Myths Concerning Jainism and Hinduism Clarified
Myths of Jainism and Hinduism Clarified
the outset let me clarify that there is no intention to belittle or
discredit any religion or philosophy. Neither any religion nor any
groups are targeted in this article. Further we have no quarrel with
our dear Hindu brothers with whom Jains share a special relationship.
However, certain myths are being propagated by various people
questioning the very independent existence of Jainism by claiming it as
an offshoot of Hinduism. Such people, depending on their motivations,
have given rise to various myths and falsehoods, which are analyzed and
Myth # 1 – Jainism was founded by Mahavira Swami.
Truth- Jainism is an ancient religion that pre-dates lord Mahavira.
Herman Kuhn an Indologist and translator of Tattvarthasutra says –
"There exists evidence of twenty four enlightened teachers who taught
identical knowledge at much earlier times.” According to Britannica
Encyclopedia, Lord Parshvanatha, 23rd Jaina Tirthankara was a
Historical figure who flourished in 8th Century BCE. (Ref : http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9374627 )
the Buddhist and Jain records, it is clear that Jainism is older than
Buddhism and was firmly established at the time of the origin of
Buddhism. In the Samannaphala Sutta of the Dighanikaya, there is a
reference to the four vows (Chaturyama Dharma) of Parshvanatha. Lord
Neminath (22nd Tirthankar) and Lord Rushabh Nath (1st Tirthankar) are
mentioned in various Vedas and Hindu Puranas. This proves that Mahavir
Swami was a reformer and reviver of already existing Shraman traditions.
Myth # 2 – Jainism is a reactionary sect founded as a revolt against the Vedas and Brahminism.
Truth- Jainism was (and is) against violence (e.g. vedic sacrifices)
and casteism. There was no question of it being reactionary or revolt
as vedic and shraman cultures had co-existed since ages. In fact Jain
history suggests that Jainism was already an established religion when
the vedic practices came into being. Furthermore, other ekantvadi i.e.
one-sided philosophies are easily accommodated under Jaina
multi-faceted philosophy of "Anekantavada.”
Myth # 3 – Jains are basically Hindus who have adopted a Jain way of Worship.
The Truth – The Worship is just a small part of Jaina philosophy. It is much more than way of worship, namely :-
* it has its own Gods worthy of worship - Tirthankars,
* separate set of rituals different from Hindus for e.g. Jains don’t believe in ritual of shraddh for ancestors,
* it has a totally different shastras and agamas.
philosophy of worship i.e. bhakti is also different. Bhakti in Hinduism
believes in surrender to some higher entity, while bhakti in Jainism is
merely instrumental in self-realisation. Emphasis is more on securing
samyaktva i.e. rationality rather than ritualistic worship.
# 4 – Jainism can be accommodated under the umbrella of Hinduism
because Hinduism is a general religion and Jainism is a specific
religion. Sanatan Dharma is a way of life and synonymous with Indian
Truth – There is no such thing as a general or specific religion. The
word "Hindu" belongs to the category of words like "Muslim",
"Christian", "Buddhist" and "Jain" and not to the category of words
like "American", "British", "Indian", "Chinese" or "Japanese".
Surprisingly, when Hinduism is compared with Islam or Christianity, it
becomes a religion; but when it is compared with Jainism, it becomes "A
way of Life", "Culture" and "Synonymous with Indianess" etc. What is to
be realised is that, Hinduism is a religion based on the Vedic
tradition, while Jainism and Buddhism are separate religions based on
Sramanic tradition. Both of these traditions have co-existed side by
side, influencing each other, and thus creating a great ancient Indian
culture. Just as Hindus believe that theirs is a Sanatan Dharma, Jains
believe that Jainism predates Lord Mahavira to Lord Rishabhdeva, the
founder of not only Jainism, but entire human civilization.
Myth # 5 – Because of same culture, heritage, history, customs and land Jainism and Hinduism cannot be distinct from each other.
Truth - Cultural similarity, linguistic similarity etc. does not
discount the uniqueness and distinctness of a religion! Religion is
philosophy based. Not based on ethnicity or a shared culture. Sure
Jains have lots in common with Hindus. Jews, Christians and Muslims
have lots in common too. They have a common cultural heritage, common
linguistic group, common mythology, common prophets and a historical
acceptance of each other's holy books. These three are Kitabi
religions. They believe that God sent down three books, i.e. the Old
Testament (Jews), the New Testament (Christians) and the Qu'ran
(Muslims). But the Jews do not claim that Christians are Muslims are
all Jews! If one were to think that Hindu and Indian mean one and same,
then it is quite possible to say that Roman Catholic and Italian mean
one and the same and Protestant and English mean one and the same.
Myth # 6 – Jainism has a better chance of survival within Hinduism rather than outside.
