P. V. Research Institute, Varanasi 5

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Jainism: the Oldest Living Religion by Dr. Jyoti Prasad Jain

P.V. Research Institute, Varanasi 5

p. 1 the creed of the Tīrthankaras, that is Jainism
Jainism is misunderstood and the history of Indian religion as well due to most of the sources being of foreign origin
p. 2 The early European savants who first began the work of reconstruction and compilation of India’s history . . . in the last quarter of the 18th C at first took practically no notice of Jainism as even a separate sect. Their chief interest then lay in Buddhism, Brāhmanism and Islam, which alone represented to them the India past and present. But even for the history of these, especially of the Hindus, they could not rely on indigenous sources, since they had already presumed that the Indians had never had any historic sense and had no historical records nor other reliable historical sources worth the name, for the reconstruction of their own history. Hence they came to the conclusion that for these they must necessarily look elsewhere. . . The various foreigners’ accounts of India beginning from the 5th-4th C bce down to their own times, readily came to their rescue.
p. 2-3 The early Greek writers, esp those who accompanied Alexander the great in his eastern campaign (326 bce) or came to India subsequently as political ambassadors, like Megasthenes (305 bce), the Chinese pilgrims like Fa-Hian (c. 400 ce), Huien Tsang (629-645 ce) and Itsing (695 ce), some of the Arab merchants who traded with the Deccan kingdoms from the 8th C to the 13th C , stray visitors like Al-Beruni (c. 1000 ce), Marco Polo (1288-1293 ce) and Ibn Batua (1325 ce), the Jesuit missionaries of Portuguese Goa who visited the Mughal court, and the Eruopean adventurers and travellers of the 17th C onwards, like Terry, Bernier, Tavernier, Manucci, Peter Munde, have all left their respective acocunts of India, as and what they saw of it. Of these the original greek and Roman historical works written several centuries after them, but wherein they were said to have been freely used and often quoted. Most of the other earlier accounts have also not come down to us complete in their original forms. The outlook of the Chinese pilgrims was entirely Buddhistic and what they saw and described was in the main pertaining to their own faith. Most of the Muslim writers and historians were biased and their outlook was predominantly Mohammadan. And as Prof. Rawlinson remarks, the European travellers of 17th and 18th C. also usually took Mohammadan point of view about the Hindus. Besides, all these foreign writers were practically strangers in a strange land, seldom if ever knew any of the languages of the country, and many of them were ordinary lay people with mediocre intelligence. They did not come in contact with the real life of the country, had very little opportunity and means of obtaining reliable and adequate information on most points, and whatever eager, vague, and often erroneous information they succeeded in collecting was obtained from hearsay . . .
p. 4 Yet, these accounts came to be regarded as the most authentic and only reliable sources for the historical reconstruction of this vast, varied and ancient subcontinent . . .No wonder, therefore, that the foundations of modern Indian history have so often proved to be false and shifting, and many wrong notions, distortions or misstatements of facts found their way into the present day history books of India.
p. 5 Jacobi proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Nigan.t.ha Nātaputta of the Buddhist scriptures was none else but Vardhamāna Mahāvira, the last and 24th Tīrthankara of the Jains, Mahāvira was not only an elder contemporary of Gautam Buddha but he was also a powerful rival of the latter and that at the period of Mahāvira and even before it, Jainism had been for some time a firmly established religion, and also that Mahāvira did only reform it and reorganize the order of the ascetics.

(see Sacred Books of the East, vols. XXII & XLV [Introductions] in which Jacobi published translations of four Jaina canonical works)

p. 6 the sect of Nigan.t.has (=those who have no bonds) was at Buddha’s time already one of long standing . . . it seems probable that Jainism is considerably older than Buddhism. Also Buddha made several experiments in the quest for knowledge, but this was not so with Mahāvira. Mahāvira made no attempts to find or preach a new religion. . . . Buddha is even said to have entered the Jaina order of ascetics, in his quest for knowledge.
References are found in Buddhist lit. to Nigan.t.ha Nātaputta (Mahāvira) and his greatness. In the Majjhima Nikāya (PTS II, p.214) the Nigrantha ascetics tell Buddha that their master Nātaputta was an omniscient and that by his infinite knowledge he has told them what sins they have committed in their previous births. The Sam.yutta Nikāya (PTS IV, p.398) tells us about the belief that the famous Nātaputta could tell where his disciples would be born after their death, and on being inquired could also tell where a particular person was thus reborn. The An.guttara Nikāya also referes the belief that Nigan.t.ha Nātaputta could know all, could perceive all, that his knowledge was unlimited and that he was omniscient during all the hours we are waking, or sleeping or following our mundane pursuits.
p. 7 the rival (Mahāvira) was influential and even in Buddha’s time his teaching has spread considerably. . . . According to the Buddhist tradition, Mahāvira was one of the most important of the six Tīrthankaras of Buddha’s times. These famous teachers outside the pale of Brahmanism were Nigan.t.ha Nātaputta, Makkhali Gośāla (founder of the Ājīvika sect), Sañjaya Belat.t.hiputa, Ajita Kesakambalin, Pūrāņa Kassapa and Pakudha Kaccāyana.
p. 8 Also references to mutual conversations between the two sects in several places in early Buddhist lit., as well as references to well-known and acknowledged doctrines of Jaina theology, metaphysics, and ethics
p. 9 Buddhist borrowed the word Āsrava from Jainism without its technical significance. As Buddha was chiefly concerned with what leads to salvation, he did not work out a new and self-sufficient system of psychology as the basis of ethics.

