The Bharatiya Jnanpith is a pre-eminent academic institute of our country. It has achieved, during the last quarter of a century, quite worthy results in the field of learned publications in Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Apabhramsa, Tamil and Kannada. Most of them are equipped with critical introductions embodying original researches which shed abundant light on many a neglected branch of Indian literature. The number of such publications included in its Moortidevi and Manikchand Granthamalas is more than one hundred and fifty (200 in April, 1999). Most of these works are brought to light for -the first time and thus some of them are rescued from oblivion. It has also published in its Lokodaya and Rashtra Bharati Series more than four hundred (636 in April, 1999) titles in Hindi (and other languages) comprising almost all the literary forms like novels, poems, short stories, essays, travels, biographies, researches and critical estimates etc. Through these literary pursuits, the Jnanpith aims at giving impetus to creative writings in modern Indian languages. By their equality as well as by their appearance, the Jnanpith publications have won approbation and appreciation everywhere.
The Jnanpith gives, every year, an Award to the outstanding literary work (now the writer, according to the revised rule since the eighteenth award) in the various recognised languages of India, which is chosen to be the best creative literary writing of the specific period.
The Jnanpith, which is so particular about the publication of ancient Indian literature and also in encouraging the progress of modern Indian literature, cannot but take into account the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava of Bhagavan Mahavira, one of the greatest sons of India and one of the outstanding humanists the civilised world has ever produced. Naturally, the Jnanpith, amongst its various plans to celebrate the occasion, has undertaken the publication of important works which shed light on the heritage of. Mahavira Numerous teachers, authors and dignitaries have enriched the cultural heritage of our country in which Jainism has a significant place. Jain teachers have preached a way of living which has proved beneficial to many, here as well as elsewhere. What Jainism has stood for in the cultural history of our country deserves special study in its various aspects.
In the present volume, Religion & Culture of The Jains, Dr. Jyoti Prasad Jain has presented an exhaustive treatise on Jainism. To begin with, he surveys the antiquity of Jainism through the epoch of 24 Tirthankaras ending with Mahavira. He indicates further how the Jain church received royal patronage now and then and also passed through various vicissitudes in its career in different parts of India. In a nutshell, he has discussed the ontology as well as the cosmology and the course of spiritual development prescribed in Jainism. The general theory of knowledge is indicated in its details with special stress on Anekanta and Syadvada. Jainism lays down a twofold code of morality one for the householder and the other for the ascetic. The former is more or less a diluted form of the latter. Jainism prescribes a way of life in which worship, fasts and festivals have their special significance. Jains have richly contributed to the heritage of Indian art and architecture. This aspect also is discussed in this work. Jain contributions to Indian literature have a wider appeal and are found in various languages. The author concludes how Jainism holds a message of peace and hope for humanity.
The appendices are useful as a source of reference; and the work contains some plates illustrating important specimens of Jain art and architecture.
Globally known for his inventive researches in the extinct, exhausted, unpublished and neglected material of Indian history Dr. Jyoti Prasad Jain had for his credit published more than a thousand papers and reviews, editorials and books including the outstanding work 'Studies in the Jaina Sources of the History of Ancient India (100 BC to 900 AD)', the handbook, 'Religion and Culture of the Jains' and many more in English and Hindi. Also, he critically analysed the cultural blemishes through his penetrating but placid editorials. Great and grand, free and frank, Dr. Jyoti Prasadji's qualities and ideals may well be seen reflected in the periodicals, 'Jaina Sandesa (Sodhanka)', 'Sodhadarsa' etc. which he had been editing.
Religion has been the greatest force in the history of mankind, and religious experience has been man's noblest experience. There have been and will always be sceptics, but as Bacon said, "A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth man's minds about to religion". Religious studies make the sceptic realise the mystery and pathos of moral existence and the fact why religion is so profoundly moving-- there must be something humane and necessary in an influence that has become the most general sanction of virtue, the chief occasion of art and philosophy, and the source, perhaps, of the best form of human happiness. All religion is positive and particular, and Jainism is no exception. It seeks to bring true happiness to its votaries by elevating them morally and enabling them to attain the highest spiritual perfection they are capable of.
In every age, the most comprehensive thinkers have found in the religion of their time and country something they could accept and interpret so as to give that religion depth and universal application. The Jaina Tirthankaras last of whom was Mahavira (599-527 B.C.), and a number of outstanding Jaina saints, who flourished during the last two thousand and five hundred years or so, were, no doubt, such thinkers and it should be interesting to know about and try to understand the religion preached and practised by them.
The present author is an adherent of Jainism, but his aim is not propaganda. A Western scholar, reviewing a similar book, J.L. Jaini's Outlines of Jainism, more than half a century ago, had observed, "In the case of a doctrine which is also a religion there seems to be an advantage in a treatment by one who is in a position to appreciate practically the several and relative values of the different parts." The remark, it is hoped, would be taken to apply to this work as much.
This brief account is, in fact, intended to serve as a handy compendium of Jainism for the lay reader who is desirous of acquainting himself with the genesis, history and tradition, doctrine and philosophy, way of life and mode of worship, art and literature, and other cultural aspects of this ancient, but still flourishing, creed of India.
Every care has been taken to see that the presentation is objective, correct and authoritative. There may still be some inadvertent slips, errors or shortcomings, which, it is hoped, the kind reader will excuse. The author will deem his labour well repaid if the book succeeds in arousing the interest of its readers in things Jaina, leading to a proper appreciation of Jaina values of further and deeper studies of the Jaina religion and culture by them.
In the end, it is my happy duty to acknowledge the debt of and express my heart-felt gratitude towards all those who have helped, in one way or the other, in the preparation and publication of this book. Several friends in India and abroad have off-and-on asked me to prepare such an epitome of Jainism, but it was not till Professor G.R.' Jain, Prem Chand Jain and Pannalal Agarwal pressed me hard that I applied myself seriously to expedite its completion
. The question of its appropriate publication was solved by Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain, the patron-founder of the Bharatiya Jnanpith, and my friend L.C. Jain, its worthy Secretary, who readily undertook to bring out this book. The latter gentleman spared no pains in making it see the light of the day in such a befitting shape on the auspicious occasion of Lord Mahavira's birth anniversary (24 April 1975). My sons, Dr. Shashi Kant and Rama Kant have helped in preparing the press-copy and rendered all the needed assistance. There are others whom I have missed mentioning by name, but I am grateful to everyone of them. Last, but not the least, I am thankful to my readers for whom I have written this book.
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