Truth - As long as Jainism was clubbed with Hinduism, it got a raw deal
having no separate recognition amongst the scholars. Also despite of
general doctrinal tolerance in the Hindu tradition, history shows
instances of persecution against Jains such as in Tamil Nadu in the 7th
century, AD when Hindu Shaiva poets and teachers popularized the notion
of Jains (or Samanars in Tamil) as villains opposed to the Shaiva
creed. Hindu Saints like Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Dyayanand
Saraswati led vitriolic attacks against Jain philosophy. Many Jain
temples were destroyed and Jains killed.
a concern of modern Jains in post-independence India has been the
preservation of ancient pilgrimage sites and holy shrines which in
recent decades have come under pressure from certain fundamentalist
groups - in the case of Girnarji, Hindu devotees of the deity
Dattatreya. Bhagavan Neminatha's charana were established at Girnarji
for many thousands of years. Now, Hindus have taken over the 5th and
the 3rd hill, thus wiping out extremely important Jain heritage from
If Jainism is indeed a part of Hinduism, then....
1. Why is Jain Navkar Mantra not a part of the list of Hindu Prayers ?
2. Why is Mahavir Swami and other Jain Thirthankars not accepted as their Gods ?
3. Why is Parvyushan and Mahavir Jayanti not celebrated as festivals by Hindus?
4. Why are Jain sacred books not given equal status as Gita ? When
you accept various version of Ramayana, then why not accept Jain
version of Ramayana also?
5. Why is contribution of Jain saints from Gautam Swami to
Hemchandra Acharya ignored by Hindus and not accepted as their saints?
6. Why subvert the actual History in the text books - that
Chandragupta Maurya was a Jain. The Major Kings of that time were Jains
or gave patronage to Jainism. But this is never mentiond in our History
books. The likes of Murli Manohar Joshi have been tampering with
history since Independence.
and its contribution to India is routinely ignored by all. The simple
fact is that those Hindus who are claiming that Jains are part of
Hinduism have no respect for Jainism and its ideals. Unless Jainism
maintains its separate identity it is likely to be wiped out after a
few generations. Hence there is a great danger and threat to this
religion as long as it is considered as a part of Hinduism.
# 7 – Many Jains believe in Kuldevi’s, visit Hindu Temples, pray to
Ganesha and celebrate Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali. This proves
that Jainism is a sect of Hindusim.
Truth – Concept of Kuldevis and praying to Gods like Ganesha who are
not vitraag is not in conformity of Jain Philosophy. According to
Jainism these deities have attachment and passions. Those Jains who
worship them are doing it on their own accord and not according to
instructions from Jain Scriptures or Jain Gurus. Now if a Hindu goes to
Haji Ali Dargha for prayer or a Church, does it mean that Hinduism is a
part of Islam or Christianity?
celebrate Indian festivals along with Hindu neighbors on account of
traditions and shared culture. Festivals like Diwali which is
celebrated as Mahavira nirvana day have a different significance for
Jains. Broad mindness of Jains should not be construed as a sign of
Myth # 8 – Jain Puranas mention stories of Rama and Krishna, who are Hindu Gods.
Truth – Jain have their own version of Ramayana and Mahabharata based
on Jain philosophy. According to Jain puranas, Rama and Lakshmana were
the 8th Baldev (or Balbhadra) and Vasudev(or Narayana) and Balarama and
Krishna were 9th Baldev and Vasudev. Rama and Krishna are not Avatar’s
of Vishnu as per Jainism. Just as Hindus believe their version, Jains
believe this version to be true.
similarity of characters can be seen in other religions like Judaism,
Christianity and Islam also. According to the Principal book the Jews,
Tenakh God's name is Jahveh and the Name of prophet Moses i.e Hazrat
Musa. The Principal books of Christianity are the Old & the New
Testaments where God's name is Jehovah and the prophet is Jesus i.e
Hazrat Eisa. The Principal book Islam is the Qur'an where the God's
name is Allah and the Prophet is Mohammed i.e Hazrat Mohammed. Islam
considers both Hazrat Musa and Hazrat Eisa as prophets of God but
considers Hazrat Mohammed to be the final prophet and the Qur'an to be
the final word of God. Many of the characters occurring in their holy
books are the same. So, why don't we consider these religions to be one?
Myth # 9 – The principles of truth, non-violence, moksha are the same for both Hindus and Jains.
Truth – Other philosophies including Hinduism, believe their truth to
be absolute. As per Anekantvad in Jainism the truth is relative and
multisided. Non-violence in Jainism is ultimate – it encompasses even
the minutest life forms. On the other hand in Hinduism, it is
restricted to vegetarianism (that too under some castes) and cow
protection. Concept of God is also different. Unlike Hinduism, Jainism
does not believe God to be Creator, Operator and Destructor of
Universe. Thus it can be seen that same terms connote different
meanings in Hinduism and Jainism.
Myth # 10 – Marriage alliances between Hindus and Jains are common indicating that there is no difference between the two.
Truth – In India, the caste and socio-economic factors play an
important role in marriages. People prefer marrying their sons and
daughters within same endogamous groups. It is quite possible that a
particular endogamous group, which is dependent on the area and
socio-economic class, may have the people from both the religions.
Hence marriage between Hindus and Jains is quite possible.
Myth # 11 – It makes no difference whether one is called a Hindu or a Jain.
Truth – It does make a lot of difference. If so are Hindus willing to
be called Jains ? I dont think so. They do not accept Mahavir as their
God not our Agamas even equal to Gita or Vedas. It is their prerogative.
does matter to me as to what I am called or known as. Because it will
also define our posterity. Just as Hindus proudly want to be called
Hindus, We must take pride in our Jain identity.