Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions






6. Cordial Relations with Hindus

          Another important factor which helped the continuation of the Jain community is the cordial and intimate relations maintained by the Jains with the Hindus. Formerly it was thought that Jainism was a branch either of Buddhism or of Hinduism. But now it is generally accepted that Jainism is a distinct religion and that it is older than the Vedic religion of the Hindus. As Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism, the three important ancient religions of India, are living side by side for the last so many centuries, it is natural that they have influenced one another in many respects. In matters like theories of rebirth and salvation, descriptions of heaven, earth and hell, and belief in the fact that the prophets of religion take birth according to prescribed rule, we find similarities in the three religions. Since the disappearance of Buddhism from India the Jainas and Hindus came more close to each other and that is why in social and religious life the Jains on the whole do not appear to be much different from the Hindus. From this it should not be considered that the Jains are a part of the Hindus or Jainism is a branch of Hinduism. In fact, if we compare Jinism and Hinduism, we find that the differences between them are very great and their agreement is in respect of a few particulars only concerning the ordinary mode of living. Even the ceremonies which appear to be similar are in reality different in respect of their purport if carefully studied.


          It is evident that there are several items of social and religious practices on which there are basic differences between the Jains and Hindus. It is pertinent to note that these differences are persisting even up to the present day. At the same time it will have to be admitted that there had been an infiltration of non-Jain elements into Jain social and religious usage�s. It is not that the Jains blindly accepted these non-Jain elements. Perhaps the Jains had to allow the infiltration of non-Jain element as an adjustment to changed circumstances. Thus the Jains, as a policy for survival, willingly accepted the infiltration of non-Jain elements in Jain practices. But in doing so they made every attempt to maintain the purity of religious practices as far as possible. The Jain Acharyas, mainly with a view to maintain the continuity of the Jain community in troubled times, did not oppose but on the contrary gave tacit sanction to the observance of local customs and manners by the Jains. In this connection Somadeva, the most learned Jain Acharya of medieval age in the South, observes in his Yashastilaka-Champu that the religion of Jain householders is of


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two varieties, Laukika, i.e. this worldly, and Paralaukika, i.e. the otherworldly; the former is based upon popular usage and the latter on the scriptures. Further, it is legitimate for the Jains to follow any custom or practice sanctioned by popular usage so long as it does not come into conflict with the fundamental principles of the Jain faith or the moral and disciplinary vows enjoined by the religion. It thus means that by showing the leniency to the Jains in observing the well established local practices, provided they do not harm the highest principles of Jainism, a conscious effort was made by the Jains to adjust to the adverse circumstances. This wise adjustment ultimately created cordial and intimate relations with Hindus and it appears that due to this policy the Jains were saved from complete extinction at the hands of perfectionists and they could keep their existence for the last so many centuries. In fact, the Jains had made determined efforts to maintain good relations not only with the Hindus, but with the members of other communities also. Even though for Jainas were in power for a long time they hardly indulged in the prosecution of non-Jains, whereas we find innumerable instances where Jains were severely persecuted by non-Jains.



          It is true that the Jainas have managed to maintain their existence as a separate community for the last so many centuries and that in this long period they have made noteworthy contributions to the cultural progress of India. But the achievement of Jains in various fields of activities pertain to the ancient and medieval period. Since the middle ages the Jainas are declining day by day in number and their influence is continuously waning. If the same process continues it is likely that the Jaina community will have to face total extinction Within a period of few centuries. Therefore, it is necessary to find out the causes mainly responsible for the downfall of the Jain community.


