Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Jainism  -  Respect For All Life

The birth of Jainism
Mahavira the Path-Maker
The Enlightenment
The Rise of Jainism
  The Two Sects
  The Scriptures
  Rise and Fall
  Jain Beliefs-The Universe
  The Soul
  Karma and Rebirth
  The way of Salvation
  The Everyday Life of a Jain
  The Life of an Ascetic
  Ways of Worship
  Temples and Domestic Shrines
  Ninian Smart

Ninian Smart



The pessimism of Jainism is nowhere better illustrated than in the famous parable of the man in the well, said to have been told by a Jain monk to a prince in order to persuade him of the evils of the world.

There was once a man who, oppressed by his poverty left home and set out for another city. But after a few days he lost his way and found himself wandering in a dense forest.  There, he saw a mad elephant angrily rushing toward him with upraised trunk.  Immediately he ran to flee there appeared before him a terrible demoness with a sharp sword in her hand, in fear and trembling, he looked about him in all directions for a way of escape until he saw a great tree and ran towards it.  But he could not climb its smooth hole, and afraid of death, hung himself into an old well nearby.  As he fell he managed to catch hold of a clump of reeds growing from the wall, and clung to them desperately.

For below him he could see a mass of writhing snakes, enraged at the sound of his falling, and at the very bottom, identifiable from the hiss of its breath, a mighty black python with its mouth wide open to receive him.  And even as he realized that his life could last only as long as the reeds held fast, he looked up and saw two mice, one black and one white, gnawing at the roots.  Meanwhile, the elephant, enraged at not catching its victim, charged the tree and dislodged a honeycomb.  It fell upon the man clinging so precariously.  But even as the bees angrily stung his body, by chance a drop of honey fell on his brow, rolled down his face and reached his lips, to bring a moment�s sweetness.  And he longed for yet more drops and so forgot the perils of his existence.

Now hear its interpretation.

The man is the soul.

His wandering in the forest is existence.

The wild elephant is death.

The demoness is old age.

The tree is salvation, where there is no fear of death, but which no sensual man can attain.

The well is human life.

The snakes are passions.

The python is hell.

The clump of reeds is man�s allotted span.

The black and white mice the dark and light halves of the month.

The bees are diseases and troubles.

The drops of honey are but trivial pleasures.

How can a wise man want them, in the midst of such peril and hardship?

The general plan of a Jain temple is of a portal and colonnades,

a closed hall or open courtyard and an inner shrine for the

images.  The principle image of the Tirthankarato whom the

temple is dedicated, is flanked by two attendants and by smaller

images of the twenty-four Tirthankaras.  In Digambara temples,

the image sits naked with eyes downcast.  In Svetambara temples

it sits clothed with a loincloth, has protruding eyeballs and is

often adorned with jewels and flowers,

Every Jain temple also has a �saint-wheel� (siddha-cakra).  Its basic form is that of a stylized flat lotus with four petals attached to a circle in the center.  Placed in the petals and in the circle are representations of the Five Great Beings in meditative posture (seated with crossed legs).  Often the principles of right knowledge, right faith and right conduct are incorporated too.  The diagram is invoked for the destruction of sin and for the common good to prevail.

Taken from Cary NC library.