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Living Jainism explores a system of thought that unites ethics with rational thought, in which each individual is his or her own guru and social conscience extends beyond human society to animals, plants and the whole of the natural world. The Jain Dharma is a humane and scientific spiritual pathway that has universal significance. With the re-emergence of India as a world power, Jain wisdom deserves to be better known so that it can play a creative role in global affairs. Living Jainism reveals the relevance of Jain teachings to scientific research and human society, as well as our journey towards understanding ourselves and our place in the universe.
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About the Author
Aidan Rankin is a writer and researcher on spiritual and esoteric matters. He lives in Yorkshire and is on the National Council of the Theosophical Society. Kanti Mardia lives in Leeds, UK. He has published many research papers and monographs on Statistics. He has also published several articles on Jainism, and was Editor of Jaina.
Kanti Mardia is Senior Research Professor in Statistics at Leeds University, where he has held a chair since 1973. In 2013, he was awarded the prestigious Wilks Medal from the American Statistical Association. Aidan Rankin is a London based writer and researcher on spiritual and esoteric matters. He has a PhD and MSc degrees from the London School of Economics and an MA in Modern History from Oxford University.
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An Ethical Science
By Kanti V. Mardia, Aidan D. Rankin
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2013 Kanti V. Mardia and Aidan D. Rankin
All rights reserved.
Jains, Jainism and 'Jainness'
The first line of the most important Jain prayer is Namo Arihantanam, a simple phrase that means: 'I pay my profound respect to any living person who has conquered his or her inner enemies (or his or her lower nature).'
This is not a prayer in the sense in which the term is understood in most of the world's religious traditions. Instead, it is an invocation of human beings like us, past and present, who have attained the highest level of spiritual development through the use of both reason and intuition. At the same time, this prayer is a reminder of human possibility. Each one of us has the potential to conquer the self, to rise above our 'lower nature' and its illusions and arrive at our 'true nature' or inner self. Such possibilities are open to all, entirely irrespective of the religion, caste or social status of the individual.
The path of the Jain is based on reasoned thought and its practical application to everyday life. It is about knowledge and understanding rather than mere acceptance of inherited doctrines. Above all, Jainism is centered upon each individual's capacity to think, learn and discover, and then to apply that knowledge to personal conduct, priorities and values, and relationships with others (not just humans). Therefore Jain spiritual practice encompasses the disciplines of psychology and philosophy as well as the methods of the scientist. The prayer 'Namo Arihantanam' expresses a profound belief in human creativity, integrity and intelligence, reminding us that Jainism is a humanistic philosophy as well as a spiritual system that transcends ordinary human concerns.
Jainism itself is a term derived from the word Jina in the ancient Indian language of Arda-Magadhi. This language is contemporaneous with and related to Sanskrit and so was common parlance in parts of India some 2500 years ago. At the time, many of the outward forms of Jain belief practice familiar to us today were taking shape, although the tradition is far more ancient than that. The word Jina (or Jin) in Arda-Magadhi means 'the person who is a spiritual victor', in other words one who has conquered his or her self. Jainism is now taken to mean the religion followed by Jains, in other words those who seek to work towards self-conquest or spiritual victory.
The traditional greeting used by Jains is Jai Jinendra, which means 'Honor to the Supreme Jina'. This is a reverential acknowledgement of the success of those who have achieved a high level of scientific knowledge and spiritual understanding, and so inspire others to lead better lives. Equally, it is a 'democratic' acknowledgement that each of us carries the potential for self-conquest and the pursuit of knowledge. The dual implication of 'Jai Jinendra' tells us much about the nature of Jain teachings and what it is to be a Jain.
Much has already been written about the ism in Jainism, in other words the body of doctrines and practices of the Jains, the Jain ideology as it has evolved over many centuries and under many different political and social conditions. This book also contains many descriptions and analyses of Jain teachings. In particular, it looks at the ways in which Jain doctrines and insights often correspond – and at some other times contrast – with the secular approaches of modern sciences such as physics and cosmology. However, rather than taking as our starting point the systematized ideology – the ism – of the Jains, we have chosen to focus on the sensibility, the way of looking at the world that goes with being a Jain.
