History of The Swastika

It’s a shame that such a symbol was so perversely tainted by Nazi Germany by the end of World War II. To the western world, it was originally known as a symbol of good luck and fortune. Although the west now views it as a symbol of the most egregious evils ever committed, the swastika is still used with its original meaning in mind in many parts of India, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. There, the swastika is sacred. It is an important symbol to the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Believe it or not, historians aren’t entirely certain about the origins of the swastika. That’s because it definitely appeared during the Neolithic period which began as early as 10,200 BC. The Neolithic period was sometimes called The New Stone Age, and ran parallel to the end of the hunting-gathering way of life and beginning of the agricultural revolution. It ended when metal tools were devised. By this time, the swastika was everywhere. It’s difficult to imagine this was only the beginning since written records and art from before this period were so scarce.

The swastika may indeed have been conceived earlier than that. There are rough swastika-like designs on mammoth ivory carved into the shape of a bird, a object that is at least 15,000 years old. Such objects are known to be of Jain origin, a religion which believes that the pattern could symbolize fertility. Others believe that this interpretation of the aforementioned bird could be wishful thinking, and may did not depict a true swastika.

There might be other reasons that this is such a popular early design. Many cultures have spiritual or religious teachings based on the four elements: wind, water, fire and earth. Some historians believe that each arm of an early swastika represents each of these respective elements, while the whole represents the sun. Other historians believe that the arms are symbolic of each of the four seasons. The swastika pops up repeatedly throughout history whenever the number “four” is important to an idea or culture.

Other uses of the swastika as a symbol occurred in early Iran, Bulgaria, and Egypt. Even earlier, the Illyrians, Celts, Greeks, Germans, and Slavs used it often. Because of its pervasiveness in so many different parts of the world, some historians believe it to be a symbol of the universe.

Civil rights have come a long way since World War II, and although the current global push toward ultra-conservative political policies seems to underpin the idea that the past can indeed come back to haunt us, perhaps it’s time to forget about the swastika’s meaning to Nazi Germany. Certainly, the association with racism and murder remains, but the symbol is so much more than that to so many people around the world who fight for peace and prosperity between all of nature’s creatures.

The Seven Valued Logic

Jain philosophers developed a system to argue certain points called seven-valued logic. Under this system, statements are assigned to various predicates or truth values depending on what is essentially empirical evidence obtained about each. Can you determine the truth about something, can’t you, or do you simply not have enough information to make a determination one way or another? It’s more complicated than that, but the system of seven-valued logic has been around since at least the fifth century.

Some current-day logic and rhetoric is enough to hurt the brain. In many cultures, it’s better to have rules and guidelines to argue a point, whether valid or invalid, and seven-valued logic is a way of doing that. Then again, the seven predicates of Jain logic might further confuse those who haven’t studied the religion. The system helps determine whether statements are logical by first determining whether or not each is true, false, or unassertible. Essentially, what are the conditions under which you know something is true or false?

Jains believe in a theory of pluralism, which is a philosophical concept centered on the belief that there is more than one possible reality. In the realm of logic, pluralism means that logic isn’t simple or singular. In other words, there can be more than one logical possibility about a given statement. Many different truths can exist depending on how a particular point is argued. What one person believes to be correct may deviate substantially from what another person believes to be correct.

This belief by itself does make logical sense. The purpose behind seven-valued logic is to prove the existence of multiple views. A single statement about a red ball won’t provide a view of that ball that captures its reality perfectly for anyone. The ball may be red, round, or imperfect, but a hundred other statements may be made, either correct or incorrect. It’s impossible to know the truth about the ball because no one statement can describe it in full. A Jain will often detail seven-valued logic by telling a story about a blind man who tries to describe various realities of an elephant.

Part of this system of beliefs is based on the idea that you cannot perfect your knowledge of the reality in which you reside without first achieving liberation by perfecting your soul. The literal blind man is a metaphor for the fact that we are, all of us, blind to the realities of our universe. We can’t know it all; it’s impossible.

What Is The Tattvartha Sutra

Although the majority of the world’s population is Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, there are a number of more minor (but important) religious followings that permeate communities all over the globe. Jainism is one of them, and Jains have been spreading their teachings for at least 5000 years. It likely began by 3000 BC somewhere in the Indus Valley. Even though the religion is ancient, we still have much to learn from its teachings and strong moral principles today. The Tattvartha Sutra is a Sanskrit text written sometime within the first five centuries AD.

