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Jainism Resources

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

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The religion of Jainism

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Jainism is an exceptional religion that has a high moral standard which is ethically commendable but lacks an altruistic motive because it seeks the fulfillment of individualism by achieving personal enlightenment.
Also this religion lacks originality as it has it roots firmly bedded in Hinduistic thought and even though there are differences of belief between these two world views Jainism is still the noticeable (1)offspring of its mother religion.
Regarding it origins, Jains recognize Vardhamana or Mahavira to be their contemporary founder who is said to of reached a stage of enlightenment at 42 years of age which resulted in him instructing others to obtain this supposed reality.
However, the challenge to this idea is that there is no objective way of knowing when one can measurably reach this supposed state of being and it appears to be purely subjective and therefore any person could make a claim to achieving this condition when in reality it could just be another one of the many false claims of which other spiritual and secular leaders have made.
In addition to this the idea of enlightenment, karma, and the transmigration of the soul are Hindu concepts and even though there are nuances of belief regarding these two religions there is still a measurable compatibility and similitude towards one another.
Now regarding the specifics of this elaborate belief system I am wondering how one can ultimately know the “ultimate” since no one has returned from nirvana to tell their story. Is this a real experience or does Jainism depend upon the gurus, swamis, devs, and the nath to grant them knowledge concerning this concept? Anyway I did a blog on the after life or near death experiences which you might find helpful.

Also Jainism makes some inconsistent claims by stating that (2)Mahavira descended from above when in reality he had earthly parents. Also they claim that he is an omniscient being (3)without sin and yet how was it possible for him to achieve enlightenment since he supposedly originated as an enlightened being from heaven? So if he was already in this perfected state of sinlessness then how was it possible for him at one time to of had a wealthy lifestyle as a prince which would later contradict his ascetic views concerning possessions.
If Mahavira was a perfected being then why did he instruct (4)the monks under (5)the five vows to avoid all women who were said to be associated with evil and yet he at one time had a wife? Practically speaking how could Jains propagate their faith and community by means of a childless extinction and wouldn’t this also be a natural hindrance to the balance of rebirths by abstaining from marriage and child bearing?
Ironically enough if this is the case concerning women then why have some Jains recognized the 19th Tirthankara as a woman named Malli Nath.

Now concerning some of the other beliefs which make up this religion there seems to be various contradictory positions that are taught among its adherents.
One of these beliefs is that traditional Jainism, as attributed to Mahavira, does not support a belief in god(s) or a supreme being which is much like the view of its cousin religion of Buddhism yet ironically today Mahavira is worshipped like (6)a deity which is a common phenomena among believers of different faiths which in the due course of time elevate and deify their founder.
Jainism also makes suspicious claims that they do not worship personages but only the concept or the ideas which their spiritual leaders of the past have taught. Yet upon studying other religious world views these same types of activities and behavior are found which describe the worship of their gods. After all, to offer prayers of bowing down and prostrating before the Tirthankaras and  reciting sacred mantras towards these individuals shows a kind of religious backdrop which I believe crosses over to an idolatrous relationship of devotion towards the person. Also by parading images and setting up holidays in commemoration of these persons as well as erecting temples and making pilgrimages shows an honor that goes beyond mere human recognition and inspiration. Additionally the presentation of offerings to the images gives more credence to the worship of these individual beings then what Jains are willing to admit to.
In the US the heroes of our country are considered those who have primarily served this nation in military service and at least twice a year they are honored for their acts of service as they have unselfishly laid down their lives in the line of duty. Yet even with this kind of recognition there is nothing that comes close to approaching this level of extreme devotion as found in Jainism towards these revered individuals.
So even though Jainism attempts to avoid a supreme being they still use similar verbiage without specifying an identity by using words like karmic forces, universal consciousness or Atman “the ultimate”.
These all seem to point to an intelligent being but they attempt to escape the language by stating this reality as some kind of impersonal force and yet these forces have a resemblance to that of personality as indicated by the nature of design. I have already written some blogs concerning the cosmological and teleological arguments of a Supreme Being or God which may be of interest to you.

