May 28, 2008

Decline of Jainism

By Mr. Helmuth Von Glasenapp



Retreat Before HinduismJainas had to fight their battle on two fronts since the days of Mahaveera: against the followers of the Vedic Brahmanic religion and against Buddhists. They fought on the first front for their faith against the Vedic manifestation, its bloody sacrifices and its social order which assured precedence to Brahamanas over all other sections of the society; and on the second, against the Buddhist denial of the self and its doctrine of salvation which acknowledged asceticism only in a negligible measure and considered the other saints than the Tirthankaras as those who could guide one's path to salvation. Buddhism had opposed Jainism for some time quite strongly to such an extent that it had to beat the retreat before Buddhism in many areas: why its home in Magadha had become an exclusive domain of Buddhism, and this region got the name Bihar after its many monasteries (Viharas). But the might of Buddhism declined completely as the time progressed; it could not resist Jaina-faith in the west and in the south, and the restoration of the orthodox Brahamanism begun by Kumarila (around 700 A.D.) and Sankara (788-820 A.D.) put an end to it in the whole Ganga-peninsula so that it became extinct in the land of its origin.

Kumarila, the restorer of the Vedic sacrificial service, and Sankara, the pioneer of the illusionistic doctrine of non-duality, also proceeded, with all the weapons of their spirit, against the Jaina-doctrine as a heterodoxy which was inimical to the Vedas. The constant progress of the movement coming from the orthodoxy against all heterodox trends increased the pressure, gradually but surely, and it weighed heavily upon the Jaina-church, and although this knew to war-off the attacks, its position had become much weaker and it was shaken.

The consequence of the awakening of the Brahmanic religiosity was the revival of the Vaisnavite and Saivite sects. Saivism and Vaisnavism proved to be particularly dangerous opponents, and they did a severe damage to Jainism, particularly in the Deccan and the south.

The great Tamilian Saivite singers, Nanasambandhar and Appar (7th century) as also Sundaramurti(8th or 9th century), Manikka- vacakar (around 900) alienated many from Jainism and introduced them to the Siva-cult. Appar is said to have converted the Pallava-king Mahendravarman to Saivism in this way; he destroyed Jaina-buildings in Kuddalor and built Siva-temples. Saivites were particularly supported by the rulers of the Cola-dynasty in their endeavours. Their influence supposed to be the reason, why the Pandya-kings of Madurai who had been so far Jainas embraced Saivism. The Pandya-ruler Sundara (11th century?) who was married to a Cola-princess, the sister of King Rajendra, was supposed to have been won over to Saivism by his wife. Sundara became a fanatic Saivite and he persecuted the compatriots of his earlier faith, who did not follow his example, with ruthless cruelty. It is said that he sentenced to death by impalement not less than 8000 of his subjects who did not want to be converted: the torturing of these unfortunate people is supposed to have been graphically depicted on many sculptures on the walls of the temple of Tivatur in North Arcot.

The Saivite sect of the Lingayats was another mighty enemy of Jainas. This was founded or reorganized by Brahaman Basava, who was a minister of the Kaslacuri-king Bijjala. Bijjala was a ruler in Kaslyan in the period 1156-1167, and it is said that he was a follower of Jainism, Basava succeeded with great vigour and, as Jainas maintain, with great unscrupulousness, in attracting numerous followers to his monotheistic doctrine and in propagating his strongly anti-clerical system which was directed against the Brahmanic caste-order. Lingayats proceeded against Jainas extremely fanatically, damaged their properties and life, destroyed their temples or appropriated them for their purpose. It is said that Saint Ekantada-Ramayya had particularly excelled in the propagation of the new doctrine. It is narrated about him that he had taken a bet with Jainas. According to this, they were obliged to pull down a Jaina-statue and erect Siva's image, if he cut his own head and become alive again by Siva's mercy. When Ekantada-Ramayya succeeded in carrying out the miracle, and Jainas did not want to keep the word, he is said to have cut the head of a statue of their Tirthankara and placed it before the idol of his god as an oblation. When Jainas complained to the king against this act, the saint offered to repeat the miracle and even burn his head to ashes, if Jainas were willing to wage their 700 temples against it. But Jainas did not agree for which Bijjala scolded them and granted a piece of land near Ablur (in present Dharwad district) to the temple of Siva Vira-Somanatha which was erected by Ekantadap-Ramayya.

