Jainism: A Concise Encyclopedia

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Item Code: NAF306
Author: N. N. Bhattacharyya
Publisher: Manohar Publishers and Distributors
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788173043123
Pages: 303
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch x 9.0 inch
Weight 1 kg
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Book Description
About the book

Jainism is not a religion in the Western or semitic sense of the term, but in the Indian or Eastern sense, which is no more than a way of life that insists on cessation from violence, theft, lies, having possessions, or indulgence in sensual pleasures.

It is one of the six daily duties of Jam laymen to show compassion to all living beings and to help the needy. Four kinds of gifts are to be offered to the distressed — food (ahara), protection (abhaya), medicine (ausadha), and learning (sastra) — irrespective of faith, caste, or creed.

According to Jam belief it was Rsabhadeva, the first of the twenty- four Tirthamkaras, who taught men 72 arts and women 64 and initiated them into the Jam way of life. His mission of elevating the ethical and spiritual standard of mankind was continued and put into practice by the successive Tirtharnkaras. In the hands of the last two Tirthamkaras, Pärsva and Mahavira, the traditional knowledge derived from their spiritual ancestors assumed new form and colour. None of them claimed to be the founder of any system. They were great reformers who modified the entities of the existing religion evidently to meet the demand of their ages.

In the earlier phases of its development, the geographical boundary of Jainism comprised Anga, Magadha, Kausmbi, Sthuna and kunala according to the Kalpasutra. Orissa, along with the country around Ujjayini was also a stronghold of early Jainism. In the South the spread of Jainism is associated with the legends of Bhadrabahu and Candragupta. The latter is said to be a devout Jam who breathed his last at Sravanabelgola in Karnataka. By the end of the third century AD Jainism had taken firm root throughout India.

There are no comprehensive reference works on Jainism, one of the great religions of the world. This volume tries to fill this gap. About 2,500 entries in the work seek to provide and invaluable survey of Jainism from A to Z.

About the Author

As an Indologist, N.M. Battacharyya requires no introduction. He retired as Professor of History from Calcutta University. A reputed scholar, he wrote a large number of books, most of which have gone into several printings. He passed away in 2001.


The publication of a multi-volume encyclopaedia of Jainism with contributions from eminent scholars and edited by a board of experts is long overdue. The present work is by no means a substitute for such a comprehensive encyclopaedia, but it may be regarded as a curtain-raiser. The entries in this volume cover a wide range of topics and could be elaborated in a bigger project. At the same time it should also be noted that since Jainism is taught in different universities and there are people who want to know more about this system, a venture such as this Concise Encyclopaedia will serve its own academic purpose as the entries are complete in themselves, and in required cases are authenticated by references from the original sources. A separate glossary of technical terms appears at the end of the volume and two bibliographies are supplied, one for the original sources and the other for secondary works.

My Sincere thanks to Sri Kamala Kanta Das, my research assistant, whose earnest cooperation and indefatigable labour have been responsible for the timely completion of this project. I am also grateful to Sri Ramesh lain and Sri Ajay lain for the interest they have taken in publishing this work.


In Edward Moor’s The Hindu Pantheon (1810) the Jams were described as a sect of Buddhists or as Vaisnavas, and an imperfect account of their tenets, temples, icons, armorial and forehead marks were provided. Western scholars long failed to recognize the distinction between Jainism and Buddhism. Colebrooke, Prinsep and J. Stevenson regarded Mahavira as the teacher of the Buddha while Wilson and Weber held Jainisim to be an offshoot of Buddhism. Similarities in some names as well as in religious and philosophical concepts occurring in the Buddhist and Jam scriptures contributed to this misconception. It was Hermann Jacobi (1850-1937) who was the first to demonstrate the independence of Buddhism and Jainism. In a broad sense, however, the doctrines of the Buddha, Mahavira and their contemporaries were aspects of a single body of teaching. Specifically their views may be different but generically they belong to the same category. This was due to the fact that they belonged to the same age and the same region and they responded and reacted, in their own ways, which were more or less similar, to the same stimuli arising out of the socio political and religio-philosophical transformations that were taking place in their time.

