Mahavira, (599 BC to 527 BC) 
The last of the 24 Thirthankaras who established the
Jainism, the first religion that taught humanity to be humane

    Anyone who conquers the Karmic bondage accrued to his soul due to his thoughts, words and deeds becomes Jina i.e. God. To be exact, he attains Godhood. The conqueror is Jina. From this word, Jina, the word Jain has emanated.

    It is necessary to look into the historicity and contribution of Jains to our country before trying to understand the tenets of Jainism. It is not my intention to propagate any principle or claim any greatness in dealing with the historicity of Jainism. I narrate below the views of scholars both foreign and Indian. It is for the readers to arrive at their own conclusions.

1. There are references to Jain Tirthankars in Rigveda and Yajurveda  - (H. Jacobi )

2.  Only one interpretation can be given to this and that is in those times, followers of Jainism were, in the main, representatives of pre-Aryan population of the country. This means that there is a basis to assert that the chief components of this non-Vedic religion were engendered by non-Aryan ethical environments.Many contemporary research scholars have also come to the conclusion that the roots of Jainism are significantly more ancient than the middle of the first millennium B.C. It is worthwhile turning attention to the Swastik signs, seen on the seals of cultures of Mohanjadaro and Harappa and which are common in the symbols of Jainism. Swasthika is the symbol of the 7th. Tirthankar, Suparsva, in the Jain tradition. ( Colebrooke )

3. It is no longer denied that Jainism had an independent genesis.- (Jacobi-Bubler )

4. Judging from this and other analogous data about the pre-Aryan population and also having learnt a good deal about the civilization of the valley of Indus and about the civilization, similar to it, which existed to the south and east of it, it is possible to subscribe with certainty to the view of almost all the contemporary scholars that the culture of the pre-Aryan population was, in a significant degree, higher than the culture of Aryans. - (N.R. Guseva )

5. A note on Bhagavata Purana in Wilson's Vishnu Purana has it : That work enters much more into detail on the subject of Rishabha's devotion, and particularises circumstances not found in any other purana. The most interesting of these are the scene of Rishabha's (first of the 24 Trithankars) wanderings, which are said to be Konka, Venkata, Kutaka and Southern Karnataka, or the Western part of the peninsula; and the adoption of the Jaina belief by the people of those countries. - ( Wilson)

6.    There may be something historical in the tradition, which makes Rishabha, the first Tirthankar. - ( Jacobi)

7.       We also sought to remember both that the Jaina religion is certainly older than Mahavira (24th Tirthunkar); his reputed predecessor, Parsva, having almost certainly existed as the real person, and that consequently the main point of the original doctrine may have been codified long before Mahavira. - ( Dr. Charpentier)

8. There are references to Trithankars in several classics like Vayu Purana, Koorma Purana,  Bhagavatha Purana, Manu Smriti, Mahabharata (Several authors), Yoga Vashishta Grantham.

9. There is evidence to show that so far back as the first century B.C. there were people who were worshipping Rishabh Deva, the first Tirthankara. There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhamana or Parsvanath. The Yajur Veda mentions the names of three Tirthankars Rishabha, Agitnath and Arishtanemi. The Bhagavata Purana endorses the view that Rishabha was the founder of Jainism- ( Indian Philosophy- Vol. I. P. 287. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan ).

10. "The history of ancient India," says a modern historian, I'is a history of thirty centuries of human culture and progress. It divides itself into several distinct periods, each of which, for a length of several centuries, will compare with the history of many a modern people". In these "thirty centuries of human culture and progress" the Jaina Contribution is a solid synthesis of many sided developments in art, architecture, religion, morals and sciences, but the most important of Jai~a thought is its ideal of Ahimsa. - (Dutt )

    The above narration gave us an overall view of the development of Jain thought, its ancient nature and the views of reputed international scholars. It is now time for us to look into the various aspects of Jain philosophy. It is difficult to compress in a brief essay all that is stated by great Jain minds. However, I shall make an attempt.

