Jainism’s Influence on Indian Thinking and Other Religions

Topics: Jainism, Hinduism, India Pages: 5 (1602 words) Published: August 25, 2013
Jainism’s Influence on Indian Thinking and Other Religions

Jainism was a religion that promoted non-violence and asceticism as a way of salvation, and it had created a significant impact towards Hindu thinking since the decline of the Vedic era in the sixth century BCE. The religion was formed as a rejection towards the formalized traditions of Hinduism such as discrimination between castes and animal sacrifices. Even though the rise of Jainism lasted for a short period of time, its flexibility towards followers led to numerous modifications towards Hindu practices. The similarities between Jainism and Hinduism modified Vedic religious practices because it was available to all castes.

During the Indo-European migration, a group of Aryans settled in the northwest Indian subcontinent and wrote the Vedas, a collection of texts written in Sanskrit. The Vedas were considered valuable because the Brahmins were the only ones who were able to recite in Sanskrit, making Brahmins the only ones who were able to engage in the highest spiritual knowledge. Unlike the Indus River Valley Civilization, Aryans settled on the hills of the Himalaya Mountains and started to develop states.[1] For the reason that wars between hill states occurred often, the Kshatriya warrior caste were always busy fighting.[2] However, several teachers coming from the Kshatriya warrior caste started offering alternatives to Brahmanical Hinduism as Brahmans became the dominant Hindu caste.

According to Jain belief, there were twenty-four Tirthankaras, or religious teachers, who crossed the “river of transmigration” in order to enable the Jains to obtain salvation.[3] In 559 BCE, Vardhamana Mahavira, the last Tirthankara, was born in the Ganges valley. Mahavira was a Kshatriya, and by the time he was twenty-eight years old, he abandoned his family life to become an ascetic.[4] Shortly after living with the ascetics, he went off on his own and threw away his robe as a symbol of leaving the society for twelve years.[5] During the last year of his departure from society, Mahavira attained kevela, or “freedom from the limitations of time and space.”[6] As stated by Vincent Smith, the author of The Oxford History of India, Mahavira gained about fourteen-thousand followers when he died in 527 BCE. [7]

Jainism was able to attract a congregation because of its accessibility and adjustability to different followers. To begin with, Jain scriptures such as the Acaranga Sutra were not written in Sanskirt, but in Ardhamagadhi, a Southern Indian language. [8] In contrast to the Vedas, Jain scripture was written in a language that was commonly used by people in the lower castes. [9] As a result, Jain ideas were able to spread more easily because followers were able to have access to spiritual knowledge. Moreover, Jainism did not make distinctions between people of one caste or had a strict set of rules; in fact, many historians have misinterpreted Mahavira’s text on respecting animal life. Even though Jainism promotes asceticism and non-violence, not all followers practiced asceticism like the monks described in A Monk Commits Suicide, one of the experts Acaranga Sutra where one had to “carefully inspect and sweep the ground, so that there are no eggs, living belings, sprouts, dew, water, ants, mildew, drops of water, mud, or cobwebs left on it.”[10] These rules written in the expert were only for monks and nuns; therefore, not all followers had to live an ascetic life. For example, warriors were still able to fight as A.N. Upadhye, the author of Jainism in the book A Cultural History of India stated, “under some of the dynasties of the south and Gujarat, there flourished many soldiers who were both heros and pious Jainas. As a community the Jainas have been strict vegetarians, and wherever they are found in large numbers they have influenced around them.”[11] Despite the fact that fighting was an example of non-violence, warriors still lived a life of restraint...

Bibliography: Basham, A. L. A Cultural History of India. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.
Bowker, John. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored & Explained. New York : DK Pub., 2006.
Brodd, Jeffrey. World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery. Winona, Minn: Saint Mary 's Press, 2003.
Fahey, David M. Milestone Documents of World Religions : Exploring Traditions of Faith Through Primary Sources. Dallas, Tex: Schlager Group, 2011.
Morris, Lawrence. Daily Life through World History in Primary Documents: The Ancient World. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2009.
O’Callaghan, Sean. The Compact Guilde to World Religions. Oxford: Lion, 2010.
Parrinder, Geoffrey. World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. New York, N.Y: Facts on File, 1983.
Smith, Vincent A. The Oxford History of India. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
Stearns, Peter et al. World Civilizations: The Global Experience. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Longman, 2011.
[3] Geoffrey Parrinder, World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. (New York, N.Y: Facts on File, 1983), 241.
[4] Jeffery Brodd, World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery. (Winona, Minn: Saint Mary 's Press, 2003), 95.
[6] A. L. Basham, A Cultural History of India. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 101.
[7] Vincent Smith, The Oxford History of India. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 77.
[8] David M. Fahey, Milestone Documents of World Religions. (Dallas, Tex: Schlager Group, 2011), 182.
[11] A.N. Upadhye, Jainism in A Cultural History of India, ed. A.L. Basham. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 109.
[12] John Bowker, World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored & Explained. (New York : DK Pub., 2006), 46-47.
[14] Acaranga Sutra in Milestone Documents of World Religions: Exploring Traditions of Faith Through Primary Sources, ed. David M. Fahey (Dallas, Tex: Schlager Group, 2011), 189.
[15] Sean O’Callaghan, The Compact Guilde to World Religions. (Oxford: Lion, 2010), 115.
[16] Geoffrey Parrinder, World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. (New York, N.Y: Facts on File, 1983), 242.
[17] Vincent Smith, The Oxford History of India. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 81.
[18] Vincent Smith, The Oxford History of India. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 81.
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