Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions


The Antiquity of Jainism
Jain Heroes
Jaina Order and Literature
Fundamental Beliefs
  The Human Predicament
  The Doctrine of Karma
  The Doctrine of Man
  The Denial of God
  Jaina Ethics and Morality
  Three Spiritual Paths
  Response to Contemporary Issue
  Social Issues
  The Economic Order
  The Idea of Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

The Antiquity of Jainism



Jaina religion is the oldest religion of India, It began as a spiritual discipline for Samanas, Arhatas, Tirthankaras, Nigganthas, and Jainas.  They were called Samanas (Monks) because they believed in the equality of all beings and practiced nonviolence.  They were called Arhatas (worthy of Worship) because they lived virtuous lives, As the originators of the spiritual path, they were known as Tirthankaras (Fordmakers).  Being free from passions, they were called Nigganthas (detached).  And because they had conquered all of their desires, they were identified as Jinas (Victors).  Hence, the religion propounded by such conquerors is fittingly called the Jaina religion.

There are references to the Jaina Tirthankaras, Samanas, and Arhatas, and to the ethical principles they espoused in the Rigveda, Yajurveda, and in the Puranas.  Scholars have examined these sources and have concluded that these personalities must be pre- Vedic and that the religion they preached must have preceded the Vedic religion.  According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan :  �Jaina tradition ascribes the origin of the system to Rsabhadeva who lived many millennia back.  There is evidence to show that so far back as the first century B.C.  there were people who were worshipping Rsabhadeva, the first Tirthankara.  There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhamana or Parsvanatha.  The Yajurveda mentions the names of three Tirthankaras�Rsabha, Ajita, and Aristanemi.  The Bhagvata-Purana endorses the view that Rsabhadeva was the founder of Jainism.�  Like wise, J. P. Jain declares :  `It is now no more necessary to prove that Jainism is an absolutely independent, highly developed, very comprehensive and ancient system, not unreasonably described as `the oldest living religion�, or the earliest `home religion of India.�  Its is, indeed, found to have been in existence, in one form of the other, or under one name or the other, since the very dawn of human civilization, continuing without break throughout the prehistorical, proto-historical and historical times.�  The images, seals, and other findings amongst the discoveries at Harappa and Mohenjodara, and some earlier inscriptions of ancient India also lend support to the view that Rsabhadeva was the founder of Jainism, which was non-Vedic in origin and probably pre-Aryan.