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Jainism is the religion professed by the Jains, so called because they follow the system expounded and preached by the Jina.l

It is one of the oldest living religions of India, purely indigenous in origin, and represents that current of ancient Indian culture which was distinct from and independent of the Brahmanical. It is a fully developed system with all the necessary limbs and accessories, possesses several sects and sub-sects, and owns quite a rich cultural heritage. It is known to have drawn its adherents from almost every caste and social group, and even at present it is diffused in all parts of the Indian Union, a few Jains residing in many foreign lands as well.

1. Jina (lit. conqueror of self) is also known as Arhanta, the adorable one, Kevalin or possessor of absolute knowledge, Nirgrantha or the one without attachment, Shramana, the practiser of equanimity and Tirthankara (lit. ford-finder), one who establishes the path that takes people safely across the ocean of misery, the round of births and deaths, that is, the samsara. Consequently, Jainism has also been known as the creed of the Jinas, Arhantas, Nirgranthas, Shramanas or Tirthankaras. There have been innumerable Jinas or Arhantas, but only twentyfour of them are designated the Tirthankaras.

The first in the series of the 24 Jinas or Tirthankaras of the current cycle of time, was Adinatha Rishabhadeva. He belongs to remote pre-historic times and is believed to have been the first temporal as well as spiritual leader of mankind, who inaugurated the 'age of action', the beginnings of human civilization and the practice of religion. The last three Tirthankaras were Arishtanemi a cousin of Krishna Vasudeva of the Mahabharata fame (crica 1450 B.C.), Parshvanatha (877-777 B.C.) and Vardhamana Mahavira (599-527 B.C.).

These Jinas or Tirthankaras were born as ordinary men, but they renounced the pleasures of the world and, by a course of self-discipline, asceticism and concentrated meditation, mastered the flesh, and annihilated all the forces and influences obstructing spiritual development, and attained fullest self-realization and absolute perfection, bringing out to the full the divinity or god-hood inherent in man. Then, for the well-being and happiness of all living beings, they preached what they themselves had practiced and achieved. As such, Jainism is not a revealed religion and claims no divine origin.

It starts with the scientific assumption that nothing is destructible, that is, nothing can be created out of something which does not at all exist in one form or the other and that, therefore, the universe is the conglomeration of all that exists, is uncreated, is real, and is without a beginning and without an end. The principal constituents of the cosmos are the two categories: animate objects and inanimate objects. The former comprise an infinite number of independent souls in varying degrees of physical and spiritual development, and the latter consist of space, time, the media of motion and rest, and matter in different forms. Spirit and matter are thus the real which are pluralistic, eternal and not liable to lose or interchange their nature. These irreducible constituents being themselves existential give an existential character to the universe. Each of these substances is the substratum of qualities and modes, which are its determents and on which its own intelligibility depends. The substance is also subject to constant, incessant change in the qualities and modes of which it is made up. Thus, origination and destruction refer to modification of qualities on the permanent bed rock of substance which is consequently both permanent and impermanent at one and the same time. It is only the permanent that changes, for in the absence of permanence change is meaningless. And, with the simple dogma that the soul has been associated with matter from times immemorial, Jainism explains the phenomenon that the 'Samsara', the round of rebirths, the world of becoming or mundane existence, is, as a remedy against which religion is needed.

This need for religion, in its turn, is explained by the Jaina theory of Karma, which is founded on the simple law of cause and effect. You reap what you have sown. Nobody can escape the consequences of his or her acts of commission and omission, good and bad. This doctrine makes transmigration of souls a proven fact, establishes the continuity and immortality of all the souls and provides a rational explanation for the diverse phenomena and experiences of lifer At the same time, it does away with the necessity of any outside agency for the purpose of rewarding or punishing the living beings. They and they alone are responsible for their actions and themselves benefit by or suffer from the consequences. Man is the measure of all things. He is the master of his own destiny and can make it or mar it accordingly as he wills. The entire emphasis is on the development of strong will-power and conscious personal effort in order to thwart and annihilate the various adverse influences, the forces of the Karma, and in this way to effect spiritual evolution, leading to the ultimate goal, the very Godhood, whence is no return to the 'samsara'. This transformation of man into god is the realistic end of religious pursuit in Jainism for a sincere aspirant of the Truth.

In order to work out this spiritual evolution, it is necessary to comprehend properly the seven Tattvas or essentials:

1. Soul, which is the principal and, in its present embodied state, needs and seeks liberation Matter, the basis of all worldly existence, which keeps the individual soul in bondage, preventing its liberation.

3. Influx of Karma, when the soul acts against its true nature by indulging in anger, hatred, pride, deceit, avarice, cruelty, etc.

4. Karmic bondage, when the soul becomes a slave to karmic forces, resulting for it-self in good or bad fruition, as the case may be.

5. Stoppage of the influx, by the practice of wholesome self-control.

6. Partial annihilation of Karmic forces through renunciation, penance and austerities.

7. Moksha or complete liberation Nirvana) of the soul from the karmic bondage, which lives thereafter in a state of absolute purity, spiritual perfection, omniscience, bliss and beatitude.