I would like to tell a word before I write on the study. Doing something is better than doing nothing. That is the principle I applied in my study. The histories and literature have always varied and different interpretations. The sources used in the study are also always of a matter of many questions. I made a little effort amongst such many matters of questions which deserve to be excused if any wrong mentions are there in the study.
Jainism, we may call Jain Dharma or Jain faith is more ancient than Buddhism, that is Bouddha Dharma. But, Jain literature came to light later than Bouddha Dharma leaving a strong impression that Bouddha Dharma arose earlier. Amongst Indian religious literatures, Jain literature had its own importance and place. The Jain authors wrote keeping in view the common people and in such a way that it was accessible to the common people. The ancient interpretative commentaries first came in the Prakriti languages namely Magadhi and Maharashtri. Svetambara Jains began writing in Sanskrit and they wrote in simple Sanskrit, but not classical and we may call it a spoken Sanskrit and it continued till 12th century.
Jain literature came in the south India in Tamil and Kannada and in the north India in Gujarati and Hindi. Jain literature was created in all the literary genres of those times such as myths, stories, drama, descriptive slokas and interpretive commentaries. Some works came in the spoken language of those times and some in classic language.
Bhagavan Mahavir was born in 599 before Christ in Khatriyakund-Kundalpur-now in Bihar. His father was Siddhartha, king of Khatriyakund and mother was Trishala, sister of Chetak, the king of Vishali. He established a Dharma called Tirth and he was known as Thirthankar. Tirth in Sanskrit means voyage known as Yatra. It symbolizes voyage of life detached from the material worldly life to the ultimate goal of having no rebirth. Non-violence, Tolerance, Happy mind and pardoning are the pillars of Jain Dharma. It understood realistically that human beings commit some wrongs through innocence and ignorance and as such they deserve to be pardoned and hence it included pardoning as one of its pillars.It does not believe in the concept of The Creator, Omnipresent- Omniscient, Omnipotent. It regards the Thirthankar as their preacher and guide with his purity of mind and heart completely detached from material life. He preached Non- violence, Truth, No ownership of property and wealth and Not to steal or grab and Not to enjoy illegal sex pleasures. His preachings guide their life and living and they follow them wholeheartedly and they do not believe in God as such as God is a belief and Thirthankar is a man before their eyes who guides their life and living to be happy. He is not an ordinary man. He is a man completely detached from worldly material life. He regards physical body as a shelter cloth for his soul. His preaching are known as Agam Sutras.
It believes in many births. It preaches detachment from worldly material life through the voyage of such life to reach the ultimate goal of having No rebirth.
It believes all living beings in the nature are equal including humans. All the souls are equal. This philosophy of nature is an integral part of Jainism. It kills the egoism in the humans. It creates peace and happiness that each and every living being desires.
These are the salient aspects and characteristics in brief of Jain Dharma as commonly understood by the common people.
I shall attempt to analyze and explain the essence of some stories briefly and in such a way that they are easily accessible to the common readers.
A: King Megharath:
Two divine men had a discussion on a topic-there are great men in the earthly world who sacrifice even their life to protect and save the life of anyone who asks them to save their life. To test it, one of them became a pigeon and the other falcon. The pigeon went running towards the feet of the king and fell on his feet begging to protect its life. At the same time, a falcon hunting the pigeon went to the king and said" it is my food. Please give it back to me". The king said" the pigeon asked me to protect its life and hence I can not give it back to you." The ministers in the session said" we will get another pigeon and give you." The king said " it is unjust to kill one life to protect another life. I will give my flesh to the falcon". The falcon said" you should give your flesh equal to the weight of the pigeon". The king agreed and cut flesh from his body and kept on side of the balance with the pigeon on the other side. The pigeon was of more weight. Then the king himself sat on the balance to sacrifice himself meditating . Surprisingly, the falcon and pigeon appeared as the two divine men and appreciated his high virtues and values.
The story is self-explanatory. The life of pigeon to it is as valuable as the life of king to him. All souls and lives are equal and equally valuable and Protection of life with sacrifice of one's own life are the basic concepts of philosophy of Jainism.