Lingayatas or the "Vira-Saivas", as they call themselves, got, as the time passed, more and more grouped in the Kannada and Telgu language-regions. Their faith was the state's religion of the Wodeyars of Mysore and Ummatur from 1399-1610 and of the Nayaks of Keladi (Ikkeri or Bednur) from 1550-1763; even now, a very considerable part of the population of the states of the southern west-coast belongs to them. Their attitude with respect to Jainas is characterized by their great hostility. An inscription reports that a fanatic Lingayathad stamped a Linga-symbol on the pillars of the main Basti of the Jainas in Halebid in the year 1638. Jainas protested against this, and an agreement had arrived at. But Jainas, however, promised in this that they would always offer first ashes and betel to their temple according to a Saivite rite and then take up their own ceremonies.

There was also a far-reaching reformation in Visunism approximately around the same time in which Saivism got a new significance in South India. Ramanuja (1050-1137) proclaimed quite successfully, mainly from Srirangam (near Trichinopally), his "qualified monism" having a Visnuite stamp. The Cola-king desired of him that he should teach that Siva was greater than Vishnu. Ramanuja had to flee, because he did not want to yield to this order. The Hoysala-king Bitideva gave him protection and became his follower. But it is said that he ordered that Jainas, compatriots in his earlier religion, be thrown in an oil-mill and crushed, if they did not want to get converted.

It is seen from the inscription from the year 1368 that Jainas were oppressed later by the Srivaisnavas. Jainas then complained to king Bukkarya-I of Vijayanagar against the persecutions to which they were subjected on the side of the Vaisnavites. The king then ordered that the members of both the religions should enjoy the same cultural freedom in his land. Further he ordered that 20 guards be appointed near the Gommata-statue in Sravana Belgola to protect the shrine from denigration and saw to it that the destroyed temples were repaired.

Another founder of Vaisnative sect, Madhva or Anandatirtha (1119-1278) was showing his influence in the Kannada region 100 years after Ramanuja. His doctrine of dualism preached by him got many converts on the west coast and brought a great damage to Jainism. But on the other hand, Brahmana Nimbarka (13th century?) of Nimba (in Bellary district), the originator of the Vaisnavite Bhedabheda-vada ("Doctrine of dualism and non-dualism"), who taught mainly in the north, in the region surrounding Mathura, does not appear to have been able to take up the gauntlet against the Jainas; at least, according to a report, his sect is said to have been rooted out by Jainas which was revived by Srinivasa only later. But then Brahmana Vallabha (1479-1531), the originator of the Krsnaite Suddhadvaita-mata, who was born in the Telugu-region, proved to be a significant opponent. This system taught by him in Mathura was propagated in the surrounding region of the holy Krsna-city, in Rajaputana as also in Gujrat; particularly many rich businessmen who were earlier Jainas, joined him. Also a saint from Bengal, Caitanya (1485-1533) whose missionary sermons unleashed storms of enthusiasm in the whole India appears to have alienated many from Jainism and attracted them to Krsna's Bhakti-doctrine.

The growing might of Hinduism was not revealed to Jainism only in its losing the followers. It was also expressed in the increasing inclination of its followers towards Hinduistic views and customs. Thus more and more Hindu-deities were mentioned in the Jaina-literature from now on, although they have no place in the Jaina-system. They also used terms which reveal a strong influence of the Vedanta; and in the following period, there was greater reconciliation even in the religious belief and social life.

