Jainism- Councils, Teachings, Jainism UPSC Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : October 6th, 2022

Jainism, also known as Jain Dharma is a religion at least 2500 years ago. Jainism originated in India, and the spiritual goal is to be liberated from the infinite rebirth cycles achieving Moksh. Jainism is as important as other ancient Indian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Vardhamana Mahavira is the 24th Tirthankara in Jainism, and the religion talks about Pancha Mahavrata (five great vows). Jainism is split into two sects- Swetambaras and Digambaras. Download Jainism UPSC notes to comprehensively prepare for the crucial topic, the questions related to this topic are asked in the Prelims and Mains exam.

Table of Content

What Is Jainism?

The founder of Jainism was the 1st Tirthankar, Rishabhadeva. In the Jain religion, there are 24 Tirthankars. Tirthankar means a person who has already crossed the line of the cycle of life and death and becomes Jina, which means Conqueror, becoming Arhat means able, and who became Mahavira means enlightenment.

  • The first Tirthankar is Rishabha Dev, whose name has been given in Rigveda; except for Mahavira and Parshavanath, all 24 Tirthankaras are not historically justified.
  • Parshavanath, the 23 Tirthankar in Jain tradition, belongs to the Kshatriya royal family of Kasi. He propounded 4 principles -Truth, Non-Violence, No Stealing, No Accumulation, and the fifth one was added by Mahavira, which is Celibacy, and then it became panch maha vrata for all followers of Jainism.
  • Major Jain pilgrimage in India includes Dilwara Temple in Mount Abu (Rajasthan), Palitana Temples (Gujarat), Girnar (Gujarat), Shikharji (Jharkhand), and Shravanabelagola(Karnataka).

Who Is Mahavira?

Vardhamana Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara, born at Kundalgram in Vaishali to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala, who ruled over the Jnatrika clan in 540 BC. At 30, he left his home to live an ascetic life. According to Jain Holy books, on the the10th day of Vaishaka, he reached the town of pava near Patna, where he found the truth of life, i.e., kevalya.

He was given the title 'Mahavira' or the great hero. Some other titles given to him are Jaina or jitendriya i.e., one who conquers all his senses, and nirgrantha, or the one who is free from all bonds. At 72, he died in pava near Rajagriha (now in Patna).

Teachings of Mahavir in Jainism

The followers of Jainism are bound by their religion to live in such a way that would not harm any being. According to Jainism, one can get rid of bad Karma and pull themselves out of the cycle of rebirth and achieve salvation through a three-jewel fold path of right belief, knowledge, and conduct. These three jewels of Jainism are commonly called Ratnatraya. Jains are compulsorily supposed to follow the five constraints in life:

  • Ahimsa(Non-Violence)
  • Satya(Truthfulness)
  • Asteya (Non-Stealing)
  • Aparigraha(Non acquisition)
  • Bhattacharya(chaste living).

Why Did Jainism Emerge?

Post-Vedic society was divided into four varnas: Brahmanas, Kshatriya, Vaishyas, and Shudras. Each Varna was assigned well-defined functions. The classification of Varna was based on birth, and two varnas were given the highest class and the powers.

  • But, these varnas created tensions in society. We have no means of ascertaining the reactions of the vaishyas and the Shudras, but the Kshatriya, who functioned as a ruler, reacted strongly against the ritualistic domination of Brahmanas and seems to have led a kind of protest movement against the importance attached to birth in varna system.
  • The Kshatriya reaction against the domination of Brahmanas, who claimed various privileges, was one of the causes of the origin of new religions. Vardhamana Mahavira, who founded Jainism, and Gautam Buddha, who founded Buddhism, belonged to the Kshatriya clan and disputed the Brahmanas' authority.
  • However, the real cause of the rise of these new religions lies in the spread of the new agricultural economy in North-Eastern India. North-East India, including regions of eastern UP and northern and Southern Bihar, has about 100 cm of rainfall.

The following are the other causes of the emergence of Jainism-

  • It was taught in Pali and Prakriti language, which is more understandable and accessible for ordinary people than Sanskrit.
  • People of all castes are welcome in Jainism.
  • Vedic religion has become highly observant.
  • The Varna system is rigid, and people of lower caste lead pathetic life where the believers of Jainism provide them with a glorious life.
  • A great famine within the Ganges Valley occurred after the 200 years of the Mahavira death, which prompted King Chandragupta Maurya and Bhadrabahu, the last Acharya of undivided Jain Sanga, to migrate to Karnataka.

Spreading And Splitting of Jainism

To spread the teaching of Jainism, Mahavira organized an order of his followers that admitted both men and women. He preached his teachings in Prakrit, the language of common people. The followers of Mahavir were not large in numbers; they were just 14000. Despite this, Jainism gradually spread into south and west India, where Brahmanical religion was weak.

