The Jaina System– Indian Philosophy system- Wandofknowledge
The origin of the Jaina faith lies far back in the prehistoric times. The long line of teachers through whom the faith was handed down consists of twenty-four Tīrthankaras or liberated propagators of the faith, the last of whom was Vardhamāna (also styled Mahāvīra), a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.
The Jainas reject the Cărvāka view that perception is the only valid source of knowledge. They point out that if we are to reject altogether the possibility of obtaining correct knowledge through inference and the testimony of other persons because sometimes they prove misleading, we should doubt the validity of perception also, because even perception sometimes proves illusory. In fact, the Cārvākas themselves take the help of inference when by observing some cases of inference to be misleading they come to hold that all inference is invalid, and also when they deny the existence of objects because they are not perceived. The Jainas admit, in addition to perception, inference and testimony as sources of valid knowledge. Inference yields valid knowledge when it obeys the logical rules of correctness. Testimony is valid when it is the report of a reliable authority. In fact, the Jainas hold that it is on the authority of the teachings of the omniscient liberated saints (Jainas or Tirtharkaras) that we can have unerring knowledge about certain spiritual matters, which our limited sense-perception and reasoning cannot reveal to us.
On the basis of these three kinds of knowledge, the jainas form their view of the universe. Perception reveals the reality of material substances, composed of the four kinds of elements, as the Cārvākas hold. By inference they come to believe in space, because material substances must exist somewhere, believe in time, because changes of succession of the states of substances cannot be understood without it and believe also in the two causes of motion and rest respectively, for without them movement and cessation of movement in things cannot be explained. These last two are called respectively ‘dharma’ and ‘adharma’ which should not be taken here in their ordinary moral sense, but in the technical sense of the causes of motion and rest. But the physical world, consisting of the four elements of matter, space, time, dharma and adharma, is not all. Perception, as well as inference, proves the existence of souls in all living bodies. When we perceive the qualities of an orange such as its colour, shape and smell, we say we perceive the existence of the orange. On similar grounds, when we internally perceive pleasure, pain and other qualities of the soul, we should admit that the soul also is directly known through perception. Consciousness cannot be said to be the product of matter; the Cārvākas cannot point out any case where the combination of material substances is perceived to generate consciousness. The existence of the soul can also be inferred on the ground that if there had been no conscious agent to guide them, material substances could not be formed into living bodies by themselves. Without a conscious substance to regulate them, the body and the senses could not do their work so systematically.
There are, then, as many souls as there are living bodies. There are souls, the Jainas hold, not only in animals, but also in plants and even in particles of dust. The existence of very minute living beings (such as germs) in dust and other apparently non-living material things is also admitted by modern science. All souls are not equally conscious. Some, like those in plants or dust-bodies, have only the sense of touch and have factual consciousness alone. Some lower animals have two senses, others three, still others four. Man and some higher animals have five senses through all of which they know things. But, however developed the senses may be, the soul in bondage is limited in knowledge; it is limited in power also and is subject to all kinds of miseries.
But every soul is capable of attaining infinite consciousness, power and happiness. These qualities are inherent in the very nature of the soul. They are obstructed by karmas, just as the natural light of the sun is obstructed by clouds. The karmas or the forces of passions and desires in the soul attract to it particles of matter which permeate the soul just as particles of dust permeate the light of any flame or the sun. In a word the karmas lead to the bondage of the soul by matter. By removing karmas, a soul can remove bondage and regain its natural perfections.
The teachings and lives of the liberated saints (Tīrthankaras) prove the possibility of liberation and show also the path to be followed for the purpose. Three things are necessary for the removal of bondage, viz. perfect faith in the teachings of the Jaina teachers, correct knowledge of the teachings, and right conduct. Right conduct consists in the practice of abstinence from all injury to life, from falsehood, from stealing, from sensuality and from attachment to sense objects. By the joint culture of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct, the passions are controlled and the karmas that fetter the soul to matter are removed. The obstacles being removed, the soul attains its natural perfection-infinite faith, infinite knowledge, infinite power and infinite bliss. This is the state of liberation.
The Jainas do not believe in God. The Tīrthankaras, to whom all the godly powers like omniscience and omnipotence belong, take the place of God. They are adored as ideals of life.
Sympathy for all living beings is one of the chief features of the Jaina faith. Coupled with this there is, in Jaina philosophy, respect for all opinions. The Jaina philosophers point out that every object has infinite aspects, judged by what it is and what it is not from different points of view. Every judgment that we ordinarily pass about a thing is, therefore, true only in relation to a particular aspect of the thing seen from a particular point of view. We should remember, therefore, the limited nature of our knowledge and judgment and should refrain from thinking that any view is the whole truth about anything. We should guard and qualify our own statements and also learn to appreciate the possibility of the correctness of others’ views.
The Jaina philosophy is a kind of realism, because it asserts the reality of the external world, and it is pluralism, because it believes in many ultimate realities. It is atheism as it rejects the existence of God.
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