Jainas Under Islamic Rule The conquest of India by Mohammedan which began in the year 712 with the foundation of an Islamic State in Sindh and which continued ever since the invasions of Mahmud Gazni(1001) and Mohammad Ghori (1175) subjected Jainas, as also Hindus, to the same persecutions and oppressions at the hands of the new rulers. Thus the armies of Ala-ud-din Muhammad Shah Khilji, while marching through Gujarat in 1297-98, committed atrocities, end these are remembered even now. Holy idols were desecrated, temples were destroyed or converted into mosques, books were burnt, treasures were looted and many Jainas were killed. Similar atrocities were perpetrated by the fanatic Muslims also in the Deccan and the south when they destroyed the Dravidian states. Jainas had to suffer very much during these difficult times, and their number which had shrunk on account of numerous conversions to Saivism and Visnusim diminished further. They could save themselves from the fanaticism of the Muslims by going underground. They shifted their libraries to underground vaults. Only the chosen few had an access to them, and the buildings in their holy places, which were similar to the tombs of Muslim saints, could keep the Islamic fanaticism at bay.

The fact that Muslim kings proceeded against Jainas with fire and sword and tried to convert them forcefully to their religion should not mean that the relationship between Muslims and Jainas was always inimical. It appears much more that influential preachers like the Arabian missionary Pir Mahabir Khamdayat, who came to India in 1304, succeeded in making many Jainas of Deccan Muslims by his sheer eloquence, and there were often peaceful and friendly contacts between Jainas and Muslims. Ala-ud-din whom Jainas called Khuni, "the bloody fellow" gave the Jaina poet Ramchandra Suri many presents, and Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388) honored Ratnasekhara, the author of Sripalcarita. Particualrly a few Moguls distinguished themselves by showing mercy to Jaina teachers. Emperor Akbar (1566-1605) showered kindness on the Svetambara abott Hiravijaya and took so much active interest in the religious concepts of Jainas that there was even a rumour that he had secretly embraced Jaina-faith. At the behest of Hiravijaya, Akbar issued in the year 1593 an edict by which the five hills of Rajgir, the mountain Parsnath in Bihar and other shrines of Svetambaras were declared as places of cultural interest. The emperor forbade further the killings of animals in the surroundings of the holy districts, returned to Jainas the books which were robbed from them and did them many other good deeds. Akbar had also contacts. with Hiravijaya's successor Vijaysena and with Jinacandra, the head of the Kharatara-sect. Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) attracted similarly Jinacandra and his successor Jinasimha, whom he honoured with the title Yugapradhana, to his court and issued farman for the protection of Satrunjaya. Shahjahan issued a similar farman, and his sons Murad Bakash (at first governor of Gujarat, then emperor for a short period till the was murdered by his brother) and Aurangzeb (1659-1707) awarded the district Satrunjaya with its income of 2 lakhs as Inam to the court-jeweller Satidas, a Jaina. Ahmad Shah (1748-1754) did the same thing with the mountain Parsnath. It was awarded to Jagat Seth (world-businessman) Mahatab Rai and his successors, to secure for Jainas in this way an undisturbed pilgrimage.

Jainas in Hindu-Kingdoms
As it is seen, Jainas could follow their religious practices undisturbed even under many Mohammedan rulers. This was naturally to a greater degree in the case in the independent or almost independent Hindu-states which were little effected by Islam, albeit the fact that the number and significance of the Tirthankaras had diminished considerably on account of their fights with the rivalling Saivite and Visnavite sects. Inscriptions and buildings reveal that the royal patronage of the Jaina faith had not year become extinct in South-West India. The two Gommata-statue erected by believing rulers in two places in South Canara in imitation of the colossus of Sravana Belgola are a visible sign of the loyalty to the faith of Mahaveera's religion: the one in Karkala by the prince Virapandya in the year 1432, and the other in Venur by Timmaraja in 1604. It is interesting to note that Jainism in Mysore had to fight Christianity in the midst of the 16th century. It is reported in an inscription in Humcha written around 1530 that Monk Vidyananda made the Viceroy of Sriraganagara give up the Franconian faith (Peringiyamata) to which he was apparently converted.