          The spread of a religion to a large extent depends on the amount of royal patronage it receives and the conviction with which it is propounded by its monks and followers. In the ancient and medieval period the numerical strength of the Jaina community was quite good because Jainism was actively supported by the ruling chiefs in different parts of the country and it was propagated by some of the intellectual gems of the time. It is estimated that during the Rashtrakuta period (i.e, from 750 to 1000 A.D.) at least one third of the total population of the Deccan was following the gospel of Mahavira. That the Jaina religion was one of the popular religions of India in the past could be seen from the large number of Jaina relics found all over India. But with the advent of Muslims in North India and the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in South India Jainism completely lost the royal support. When the days of royal patronage were gone, never to return, the ascetic order of the community not only fell in number but became very slack in its duties. The ascetics in the later period -never showed any enthusiasm in their ordinary activities like preaching and proselytising. There were no intellectual giants, unselfish workers and renowned saints like Bhadrabahu, Kundakunda, Samantabhadra, Akalanka, Haribhadra, Jinasena, Umasvati, Hemachandra and Siddhasena Divakara. Naturally they could not influence the people by their actions and bring them into the Jaina community. Thus with the lapse of royal support and the stoppage of converting people to Jainisan due to slackness of its teachers, there was no hope for the Jaina religion to increase the number of its followers.


          When the Jaina community was in such a position that it could not augment the number of its members, it was faced with a calamity of severe persecution of its members by the other religionists. After gaining ascendancy the Brahmins reduced the Jainas to the lowest depths of subjection. They threw out the idols in Jaina temples and converted them into Brahmanic ones, destroyed the objects of the cult, deprived the Jainas of all freedom, both religious and civil, banished them from public employment and all positions of trust: in fact, they persecuted them to such an extent that they succeeded in removing nearly all traces of these Jainas in several provinces where formerly they had been most flourishing. Traces of this old hostility between Jainas and Hindus survive in the following Hindu saying,    


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One should not take refuge in a Temple, even to escape from a mad elephant.


          The position of the Jaina religion in the South was much shaken through persecution. King Sundara of the Pandya, dynasty, in the middle of the seventh century, at the instigation of the famous saint Tirujnanasambandara, the arch-enemy of Jainism, persecuted the Jainas with the most savage cruelty and inflicted on no less than eight thousand innocent persons a horrible death by implement. In the Vijayanagara Empire the Jaina people known as Pantchur his, were destroyed by the Brahmanas in the times of Adondai, and some were forced to embrace the Brahmanical system. Such persecutions were largely responsible for the final overthrow of Jainism in South India. In Karnataka the Jainas were persecuted by the Virasaivas and in Gujarat and Maravad they were persecuted by the Brahmins. It is reported that the Brahmins were actively aggressive against the Jainas even in the 19th century and -used to take forcible possession of their temples and convert them into Hindu temples. In the Central India the best Jaina temples are found in very remote spots and it is suggested that they were built at times when the Jainas had to hide in such places to avoid Hindu persecution. In North India from time to time fanatic kings indulged in savage outbursts of cruelty and committed genuine acts of persecution directed against Jainas arid Buddhists as such. Thus the persecution of the Jainas in different parts of India hastened their decline which had already gained some momentum due to the loss of royal patronage and slackness of the monastic order.


          The strength of the Jaina community was further weakened when various religious and social divisions arose in the community. It has already been noted that the Jaina Church was one and undivided upto 81 A.D., but from that year it was divided into two major divisions, viz. the Digambara and the Shvetambara. These sects were further divided into small sub-sects and groups like Gana and Gachchha and strangely enough these groups came into existence solely due to the trivial differences between the ascetics. Some of the divisions were no doubt revolutionary in the sense that they completely renounced idol-worship and took to the worship of the scripture only. As the underlying philosophy is common to all sects and sub-sects, really speaking there is no reason why animosity should arise among them. But actually the sectarian feelings have gained such an -upper hand that the various sects and sub-sects not only ham one another, but try to grab what the others have got. Naturally the Jainas think always of their sub-sect or sect and scarcely of Jainism as a whole. In these circumstances it is obvious that there is no powerful common religious bond which can bring all Jainas together. What is true of religious divisions is equally true of social divisions. The Jaina system of social organisation was, in the beginning, based on the distinction of function. Birth was not considered as a criterion for determining the status of a person in society. But later on a large number of castes and sub-castes arose in the small Jaina community and to-day the Jainas are as caste-ridden as the Hindus are. Naturally the castes have fostered separatist tendencies, have created cultural. gulfs between the castes, and have stood in the way of social unity in the Jaina community.