Āsrava would never have been used by Buddhists in meaning so far removed from its etymology if the Jainas had not used it before in its etymological sense

(other etymological examples provided)

p. 11 evidence in Jaina books:

In the Uttarādhyana Sūtra an interview between Gautama and Keśi, the followers of Lord Mahāvira and Pāiśva respectively, is held in a garden and after good conversation carried on more or less in occult terms, the two leaders recognize the fundamental unity of the doctrines and leave the garden fully convinced that they are workers in the same field. This again points to an older Jaina faith which prevailed before the advent of Mahāvira and which was so vigorously reformed by him.

p. 12 Lastly there is the ancient character of the Jaina philosophy – their animistic belief, the absence of the principal constituent elements of the universe, and the inclusion of dharma (that helps motion of things) and of Adharma (means of motive of stopping motion) in the class of substances along with Jīva (soul), Pudgala (matter), Ākśa (space) and Kāla (time), the six eternal Dravyas or elements of universe. From a consideration of these facts in Jaina philosophy, Prof. Jacobi concluded that it was evolved in a very early period of the Aryan settlement in India, and said that this explodes once and forever the error that Jainism is an off-shoot of Buddhism.
p. 13 Moreover the historicity of Lord Pārśvanātha (877-777 bce) who preceded Mahāvira by 250 years, and was the 23rd Tīrthankara of the Jainas, has now been unanimously accepted. He was the son of King Aśva Sena of Kāśī, of Uraga Vam.śa (also called Kāśyapa Van.śa) . . . That Pārśva was a historical person is now admitted by all as very probable, says Jacobi.
p. 14 Pārśva is more than mythical. He was indeed the royal founder of Jainism (776 bce) while his successor Mahāvira was younger by many generations and can be considered only as a reformer. As early as the time of Gotama, the religious confraternity founded by Pārśva, and known as the Nirgranthat, was a formally established sect, and acco. To the Buddhist chronicles, threw numerous difficulties in the way of the rising Buddhism.
p. 15 Pārśva’s father was Aśvasena king of Vārān.asī

The early history of India is as much Jainistic as it is of those who profess the Vedas

p. 18 The Greek philosopher Pythagoras (born 580 bce) who was a contemporary of Mahāvira & Buddha believed in the theory of metapyschosis, in the transmigration of souls, in the doctrine of karma, refrained from the destruction of life and eating meat and even regarded certain vegetables as taboo. He even claimed to possess the power of recollecting his past births. These early Ionian philosophers of Asia Minor called the Orphic philosophers also believed in depreciation of the body in comparison with the soul. Now all these beliefs are peculiarly and distinctively Jaina and they have little in common with either the Buddhist or the Brahani religions. And since they were already professed in these far off lands at a time when Mahāvira & Buddha were just beginning to preach, and since there is no doubt that these ideas reached there from India itself, there remains no doubt that they owed their propagation, if not to any earlier Tīrthan.kara, at least certainly to Pārśva and his disciples.
p. 20 The Krishna story in the Jaina Purānas is essentially similar to that of the Vedic Purānas (plus some major differences). Dr. Hari Satya Bhattacharya, MA, BL, PhD, is of the opinion that the Jaina version is quite independent of the Brāhmanic traditions, and that “the appearance of the Krishna story in the Jaina sacred books shows that Krishna of the Mahābhārata may not be a purely imaginary being but that he was a historic person, a high souled powerful monarch.” The Jaina traditions represent the oldest form of the Krishna legend.
p. 23 The story of Rāmāyana as stated in the Jaina Purānas is substantially similar to the account of Vālmīki. (p. 24) It is also quite independent of the Brāhmanic version. . . .

In fact the oldest available Jaina version of this story, that is Pauma Cariu of Vimala Sūri, belongs about tot the same period as the oldest Brāhmanic version, the Rāmāyana of Vālmīki, i.e., to the first C. bce.