  • According to a late tradition, the spread of Jainism in Karnataka is attributed to Chandragupta Maurya. The emperor became a Jaina, gave up his throne, and spent the last year of his life in Karnataka as a Jaina ascetic, but any other source does not corroborate this tradition. Another reason that was believed to exist behind the spread of Jainism was the great famine in Magadha after the death of Mahavira.
  • The famine lasted for 12 years, and in order to protect themselves, many Jainas migrated to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu, though the rest of them stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of Sthalabahu.
  • The emigrant Jainas also spread Jainism in complete India, including the southern part.
  • At the end of the famine, they return to Magadha where they develop differences with local Jainas. Those who returned from the South claim that even during the famine, they strictly observed the religious rules. They alleged too that Jaina ascetics living in Magadha had violated those rules and had become lax.
  • To sort out these differences and to compile the principal teaching of Jainism, a council was convened in Patliputra, modern Patna, but the Jainas who had returned from the south boycotted it and refused to accept its decisions.

Relevance Of Jainism Teachings In Contemporary World

The major teachings of Jainism that are parallel with the contemporary world are listed here. The doctrines of Jainism teach us to follow the path of non-violence and non-possession. The teachings of Jainism will help us in living with peace and prosperity in today's world.

  • Attempt to reform ill practices of the varna system.
  • Expansion of Prakrit and Kannada languages.
  • The principle of Ahimsa is that is non-violence helpful in reducing growing violence and terrorism.
    • It also helps to promote the No First Use nuclear policy.
  • The principle of Aparigraha, which is non-possession also helps reduce people's greedy nature.
    • It can also help reduce Green House Gas Emissions by controlling or non-possession attitudes toward luxuries producing carbon emissions.
  • It also contributed to prosperous architecture and literature.

Jain Councils

There are two main Jain councils held, the first in Patliputra and the second one in Vallabhi. Walk through the complete details of the first and second Jain councils as illustrated here.

  • First Jain council
    • The first Jain Council was held at p\Patliputra in the 3rd century B.C. and was presided by Sthulbhadara.
  • Second Jain council
    • The second Jain council was held in Vallabhi in 512A.D. and was presided by Devardhi Kshmasramana.
    • In this, the final compilations of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas occur.

Jainism and Buddhism

It is said that Mahavira added only the fifth Doctrine. The rest of the four were taken from the teachers in the past. Jainism attaches the utmost importance to Ahimsa or noninjury to living beings. Jains do believe in God and his existence but kept them below the Jina. Also, they didn't condemn the varna system, unlike Buddhism. Jainism taught five doctrines that are.

  1. do not commit violence
  2. do not tell a lie
  3. do not steal
  4. do not hoard
  5. observe continence(brahmacharya).

Buddha was a practical reformer who worked and taught the world's realities. According to Buddha, the world has both happiness and sorrow, and people have to face both equally. They cant be controlled according to their desires. But if the person can hold back desires to attain nirvana, he is considered free from the cycle of birth and death. Buddha recommended an eight-fold path to eliminate human misery. These 8-fold paths are-

  1. Right Observation
  2. Right Determination
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Awareness
  8. Right Concern.

If a person follows this eight-fold path, he would free himself from priests' machinations and reach his destination. Gautam Buddha taught that a person should avoid an excess of both luxury and austerity and prescribed the middle path.

Similarities In Jainism and Buddhism

Jainism and Buddhism share certain similarities. The complete list of the similarities has been presented here. Both Jainism and Buddhism believed in non-violence and Karma.

  • Buddhism and Jainism both rejected the Vedas that is Grand rituals and priest class
  • The founder of both Jainism and Buddhism, Mahavira and Gautam Buddha, was born into a royal family. Both of them left their luxurious lives to attain moksha or enlightenment.
  • Both Buddhism and Jainism emphasize the need for nonviolence towards animals, who must be treated the same as human beings.
  • Both Buddhism and Jainism believe in Karma.
  • There is a concept of reincarnation in Buddhism. and In Jainism that refers to the soul's rebirth in a new body following the death of the previous one.

Difference Between Jainism And Buddhism

Along with numerous similarities, there are certain points that underline the difference between Jainism and Buddhism. Check out the differences between Jainism and Buddhism that have been listed here.

  • Buddhism did not believe in the soul, while Jainism believed in the soul.
  • In Buddhism Sangha and Monks were given prominence, while In Jainism lay followers were given prominence.
  • In Buddhism liberal feelings and practical actions were emphasized while In Jainism extreme Ahimsa was emphasized.
  • In Buddhism, the middle path is a reasonable way to salvation while In Jainism the method of Salvation is far from ordinary.
  • Buddhism quickly spread to other countries also while Jainism is mostly limited to India.