    Jain philosophy displays essential characteristics which give it the foremost place in world philosophies. This is the reason why George Bernard Shaw commented if there was a birth after death, he would like to be born a Jain.

    Jain philosophers exhibit incisive logic, evolved concepts which are borne out by modern science. The concept of Anekanta Vada -many-sidedness in views -was the forerunner for the theory.of relativity. The Jain, thought very closely analysed and Interpreted conscious powers and energies, It also considered deeply the various aspects of Physics, Chemistry, Zoology, Botany, Biology etc. Its descriptions of sound, atom, fulcrum of motion etc. are akin to what modern science has to say.

    The castle of Jain philosophy rests on four central foundations:
(i) Non violence in conduct
(ii) Many-sidedness in views and thought
(iii) Stand point based speech
(iv) Non-possessiveness in social life.

    Jains adore Gunas and not Gunis particularly. There is no mantra related to a single God. There is commonality of worship. It considers the human soul as the most powerful force on earth and that it can become in toto a divine soul by conquering Karmic bondage attached to the soul. Karmic bondage means both Punya and Papa. Punya is gold shackle and papa is iron fetters both of which bind the soul to the chain of birth and death. Cessation of birth when soul sheds in completeness all Karmic particles is Moksha. Births are of four categories -Deva, Manushya, Animal and Naraka Jiva.

    This is the reason why the basic mantra of Jains does pranams to persons who have attained divine qualities. The mantra runs as follows:

Om amo Arihantanam
Om Namo Siddhanam
Om Namo Ayiriyanam
Om Namo Uuanayanam
Om Namo Loye Savva Sahanam
Yeso Pancha Namaskar
Savva Pava Panasanam
Mangalanncha Savvesim
Padamam Havai Mangalam.

The meaning may be given as below:
Salutations to :
(i) Arihanta
(ii) Siddha
(iii) Acharya
(iv) Upadhyaya and
(v) Sadhus in the World.

    Arihanta is a stage where the person has the body but is a divine being. He guides the people of the World. That is why he is saluted first. Siddha is a stage where there is no body and the soul is in the 'Siddhasila" - abode of all perfect souls. Acharya is a guru or a master of knowledge, Upadhyaya is a teacher of true knowledge, Sadhu is a saint. Doing salutation to five great souls would destroy all sin. This is the primary verse of salutation. This is a unique position that Jainism takes. By one's own sacrifices, one can attain Godhood. Jainism does not believe in a creator God. Jains do not accept the dictum that everything that exists must have a maker. If that were so, the maker himself would stand in need of a maker of his being, and that one, of still another and so on. Jainism considers that a self-subsisting maker is not theologically logical. Jainism, therefore, asserts that the World process is eternal. The existing universe consists of two substances -Jiva (the living) and Ajiva (the unconscious or non-living). They interplay with each other. For this interplay space exists, medium of motion exists and medium of rest exists. Karmic particle is A jiva and interplays with jiva and causes births and deaths. The following table will make the position clear :

(Medium of Motion)
(Medium of Rest)
(Pud Gala)
    Jiva, Space, Time, Dharma, Adharma and Pudgala are six eternal substances. These six realities are defined in the Uttaradhyayana Sutra - (Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XLV p.p.153-4).

    "Dharma, Adharma, Space, Time, Matter and souls are the six kinds of substances; they make up this World. Dharma, Adharma and space are each one substance only; but time, matter and souls are an infinite number of substances. The characteristic of Dharma is motion, that of Adharma immobility, and that of space, which contains all other substances, is to make room for everything. The characteristic of time is duration, that of soul the realization of knowledge, faIth, happiness and misery. The characteristic of matter is sound, darkness, luster, light, shade, sunshine, colour, taste, smell and touch. Substance is the substrata of qualities; the qualities are inherent in one substance; but the characteristic of developments is that they inhere in either (viz. substances or qualities). The characteristic of development is singleness, separateness, number, form, conjunction and disjunction.

