Conquerors or Jinas Essay

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Jainism originated in ancient East India by the birth and ultimate liberation of twenty four conquerors or Jinas. People of the Jain faith believe that Jinas are human beings who become divine by subduing their sensual desires and overcoming karma, which is the accumulation of good and bad deeds. Good deeds allow living beings to be reincarnated into superior forms, while bad deeds force them to accept inferior forms after death (Jainism).

The Jains believe that the first Jina or conqueror was a giant living on earth 8. 4 million years ago. The last Jina was Mahavira or The Great Hero, born in 550 BC. Mahavira is known as the founder of Jainism, seeing that he was able to attract a large number of followers to his faith (Jain Dharma). Like Siddharta Buddha, Mahavira had belonged to the warrior caste and renounced the world at the age of thirty (History of Jainism). Also like the Buddha, Mahavira had sought spiritual reality in the solitude of asceticism. Ultimately he had found enlightenment, although it had taken him thirteen long years to get there.

He had converted eleven Brahmans to his faith soon after. By the time of his death, he had founded a community of ascetics with fourteen thousand monks and thirty six thousand nuns. Mahavira is further known to have starved himself to death a practice referred to as salekhana (History of Jainism). According to the Jains, Mahavira is one of the fortunate ones, as he has conquered love and hate, pleasure and pain, attachment and aversion, and has thereby freed his soul from the karmas obscuring knowledge, perception, truth, and ability (Jain Dharma).

The first and foremost principle of living taught by Jainism is called Ahimsa or non-violence toward all living beings. Thus, the followers of Jainism have never encountered a problem of violence in their history. The only issue that the people of the Jain faith have had to confront is disunity. Two hundred years after the attainment of nirvana on the part of Mahavira, the Jain faith was divided into two sects: the Digambar and the Svetambar. Both sects hold different views or beliefs about a number of issues.

For example, Digambar monks of the Jain faith do not wear anything because of their belief that clothes serve as reminders of the world. Svetambar monks, on the other hand, are known to wear seamless clothes that are usually colored white. Moreover, the Digambars are of the opinion that women are unable to attain liberation while they are living as women on earth. Svetambars, on the contrary, believe that women may indeed achieve liberation seeing that one of the Jinas was a woman. Likewise, the Digambars and Svetambars have varied views about the prayers that are traditionally recited by the Jains (Jainism).

The Jains do not believe in a creator of the universe. According to them, the world is without beginning or end. Furthermore, there is no single god of the universe (Sivananda). The following is a prayer of the Jains describing their unique concept of divinity, following by a brief introduction of the same: I bow to the Arahants, the perfected human beings, Godmen. I bow to the Siddhas, liberated bodiless souls, God. I bow to the Acharyas, the masters and heads of congregations. I bow to the Upadhyayas, the spiritual teachers.

I bow to the spiritual practitioners in the universe, Sadhus. This fivefold obeisance mantra destroys all sins and obstacles, and of all auspicious repetitions, is the first and foremost (Welcome to Jainism. org). Jains believe that all living beings are the same essential soul, but those human beings that perfect or liberate themselves are turned into gods. These souls part of the single soul of all living beings, albeit separate are worshipped by the Jains. Furthermore, these souls are the only ones that do not have to deal with karma any longer.

They have achieved salvation through enlightenment, abandonment of worldly attachments, and asceticism. By controlling their selfish desires, they have followed their spiritual teachers to the core. For them, Jainism is the only true religion. Additionally, by attaining the divine status, they have become omnipotent and omnipresent (Sivananda). Before becoming gods, the liberated souls were able to achieve death at will. On the other hand are souls that are so attached to life that they do not wish to end their lives on earth.

Such souls die nevertheless. Their death is Akama Marana, the death of helplessness, leading the soul to return to earth in an inferior form (Death in Jainism). There are seventeen kinds of deaths in the Jain faith: Avici-marana; Avadhimarana; Atyantika-marana; Vasarta-marana; Valana-marana; Antahsalya-marana; Tadhava-marana; Akama marana; Pandita-marana; Balpandita-marana; Chadmastha-marana; Kevali-marana; Vaihayasa-marana; Guddhapristha-marana; Bhaktapratyakhyana-marana; Inginta-marana; and Padopagamana-marana (Death in Jainism).

Unsurprisingly, all of these separate types of deaths lead to a different kind of life after death. Jains are believers in the reincarnation of all living beings. Thus, the soul that dies the Pandita-marana death is said to have left the earth in peace and with satisfaction (Death in Jainism). The best kind of death is, of course, the very last one, that is, the end that leads to ultimate liberation from the process of rebirth (Jainism).

Besides Ahimsa or non-violence, which forbids actions that cause verbal, emotional or physical harm to living beings; the principles of human behavior that the Jains must adhere to include the principle of Satya or the command to speak the truth and avoid falsehood; Asteya, or the command not to steal; Brahmacharya, or the principle demanding all Jains to remain monogamous in their sexual relationships; and Aparigraha, which is the principle of detaching oneself from the world by a reduction of worldly desires and abstinence from hoarding of material wealth (Jain Dharma).

The Jains do not convert people to their faith. Hence, anybody who is willing to follow the faith of Jainism must believe in these moral principles and follow them without compulsion (Jainism). Jains additionally believe that every living being has the potential to attain ultimate liberation from the cycle of rebirth. The perfect and liberated souls serve as models on the path of attaining liberation. However, all living beings are responsible for their individual good or bad actions (Jainism).

In order to attain ultimate salvation, souls must also believe in the triple jewels, that is, [r]ight faith, right knowledge and right conduct (Sivananda). Right faith constitutes belief in the perfect and liberated souls as real gods, the Jaina Sastras (written by spiritual teachers) as the scriptures of the Jain faith, and the saints of Jainism as the real teachers. Right knowledge provides the follower of Jainism with an eye of certainty that sheds all doubts.

Right conduct, of course, constitutes the five moral principles that all Jains must adhere to, including Ahimsa, which compels all Jains to live as vegetarians (Sivananda). Lastly, Jains believe in overcoming all biases and prejudices, and gathering the viewpoints of others, despite the fact that the followers of the faith are divided into sects (Jainism).

Works Cited

Death in Jainism. Answers. 2007. 16 Nov 2007. . History of Jainism. Religion Facts. 2007. 16 Nov 2007. . Jain Dharma. Religious Tolerance. 15 Aug 2005. 16 Nov 2007. . Jainism. Answers. 2007. 16 Nov 2007. . Sivananda, Sri Swami. Jainism. 17 Oct 2004. 16 Nov 2007. . Welcome to Jainism. org. 16 Nov 2007. .

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