We have chosen this approach because we believe that the Jain way of thinking has distinctive qualities with significance beyond Jainism as a cultural tradition. The methods used by Jains to search for truth present a radical challenge to 'mainstream' patterns of thought today, as do their underlying attitudes towards knowledge, intuition, the nature of power and the place of humanity on Earth and within the cosmos. Simultaneously, the Jain approach to life accords with a remarkable number of the most pressing modern concerns, whether they are collective or individual, global or local.
In addressing the growing ecological crisis – and the intellectual as much as environmental challenge it presents – or in making sense of the human conflicts in our interconnected yet obstinately divided world, the Jain sensibility offers us guidance of subtle power and depth. For the individual seeker of knowledge, the Jain attitude towards truth can help negotiate a pathway among a bewildering array of competing viewpoints. In this way, pluralism can become a source of integration and strength, at both personal and social levels, rather than an agent of fragmentation and conflict as it is all too often today.
The Jain way of formulating ideas also sits well with the methods and practices of cutting-edge science. In their increased emphasis on the critical role of minute particles and microorganisms, today's physicists and ecologists can be said to be catching up with centuries of Jain awareness. Concepts such as dark matter or even parallel universes have long been within the range of Jain consciousness. The sense that all life forms and all parts of the cosmos are linked and mutually dependent is the defining characteristic of the Jain world view. It is not so much an 'idea' as the intuitive leap from which the entire Jain quest for knowledge and spiritual attainment stems. In a world where materialistic notions of progress now seem uncertain or untenable, Jain thought offers a powerful critique and an alternative vision of progress. This has been arrived at through an alternative way of reasoning that matches the present complexities of science, society and the human psyche.
For Jains, the thought or intention behind an act can be at least as important as the act itself. In the same way, the thought process from which Jain doctrines have arisen can be at least as important as those doctrines. For the purposes of this book, we shall understand this sensibility as 'Jain-ness'. Jainness gives rise to and evolves along with the body of knowledge, understanding and teachings known as Jain-ism. While many of our arguments and ideas are shaped by Jainism as a body of knowledge, our underlying wish is to convey an understanding of Jainness, the process of thinking like a Jain, because this could have a universal application and validity. Indeed it is possible that we are experiencing a 'Jain moment', as on a global level established 'truths' face unprecedented challenges and at the same time there is a frantic search for certainty and continuity. Parallel to this, a vast expansion of human knowledge is matched by a growing sense of what we do not know and the forces we cannot control.
Jainness is concerned with reconciling continuity and change, possibility and limitation. It offers the opportunity for spiritual liberation through self-knowledge, while accepting the mental and physical limits of the human form, the so-called 'mortal coil'. More than that, it provides a welcome and much-needed corrective to the dogmatic and absolutist systems of 'knowledge' (be they religious or secular, scientific or political) in which so many obvious cracks are appearing today. Rather than asserting or seeking to impose its own 'truth', Jainism asks us to look inside ourselves, find our own and continuously question it. Jainness is the disposition or frame of mind that enables us to begin this process.
Origins of Jainism and Jainness
Loosely speaking, Jainism was founded by human spiritual guides known as Tirthankaras. This word means ford-makers, path-finders: those who point the way through or the way ahead. Tirthankaras are, therefore, the people who show us the true way across the troubled ocean of life, the leaders on a spiritual path. They lead by example and wise counsel. They unlock knowledge by training our (and their own) minds to think in ways that point towards spiritual awareness and a sense of the real self.
In all, there were twenty-four Tirthankaras. The first of these was Rishava, an ancient lawgiver who, according to one Jain text, lived 'many thousands of years' ago. This implies that he lived before reliable recorded histories began and so he can be seen as a semi-mythological figure, somewhat like Lycurgus for the ancient Spartans. Rishava is recognized by some Hindus as a manifestation of the divinity Shiva – an illustration of the complex relationship between the Jain path and the Vedic or Hindu tradition, to which we shall later refer. It seems that Rishava as lawgiver was able to fashion out of several nomadic communities a settled, pacific society, based on the cultivation of grain, with cities, currency, trade and a common legal system. Those familiar with the Jewish or Christian traditions might find parallels with the figure of Moses.