Throughout the ages, Jainism has been divided–albeit in small ways. This is true of any religious following. Jains are divided into the Digambara, the sky clad, and Svetambara, the white clad. Both groups follow the most rigidly important principles of Jainism. It’s the details that set them apart. The Digambara sect believes that women cannot achieve soul purification or liberation; instead, they must first be reborn into a man’s body. This sect also believes that one must remain naked, devoid of any earthly possessions that can sway moral standing.

Svetambara also retain few possessions, but are granted simple clothes, grooming tools, and books. The two sects don’t agree on which texts constitute Jain canon. In almost all other ways, they agree on fundamental Jain beliefs. The Tattvartha Sutra is important because it is considered the only text of the age that is authoritative to both the Svetambara and Digambara. When taken alongside the fact that it is one of the earliest surviving Jain books, its importance can’t be undervalued.

As a Jain, there is no contract as there is in Christianity or other similar religions. The Tattvartha Sutra and other similar texts explain that no matter who you are, your goal is to remain kind and caring to your fellow man, and even the wildlife with which you interact on a regular basis.

Liberation is an important aspect of Jainism. The goal of each follower is to obtain liberation of the soul. The very beginning of the Tattvartha Sutra book paraphrases the importance and reality of this goal. It places importance on different types of faith in knowledge. In addition, it goes on to define the differences between living and non-living and celestial, and between the different worlds. It emphasizes the vows that true Jains make, and how to achieve final liberation.

The text defines seven categories of truth, from souls to basic particles that bear similarity to those taught in any basic physics course. It places emphasis on ethics and morality in an effort to help reduce the number of future rebirths that might prevent or delay liberation. Ultimately, the Tattvartha Sutra is a text revered by any Jain follower.

Metaphysics and Jainism

The field of study that surround metaphysics is steeped in knowledge of all things, but is based largely in the abstract. What is identity and what does it mean to “be” or have knowledge? What is the reality of time and space? These are the types of questions that metaphysics deals with, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that questions surrounding various religions are asked as well. Jainism is a religion based in spirituality–a journey from one life to the next as part of an almost endless cycle that culminates when a soul is purified to achieve final liberation from corporeal form. This is a good place to start.

Even though most religions have a reputation for providing faith-based answers to many of life’s most profound mysteries, Jainism is important to metaphysics because it does the opposite. While Jainism does provide a number of faith-based teachings and spiritual thought from historical documents left from the ancient world, it also seeks to find answers to the same questions that many scientists struggle with everyday. Because metaphysics deals in the abstract, there are many potential answers to a single question.

Followers of Jainism are the first to acknowledge that the scientific field of physics revolves around what we can prove with empirical fact. What form of matter is this particle? What is its mass? Does it have an observable shape? Physics is broken down into the physical attributes that can be used to describe all matter and how it behaves in relation to other kinds of matter.  How is this similar to Jain teachings? You might be surprised.

Jain teachings show that all life is interconnected, and that’s why it should be treated with respect. That’s why the six Dravyas of Jainism are based in the same physical concepts you would learn about in school.

Dharma is a field of motion. Adharma is rest. Akasha is space. Pudgala is matter. Kala is time. These same ideas and concepts are critical to physics (kinetic and potential energy, momentum, distance, mass, time, etc.), whereas Jain philosophy deals with the more abstract metaphysical ideas. In Jainism, Pudgala undergoes constant change. A slight suspension of disbelief might allow you to bypass surprise for understanding: Pudgala is broken down into individual units, which are smaller than individual atoms. These smaller units combine into what physics would define as an atom. Jainism takes this one step further by providing other attributes, including color, smell, taste and touch.

Pudgala is also a concept used by Buddhism, but it has a different meaning. When trying to understand the metaphysical world, one could do a lot worse than try to understand the Jain religion and the teachings that provided a great deal of context far before their time. Here is a video going more in depth on what metaphysics is about.