Atheist and Agnostic

So if Jainism rejects the supreme God concept then how can they account for such a complicated and elaborate system of karmic retribution which according to their philosophical beliefs appears to be a well managed system of checks and balances? This orchestrated ordeal would seem to make more sense if it was guided by a God who was an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being who could oversee such an incomprehensible matter of eternal justice?
Some other things to consider as related to their beliefs is the idea of Ahimsa or the “no harm” policy which is a commitment to refrain from the violence of (7)killing or the harming of things and yet what do you call the fatalistic practice of an ascetic who denies and eventually commits the act of salekhana by starving themselves to death? Isn’t this individual harming and destroying themselves? Also it would nearly be (8)impossible to live up to the rigidity of this belief due to the inability to avoid ingesting things such as the millions of microorganisms that are living in drinking water. In addition to this how could one be deterred from accidentally harming insects, vegetables, and wood when walking everyday especially in the dark when the person is unaware of their surroundings and therefore unknowingly trample under foot these personal entities which according to Jainist belief will hinder the assurance of salvation due to the violation of this practice thereby making it impossible to achieve moksha?
Also how is a person to respond in real life when faced with an assailant whether it is a man or beast? Is a person to defend themselves or will you allow the attacker to violate you without a fight?

Sometimes harm must be brought to people, such as with a penal code of law, which requires to restrain individuals in order to protect other living beings.
There are times as well when a life must be taken in order to preserve the life of another such as the mother who is having critical complications during child birth. It is unavoidable in some instances for both parties to be shown or given equal consideration regarding Ahimsa due to the complexities of life.
Also by maintaining and upholding this doctrinal view it might at times pose a contrasting problem towards the effects of bad karma which is at work in the universe in bringing about the work of retribution and justice. So by intervening or interacting with individuals in a positive manner this may upset the balance of life.

Another objection to this philosophy of belief is the utilitarian function and reality of their normal everyday life in making a living. Jains on one hand refrain from the destroying of life yet in turn some have reverted to the entrepreneurial trappings of a capitalistic worldly society that is often attached with the concept of profit whose bedfellow is greed and wealth. Jains are often involved and participate in politics, (9)commerce, banking and finance and even if the individual can somehow justify their position in life, can they still be essentially sure that they are not involved as an accessory to committing religious crimes by participating in allowing these monies and their political presence to be misused by others?

Other considerations of worldly attachments that has been attributed to Jainism by means of association is their influence or contribution to matters such as Indian philosophy, art and architecture. It is nearly impossible to be so detached from life that there isn’t some form of worldly influence that affects not only ourselves but others as well.
Another controversial matter when dealing with Jainism is the validation of their sacred  texts which are under dispute among the sects of the Digambaras and the Svetambaras as well as the Sthanakavasis who don’t even have a script. (10)These documents which rely heavily upon oral tradition didn’t reach a final and permanent state until 1000 years after the death of Mahavira. During this time these documents could have been significantly altered from the original message which is said to have derived from the oldest and most reliable text known as the Purvas which has been lost.

We know that oral tradition has limitations as based on our personal experience as kids when we played the game of telephone which showed that there can be discrepancies based on what was originally spoken and what message was finally conveyed to the last participant. So if a message can become distorted as it passes from just a few mouths and ears over a relatively short period of time and space then how likely is this to happen as you increase these variables.

Also when dealing with such a large time lapse it is much more likely to mythologize and embellish the content of the text therefore making it more difficult to authenticate its truth claims.
So based on this criteria is this what you want to base your confidence in or stake your life on?
Another subject that I believe is a misconception among Jains is their view that favors the eternality of the universe.
The modern science of empiricism which supports the law of causality or cause and effect states that ever effect must have an origin or an original cause including the known universe. Einstein hypothesized that the universe had a beginning through his theory of relativity and this was later confirmed by mathematicians and the Hubble telescope which showed the changes of light in respect to the expansion of the universe thus confirming that the universe had a starting point which has been referred to theoretically as the big bang. Regardless of the details to how this phenomenon took place there is at least one indication that is relevant to us regarding this observation and that is that the universe as we know it had a starting point and is still growing.
Another Jain teaching that conflicts with science is their belief that the first Tirthankar who was known as Rishabh or Rsabha lived billions of years ago and yet we know from the fossil evidence that humans did not exist then.
Also among the controversies of Jainsim is the idea of avoiding pleasure as well as the pursuit of desire and yet at the very core of their belief is a desire to achieve the blissful state of nirvana by escaping reincarnation.

