Nov 24, 2007

The true nature of God in Jainism

Manish Modi, Mumbai

Who is God?

God as understood in other religions...
God is seen as the creator / preserver / destroyer; someone who runs theworld by remote control, who "tests" his subjects, subjugates them to pleasureand pain and expects them to remember Him and recite His name. He helps thosewho are his ardent devotees, and punished those who disobey Him.

God / Jinendra / Ishwar / Bhagwan / Aapt Purush as understood in Jainism...
The Jain concept of Bhagwan is very different from that of other religions.Jains beleive that each and every living being can attain Godhood.God is He who is omniscient, He who has rid Himself of all bondage, and istotally Vitragi. All souls who have rid themselves of all Karmic bondage, are Bhagwan / God.

Are all Gods Tirthankars? Are all Tirthankars God?
Tirthankars are a subset of God. Which means you may attain omniscience and become God, but not necessarily a Tirthankar. Tirthankars are souls who have earned special merits*, which is why they enjoy some extraordinary attributes, and they play a tremendous role in the preservation and perpetuation of the Jain Dharm, by building a ford to Moksh. Since they areford-makers, they are known as Tirthankars.

But not all Gods are Tirthankars. Some of them are plain Kevalis ornon-Tirthankar omniscients. Omniscience is the key to Godhood.

Please note that once a soul gets rid of all its Karmas and goes to Moksh, it has all the attributes of a pure soul. It does not matter if it had been aTirthankar omniscient or a non-Tirthankar omniscient. All liberated souls inMoksh are equal in status, pleasure, perfection and all of them enjoy completebliss. The bliss attained in Moksh is beyond comparsion. And it is permanant. There is no difference in the qualtiy or quantity of bliss enjoyed by BhagwamMahavir's soul, Bhagwan Rishabhdev's soul, and that of any plain Kevali'ssoul.

What is the benchmark of Godhood?

Omniscience. He who attains omniscience is God.

Some may disagree and say that Siddhahood is the benchmark for Godhood. IMHO, if Siddhahood were the benchmark for Godhood, then all our prayers to the Tirthankars would be incorrect! And we always refer to our Tirthankars as Bhagwan. In any case, once an Atma attains omniscience, Moksh is a foregone conclusion.

Who are the Siddha Jiv (supremely liberated souls)?

All liberated souls in Moksh are known as Siddha Jiv. They enjoy complete bliss and are supremely unattached. They have not an iota of affection or dislike of anyone. They are supremely happy and they are beyond the sufferings of transmigration. They will not reappear in the world as saviours of mankind or any such thing. They are supremely Vitragi, beyond any kind of attachment or averison, and hence not likely to respond to the purest devotion or the vilest savagery. Jainism teaches us to be independent. We are responsible for all our actions. Our thoughts, words and deeds determine ourpresent and future lives.

In conclusion I think rationalism and personal responsiblity, its corollary are the two factors that make Jainism unique. Jainism lays great stress on non-violence.And focuses on the purity of the Atma. In Jainism, there is no benevolent God, no wrathful God no avaenging angel...and no saviour of mankind. We are responsible for our lives. The road to Moksh is shown by ourford-building Tirthankars. We have to walk on that path, with completerational faith, rational perception, rational knowledge and rationalconduct.

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