Nov 26, 2007

The Antiquity of Jainism

The kayotsarga posture of Yogisvara Risabha found in the ruins of
Mahenjo-daro has compelled the historians to think as far back as the first
Tirthankar Risabhadeva. On this, the well known historian and poet Ramdhari
Singh 'Dinkar' writes as follows:

"In the excavations at Mahenjo-daro, there is ample evidence about the
existence of yoga and the tradition of yoga and vairagya (detachment) is as
much linked with the name of Risabhadeva of the Jain path
as Sakti is with Siva in the Hindu tradition. For
this reason, it is not unreasonable for some Jain scholars to suggest that
even though Risabhadeva has been noticed in the Vedas, he is pre-Veda." (
Aj-Kal, March, 1962, p 8.)

The antiquity of the Jain religious tradition and
the Tirthankars has been clearly noticed at several places in the earliest
works of the Vedic tradition, the Vedas and the Puranas. In this context,
the following quotation from Dr. Radhakrishnan is worthy of note:

"There is evidence to show that so far back as the first Century B.C. there
were people who were worshipping Risabhadeva, the first Tirthankar. There is
no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhaman or Parsvanath. The
Yajurveda mentions the names of three Tirthankars-Risabha, Ajitanath and
Aristanemmi. The Bhagavat Purana endorses the view that Risabha was the
founder of Jainism." (Indian Philosophy, Vol I., p. 287)
Prof. Virupaksa Wadiyar, while presenting the cause of the mention of the
Jain Tirthankars in the Vedas, writes:

"The naturalist Marichi was a close relation of
Risabhadeva.................. The hymns written by him are to be found in
the Vedas, the Puranas and other texts, and at places therein, he has
mentioned the Tirthankars. There is no reason then not to admit the
existence of Jainism during the Vedic period." (Mahavira Jayanti: Smarika
(Souvenir), 1964, p.42)

The Bhagavat Purana has noticed Risabhadeva with great respect. To quote:

"For running the administration of the world, Risabhadeva placed his son
Bharata on the throne, and himself became completely detached to propagate
bhakti (devotion), gnaan (knowledge) and vairagya (detachment), the religion
of the great Seers (Paramahansas) who themselves had attained the height of
non-involvement and detachment." (Srimad Bhagavat, 5/5/28)

Dr. Budhprakash, D.Litt., writes in his book Indian Religion and Culture, in
part, as follows:

"In the list of a thousand names of Visnu contained in the Mahabharata are
Included Sreyans, Anant, Dharma, Shanti and Sambhav, and in that of Siva are
included Risabha, Ajita, Anant and Dharma. Both Visnu and Siva have been
given a name as Subrata. All these are the names of the Tirthankars.. It
seems that in the atmosphere of synthesis of the Mahabharata, effort was
made to present the Tirthankars as Visnu and Siva and thus establish the
religious unity in the country. This shows that the tradition of the
Tirthankars is very old." Tirthankar Vardhaman, p. 15.
Major-General L C. R. Furlong, in his book, The Short Study, in Science of
Comparative Religion, writes:

"Innumerable number of years prior to Jesus Christ, Jainism was widely
spread in India. When the Aryans had reached Central India, they found that
the Jainas were already there."(Jain Dharm,p.ll.)

Expressing his views on 'Jainism in Bihar', P. C. Roy Choudhury writes:

"Some modern writers have indulged in a common-place error by writing that
Jainism was born out of the widespread discontent against the Brahmanical
religion. This wrong notion originated another which was that Vardhaman
Mahavira was the founder of Jainism. This is factually wrong ... ... Jainism
had originated earlier and was fairly widespread, and Mahavira helped it to
spread further, and this is the reason why such a wrong notion was
entertained by some reputed scholars." (Mahavira Jayanti Smarika (Souvenir)
1968, p.128)

Not only Mahavira, not even the first Tirthankar, Risabhadeva, was the
founder of Jainism. It is not the function of a Bhagwan
to propound a religion; rather, sheltered in
religion, the Soul is elevated to the status of Paramatman (Bhagwan
). According to the Jain belief, Bhagwan
s may be infinite in number, but in a single age, in
the land of Bharata, the number of Tirthankars is 24 only. Every Tirthankar
is of necessity a Bhagwan , but not vice versa. One
may become a Bhagwan without becoming a Tirthankar.

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