Jainism and Buddhism belonged to the same civilization and intellectual sphere, and share a religio-philosophical terminology. Though both these systems were different from Vedism or Brahmanism and its sectarian offshoots, from the viewpoint of religio-philosophical terms and concepts they shared a basic similarity. Consider, for instance, such concepts as jiva, ajiva, pudgala, ãkasa, duhkha, nirvana, moksa, karma, bandha, dravya, guna, paryãya, bhãva, abhava, etc. The logical, epistemological and metaphysical terms and concepts, as also those pertaining to the functional aspects of religious life, originated from one primary source and these were subsequently adapted in all the religio-philosophical systems of India with necessary modification. An in-depth study of religious terminology is therefore expected to demonstrate sufficiently that studies on Indian religion have so far overemphasized the differences and ignored the basic unity.

The problem of the early Brahmanical speculations was to define the relation between the ãtman and the external world. A painful world, full of hunger and thirst, when equated with the all-perfect, all- pervading, and all-beautiful ätman would give birth to pessimism and the concept of metempsychosis— cycles of birth and death, and karma as the power predetermining the course of the migration of the soul from one state of being to another. Even the result of good action is impermanent. It arises out of some kind of desire, and hence the doctrine of deliverance gradually came to believe in the conquest of all desire through the right knowledge. And this is what is actually taught by the Buddha and Mahãvira. One should not fail to recall in this connection that the contemporaries of Buddha and Mahavira—Goala, Ajita, Sanjaya, Purana and Pakudha—based their doctrines on the same premises though their conclusions were different.

The ideas of the Vedic tradition by which certain fundamentals of Jainism and Buddhism are said to be inspired were the doctrine of transmigration of the soul and rebirth and liberation. In the Upanisads the doctrine of karma is presented in two forms—simple and sophisticated. The simple form is that just as good seeds produce a good harvest and bad seeds bad, so also a man becomes good by good deeds and bad by bad deeds. At the sophisticated level, however, karma is a blind unconscious principle governing the whole universe. It appears that the Jam doctrine of karma had derived its main impulses from the sophisticated interpretation. It is conceived in Jainism, unlike other systems, as being material, permeating the jivas and weighing them down to the mundane level. The passions of a man act like a viscous substance that attract karma, which pours into the soul and sticks to it, gradually ripening and exhausting itself in accordance with the suffering and enjoyment of the individual. The karmasarira encircles the soul as its passes from birth to birth.

In the Rgvedic eschatology there is no direct reference to transmigration or to the doctrine of rebirth in any form. In the Brahmanas we come across the idea of repeated births and deaths, but this idea is not established in a theoretical framework. It is only in the Upanisads that we come across a clear development of the theory of transmigration. This is in three distinct stages. In the first stage the earlier Vedic idea of heaven or the abode of Yama has been replaced by the concept of yãna or way, of the fathers (pitr) or gods (deva). In the second stage the doctrine of transmigration is presented without any reference to the idea of karma or reaping the fruits of deeds.

In the final stage, however, we have a complete presentation of the transmigration in terms of the doctrine of karma, Both Jainism and Buddhism drew much from all the three stages of the Upanisadic con5èption. It deserves special notice that the transmigrating soul of the Jams are thought to have various shapes and sizes. This conception has Upanisadic parallels and bears the stamp of animistic beliefs. Like the transmigration and karma theories, the Jam and Buddhist conception of liberation has something to do with the Upanisadic ideas. In the spirit of the Upanisads, the Jams and the Buddhists hold that man holds within himself the constituents of the gross body, the vital functions of life, will and desire, thoughts, and actions. So long as man keeps himself in these spheres and passes through a series of experiences in the present life and in lives to come, he suffers pleasure and pain, disease and death. But if he retires from these into his true unchangeable being, his true self manifests itself. This is a state of pure intelligence, pure being, and pure blessedness.

