Rita: Sir many of my
friends in school talk about God. Jesus is their God, Krishna is another
God. Can you tell me something about our God?
Teacher: Many religions
say, "God created the world. He maintains it. He controls it. He is very
kind. He forgives us for our sins. He knows everything. He makes us happy. "
Rita: Does Jainism say
the same thing about God?
Teacher: No, Jains have a
different concept of God. It is not God, but godhood that can be attained by
every soul. He/she who attains it, is omnipotent. He knows everything about
all the past, present, and future at the same time. He is free from the four
major Karmas. We call these great souls Arihantas. There have been many
Arihantas. In present time cycle, there were twenty-four of them who set up
the religious order afresh to help us cross the cycles of birth and death.
They also re-establish the order of the Jain-Tirth formed of sadhus, sadhvis,
male and female house holders and that is why they are also called
Tirthankaras. The Jains worship them.
Rita: Did they create
Teacher: No, the world is
a natural phenomena. It is eternal which means that it was here from the
beginning of time and will be here forever.
Rita: Sir, what are some
different names for them and who were they?
Teacher: In Jainism they
are called Tirthankars, Jinas, Vitrag, or Arihants. They lead us to the
spiritual path and ultimately to liberation. Before renouncing their worldly
life, some of them were kings, or princes, while others were ordinary
In Jainism we believe that every
human, as well as any other living being has the potential to become perfect
and omnipotent. But not all living beings may have this potential capability
in this life.
Rita: Can we say then,
that Lord Mahavira is a "Jain God"?
Teacher: Yes, Lord
Mahavira is a "Jain God". There were twenty-three such "Gods" before him in
this time cycle. However, they are really not called "Gods" in the sense of
them being the creator of the world. We call them Tirthankars or Arihants.
Rita: Oh! Now I can tell
my friends that Arihantas or Tirthankars are our Gods. Will you tell us more
about Lord Arihantas?
Teacher: Sure. You know
that every name has a meaning. Kumud means "lotus", and Ravi means "sun."
Similarly the word Arihant is made up of two words. They are "Ari" and "Hant."
Ari means "enemy" and Hant means "destroyer". So Arihant literally means
"destroyer of enemies."
Payal: But, sir, the
other day you said that Jains do not hurt anyone. Then how can our Lord
Arihanta be a destroyer? I do not understand that.
Teacher: Payal, you are
right. As a Jain, we are not supposed to hurt or destroy anyone. An
Arihant's enemies were not animals, bugs, or people like you and me.
Arihantas did not have any enemies outside but they were from within.
Amar: The enemies
Teacher: Some times we
get mad at friends, brothers, or sisters for very small matters. Sometimes
we hide our toys when our friends come over to our house. We also cry at the
mall when our parents don't let us buy toys. Some kids show off in their
class and act as if they know everything. These tendencies may look good to
us at that time, and we may consider ourselves smart, but those thoughts are
evil tendencies and sooner or later, they are going to get us in trouble.
These tendencies are our wrong
desires. They are not good. Since they stay within us, they are our inner
Shila, Does this make sense to
you? Can our desires be our enemies?
Shila: Yes Sir, now it
makes sense. I remember the other day when I got mad at my best friend, she
stopped talking to me. A few days later, when I really needed her help to
study for a test, she did not help me and I got a "B" on the test. Now I
realize how getting mad caused me to get a "B".
Teacher: Sunil, have you
experienced this kind of trouble?
Sunil: Yes, one day my
sister and I were by ourselves at home. My sister got hungry and wanted to
order pizza. She did not have enough money, and I would not share any of my
money with her. So she had to stay hungry. A few weeks later, our parents
dropped us off at the mall to go shopping. While we were at a clothing
store, I noticed a nice jacket that I wanted to buy. I checked the price,
and I saw that I did not have enough money. I asked my sister, if she would
let me borrow some money. She said "No' and reminded me about when she
wanted to order pizza. I told myself, if I would have shared the money and
not been so miserly, she would have given me money to buy that jacket. Later
she said, "Don't feel bad. I am not going to be like you, but remember that
it is good to share." Now I know that sharing is a very good idea.
Teacher: Does anyone else
want to say anything?
Hina: Yes sir, now I
realize what our inner enemies are. We
should control our anger. We
should not be greedy. We should not insult anyone. We should not deceive
anyone. In other words, we should control our desires.
Teacher: Yes, we should
have total control of our desires, so that no matter what happens, we don't
get mad, greedy, or arrogant.
Arihantas did not destroy
people, animals, birds or bugs, but they destroyed their inner enemies like
anger, greed, ego, and deception (AGED).
Ashish: Now I know who
the Arihantas are. They destroyed their inner enemies, but I still do not
understand why we call them gods?
Teacher: Now, we are
coming to the rest of the story. Once a person becomes an Arihanta, he/she
knows everything and can perceive everything in the universe. He knows what
is happening now, what will happen in the future and what has happened in
the past at the same time. There is nothing that he does not know. He
teaches us that we should be free from our inner desires. When we die, we
are reborn as something else. When a Lord Arihanta dies, he/she becomes a
Lord Siddha and is never born again. He is liberated from the worldly cycle
of birth and death forever. That is why Lord Arihantas are called Gods.
Ashish: I still have one
question. When we go to the temple our parents tell us to pray to the Gods.
What are we supposed to pray to them?
Teacher When we pray, our
prayers admire the Jinas for being free from their inner desires. Our
prayers should not wish for rewards, but should remind us how to live a good
Jain life. We also pray to them for being our models. We must try to follow
their footsteps in order to achieve the supreme goal of liberation.
1) Do Jains believe in God?
2) What do other religions say
about their Gods?
3) Do Jains believe God is the
creator of the universe?
4) What are some different names
for Jain Gods?
5) What does Arihanta mean?
6) What are our inner enemies?
7) Can anyone be an Arihanta?
8) Who is a Lord Siddha?