Rishava appears eventually to have abandoned political power and material possessions in favor of the life of austerity and wandering. He came to identify material and worldly concerns with spiritual bondage, which Jains have come to think of as karmic bondage. In this, he set a precedent for other Tirthankaras and established the pattern of thought and the priorities familiar to Jains ever since. That is to say, he favored civilization, justice and knowledge over barbarism, chaos and ignorance. However, he also sought out a spiritual path beyond both the pre-conscious state of ignorance and the artifices of a sophisticated urban society. The former precluded enlightenment or rational thought. The latter provided insidious distractions and delusions of grandeur that became powerful obstacles to spiritual advancement.
This insight gives rise to a new interpretation of power, which is not based on controlling and subjugating others, acquiring material 'things' or claiming a monopoly of truth. In contrast to the conventional, outward vision of power, it is an inward vision, consciously repudiating the trappings of status and embracing humility. Yet it is also a more supple, flexible and enduring form of power that outlasts states, politicians and the wealthy. Such an interpretation of power matches the understanding of 'conquest' implicit in the term 'Spiritual Victor'. The struggle is for control of the territories within rather than geographical expansion or personal gain, as we usually understand conquest. These counter-cultural definitions of power and conquest are linked to an inclusive definition of wisdom as the open-minded pursuit of wisdom and insight into the workings of the universe and our place within it. Rational thought, meditation and the conquest of superficial desires can give us a sense of proportion. They bring us closer to an understanding of what is truly important in life, in place of the material cravings and ambitions that so easily bind us. This sense of equanimity is central to Jainness.
The spiritual discipline of Rishva was followed by twenty-one successive Tirthankaras until, in the age of the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshva, the tradition that we now call 'Jainism' began to appear in a form recognizable to us today. Parshva is also the first of the Tirthankaras whose historical existence as a human being can be verified reliably. He is generally held to have lived around 2800 years ago (traditionally dated 872-772 BCE). The philosophy and logic of modern Jainism emerged in a systematized form at the time of the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira, who was born in 559 BCE and whose nirvana (full enlightenment) took place in 527 BCE. Mahavira means 'Great Hero', a name symbolic of spiritual victory through non-violence and the refusal of conventional power or wealth. He was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha (563-483 BCE), the overlap being thirty-six years, but there is no evidence that they ever met. It is also worth noting that the Buddha was in the process of enlightenment at the time when Mahavira was at the peak of his career (for a more detailed account of Mahavira's life, see Appendix 1).
Even today, it is still not unusual for these two great spiritual teachers to be confused and conflated. It is sometimes claimed (against all available evidence) that Buddha and Mahavira were one and the same, or that Jainism is really a subset of Buddhism, which is far better known outside Indic civilization. There are many differences, both obvious and subtle, between the two philosophies, as well as areas of common ground, but such comparisons lie outside the scope of this study. In iconography, a simple distinction can be made by clothes: Mahavira is usually naked, whereas the Buddha is usually clothed! Icons of Parshva and other Tirthankaras are also frequently found in Jain homes and places of assembly.
To bring the dates of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha into a western perspective, we may note that Aristotle was born in 384 BCE and Jesus Christ around 4 BCE. India officially celebrated the 2500th anniversary of Mahavira's nirvana between 13th November 1974 and 4th November 1975. One of the strongest admirers of the Jain religion was Mahatma Gandhi, whose thoughts and actions were greatly influenced by certain Jains, in particular Raychandbhai (Raychandbhai Mehta, also known as Shrimad Rajchandra). Gandhi was inspired by Jain doctrines of non-violence, respect for life, ecological responsibility and the value of each individual. He applied these teachings to his strategy of Satyagraha ('truth-struggle') and non-violent resistance to British colonial rule. They also helped him shape his economic philosophy of swadeshi: self-sufficiency through cooperatives and local production for local need. While embracing many Jain ideas, Gandhi remained a devout Hindu and indeed credits his Jain guides with increasing his understanding of what Hinduism was really about. The evolution of Gandhi's thought is surely one of the clearest illustrations of how Jainness works.
Mahavira is often erroneously referred to as the 'founder' of Jainism. In reality, he sculpted a new form from material that had already been long in existence. Jainism has evolved out of the most ancient Indic spiritual teachings, which are in turn aspects of the earliest human consciousness of the universe. Living as a Jain implies awareness of Dharma, which is at once a natural law governing the workings of the universe and an ethical system showing us how we should live. Spiritual practice and the pursuit of knowledge bring us into closer alignment with Dharma.
