Lord Mahavira was the son of Nayas and born to a royal couple in India in 599 B.C. He was the last and 24th tirthankara of Jainism. Though he was born in a royal family and had a comfortable life, he maintained a distance from all worldly possessions from an early age. By the age of thirty, Mahavira gave up his family and kingdom. He lived a tremendously strict life for 12 years as an ascetic. During this period, he even gave up his clothes along with all other worldly possessions. He spent most of this time meditating and achieving self control. He attained omniscience by the age of forty-two, thereby knowing everything about the past, present and future.
Jainism was opposed to rituals. Jainism believed in the possibility of solving the riddle of the universe to attain perfection without the concept of God. Jainism held that it was possible for any human being to realize absolute knowledge and attain absolute bliss through the intense human effort. The faith in self-reliance for achieving perfection was an integral part of Jainism. The Jainism teaches claim that the Jainas only can stand the scrutiny of reason.
The Jainas emphasized that knowledge could be perfected by right conduct. Knowledge without right conduct was mere futile and conduct without right knowledge was blind. The Jainas said that one could achieve complete mastery over oneself by subduing the passions. Emancipation was to be acquired not by observing rituals, prayers and sacrifices but by regulating moral and spiritual discipline. For this reason they attached great importance to the five vows – non-violence (ahiṁsā), truth (satya), non-stealing which implies not to take anything to which one was not entitled (aṣteye), celibacy or abstention from selfindulgence (brahmacharya) and non-possession or renunciation (aparigraha). Non-violence was accorded utmost importance among these principles. The three doctrines of Right faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct which were known as three jewels constituted the foundations of Jainism.
Jainism believes that no overall good of individuals or society can arise from violence. Jainism teaches that untruth, stealing, taking more than one’s fair share, immoderate pursuit of sensual pleasures and possessiveness are aspects of violence. All these involve passions, mental violence of self and of others.
Jainas are openly hostile in the matter of introducing the supernatural. Jainism believes that man is capable of controlling his own moral life. He can make ethical decisions and find ethical goals without non-human assistance of intervention. Ethical values require that the individual either to make or unmake himself in the world. The soul (individual soul) has a self identity which it preserves even in the ultimate condition. The morality brings about reformation in man’s nature. The conversion of the inner man leads to the way of freedom. Man should attempt to develop the tendency of indifference towards pleasure man holds infinitude in his finitude. The eternal consciousness is within the human experience which is the power that directs all human beings beyond all finite forms.
Although Indian thought considered both spiritual life and rational life as universal, the spiritual life is higher than the latter. Spiritual life is universal since the spirits, even for the schools that accepted their plurality have the same nature. Rational life is universal because reason has the same objective reference according to the understanding of all schools of thought. Indian thought maintains that the essence of man goes beyond even reason; it is Ᾱtman. Several systems of Indian philosophy hold that highest in man is not reason but spirit (Ᾱtman) which is above reason.
Jainism, a religion and philosophy of India, founded in about 6th century BC by Vardhamāna who is known as Mahāvīra (“Great Hero”), the 24th of the Tirthānkarās, (“Fordmakers”), Jainas means Conquerors”, whence the name Jainism, the great religious figures on whose example the religion is centered, in protest against the orthodox Vedic (early Hindu) ritualistic cult of the period. Its earliest proponents may have belonged to a sect that rebelled against the idea of practice of taking life prevalent in the Vedic animal sacrifice.
Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism. He was a contemporary of Kabir. He was born in a Khatri family at Talwandi (Nankana Sahib) in the district of Seikhpura in West Punjab, now in Pakistan.
He was sent to school at the age of seven to learn Hindi, Sanskrit and Persian. Different types of miraculous stories are associated with the astonishing wisdom of child Nanak.
Nanak had played a very dominant role in the Bhakti movement of medieval India. Both Sufism and Bhakti had contributed to the development of Nanak’s religious philosophy. So his teachings were composite by nature comprising of the noblest principles of Hinduism and Islam. At the same time he discarded the retrograde elements of both religions.
Nanak believed in the presence of a soul in every human being. Good actions of a man help the soul to merge with the Eternal soul that is God. Evil actions increase the burden of sin for which the soul cannot rise high and remains in darkness. So each individual must do good and be virtuous to get eternal liberation from the bondage of the world.
hus Nanak’s teachings rested upon two themes—praise of virtues and condemnation of vices. In other words moral conduct and emphasis on moral values constituted the foundation of his teachings.
Like all Sufi saints Nanak was in favour of accepting a guru who would guide the individual in all his conduct. In his own words, “Without guru, nobody can attain God. Under the guru’s instruction, God’s word is heard and knowledge is acquired.” So the presence of a guru is essential for every man for his own spiritual emancipation.
Nanak was very practical in his outlook. He wanted to bring an end to the conflict among various religions. That is why he vehemently rejected the caste system, authority of the Vedas and the Quran and idolatry or image-worship. He never laid any emphasis upon renunciation of the world. Rather he stressed upon upholding moral values and rejection of religious hypocrisy, falsehood, selfishness and violence.
Nanak had both Hindu as well as Muslim disciples. His catholicity of spirit and loving approach aimed at bridging the gap between the two communities by establishing harmony between them. He endeavored towards this end till his death in 1538 A.D.
His mission and teachings were carried on by a line of nine successors who worked devoutly for about a century after his death. His teachings were included in the Adi Granth compiled by the fifth Guru, Arjun Das. It was during the time of later Gurus that the followers of Nanak began to be known as Sikhs – a distinct religious unit.
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