The nexus between Hinduism and Jainism – Where do they meet?

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The nexus between Hinduism and Jainism – Where do they meet?

Hindus believe the Vedas have always existed and were only heard at a certain point in the past and written down, similarly, Jains maintain that their precepts are eternal, recognized by 23 sages down through time, to finally be established by Mahavira in its present form. It is a nontheistic religion in that it does not advocate a belief in a creator god but in higher beings (devas), which are mortal, and in the concept of karma directing one's present life and future incarnations; the devas have no power over a person, however, and are not sought for guidance or assistance in freeing one's self from karmic bondage. In Jainism, it is up to each individual to attain salvation – defined as a release from the cycle of rebirth and death (samsara) - by adhering to a strict spiritual and ethical code of behavior. 

Introduction to Jainism

This code is based on the Five Vows (articulated in the foundational work, the Tattvartha Sutra):

  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Satya (speaking the truth)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (chastity or faithfulness to a spouse)
  • Aparigraha (non-attachment)

In Hinduism and Buddhism, karma is understood as action – which either encourages liberation or ties one more closely to samsara – whereas in Jainism it is a natural function of the soul's interaction with reality. The soul becomes clouded, again as with dust obscuring an object, cannot recognize its true nature, and, through this ignorance, accepts the illusion of life instead of its reality and condemns itself to suffer and die.

The Concept of Divinity in Jainism

Coming to the interconnection, Jainism and Samkhya Philosophy have some points in common, they both believe in eternity as a matter and the perpetuity of the world. The dualism of the one is not unlike that of the other. Only while the Samkhya derives the development of the material world and living beings from the principles of Purusa and Prakrti, the Jains trace them all to primeval nature. The similarity is only apparent. The Jaina conception of the soul has more in common with the Navya-Vaisheshika theory than with the Samkhya view of the unaffected and inactive nature of the soul; nor do we find much agreement between the two in any essential doctrine such as causation. Attempts are sometimes made by students of Jainism to represent it as a revolt of the critical fair-minded Kshatriya, against the clever, unscrupulous Brahmin, who disallowed to all others the privilege of entering on the fourth-order of the sannyasins and claimed exclusive control of the sacrifices.

The Samkhya Philosophy

Such a theory cannot be sustained when we realize that the Brahmin made no such claim regarding the order of the sannyasin, for all the upper classes were allowed to pass through the asramas. Were the exclusiveness of the Brahmin the cause of revolt, it should have been led not by the Kshatriyas, who were as good or as bad as the Brahmins in this respect, but by the other classes. We have no reason to believe that the suffering of the common people led to the rise of Jainism. It is an expression of the general ferment of thought which prevailed at the beginning of the epic period, and we need not invent any anti-Brahmin prejudice for an explanation of its rise. When different views of life and doctrine professed by different peoples come into touch with each other, there is bound to be an interpretation of thought, giving rise to an extraordinary development of feeling and belief and Jainism is one manifestation of is mental unrest.

जैन धर्म के मूलभूत सिद्धान्त : Basic Principles of Jainism


The doctrine of rebirth enunciated in the Upanishads, sometimes in an extravagant form, led to the idea that all things in the world possessed souls. Naturally, the Jaina believed that every material thing fire, wind, and the plant also had a spirit in it. On such a view the simple joy of the earlier peoples in sacrifices could not last. The times were ripe for revolt. The belief that all things, animals and insects, plants and leaves were possessed of souls when coupled with the idea of rebirth, led to a horror of taking life in any form.
Vardhamana insisted that we should not injure life, whether in sport or in sacrifice. To strengthen the position of protest, the Jains denied God for whose propitiation the sacrifices were being offered. God cannot be held responsible for the sorrows of life. Jainism seeks to show a way out of the misery of life by austerity inward and outward. When we become perfect, we do not escape into a nirvana of nothingness, but enter into a state of being without qualities and relation, and are removed from all chances of 

Elements of Hindu Iconography (4 Volumes)

The Jain system is looked upon as unorthodox (avaidika) since it does not accept the authority of the Veda. It is not therefore possible for it to look upon its own system of thought as a mere revelation by the Jaina. Its claim to acceptance is its accordance with reality. Its scheme of the universe is said to be based on logic and experience. In their metaphysics, the Jains accept the Vedic realism, though they do not systematize it in the spirit of the Upanishads.

Prakrti The Integral Vision (Vol. 2 Vedic, Buddhist and Jain Traditions)

Prakriti is analyzed and given an atomic constitution. The Purusas cease to be passive spectators but become active agents. The central features of Jaina Philosophy are its realistic classification of being, its theory of knowledge, its famous doctrines of Syadvada and Saptabhangi, or seven-fold mode of predication d its ascetic ethics. Here, as in the other systems of Indian thought, practical ethics is wedded to philosophical speculation. The realistic metaphysics and ascetic ethics are may have come down to Vardhamana from his predecessors, but the theory of knowledge is probably due to him and is not without its interest to the modern student of the history philosophy.

Both Hinduism and Jainism believe in reincarnation, i.e., the cycle of birth and death. Both Hinduism and Jainism believe in non-violence. Both Hinduism and Jainism emphasize consuming a vegetarian diet. Both religions give importance to meditation. Followers of both religions celebrate festivals like Diwali. Both religions have the same concepts as Moksha, Samsara, Karma; although the precise meaning may be different. Lastly, both religions believe that violence for self-defense is permitted.

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