The basic theoretical difference between Jainism and Buddhism was on the question of momentariness. The Buddhists regarded all changes as being due to the assemblage of momentary conditions and went so far as to deny the existence of any permanent soul. The Jams too believed that changes were produced by an assemblage of conditions, but held that since no ultimate or absolute view of things could logically be taken, the reality of the permanence of the world must be acknowledged side by side with the question of change. According to the Jams those who hold that there is nothing really permanent in the universe and that everything changes from moment to moment, are one-sided because change and permanence are both real. Reality consists of three factors: permanence, origin, and decay—utpada-vyaya-dravyayuktam sat. So far as epistemology is concerned, the Jams do not subscribe to the Buddhist view that knowledge by perception of external objects is indefinite and indeterminate.

The Jains reject the Buddhist view that reality consists in causal efficiency, i.e. an object is real if it is capable of causing an effect. The Jams reject this approach because according to them even an illusory snake is real as it can cause fear. Jainism rejects the Buddhist Sunyavada and Vijnanavada because they do not accept the competence of the sense-organs. The Jams are in agreement with the Vijnanavada School on the point of the self-revelatory character of cognition, but while the latter holds that there exists no objects apart from cognition, and a particular piece of cognition is possessed of a particular form, the Jains posit the existence of external objects and treat cognition as a general phenomenon. The Buddhist theory of dependent origination conceives a series of qualities and attributes that originate or perish, but it posits no permanent atomic substance in the form of the substratum of those qualities and attributes, while Jainism posits over and above the perceptible world an infinite number of two utterly distinct types of subtle elements, one physical and the other conscious. The gross world is, according to Jainism, only the effect (karya) or modification (parinãma) of subtle physical elements. The Buddhist viewpoint leads to unfounded nihilism. If we go by experience we can neither reject the self nor the external world.

Jainism, notwithstanding its idealistic tone and colour, has been able to retain its basic materialistic kernel. The Jam criticism of the materialists was directed mainly against their theory of knowledge. Cãrvãka theory, for instance, seeks to explain the world as a mechanical or fortuitous combination of elements. Jams agree with the Carvakas on the point that perception reveals the reality of material substances composed of the four elements. But they add that for the establishment of the concepts of space and time, and of motion and rest, inferential knowledge is necessary. They point out that in some cases even the Carvakas have to depend on inferential knowledge, e.g. when they say that consciousness is due to the combination of material substances. The Jams do not subscribe to the materialist view that there is no soul apart from the body or that consciousness is the effect of matter, resulting out of the combination of material elements that constitute the body, but support the Carvaka view that neither perception nor inference can prove god. The diversities of the world are due to cooperative conditions inherent in the nature of things. If things can function only in obedience to the will of god, there is no reason why they should be endowed with distinct attributes.

Jain atheism seems to have been complementary to that of the Sankhya, according to which God as an eternal and immutable self cannot be the cause of the world. To create the world or to control Prakrti cannot be the end of God’s own because a perfect being cannot have any unfulfilled desires or unattained ends. Perception and inference do not prove god. Though the existing Sankhya texts are of late origin, an early form of Sankhya is probable and there are reasons to hold that early Buddhism and Jainism formulated some of their doctrinal standpoints on the basis of Sankhya. The Sankhya theory of knowledge in its basic principles has been shared by Jainism which accepts all three independent sources of valid knowledge (pramãna): perception, inference, and testimony. Jainism also shares with Sankhya two kinds of perception, namely the nirvikalpa or indeterminate arising at the first moment of contact between a sense and its object, and the svavikalpa or determinate which is the result of analysis, synthesis, and interpretation of sense-data. A distinction between empirical and transcendental perception is maintained both in the Sãnkhya and in Jainism. According to Sankhya, the material cause of sense-organs is abhimana, a kind of subtle substance (süksma dravya) born of Prakrti. Jainism likewise maintains that the material cause of sense-organs is a kind of pudgala, or physical substance jadadravyavisesa). The Jams, however, criticise the Sãnkhya view that just as a mirror reflects the light of a lamp and thereby reflects other things, so the material principle of intellect, being transparent and bright, reflects the consciousness of the self and illuminates or cognizes the object of knowledge. The Jam conception of moksa, the Buddhist conception of nirvana, and the Sankhya conception of mukti have a common source which holds that all pleasures and pains belong to the mind-body complex that acts or causes action and that the attainment of liberation means the clear recognition of the self as a reality beyond time and space, essentially free, eternal, and immortal.

