by 'Jina'- the conqueror or the victorious, i.e. one who has conquered all the worldly possessions by one's own strenuous efforts. Jainism has purely human origin and does not depend on any 'apaurusheya' (non-human) origin, volume or a sacred book.Spread of Jainism was slow in the beginning. In the fourth century B.C. the famous Mauryan emperor who had defeated the Greek invader Alexander embraced Jainism and vigorously spread it throughout Bharat.However a major split within the sect occurred in the 1st century B.C. giving rise to two subsects, the Swetambara Jains (white clad) and the Digambara Jains (sky-clad who discarded all kind of clothing following the teachings of Mahavira).
Differing significantly from the Vedic tradition of priests, Jainism has a 'Shramana' (monk) tradition, in any of the sects. Shramanas or the laboring monks are ascetic individuals who have their perception arrived after intense concentration and self-observation. They believe that within itself, a human possesses all the resources necessary for leading a life without fear and mental suffering.
In their outward appearances monks of various sects do differ. The exact reason of split between the Swetambara and Digambara tradition is not known. Probably it was a drift caused basically due to vastness of Bharatiya subcontinent, rather than any grave difference in the philosophy.Other sects amongst the Jains are Sthanakawasi and Terapanth. Monks of the sects wear a Muh-patti (a piece of cloth covering their mouth to avoid killing of the micro organisms during talking) shwetambara monks and nuns don't wear this but cover their mouth with a white cloth in hand, to attain the same purpose.Jain art, architecture, although created with a specific purpose, resembles the other prevalent walks of life- Buddhism and Hinduism in many ways, although the motivation was different.