But in what the Jaina version differs from the Brāhmanic Rāmāyana throws a very significant light on the position of Jainism. Acc. to the Jaina version, Rāvana and his Rākşasas were highly cultured people belonging to the race of Vidtāadharas and were great devotees of Jina. Here unlike the Hindu epics they are not depicted as hideous looking, evil natured, irreligious demons, Rākşasas, Piśācas or Asuras, but certainly as antagonistic to the sacrificial cult of the Vedic sages. And it is why, as Br. Bhattacharya observed that “considering these two accounts together, some of the present day scholars vehemently urge that the Vedic people denounced the Rākşasas because they were Jainas, and say that the descriptions of the Rākşasas in Vālmīki’s Rāmāyana clearly show that they could not be other than Jainas, and that the author of the Rāmāyana presented them in hideous forms, simply out of religious bigotry.” *
p. 25 Both Buddhists and Jainas systems were closely connected with the sun and the serpent, and the found their chief supporters amonst the Solar Tribes who had come but little under Brāhmanical influence. . . . All twenty-four Tīrthankaras were kşatriyas and all but two were of the solar race of Ikşvāku.**

Rama & his brother Lakşmana were of the Vidyādhara race, who were mostly devotees of the Jina. These non-Aryan inhabitants of India are now generally termed as Dravidians. . . . The religion of these early Dravidians was Jainism.

p. 27 The Hindu Purānas contain numerous stories about some important person converting to Jainism, under the influence of some or other its teachers, and then make this new convert preach his new faith. This clearly proves two things: first, that in the early Vedic period conversions from the Brāhmanic faith to Jainism were very common and, secondly, that Jainism was already an established religion even in the earliest times and was more popular among the non-Aryan indigenous races, called by the Aryans as Asuras, Daityas, Rākşasas, etc.
p. 28 According to one story in the Padma Purāna, Jainism was preached by Śukrācārya, the preceptor of the Asuras. Another version says that God Vishnu with the help of Brhaspati, the preceptor of the gods, sent Mahā Māyā (delusion) in the disguise of a Jaina Muni to mislead the Daityas. (see other similar instances Skanda Purāna, Vishnu Purāna, Śiva Purāna)
p. 31 Jainism with the perfectly non-violent creed, animistic belief, subtle and peculiar karma theory, its rejection of a creator and the creation theory, and the like, is not only quite an original system but is also absolutely independent of all other systems. In its origin, it is not only non-Aryan and pre-Aryan, in the sense that these terms are now generally understood, but it is also primitive and absolutely indigenous.
p. 33 Jainism’s simplicity points to its antiquity: “The more simple faith per se must be primarily accepted as the predecessor of the more complicated.” (Dr. Edward Thomas)
p. 35 Among them (Jains) there is no belief that a son by birth or adoption confers spiritual benefit on the father. They also differ from the Brāhmancial Hindus in their conduct towards the dead, omitting all obsequies after the corpse is burnt or buried.
p. 41 R.s.abhadeva – belonged to the most primitive and indigenous race of India – the Mānavas. His father and several other prominent predecessors, as well as himself, were called Manus. The other tribes which began to appear in India from his times onwards were the R.ks.a, Yaks.a, Nāga, Phan.i, Gandharva, Kinnara, Vānara, etc., termed under the common name of Vidyādharas, being prominently skilled in various kinds of arts, crafts, enginerring and such scientific enterprises. Modern scholars generally like to call these latter people by the generic term Dravidian. R.s.abha preached his Dharma to both the Mānavas and Vidyādharas alike. His son Bharata was the first emperor of India and after his name the country came to be known as Bhāratavarşa and his progeny as the Bhāratas.
p. 44 The epoch making discovery of the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjodaro and Harrappa further sheds a new and significant light on the antigquity of Jainism. Sir John Marshal epathically asserts that, “a comparison of the Indus and Vedic cultures shows incontestably that they were unrelated. The Vedic religion is normally aniconic. At Mohenjodaro and Harrappa iconism is everywhere apparent. In the houses of Mohenjodaro the firepit is conspicuously lacking. “ At Mohenjodaro there have been discovered many nude figures which “depict personages who are no other than yogis.” And nudity has been one of the characteristics of the Jaina Śramanas. . . . Even in the Rig-Sam.hitā, there is a mention of the “wind girdled Bachhanters --- Munayah Vātavasanāh” who acc. to Dr. A. Weber, seem to be none else but Jaina ascetics who “also appear to be referred to in the well-known accounts of the Indian Gymnosophists of the time of Alexander the Great.”