So if pleasure is to be avoided then why should one observe punya or virtue which has the capabilities of producing pleasant sensations?
This pleasure concept can also affect others by means of these participating Jains who are giving offerings and services to monks who are committed to an ascetic order therefore making them dependent upon (11)worldly attachments.
Another argument against Jainsim is their allowance for different levels of spiritual development which ranges all the way down to what would be termed as the common layman and yet it would seem to be a losing battle to start at the lower echelon of this movement as it may not allow an individual the opportunity to gain ground due the maturation of karmic forces making it difficult to obtain Nirjara by dispelling and exhausting karmic matter.

Lastly Jainism claims tolerance to other faiths by stating that no single belief holds the truth and yet does this also apply to their own movement? If this is the case then this would open them up theoretically to accept and adopt other religious world views such as Christianity.
Also to say that there is no absolute truth is a contradictory statement in and of itself because if there are no absolutes then that would include the very absolute statement which Jainism has made in stating that there are no absolute truths.
In essence among Jains there may be a religious tolerance among other faiths but I don’t believe that the Jains feel that other religions contain significant spiritual truth outside of their identity otherwise they would have no problem referring to themselves as being like Hindus, Buddhists, or Christians. In reality they recognize themselves exclusively otherwise they would not see it necessary to define their religious system of beliefs under a single religious category but would prefer more of a syncretistic or pluralistic form of belief such as what you may see in the Baha’i faith or the New Age Movement. Also what position would they take when considering the dilemma of contradictions between their belief system and other religious world views? Are they really willing to reconsider and give sway to other possibilities which are contrary to their beliefs?

If so I would like the opportunity to share the truth of the Christian gospel or good news with you which unlike Jainsim doesn’t leave an individual in a state of hopelessness and oppression by reducing human life to a nihilistic view of loathsomeness were the goal and release of life is anticipated through a suicidal act of starvation.

How to know God

In conclusion Jainism as a movement has positively identified the selfish nature of sin and the concept of justice by means of reward and judgments.
Yet this general revelation of truth of which God has hard wired in the mainframe of our being was to be only a starting point in giving us a moral conscious or compass by showing our need for a Savior or God to rescue us from sin and it consequences. So rather than developing an elaborate system of religious practices, God had intended this knowledge to lead us into a relationship of dependency of which God would be at work within our hearts and lives.
Anyway you can never fill the emptiness of your soul by substituting a counterfeit religion in place of God who alone is able to fill your heart with his love and forgiveness by giving you the security of eternal life apart from the perils of hell. Romans 2:14-16

14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

You may feel that Jainism has placed on you a yoke that you are unable to bear as based upon the concept of the unknown and the incalculable karmic forces which leave the individual with the inability to overcome sin or papa. You may be struggling under a sense of insecurity and fear of not knowing which part of the cycle you are in and whether you have done enough to earn or merit some form of salvation in order to escape the reality of pain and suffering that this life has offered you. Perhaps you feel weighed down and burdened by the requirements of your religion and that no one has come to help you shoulder and pick up the load by assisting you on your spiritual journey but I would like to mention and individual who spoke out against the religious leaders of his day who were placing heavy loads of religious activities of does and don’ts upon the back of individuals who were left straining under the weight of a religious yoke.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

My friend Jesus has come to set you free and liberate you as spoken of in Romans 8:1-2

8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Finally I would like to leave you with my personal testimony which shows how Jesus made a difference in my life and I pray that He will also make a difference in yours.

Jainism Resources





AMG’s World Religions and Cults, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, Tennessee

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© 2009 Josh McDowell Ministry. All rights reserved. No part of these Materials may be changed in any way or reproduced in any form without written permission from Josh McDowell Ministry, 660 International Parkway, Richardson, TX 75081. +1 972 907 1000. Used by Permission.