    The soul has contracting and expanding qualities and it pervades the whole body it occupies. Matter or Pudgala is categorized into six categories ranging 'exceedingly fine' to 'exceedingly gross' types of Pudgala. "Pud" means joining and 'gala' means dropping. The word signifies fusion and fission. The substance in the world remains in total a unchanged quantity though there would be modifications in the substances.The substances modify and the process is termed as Utpada (Origination) Vyaya (Destruction) and Dhrauvya (permanence). The origination and destruction express modifications of the substances, but the substance remains permanent, it is not destroyed.

    The Jains believe that the right path is shown by great souls that actually lived in this world and reached the highest point of Moksha. The path is the confluence of the three streams - Right Faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct. This path is called the path of Ratna Trai (Triple Jewel). Jain philosophy lays down rules of conduct for persons leading' a family life (Grahastha) and saints. (Muni).

    Right Faith only unfolds the outlook of life to attain the highest positions, Right knowledge is the chart of action and Right conduct is implementation of the chart.

    Jainism in its technical language mentions seven concepts :
1. Jiva
2. Ajiva
3. Asrva (inflow of Karmic matter into the soul)
4. Bandha (bondage of karma)
5. Samvara ( cessation of inflow)
6. Nirjara (Destruction of existing bondage of Karma);  and
7. Moksha (liberation).

    The stages can be described as follows:
i) all actions of living beings, whether mental or physical including speech are accompanied by inflow of matter into the soul.
ii) the fusion of soul and matter does not take place except where the soul is thrown into a condition of desire.
iii) the quantity of the matter of bondage and the variety of Karmic bonds depend on the functioning of the three channels of activity, viz. the mind, speech and body but their duration and strength, or malignity are determined by the intensity of passions and desires of the soul.

    The fusion of Karmic matter with soul limits its ability to enjoy its natural perfection in respect of knowledge, perception and happiness.

    Karmas are of eight broad categories which are further subdivided into 148 subcategories. Eight Karmas are divided into two groups.:.. Khathi and Akhathi. The former affects intrinsic properties of the ~while the latter is concerned with the soul's environment.

    Khathi karmas are Jnanavaraniya (obstruction to knowledge),
Darsanavaraniya (obstruction to perception),
Mohaniya (obstruction to Right Faith) and
Antaraya (Obstruction to energy).

    Akhathi Karmas are: Vedamiya (which controls pleasure and pain), Ayu (which determines longevity). Nama (which is responsible for organizing different bodies ;and bodily parts) and Gothra (which determines the lineage).

    The soul is entangled in the network of his Karmas. "As you make your bed so you must lie" – He becomes vulnerable to inclinations, longings, desires. His own longings weaken him. here is a perpetual battle in the battlefield i.e. the body between the qualities of the soul and the forces of karma. Influx of karma should be stopped and existing karma should be destroyed by following the path of Ratna Trai.

    The five great vows that should be observed by all Jains are :
i) Ahimsa (Non Killing) Romain Rolland would observe that the innovators of the concept of Ahimsa in the midst of a climate of Him sa are greater innovators than Newton and greater warriors than Wellington.
ii) Satya  (Truth)
iii) Astheya (Non-stealing)
iv) Brahmacharya (Purity of Life) and
v) Aparigraha (Limited Possessions)

    Rules of Samiti (diligence in movement), Rules of Dasadharma (Piety), Rules of Guptis (Control of Mind, Body & Speech), Rules of Meditation, Rules of Endurance of Hardships, Rules of internal Tapas (Asceticism) and External Tapas are prescribed to enable the soul to attain liberation.