Apparently the Mimãmsã philosophy is the antithesis of Jainism, but both have the same cosmological conception. Jams and the Mimamsakas hold that the universe has neither beginning nor end. It is composed of substances of different kinds. There is no creation or destruction of the world. Jainism subscribes to the Mimamsa view that sense-perception does not reveal god and that the conception of god is ontologically irrelevant and logically repulsive. As for theories of knowledge, the Jams do not recognize the validity of such Mimamsaka sources as comparison (upamäna), postulation (arthapatti), or non-perception (anupalabdhi). Their sole insistence upon pure empirical perception and their denial of transcendental perception have been criticised by the Jam logicians Akalanka, Abhayadeva, and Hemacandra. Conceptually the Mimamsaka ideas of karma, duty, rebirth, and liberation are not basically different from those of the Jams. Both schools hold that the soul survives death to be able to reap the consequences of its karma. Repeated births are caused by karma. It is only by disinterested performance of duties and through knowledge of the self that the karmas accumulated in the past are gradually worn out. Liberation is achieved, when one is freed of the ties of karma.

Except for ideas of bondage and liberation, Jainism has practically nothing in common with the Vedanta. In fact, Jainism and Vedanta stand in virtual opposition to each other. Philosophically Jainism may be designated as pluralistic realism and Vedanta as monistic idealism. Jainism does not subscribe to the Vedantic view that the cause alone is real and what appears as effect is an illusion. The gross world according to Jainism is an effect (karya) or modification (parinàma) of subtle physical elements. There is a plurality of conscious elements and a plurality of conscious souls. The Vedantists on the other hand believe in a supreme soul. To them, brahman or the self is the only reality, and its modification in the form of the world is illusory. But to the Jams the world is eternal, without beginning or end and cannot be the modification of any imaginary principle.

The theistic standpoint of the Nyaya-Vaisesikas was the main target of Jam attack. Even so, where logic was concerned the Jams drew heavily from the Nyaya-Vaiesikas. Again, the Nyaya-Vaisesika conception of atomism appears to have been influenced by early Jam thinkers. Later Jam logicians like Yasovijaya have even employed the refined Navya-Nyaya technique in their analysis of Jam descriptions and definitions. The first five bhutas or elements of the nine Nyaya-Vaisesika substances correspond to Jam pudgala which is of the nature of the compounds of atoms. Yet while the former holds that atoms are heterogeneous in quality, the Jams conceive all atoms to be homogeneous. Guna or quality is recognized in the Nyaya-Vaisesika as a distinct and real category and conceived as inhered in substance and dependent on substance. At the same time they are also conceived as distinct from substance because they can by themselves be known and are thus independent realities. This duality is to be a certain extent maintained in Jainism which treats guza as the essential character of the substance is possessed of some unchanging qualities as well as changing modes. They, admitting that different qualities are perceived by different sense-organs, argue that since a quality is non-distinct from the substance of which it is a quality, all the sense-organs are competent to perceive qualities as well as substances. Mental qualities such as desire, aversion, pleasure, and pain, and the experience of these qualities, are traced in both the systems to the soul or self. The soul or self, the ätman, is associated with the atoms in the Nyaya Vaisesika and with karmic-atoms (karmanu) in Jainism.


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