Nov 28, 2007

What is Jainism?

By Dr. C. Devakumar

During the last 40 odd years I was trying to understand this great religion which I inherited by birth. Is this religion great just because it is my religion? This was another question I used to pose on and off. Several rituals that have been associated with it did not make my job of understanding it any easier. It looked similar if not identical with Hinduism on a superficial gleaning. So I can empathize easily with many who cannot separate Jainism from Hinduism. So I pursued this further.

Today, I find it a very simple religion made complex by many rituals and sects. Let me now elucidate my understanding of Jainism.

Jainism is a religion of soul. So you must first believe that what you are is a soul. This positive belief is called theism. In this there is no room for creator-God. This self-belief is the first and foremost of Jainism. The second aspect is that there are infinite numbers of souls around you. The soul is an embodiment of cognition or consciousness (knowledge and perception). Each soul is capable of knowing it and others. So what is the big deal?

In reality, you or I, the souls do not know our true identity. Strange, it appears but true. Just like souls, our universe has non-souls as well. Non-souls by definition are devoid of this cognition. Among the non-souls, the most fascinating one is called matter. What we see, hear, smell, touch is all matter. But in reality they don’t matter because a soul does not need them for its existence and expression. Each substance be it a soul or a non-soul is capable of independent existence and expression. So the souls that is you and I perceive us as an embodiment of matter as a matter of fact and behave so. In other words, you and I have been impersonating as some one and this impersonation has been going on without we knowing it. The matter has two important binding forces called forces of attraction and repulsion. So we, the souls have assumed these two forces as our own and transformed them as likes and dislikes. So essentially three forces which drive us away from knowing and living independently are the illusion of identity and temptations of likes and dislikes.

So what is the way out? It depends on you and I. What do you mean? Am I satisfied with this state of misrepresentation or falsehood and continue to survive like this or free from this falsehood and dependence on non-cognitive matter. So you have to make this choice. You may very well ask this question. Why not try to be in this state and maximize my survival. Let me tell you all religions I know of are based on this mechanism. In fact, many if not all of them even do not have such rationale or choice. Most of them have invented a creator God and assigned Him this duty of perpetuation of this bonded life to all beings. So if you do not have conviction and self-belief, then you can follow any religion. Thanks to medieval transgression, most of what we follow within Jainism subscribes to this “art” of perpetuation of impersonated life style. It is said 99.99999… per cent in fact prefer to “ live within this domain” and accept it as fait accompli or fate of destiny.

I hear, you want to revolt. There you are. For you is this true religion called Jainism worth it. You want freedom from dependence or bondage with matter. The simplest way ordained by Tirthankar is to free yourself from the forces of likes and dislikes. Perceive you as a free independent, cognitive entity free of all material connotations of physical body, mind etc. You have no fixed shape; you are beyond the conventions of gender, race, religion, caste, nation etc. You are all yourself. You neither hate anybody nor like anyone. You instill self-belief and install yourself as an embodiment of supercognition setting aside the clouds and colours of matter. Whatever happens to you bear without any reaction tinged with anger, greed, conceit, ego etc or feelings of pain, pleasure and forbear them with equanimity. These are past bonded forces now uncoiling and releasing their effect. Unknowing you earned them that way. So they bear their fruit now. Let them wither away. No regrets and no reaction whatsoever.

I hear you saying, it is not just possible overnight; True. But let us make a beginning in this direction. Never deter from this determination of freeing yourself. One day, surely one day, you will be free, independent and your cognition would reach all iota of space in the universe and beyond. You can know each and every one in all aspects instantly and constantly. This has been your ambition and you have achieved just that. This is called Purusharth. You have by then reached the end of the arduous journey (Siddhant).

So what is Jainism then? It is the belief and practice of disembarking the material boundaries of likes and dislikes and at the same time embarking on the eternal state of equanimity. This process does not need any other tool except the one who wants to do it for oneself. So shall we do it now?

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