Sep 29, 2009

Decline of Jainism | Some Internal Reasons

-By Mahavir Sanglikar

Much has been written about the reasons behind decline of Jainism and Buddhism. Most of the scholars and writers have given stress on external reasons of decline i.e. the end of the royal patronage, rise of new faiths, conflicts with Shaivites, vaishnavites, veershaivites; and invasions by foreigners etc.

On the other hand, Jains believe that Jainism will decline day by day as it is written in their sacred texts. It will continue to decline until the end of this era. It is the reason of decline and nothing else.

Thus, scholars ignore the internal reasons of decline of Jainism and the both internal and external reasons are ignored by Jains themselves.

Here I would like to discuss on the most important internal reasons of decline.

Jainism lost its true spirit
Yes, Jains failed to keep its distinction. Jains adopted many Hindu faiths and rituals. They adopted many Hindu Goddesses. The most unfortunate thing was adoption of Vedic Varna system. This lead Jains towards development of caste system within their community. The worst thing was that Jains started to differentiate people in the name of castes and classes. Jainism became another version of Vedic Hindu religion. Jainism lost its true spirit. Although the untouchablity was a Vedic invention, orthodox Jains were highly responsible for spreading it.

On the other hand, Hindus adopted many good things from Jains, including Ahimsa, Vegetarianism, Anekantvad, tolerance etc. They also adopted idol worship from Jains.

Thus the masses were unable to distinguish between Jainism and Hinduism. For them, Jainism was just another sect of Hinduism. As a result Jainism lost its different identity.

Rise of Sects
Jainism was divided into two major sects, i.e. Digambars and Shwetambars. Further, they were divided into many sub sects. The monks of each sect and sub-sect started to tell the laymen that only their sect/ sub-sect was true one and other sects/sub-sects were just wrong beliefs. The monks became enemies of other Jain sects/ sub sects. There are some examples in which some influential Jain Acharyas banned other sects and sub-sects in their region with help of the kings.

Thus for Jain monks Jainism became a secondary thing and sectarian views became prominent. While Hinduism was victim of caste system, Jainism became a victim of both the Sects and Castes.

Quitting by Warriors and Brahmins
Jainism was basically the religion of Kshatriyas, the warriors. All the Teerthankars of Jains were from Royal dynasties. Many great Acharyas too were from warrior families.

It is fact that most of the people follow religion of their kings. In ancient and medieval India, for many dynasties, Jainism was their family religion. But we can see that many royal families eventually renounced Jainism and joined other faiths. Most of the times, it happened because of lack of foresight of Jain monks.

As the Royal families quitted Jainism, their subjects also followed them.

On other hand, the Brahmin class was another important pillar of Jainism. The fact is that most of the important Jain literature is written and compiled by Brahmins. They were staunch and true Jains. But they too quitted Jainism.

These two were the most important pillars of Jainism. As these pillars got themselves removed from the structure, the building was broken down.

Negative Contribution of Jain Monks
Unfortunately, many orthodox and foresightless Jain monks also were a major reason for decline of Jainism. While the Jain monks of ancient India initiated millions of people into Jainism, the Jain monks of later period stopped such kind of initiation. The worst thing was that some orthodox Jain monks and bhattaraks started to expel people from Jain community.

Most of the Jain monks always used to say that in fifth era Jainism would decline day by day. This statement was hammered for hundreds of years. The statement worked as a self-suggestion and killed the spirit of enthusiastic monks.

A large number of Jain monks lost respect because of their immoral and corrupt activities. This forced many people to quit Jainism.

Money Orientation
As Warriors and Brahmins quitted Jainism, this religion went under control of Baniya (merchant) people. As they were basically money-oriented people, money became the most important thing in Jain religion. Building more and more temples became a preferential thing. The baniyas started to decorate Jain idols with ornaments. Donating to temples and rituals became the only meaning of religion. Temples became places of auctions for rituals. For these people, knowledge was always on least priority.

As Jainism became the religion of Baniyas, extreme Ahimsa became prominent in Jain community. Joining armed forces, cultivation and all productive occupations were declared as sins. This forced most of the remaining non-baniyas to leave this religion.

In such conditions, there was no question of spreading Jainism in masses. There was no question of joining this religion by knowledge-oriented people.

These are some of the internal reasons of decline of Jainism.

Is there any bright future for Jainism?
I think NO! Any religion prospers only if new people continuously join it. Jains have closed their doors for new comers. Moreover, followers of any religion are ambassadors of it. If the followers of Jainism are giving bad impression on masses, why they should think positive about Jainism?


Chiron said...

Times change. Priorities of societies change. The advantages offered by Shramanic memes during times of prosperity lost their selective edge over Orthodox memes in difficult times. Furthermore, Bauddha and Jaina traditions are basically monastic and inherently rebellious. Over the period of time, they became similar to the orthodox system which they rebelled against.. Hence they lost out in the resurgent wave of orthodox memes.

There are all sorts of philosophies available in free society. Kings and Policy-makers choose to patronize that philosophy which according to them will provide maximum political mileage. The political mileage and popularity given by Bauddha and Jain traditions during peacetimes is immense. Furthermore, in this system you get to bypass the check of Brahmins on the system to certain extent. If one happens to be a Vedic king, Brahmins wielded considerable influence on the policy-making.

Now sometimes, its good, some other times its bad. The rise and fall of the philosophical memes depend a lot upon that.

Since Jain and Bauddha traditions are heavily based upon one figure(Siddharth Gautam and Vardhamaan Mahaaveer), this decreases the freedom of the system to evolve and take a major revolutionary step required to redefine the system which is in sync with massively changing times.

Astika system is full of such figures which agree and/or contradict with each other to variable extents. Hence, there is lot more freedom of fundamental evolution in Astika system than in Nastika systems. Hence the higher survival rate.

vidhya said...

All over world religions are slowly fading
but it is needed for better quality respectful life
every religion has its own teachings for the benefit of humanity
The author has written in most realistic manner .
I appreciate him.

Arun said...

Jainism can still prosper if the jains study it properly and propogate it rather than blindly following the vices of the vedic society inculcated into jainism. because, jainism in its originality is very close to nature and helps a person to improve his own personality and live in accordance with nature and also provide for a very harmonious living in the society and can be a cure for many problems faced by manking today. but for that we require intellectuals to study jainism and tell it to the world at large.

Bunty said...

Who is following religion today...just because census reads that 80% are hindus, does not mean that they follow their religion..infact 79% of hindus dont even know ABCD of their religion.

So today religion is not at all a priority. Among youngsters the world religion means superstitious beliefs...they dont want to hear a thing about too is becoming the case with elders.

Moreover todays education makes people non-believer of SOUL itself which is in the heart of all the Indian honestly speaking today religion has declined completely.

Also, religion doesnt require is clearly said in shastra that if one person follows dhrm rightly then that one person can even constitute a SANGH!!

What is the point in having 50 crore Jains (or Hindus or whatever) if they dont know bit of it nor they follow it.

And well, as society has become extremely materialistic and becoming more so day by day religion would be wiped out completely...and since compared to other religions Jain dharam stresses the most on SOUL, obviously less people are going to follow it...

Popular Posts

Mahavir Sanglikar's Articles

शोध आणि बोध: Marathi Articles on General Subjects