Since Jainism firmly believes in the doctrine of karma
and puts sole reliance on the development of spiritual force by one's own
personal efforts, and further exhorts its followers to develop
Asarana-bhavana (none can refuge or save us), the question, which
naturally arises, is, what is the place of prayers in Jainism ? Prayers
are offered to God or to the Divine force which is supposed to control the
whole universe. But if the Jainas do not believe in God or in the
existence of any outside Divinity controlling our fate, any idea of prayer
would be irrelevant to them. The question is very legitimate. It is true
that strictly according to the Jaina doctrines the prayer in the sense of
asking favour of Divine dispensation has no place in Jaina doctrines for
two main reasons, namely, (1) The soul which has been emancipated and
which then becomes Omniscient has no desire left and has no motivation for
the good or the bad of the universe. Its character is purely that of a
knower and a seer. If it could be pleased by prayers, it could also be
displeased by something else; If it could bestow favours, it could also
bestow frowns. To attribute such human frailties to a liberated soul is to
deny its liberation.
(2) Secondly, once we accept the doctrine of karma, all
results must be sought in that doctrine and therefore unless the prayers
are adjusted in the karma doctrine, they remain totally non-productive.
However, it would be totally wrong to say that prayers,
if understood properly, have no place in Jaina philosophy. Jainas do not
understand prayers as a means of seeking favours from a superior force.
True Jaina prayers are nothing but the appreciation and adoration of the
virtues possessed by the liberated souls and the expression of ardent
desire to achieve these virtues in one's own actual life. It is for this
reason that Jaina scriptures have actually enumerated the virtues of
different categories of souls such as Arihanta, Siddha, Acarya and Sadhu.
It is basic to the Jaina belief that the Tirthankaras
(prophets) and their teachings are only to point out to us the way to get
liberation. But how to get liberation and how to put these teachings into
practice is entirely left to us. We achieve only to the extent to which we
exert. However, the path shown by those who have achieved must be studied
with utmost respect and sincerity, because it is the path which the seers
have actually taken in their lives and have obtained the results. We
should therefore be entirely thankful to these great seers for providing
to us such guidance. One expresses such thankfulness out of sheer
gratitude, extols and enumerates their virtues and wishes that such
virtues may also develop in one's own life. Jainas further believe that by
constantly being reminded of the virtues which made them great, our mind
gets oriented to these virtues and being constantly in mental company with
the great, we too tend to be influenced by their greatness by developing
the virtues which they possessed. This, in Jaina philosophy, is the true
process of prayers and it is in this manner that one also gets the fruits
of his prayers.
It is a psychological truth that human mind gets
oriented to the thoughts which it entertains constantly. Oriented and
conditioned mind always impels the physical senses of the body to follow
the pursuits of its liking. Therefore, being convinced of the teaching of
the great seers, if we totally surrender ourselves to these teachings and
constantly bear in mind the efficacy of these teachings and try to put
them in practice, it is the best prayer we can offer and if such type of
prayer yields some results, we would surely be justified in saying that
the results which were so yielded were due to the ï¿½favour' of the great
masters who showed the path to us. For indeed the masters have shown
favour to us, as to the whole humanity, in pointing out to the right way
to obtain salvation.
Illustrative of this line of thinking is the prayer
offered by the great Acarya Samantabhadra in the following words :
Na pujayarthastvayi vitarage,
Na nindaya natha vivanta vaire,
Tathapi te punya gunasmrtirnah,
Punatu ceto duritam janebhyah.
ï¿½Oh lord, you are really a Vitaraga (one who has
shed all passions ) and so you are not pleased by prayers nor you
displeased by adverse criticism, because you have destroyed all types of
adversary feelings. All the same, the remembrance of your merits purifies
one's mind from all the sins'.
A prayer of this type is the best karma (action) one
can resort to, and according to the doctrine of Karma we must get the
fruits of our actions.
It is interesting to note that the most outstanding of
the Jaina prayers is contained in what is known as ï¿½Navakara Mantra' which
contains nothing sectarian or personal to any individual and asks for
nothing in return. It does nothing more than offering sincere veneration
to those souls which are already liberated and which are on the path of
liberation. These souls may belong to any sect or religious belief but so
long as they are on the path of liberation or, are, infact, liberated, one
who is a true Jaina bows down to them. This incantation is as under :
Namo Arihantanam -- I bow down to all ï¿½Arihantas'.
Namo Siddhanam -- I bow down to all ï¿½Siddhas'.
Namo Ayariyanam -- I bow down to all ï¿½Acaryas'.
Namo Uvajjhayanam -- I bow down to ï¿½Upadhyayas'.
Namo Loe Savvasahunam -- I bow down to all the ï¿½Sadhus'.
ï¿½Arihantas ' are those blessed souls who have
successfully shed away in this life all the karmas which blur the potency
of the soul; ï¿½Siddhas' are those souls who have achieved the final
emancipation and have attained a bodiless state of pure bliss; ï¿½Acaryas'
are those merciful souls who teach us the path of salvation and ï¿½Sadhus'
are those saints who are themselves on the path of salvation and are
striving for liberation.
These five are called ï¿½Panca-paramesthi' - five types
of great souls - those who have been liberated and those who are on the
path of liberation. A Jaina bows down to them all, not necessarily because
they have followed or are following a particular type of religion but
because they have already attained what was worth attaining or because
they are striving to attain what is worth attaining. As Acarya Hemcandra
puts it :
"Bhava bijankura-janana ragadyah ksayamupagata yasya,
Brahma va Visnurva Haro Jino va namastasmai." meaning, "I bow down to him
whose all passions such as attachment and malice, which sow the seeds of
birth and rebirth, have been destroyed. It matters not whether he is
Brahma, Visnu, Sankara or Jina."
The Jainas have built big and beautiful temples and are
adoring, imposing and serene marble idols of Tirthankaras. Idol-worship
has its own rights and Jainas seem to have adopted the same at a
subsequent stage because Jaina scriptures have not recorded that Lord
Mahavira at any time worshipped an Idol. In fact the whole emphasis of
Jaina doctrines is on the Atman which has no form. However, if the
majority of Jainas have resorted to the worship of the idols of
Tirthankaras, it would not go against the basic principles of Jainism if
the said worship is carried out on the lines discussed above.
It would, however, undoubtedly follow that adoring the
idols by jewelry and other ornaments and taking out processions of idols,
etc. have no philosophical background or justification - except perhaps
expressing devotion. Attribution of ornamental glitter to one who is a
Vitaraga is a gross negation of all that for which Jainism stands, and
amounts to crude perversion of basic doctrines of Jainism.
Thus, prayers and Bhakri are differently understood by
the Jainas but they do occupy a prominent place in Jaina thinking.