    Rules of Meditation talk of four kinds of Dhyana. The first two are to be abhorred, The third is good. The fourth is possible for a ripe muni, they are :-
i) Arta Dhyana : Arises from the loss of a desired object.
ii) Raudra Dhyana : Absorptiion of the mind in himsa ie sins of cruelty, falsehoodetc.
iii) Dharma Dhyana : Meditation on subjects having a bearing on liberation.
iv) Sukla Dhyana : Self-contemplation of the highest degree.

    Jains categorise distinctions in the 'sarira' or body occupied by the Soul
i) Audarika Sarira : We can experience this body through senses. It is seen. Body that is born from the Mother's womb.
ii) Aharaka : Subtle body issuing from the gross body of the yogi in order to reach a distant body.
iii) Varikriya : Body assumed by a person by changing one's own body through Magic.
iv) Karmani : Sarira is constituted by subtle karmic particles.
v) Taijasa : Shining halo.

    Death implies the departure of the soul with two inner bodies, Karmana and Taijasa. Desertion of the Karmana Sarira by the immortal soul is liberation. Taijasa and Karmana bodies do not interact with other bodies. Every jiva can have at the most four bodies at a time. All the five bodies cannot co-exist because the Vaikirya and Aharaka functions do not simultaneously express themselves. In other words, every organism or Sam sari Jiva is an organic unity of two distinct entities: Jiva and Pudgala- Soul and Body. The bodies -Audarika and Karmana -change. Jainism makes an important distinction between upadana karta and nimitha karta - substantial cause and instrumental cause. Mind is the upadana kiarta of physical states and matter is the upadana karta of physical changes.

    Comprehension of the concepts is done through: i) Pramana (understanding) ii) Naya (an assertion from some one aspect) and iii) Anekanta (view from different stand points).

    Pramana is of two kinds - Pratyaksha (immediate understanding of reality) and Paroksha (immediate understanding of reality).

    Nayas are sevenfold in number
i) Naigama : Relates to the end or purpose of a course of a man who has not started cooking says "He is cooking meals".
ii) Samgraha Naya : Class point of view.
iii) Vyavahara : Conventional View.
iv) Riju Sutra : Presenting the aspect of reality from the point of view of momentary present.
v) Sabda : Implication of names.
vi) Samabhirbdah : Derivative difference of names
vii) Evambhuta : Specific situations expressed.

    Anekanta is the basic attitude of mind. "Anek" means many. "Anta" means view of  the substance or "Vasthu Dharma", Anekanta is the basic attitude of Jainas. Syad vada and saptabhangi are related to Anekanta. mind and the foundational principle. Syadvada is the expression of the Anekantavada in logical and predicatural form. Saptabhangi refers to the seven angles from which reality has to be viewed at. "Syad'l means "for our one stand point". But it does not mean doubt and it only refers to a point of view in a particular Anekanta is the basic attitude of context.

    The methodology of seven fold predications are as follows :-
i) Syad Asti : From a particular point of view I'it is".
ii) Syad Nasti : From a different point of view "it is not",
iii) Syad -Asti -Nasti : From a still different approach to problem "It is and is not".\
iv) Syed –Avaktavyam : From another point of view “lt is inexpressible".
v) Syed Asti Avaktavyam :  From a point “It is and is inexpressible".
vi) Syad Nasti Avaktavyam : From another point of view "It is not and is inexpressible"
vii) Syad Asti Nasti Avaktavyam : From a different point of view “it is, it is not and is expressible.”

    The theories of Auekantavada and Syadvada propounded by Jains are unique in nature. The basis for these theories are that words do not have the strength to express the 'fatality of truth. We say "Mango is Sweet" and "Plantain is Sweet". The word is "Sweet" in both cases. But the difference in sweetness has to be experienced to be understood. Science depends on experiments. Spirituality depends on experience. Even that experience has to be complete. Experience of six blind men in describing an elephant is a well known story. In other words, Anekanta promotes a spirit of toleration and emphasises on individual experience. Ahimsa, Anekanta and Aparigraha are three unique contributions by Jain thinkers. It is these three concepts that hold the key to future happiness in the world.