Some Characteristics of Jainism
The most important principle of Jainism is that of non-violence in thought and deed towards fellow human beings and all other forms of life, including the smallest. Thus most Jains are vegetarians. Even honey and alcohol are avoided because they are believed to contain microscopic life. In the West, vegetarianism carries the connotation of a restrictive and puritanical diet, but in the case of the Jains, nothing can be further from the truth. Their food sources are carefully selected to minimize harm to living systems, but the results are rich and varied. In Gujarat, where Jain cultural influence is historically strong, the overwhelming majority of the population follow a vegetarian diet, noted for its gentleness and subtlety, and influenced by Jain tastes. This is another example of the 'soft power' of Jainness.
Jains therefore appreciate that even the smallest of organisms have life, including those that are invisible to the naked eye. Each life form has value and purpose, both as an individual and as a species or type. Each plays its part in the natural order and each is part of the cycle of spiritual (as well as physical) evolution. Jains recognize that even the most seemingly 'primitive' forms of life can profoundly affect nature's fragile equilibrium. Climate scientists today are becoming more aware of the importance of plankton in the ecology of the ocean and its consequent effects on global temperature patterns. This type of insight accords entirely with the Jain perspective.
Excerpted from Living Jainism by Kanti V. Mardia, Aidan D. Rankin. Copyright © 2013 Kanti V. Mardia and Aidan D. Rankin. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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Table of Contents
Foreword David Frawley 1
Special Note 6
Chapter 1 Jains, Jainism and 'Jainness'
Spiritual Victors 23
Origins of Jainism and Jainness 26
Some Characteristics of Jainism 32
Jain Scriptures 39
The Four Noble Truths 41
Chapter 2 Jain Logic
The Principle of Many-Sidedness 46
The Jain Syllogism 50
Syadvada: The Conditional Predication Principle 51
Anekantavada: The Conditional Holistic Principle 52
The Relevance of Anekantavada 54
Chapter 3 Truth 1: The Jiva and Karmic Matter
Jiva and Ajiva 58
The Nature of the Jiva 67
The Concept of Karmons 68
Interaction of Karmic Matter and Jiva 69
The Language of Karmic Influence 70
The Karmic Process 71
Karmic Density 72
Long-term Equilibrium State of the Jiva 74
The Tattva or 'Nine Reals' 75
Some Scientific Analogies: Magnetism, Petrol, Oiled Cloth, Viral Infection 79
Leshya or 'Karmic Colors' 81
Chapter 4 Truth 2: The Jain Hierarchy of Life
The Axiom 84
Life-units and the Life-axis 89
The Role of the Senses 89
The Four Gati or 'States of Existence' 92
Chapter 5 Truth 3: Cycles of Birth, Death and Rebirth
The Axiom 95
Karmic Components 96
What Gets Transported? 100
The Dravya or 'Six Existents' 101
Jain 'Particle Physics' 106
Some Practical Implications 107
Chapter 6 Truth 4A: Practical Karmic Fusion
The Axiom 110
How Karmic Components Work 112
Karmic Dynamics in Practice 114
Degrees of Kashaya (Passions) 115
Chapter 7 Truth 4B: Extreme Absorption of Karmons
The Axiom 118
Some Implications 120
'Accidental' or 'Occupational' Himsa 122
Cycles of Time 125
Chapter 8 Truth 4C: The Path to Self-Conquest
The Axiom 129
The Purification Axis 130
The First Four Stages of Purification 132
Stages Five to Eleven 135
Stages Twelve to Fourteen 137
Gunasthana Glossary 139
Chapter 9 The Purification Prescription
Antidotes to Karmic Influences 140
Astanga: Eight Qualities of True Insight 141
The Fifth Stage for Jain Lay People 142
Stage Six and Jain Ascetics 144
Tri-Ratna: The Three Jewels of Jainism 150
Spiritual Progress and Driving: A Useful Analogy 152
Epilogue: Why Jain Science? 155
Appendix 1 A Brief Life of Mahavira 162
Appendix 2 Comparative Views 167
Further Reading 182
Jain Glossary 186