Jainas got a great significance in that period above all, in Central India and Rajaputana besides in their old home-state Gujarat. They had a great influence as businessmen and bankers in different princedoms of these regions, and they gave also excellent officers to the state. Supernatural powers were generally attributed to Jaina monks. Thus it is said that Master Munisundarasuri (who died in 1446), known as an author of Upadesarat-nakara and other works, could banish famine by reciting a Stotra and prevented in Sirohi the destruction of the harvest by locust.

Testimony of the glory and riches of Jaina-community are the works of art of this period, above all, the great figures of the Tirthanakras hewed out from the rock near Gwalior in the Tonvar-dynasty (1440-1473), the temples of Rakhabdev and Ranapur (both from the 15th century), the marvellous victory-towers in Rajaputana, etc. Favours shown by the princess of the Sisodiya-dynasty are characteristic for the attitude shown by the Rajputa Hindu-rulers towards them. Since years, Ranas of Mevar gave them their patronage and granted them many privileges. Jainas on their part showed that they were always the true servants of their masters. When Pratap Singh_I (1572-1597) was defeated by emperor Akabar's army and dissolved his fleeing army, a Jaina offered his riches to him to enable him to form a new army, he thus enabled the Rana to continue his march and get final victory. The princes expressed their gratitude by giving Jainas all sorts of freedom. Thus Maharana Raj Singh issued an edict in 1963 by which he forbade killing of animals on the pieces of land belonging to Jainas and ordered that every living being entering the district of their holy places be protected, and besides, not only the animals which were taken to slaughter-house, but also the criminals who had escaped from the arms of the law. Maharana Jay Singh gave orders in an inscription engraved on one of the pillars in Bakrole that no one should dry out the sea-water in the four months of the rainy season, i.e., from the 11th of the month of Asadha (June) to the full moon of Asvina (September), run an oil mill, produce pots that no one should harm a living being during this season in which life sprouts everywhere.

It is worth noting that Jainism got a foothold even in North India in the 15th century. It is said that King Narendracandra of Kangra who ruled around 1427 had become a
Movements for ReformA number of reformers appeared among the Hindus influence by Islamic tendencies which were inimical to idol-worship. They fought very strongly against the use of cult-idols and the worship dedicated to them. The efforts of these men-and we can mention here only the most prominent like Kabir (around 1470), Nanak (around 1500) and Dadu (around 1575) - found an inspiring response and they prompted the establishment of a number of sects which fought against the superficial rituals.

Even amongst Jainas, there was a movement in the same period which rejected idol-worship. The founder of this movement was an influential businessman in Ahmedabad. His name was Lonka Sa and he was a Svetamabara. He visited in the year 1451/52 a temple in which Monks Jnanaji was busy arranging the manuscripts. He offered to contribute to the preservation of these manuscripts which were getting ruined under the influence of time, by taking up the pious work of rewriting them. Jnanaji, gave, therefore, some books, and Lonka started to copy them. While reading holy books he discovered that there was no mention in them about the idol-worship done in the temples and he also found that many things taught by the qualified representatives during his period did not agree with Jainism. He, therefore, studied further and wrote the Sutras he got for copying also for his own purpose. Impressed by his discoveries he decide to reform the Jaina-faith, which was according to him corrupted and re-established it in its original purity. Of course he could not convert Jnanaji, and many others with whom he exchanged his views, but did not also agree with him. But finally, succeeded in winning over a group of pilgrims who were coming from Satrunjaya and marching through Ahmedabad. But the establishment of the sect was not possible till there was a monk who could be its master (Acarya). A layman by name Bhana became ascetic to get over this shortcoming and ordained himself (in 1467). He was the first spiritual head of the community of the Lonkas (Lunkas) or Lumpakas, and his position was inherited by his pupils.

