Jainism – Councils, Teachings, Jainism UPSC Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

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 Moksha. 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.

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).

Founder of Jainism

The founder of Jainism was Rishabhadev. There have been varying ideas and thoughts about the name of the founder of Jainism. Rishabhadeva is considered the first and the real founder of Jainism by far. He was the first Tirthankara out of the 24 Tirthankaras. The last or 24th Tirthankara was Mahavir Jain.

Rishabhdeva is also known by the names Adinath, Yugadeva, Adishwara, and Nabheya. His name is also found in the Rig Veda. he was also the founder of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. He is supposed to have lived millions of years ago according to the present time cycle. He was born in Ayodhya, a city in North India.

Like a regular man, he got married and had two wives Sumangala and Sunanda. He is said to have 99 sons and one daughter named Brahmi. Soon after he became a renunciate, left worldly pleasures, and started traveling. He traveled for a year with no food and the day when he had his first meal or ahara is celebrated today as an auspicious day called Akshay Tritiya.

Teachings of 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?

Jainism emerged as a religion due to various causes. It is said there was complete chaos with respect to religion in the 6th century B.C. to counter this chaos and give direction to the people, Jainism was founded. The various causes of the emergence of Jainism have been listed below:-

  • Religious Corruption: One of the major reasons was the corruption that went through religious practices and customs. The priests were said to be corrupt & duped people out of their money.
  • Expensive Rituals: People were against costly affairs in the name of various rituals and practices. They wished to have a less costly way to practice their religion.
  • Rigidity in the Caste System: There was impartiality and unfairness in the way people from different castes were treated. Therefore, there was the need to develop a system where everyone is treated equally and caste shouldn’t matter in religion.
  • Incomprehensible Language: The sacred religious texts, the Vedas were written in a difficult Sanskrit language. A common man was unable to comprehend this language. This is why the need for a different religion arose so that everyone was able to have easy access to such religious texts and could make use of the knowledge.

Spreading and Splitting of Jainism

Jainism as a religion was spread across various regions in the country slowly. Small groups were formed by the Tirthankars especially the last Tirthankara, Mahavir. His disciples or followers formed an organization that worked towards spreading the religious ideas and beliefs of Jainism. In the Western region of India, there were fewer people who wanted to follow the Brahmanical religion which is why Jainism found its place easily there.

  • The language of Jains was Prakrit which replaced the famous Sanskrit practised by Brahmans or the priests. The followers of Jainism used Prakrit as the medium to communicate their messages and beliefs. The famous kind Chandragupta Maurya is said to have spread the idea of Jainism in his time. He himself converted into a Jaina follower and sacrificed all his pleasures living his entire remaining life in Karnataka.
  • Jainism is also believed to have spread at a faster pace in other parts of the country at the behest of the famine that struck Magadha. Due to the famine, people ran toward South India and came to be known as Digambaras under their leader Bhadrabahu. The rest of the Jainis back in Magadha came to be known as Shvetambaras under Cthulhu.

Relevance of Jainism Teachings in the 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 many Jain Councils that find their mention in the sacred Jain texts. These were meetings that were held due to various reasons at various places. The main reason which is mentioned behind these councils or meetings is related to the revision or modification of the sacred Jain texts called the Jain Agamas. There was a total of 3 Jain Councils that are known to be held at various places at different times.

  • Patliputra Council: The first Jain Council was held at Patliputra and is therefore called the Patliputra Council. It was held somewhere in 300 BC which was almost 160 years after the death of the last Tirthankara-Mahavir. This meeting was chaired by Sthulabhadra. This was the council where Jainism was divided into two parts – Digambaras and Shvetambars.
  • Mathura Council and Vallabhi Council: The second council was held at two places at the same time – Mathura and Vallabhi. It was held in 512 AD. The meeting at Vallabhi was headed by Devaradhi Kshama Ramana.
  • Vallabhi Council: The third and last meeting was held in Vallabhi again called Vallabhi II. This council was mainly called by the Svetambaras and Devarddhigani Kshamashramana chaired the council meeting. It was held between 453-456 CE.

Jainism and Buddhism

Jainism and Buddhism are two famous religions practiced in India. Buddhism is gaining even more popularity today and is practiced outside India as well. Both these religions have their origins in India and are believed to have grown in Magadha which is situated in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. Gautama Buddha is said to be a contemporary of Mahavira, the last Tirthankara.

Both Jainism and Buddhism possess certain ideologies that resonate with each other and possess many differences as well. Some ideas are similar but have different ways of teaching. Both religions emerged to provide convenience to the people and bring out a religion that they found easier to follow. Some of the ideas and beliefs of Jainism & Buddhism have also been included in the Hindu religion.

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 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

There are a decent number of similarities between Jainism and Buddhism. Both of these are prevalent in India. More and more people are getting enlightened and attached to Buddhist philosophy these days. Here are some of the similarities between the two religions.

  • Both Jainism and Buddhism emerged against the Brahmanical religion and the culture of the Vedas.
  • Jainism emerged due to a major reason for bringing simplified language, inexpensive rituals, and customs for the common people that they find easy to follow. A similar ideology was followed by Buddhism.
  • Jainism and Buddhism both spread the message of Karma and faith.
  • Both religions were discovered and spread by Kshatriyas who belonged to Northern India.

Difference Between Jainism And Buddhism

Similar to the number of factors that were common between Jainism and Buddhism, there were an equal number of differences between the two as well. Take a look at the differences between Jainism and Buddhism.

Jainism Buddhism
It promotes the idea of non-violence and spreading peace. Buddhists in spite of spreading the same belief have been reported to have been involved in certain acts of non-violence in places like Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
The followers of Jainism are strictly vegetarian.

They also believe in the concept of fasting.

Buddhists do not have a strict rule about being vegetarian.

Although many Buddhists prefer being vegetarians.

Jainism does not practice meditation as a rule. Buddhists practice meditation.

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, Aparigraha, 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 to 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 is 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 and Buddhism topics of ancient history relevant to the exam in detail download the NCERT Books and the History books. Jainism and Buddhism are essential topics regarding Prelims and Mains as well.

The aspirants willing to appear in the IAS Exam can also get the syllabus and current affairs to ensure they are well prepared. The aspirants have also facilitated UPSC previous years question papers and other UPSC Study Materials.

Questions on Jainism

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] Jainism

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

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