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

Jain Beliefs - The Universe



Mahavira and other unorthodox teachers of his age were primarily interested in seeking liberation from the wheel of rebirth.

The Universe

Jain philosophy differs in important respects from the systems of Buddhism and Hinduism.  Jainism upholds the existence of an infinite number of animate and inanimate substances - Jivas or Souls, and Ajivas or non-souls, representing the mind / matter dichotomy - each of which possesses an infinite number of individual characteristics of its own.  Moreover, all substances exist independently of our perceptions or awareness of them.  Thus Jain philosophy is realist.

But because the number of souls inhabiting the universe is infinite, most of them will be compelled to transmigrate eternally in samsara, the world of birth, death and rebirth.  And this world is itself subject to a process of growth and decline.  It is part of a universe which, without begining and without end, passes through an infinite number of cosmic cycles, each divided into phases of ascent and descent during which civilization rises and falls.  At present we are in the fifth period of a phase of descent.

The apparent fatalism and determinism or the system is opposed by Jain philosophers by means of the distinctive theory of `many-sidedness� (Anekantvada).  This relates the truth of any proposition to the point of view from which it is made.  The rise and fall of civilizations is rigidly determined from the universal point of view, but from the individual viewpoint a man is free to work out his own salvation.  Only the liberated soul knows the full and absolute truth.  A popular illustration of this is the parable of the six blind men and the elephant.  Each, having grasped a part of the great beast, was asked what it was like.  One said a wall, another a rope, another a snake, another a fan, and so on.  Only the soul in nirvana has complete and perfect knowledge.