Later there were splits and divisions in the Lonka-sect. The reforms of Lavaji, Vira's son, a layman from Surat who had become an ascetic, was the most significant among them. He found that the life of the Lonkas, with respect to the strictness, fell short of the precepts of the holy scriptures. He, therefore, founded a new sect. It was propagated in the curse of time to such an extent that it became later the most important custodian of Lonka's teachings. This community established in 1653 got the nickname Dhundiya (seekers) from the population of Gujarat, and it meant an honour. But the Dhundiyas gave themselves the name Sthanakavasis, because all their religious action took place in the community house (Sthanak = Upasrya), and not in the temples. Today, their number is more or less the same as that of Digambaras and of idol-worshipping Svetambaras, and they are to be considered to some extent as the third creed of the Jaina-church. But they count themselves among Svetambaras. The only difference they have, apart from some subordinate point, is that they recognize 32 canonic scriptures (Lonka had accepted only 31 scriptures; but the Vyavhar-Sutra rejected by him was considered as authoritative by the Sthankavasis). Their main difference from Svetambaras in the cult was that they do not worship any idols, do not possess temples and give no importnce to pilgrimages. There were again among them different branches. They led a stricter life of monks.

Reforms introduced by Lonka and his successors were not directed against the iconolatry and the form of worship, but they were meant for a general improvement of the discipline and customs. Even though Lonka's opponents fought against his reform in the cult and the ritual, they had to concede that Jainism needed a thorough reformation, because the discipline in monk-orders had become partially slack in the course of time. Lax interpretation of the strict rules of Mahaveera was made so that they were even partially reversed. The ban (except during the rainy season) from staying for long at one place was disregarded, as also the rule of "Aparigraha", i.e. of not possessing any property. The monks all too often gratified their desires, appropriated the property of the church and neglected their spiritual duties. Heads of many monasteries acted like Sankaracaryas and other heads of Hindu-mathas and appeared on elephants and in palanquins followed by their satellites and servants and they utilized the richly flowing charities of their lay-followers in leading a comfortable life. Discerning leaders had again and again tried to fight against these abuses, but without getting a lasting success. It appears that materialism among Svetam-baras had particularly strongly spread in the 17th century. This can be partially explained by the general feeling of insecurity and the degeneration caused by it. But a number of highly talented men filled with genuine piousness succeeded in forming a very powerful tribe of followers who one more brought respect to the old ascetic ideal. Anandaghana, Satyavijaya, Vinayavijaya and Yasovijaya (1624-1688) were the leaders of the movement which was aimed at realizing the old, strict rules meant for monks. The two last named were also fruitful and active writers; we owe to Vinayavijaya the great compendium Lokaprakasa (Torch of the world), an overall depiction of the Jaina-doctrine in its different ramifications, while Yasovijaya has made a name as a writer of nearly a hundred works in Sanskrit an Gujrati. The ascetics who are the followers of these masters wear saffron-yellow clothes to distinguish themselves from the others who wear white clothes. Even now, the community of the "Samavegis" exists and it is respected everywhere for its exemplary conduct of life.

There were also significant radical changes among Digambaras. The ancient, strict discipline of nude asceticism had already become slack in the last centuries of the 1st millennium A.D. This can be seen from the moving complaints of the writers of the that period. The Muslim rulers made it impossible for the monks to move around in nude for Muslims persecuted the naked Yatis. It became thus customary that Munis clothed themselves in the public. This practice is said to have found it s mouthpiece in Vasantakirti (around 1200); his Digamabara followers were later called Visva (Visa- or Bisa-) Panthis, the followers of a "universal" path, i.e., an easy path, accessible to all. Friends of older, stricter views opposed this practice. They later found their main representative in Pandita Banarsidas, who founded in Agra the Terapanthi-sect around the year 1626.

Further Reading:
Future of Jainism in India

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