B: A fierce Snake Chandra Kaushik:
This event occurred when Mahavir was leading his saintly life. He was going to a village called Vachala. He was to proceed through a thick forest. There was a fierce Snake in the forest. If it looks at any person with its cruel eyes, he becomes ashes. The villagers were living with the fear of the snake without peace of mind. They advised Mahavir not to proceed through the forest. He went into the forest and sat under a tree meditating. The snake attempted several ways frightening him. He did not mind in his deep meditation. It sprinkled its poison on him, but he did not mind it. It became furious and bit him on his toe, but milk came out from his toe and no blood. Then Mahavir said " calm yourself, calm yourself. You think over what you are doing ". The snake suddenly came to know of its earlier two births. It realised that it inherited anger and egoism from its earlier two births. It began to live thereafter without doing any harm to anyone with peace and harmony.
It is clear from the story that Jainism believes in rebirth and it's ultimate goal is not to have rebirth. It is also clear that if one lives his life without doing any harm to anyone, he could live happy life without fear and with peace of mind.
C : Bhagavan Mahavir and a cattleman:
Bhagavan Mahavir sat under a tree in meditation. A cattleman came to him and asked him to take care of his cattle for sometime as he would go to the nearby village to purchase some groceries. Mahavir was in his meditation and did not reply. The cattle man left his cattle and went to the village. When he returned, he did no find his cattle. He asked Mahavir about his cattle, but Mahavir was in his meditation and did not reply him. He went hurriedly in search of his cattle. He could not find them anywhere and returned with despair. Surprisingly his cattle also returned there and he thought that Mahavir made some magic and made his cattle missing and prepared to beat him. Surprisingly, an angel appeared and explained him about Mahavir. The cattleman repented for his ignorance. Mahavir did not get angry with the cattle man. When the angel wanted to help him whenever necessary, he refused and said " the Jain saints should live with their own Gyan, celestial knowledge and self-help". It is clear that they should not take anything from others.
There was a very wealthy man in the Vanijyanagaram called Anand who was leading a family life. On hearing the Mahavir's words, he accepted to follow twelve principles on oath a person leading family life should follow. He followed them for fourteen years with commitment and purity. He then relieved himself from his family responsibilities handing over them to his sons and spent spiritual life for some years. After some years, he got Avadhignan and visited twelfth divine world. One day, Mahavir's principal disciple, Gouthamswamy went to see Anand and Anand told him that he saw the twelfth divine world. Gothamswamy did not believe his words.He further asked him to repent for what he said. Anand questioned him why he should repent when he told the truth. Gouthamswamy told Bhagavan Mahavir about all that had happened. Bhagavan Mahavir said that what Anand said was true and asked him to pardon him to be excused and Gouthamswamy did so. Anand felt happy over it. The message is that nothing in the world is greater and stronger than truth.
E: Surasen and Mahasen :
The princes Surasen and Mahasen were living together with love helping each other. A small wound arose on the tongue of Mahasen and it could not be cured by using medicines. Surasen committed not to take food and observe fasting until his brother recovered from his illness. He meditated praying Namokar mantram and dropped the pure water on his tongue for several days and he recovered from the illness. Acharya Bhadrababu explained that Mahasen in his previous life committed a sin and not repented for the sin and hence he suffered from the illness. when a snake was about to bite a Jain saint, he forced himself to kill it despite the saint's words not to kill it nor did he repent for his sin. It was the cause of his suffering. The message is that killing even a poisonous living being like snakes is sinful according to Jainism.
F: Ranichelna and Rajusrenik :
Magadha's Rajusrenik belongs to Bouddha dharma and Ranichelna belongs to Jain dharma. He was of the opinion that Jain saints did not put in practice the Jain dharma sincerely with dedication. One day, he went to the forest and found a Jain saint in meditation and left his hounds on him, but he did not mind it. He shot at him with arrows, but the saint remained calm in his meditation. He grew angry and put a dead snake around his neck and returned to his palace. Ranichelna came to know about it and she was worried about the sins Rajusrenik committed and went to the saint along with him. She removed the dead snake and ants and other insects on his body, cleaned his body and comforted his body with sandalwood paste. The Jain saint opened his eyes and blessed them both with equal love and affection. Rajusrenik was surprised at his tolerance and non-violence and accepted Jain dharma. It clarifies that Jain saints observed Jain dharma with commitment and dedication.