Sects Of Jainism

There are two major sects of Jainism that are Digambara and Svetambara. The follower of each sect possesses different ideologies. The monks who follow the sect Digambara follow all five vows of Satya, Ahimsa, Asetya, Aparigragha and Brahmacharya. They follow complete nudity. The major sub-sects of Digambara are Mula Sangha, Bisa Pantha, Terapantha, and Taranpantha. The minor sub-sects are Gumanapantha, Totapantha.

The monks who follow the Svetambara sect usually wear white clothes. They are the believers and followers of four vows that are Satya, Ahimsa, Aparigraha, and Asetya. The major sub-sects of the Svetambara are Murtipujaka, Sthanakvasi, and Terapanthi. 

The segregation in both sects arose due to the famine in Magadha. Some people moved to South India, while others remained in Magadha. The famine lasted for 12 years, the group in South India were the strict followers of the doctrines and principles, while the group in Magadha adopted a different approach. After the strict followers returned to the Magadha, this led complete segregation into two groups and the rise of two sects of Digambara and Svetambara.

Jainism Literature

The Jain literature is segregated into two types, Agam literature and Non-Agam literature. The Agam literature are a compilation of the illustrious teachings of the Lord Mahavira which is further divided into two types that are Ang-Agams and Ang-bhaya-agams. The non-agam literature contains the teachings of other monks or the explanation of the agam literature etc.

Jain Architecture

The Jain architecture lays an impeccable foundation of uniqueness. It has certain degrees of differences from the Buddhism and Hinduism architectures. The remarkable examples of Jain architecture are Ellora caves, Mangi Tungi caves, Gajapantha caves etc.

Jainism UPSC Notes

Jainism is an important part of ancient Indian history. This is an unavoidable topic of ancient history for the UPSC Exam. Jainism UPSC topic has been asked mostly in the prelims exam. To prepare the Jainism UPSC and Buddhism topics of ancient history relevant to the exam in detail download the NCERT Books for UPSC and the History UPSC Books. Jainism and Buddhism are essential topics regarding UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains as well.

☛ Download Jainism UPSC Notes

The aspirants willing to appear in the IAS Exam can also get UPSC Syllabus and Current Affairs to ensure they are well prepared. The aspirants have also facilitated UPSC Previous Years Question Papers and other Study Materials. Candidates can also download the Jainism UPSC Notes PDF which includes all relevant topics for the upcoming exam.

Jainism UPSC Question

There are numerous questions asked about this essential topic in the Prelims and Mains exam. You can solve the questions that have been given here to get in touch with the type of questions asked from this topic, you can get complete ideation of the concept and an illustrated cognizance of all the pertinents.

[Prelims 2018] Question 1. Anekantavada is a core theory and philosophy of which one of the following?

(a) Buddhism

(b) Jainism

(c) Sikhism

(d) Vaishnavism

Answer:- Option B

Question 2. Concerning the history of ancient India, which of the following was/were common to both Buddhism and Jainism?

  1. Avoidance of extremities of penance and enjoyment
  2. Indifference to the authority of the Vedas
  3. Denial of the efficacy of rituals

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer:- Option D

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FAQs on Jainism

  • The founder of Jainism is Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara of Jainism. It has been originated in India. The main doctrines and teachings of Jainism are Ahimsa. Satya, Asatya, Aparigraha, Bhattacharya. There are major two councils of Jainism. The first one was held in Patliputra and the second one was held in Vallabhi.

  • There are two major sects of Jainism that are Digambara and Svetambara. The famine in Magadha lead to the migration of a group to South Africa, which became the basis of the separation and rising of the two sects. The strict followers were Digabara while the Svetambara adopted a slightly varying approach.

    • Digambara- They are believers in complete nudity. They majorly follow the four vows of Satya, Ahimsa, Asetya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.
    • Svetamabara- They usually wear white clothes. They follow the four vows of Asetya, Ahimsa, Satya and Aparigraha.
  • The doctrines and teachings of Jainism will assist us in attaining peace and enlightenment in the contemporary world. The non-violence and non-possession principles will assist us in respecting all living forms and their needs.

  • Yes, jainism is essential for the UPSC exam, for prelims and mains. The candidates can get a comprehensive knowledge of the topic of Jainism to crack the exam with ease. You must practice the UPSC previous year papers to get in touch with the questions asked in the exam.

  • The three guiding principles, the three jewels of Jainism, are right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct. The preachings and doctrines of Jainism are relevant in the contemporary world.

  • The first Tirthankara of Jainism was Rishabhanath and the last Tirthankara was Mahavira which is on the 24th. The preachings of Jainism are based on non-violence and non-possession.

  • The first Jain Council was held at Patliputra in the 3rd century B.C. and was presided by Sthulbhadara. It was held in 3rd century B.C.

  • The second Jain council was held in Vallabhi in 512A.D. and was presided by Devardhi Kshmasramana. It possesses 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.

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