These nude statues clearly indicate that the people of the Indus Valley not only practices yoga but worshipped the images of the yogis.

p. 45 Not only the seated deities engraved on some of the Indus seals are in yoga posture and bear witness to the prevalence of yoga in the Indus valley . . . the standing deities on the seals also show Kāyotsarga posture (which) is peculiarly Jaina

. . . the name R.s.abha means “bull” and the bull is the emblem of Jaina R.s.abha

p. 46 the Indus people worshipped such Tantric deities as Srī, Hrī, Klīm which are important female deities of the Jaina pantheon. . . . the Purānas and the Jaina religious books both assign high places to these gods (of the Indus people).

Prof. S. Srikantha Sastri: “The Indus civilization with its cult of nudity and yoga, worship of the bull and other symbols, has resemblances to Jainism and therefore, the Indus civilization is supposed to be non-Aryan or of non-Vedic Arya origin, because Jainism is believed to have a non-Aryan or at least, pre-Vedic Aryan origin.

p. 47 There are scholars who doubt whether Mohenjodaro represents pre-Aryan culture at all. They believe that India was the original home of the Aryasn and Mohenjodaro marks only an early stage in the development of Aryan culture. Still the general tendency of the scholars has been in favour of the theory that the Indus people were of Dravidian stock.
p. 49 All upper, western, north-central India was then – say 1500 – 8000 ruled by Turanians, conveniently called Dravidas, and given to tree, serpent, and phallic worship but there also then existed throughout upper India an ancient and highly organized religion, philosophical, ethical, and severely ascetical, viz. Jainism
p. 53 ancient mystical symbols of India: Tridan.d.a (or Triśula representing Tri-Ratna) [Trident], Dharma Cakra (wheel of law and the time wheel), Nandyā-varta [swastika] and Vardhamānakya (or the Nandipada [rounded bull horns with circle on bottom]), the tree, the stūpa, the crescent, lotus, animals like the bull, elephant, lion, crab, serpent are found to have been commonly used by the Jains from the earliest times . . . and also before icon making became a fashion.

p. 54 It is impossible to find the beginning of Jainism

* Heroes of Jaina Legends J.A. XIV, 1, p.9

** The Sun and the Serpent, London 1905 p. 172-181

Ancient Jain texts written in PRAKRIT
The Ardhamagadhi language ("half Magadhi"), an archaic form of the Magadhi language which was used extensively to write Jain scriptures, is often considered to be the definitive form of Prakrit, while others are considered variants thereof. Prakrit grammarians would give the full grammar of Ardhamagadhi first, and then define the other grammars with relation to it. For this reason, courses teaching "Prakrit" are often regarded as teaching Ardhamagadhi.[3] The Pali language (the liturgical Prakrit language of Theravada Buddhism) tends to be treated as a special exception from the variants of the Ardhamagadhi language, as Classical Sanskrit grammars do not consider it as a Prakrit per se, presumably for sectarian rather than linguistic reasons. Other Prakrits are reported in old historical sources, but are no longer spoken (such as Paisaci).
The word Prakrit itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious orthodoxy of Sanskrit. Alternatively, Prakrit can be taken to mean "derived from an original," which means evolved in natural way. Prakrit is foremost a native term, designating "vernaculars" as opposed to Sanskrit.

The Prakrits became literary languages, generally patronized by ancient Indian kings identified with the Kshatriya Varna of Hinduism, but were regarded as illegitimate by the orthodoxy. The earliest extant usage of Prakrit is the corpus of inscriptions of Emperor Asoka (r. 268–232 BCE). Besides this, Prakrit appears in literature in the form of Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhists, Prakrit canon of the Jains, Prakrit grammars and in lyrics, plays and epics of the times.[6] The various Prakrit languages are associated with different patron dynasties, with different religions and different literary traditions, as well as different regions of the Indian subcontinent. Each Prakrit represents a distinct tradition of literature within the history of India and Nepal.
Prakrits are older than Sanskrit, and that it was from the Prakrits that Sanskrit was refined. 


    1. Jump up^ Daniels, p. 377

    2. Jump up^ Woolner, Alfred C. (1928). Introduction to Prakrit. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ.,. p. 235. ISBN 9788120801899.

    3. Jump up^ Woolner, pg. 6

    4. Jump up^ Deshpande, pg. 33

    5. Jump up^ Deshpande, pg. 35

    6. Jump up^ Woolner, Alfred C. (1928). Introduction to Prakrit (2 (reprint) ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-81-208-0189-9. Retrieved 17 March 2011.

    7. Jump up^ Woolner, pg. v.

    8. Jump up^ Banerjee, pg. 19-21

    9. Jump up^ Deshpande, pg. 36-37


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