Srapathseth and his wife Sundari observe and follow the oaths they had taken with commitment and dedication with deep belief in Jainism, but their son Kamalsen had no belief in them. One day they took him to Acharya Gunasagar-Suri and asked him to teach him on Jainism and practice of oaths and their advantages. Acharya taught him telling interesting stories. One day Acharya said to him " are you interested in takingand practicing an oath?" Kamalsen agreed and took an oath" I do not eat food without seeing the bald head of the potter" and Acharya accepted it. One day the potter went to the forest to dig and bring the earth to make pots. While digging ,he found a pot with golden ornaments. Kamalsen saw his bald head and shouted" I saw it" The potter heard his shout and said" I shall give you half of the ornaments to you. Please do not tell anyone about it". Kamalsen was surprised when he got the golden ornaments and said to himself" I made the oath as a matter of fun and became rich unexpectedly and surprisingly! Had I made the oath wholeheartedly, I would have got more golden ornaments and become richer!" Thereafter, he made many oaths and followed them with commitment and lived happily with peace and harmony.
It is a historical fact that the religious teachers and leaders always employed various ways and means to create faith in the people and make their religions stronger and larger.
H: Puniya Sravak:
Puniys Sravak and his wife are poor, but they implement two oaths they took with sincerity and commitment. One oath is that they should not earn more than one ANA, that is twelfth part of a rupee in a day and the second oath is that they should give food to the persons who live truthful living. For doing it, one day he does not take food and give it to them and the next day his wife. One day, when he was in the meditation of- SAMAYIKA- his mind was disturbed. When he asked his wife, she told that she cooked the food using cow dung which was freely available. Then he said" it is wrong! we should do it with our hard earned money only!". Bhagavan Mahavir appreciated his commitment.
One day Srenik Maharaja asked Bhagavan Mavir as to what should be done to be liberated from the wrong things done and sins. He advised him to know about the- SAMAYIKA- from Puniya Sravak. He asked Puniya Sravak. He replied" it is not something that can be sold and bought" He was disappointed at his reply and returned to his palace.
I: MONEY BAG:
Two brothers did business together in a village, earned huge money and were returning to their own village. Each one of them had a thought that they should kill the other one and have the full money for himself. But, within some minutes, they felt shy for such a cruel thought and unfolded their mind to each other and repented. They understood that the money bag was the cause for such a cruel thought and threw the money bag into a water pond by the wayside. A fish swallowed the money bag and the fish was bought by a woman. When she cut the fish, the money bag came out. A dispute arose between the woman and the two brothers and in the quarrel the woman lost her life. The two brothers got their money bag back because of their true repentance.
J: Do not taste once tasted by another one:
The Prince Aristalemi and the princess Ranimati were about to be married. The Prince on the way to the palace of the princess found many animals kept in the fence. He came to know that they were kept there to be killed and their meat used for the marriage feast. He was deeply moved and took up Yativratam, that is detachment from the worldly life. He informed the princess of his oath and the princess also took similar oath of detachment. When she was on her journey as a Sanyasini, rain began to fall and she entered a valley to protect her from the rain. The prince's elder brother was already there and he wanted her to quench his desire. She became furious and warned him not to try to taste once tasted by another one. He repented for his mistake and began to practice religious ethics with commitment.
There are some stories in Devendra's interpretative commentary known as Bhashyam and also in BhavaderaSuri's Parshvanath Charita(1255) belonging to Jainism.
During the period from 1000 to 1600 years, over 13 Katha Kavyas came with the names of the authors and many came without the author's names.
Jain stories came in Prakrutam, Sanskrit, in the combination of Prakrutam and Sanskrit, Apabhrasam and in some Indian regional languages.
The Jain Dharma, thus played an historic role in enriching the Indian ancient story to great heights.