Mahamastakabhisheka – Feb 17th through Feb 25th 2017

A small town of Shravanabelagola in the state of Karnataka in India is usually quiet, except for every 12 years. The  Mahamastakabhisheka or the Grand Consecration is a major festival for Jains that’s celebrated every 12 years. During this festival, Jain idols are anointed including the famous statue of Bhagwan Bahubali known as the Gommateshwara statue.

The statue was built in 981 AD and stands at 58.8 feet tall and it the world’s largest free-standing statue. This year will be the 88th anointing of the Gommateshwara statue and will be conducted under His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola. More than 1 million devotees are expected to attend the event in 2018.

Bhagwan Bahubli is revered because he is considered one of the first followers of Jainism to reach salvation. During the ceremony, 1008 pots that contain water and sandalwood paste are poured over the statue. During the week-long celebration milk, water, sugarcane juice, turmeric, saffron, and vermillion are bathed upon the statue. Other donations include silver and gold coins and other gems. At the conclusion of the ceremony, a helicopter drops 52 varieties of flowers upon the statue and the crowd.

This year, the local government has set up housing with running plumbing and electricity to house the millions to be estimated to come to this event. The local government is also working on upgrading roads and bus stands to help accommodate the visitors. The scaffold that is built in order to anoint the statue is approximated to have between 500-600 steps.

Mahamastakabhishekas happen at other holy Jain idols every 12 years. Next year, there will be a Mahamastakabhishekas at Dharmasthala where a different statue of Bhagwan Bahubli will be anointed. This statue is 39 feet high with a 13-foot pedestal. The attendance of that event is normally smaller than the one in Shravanabelagola. After that, the next Mahamastakabhishekas will take place in 2024 at Venur.

Good News for Jains

History is one of the most important parts of our future because it shows us the efforts made by those in the past. As such, our own efforts to protect it must be upheld at all costs. This is especially true of religious sites around the world because they not only evoke strong feelings from believers of associated religious followings, but they are a great way to document the evolution of society and culture in general.

The problem is, religious sites can be among the most difficult to keep safe because of so many conflicting beliefs and politics, and adversaries who believe in other religions or spiritual realities. Jains have reason to rejoice, however, as the Jain rock carvings in the Villupuram district have been declared a protected monument in the eyes of Lemon Law PA.

The monument depicts the icon Bahubali, a figure often revered among the Jains. Bahubali was the son of Adinath and brother to Bharata Chakravartin. Although he had an attachment to these other important Jain figures from history, he achieved much himself. The stories say that he spent a year meditating while standing. And those stories don’t mention breaks, either. So it goes that plants began to creep up his legs as time went on.

When Bahubali finally completed the entire year of meditation and eventually passed away, he was supposed liberated from the moksha–the cycle of births and deaths. This is the goal of all Jains, who are reincarnated until they achieve enough earned karma to liberate the soul from the world that we know.

The icon of Bahubali in Villupuram is important to Jains because it proves that their religion thrived a long time ago–not just today. The Tamil Nadu Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act will hopefully prevent vandals from doing any damage to this small piece of history, and furthermore should prevent businesses from conducting themselves with potentially damaging consequences in the immediate region. Each of the Jain temples that have been passed down through antiquity has the same idol within their walls.

This is the 21st Jain site protected by the same state government, and with luck, another 48 will be soon to follow. Although this is certainly a step in the right direction, more work remains to be done: there are a total of 135 known Jain sites situated around temples within the state, all with similar depictions and images. Some of these sites are over 2,000 years old, an impressive feat worthy of protecting for another 2,000 years.

Paryushana 2017 – All You Need to Know

The festival of Paryushana has already passed, but next year’s festival dates have already been set. For those who are unaware of the Jain festival, Paryushana is more commonly known as the festival of forgiveness according to the Jain faithful: an eight-day or ten-day festival (depending on whom you ask) where Jains of both of the prominent sects – Svetambara and Digambara – have significant fasting periods and ultimately seek to atone for sins they have committed upon others.

Fasting and forgiveness are the two focal points of Paryushana, the pinnacle of holy events in the Jain religion. Originating from and practiced mostly in India, Jainism teaches its followers to achieve liberation by way of non-violence (ahimsa) and renunciation or non-possession (aparigraha). Similar to Buddhism, Jainism believes in a cycle of reincarnation that will ultimately lead to the liberation of and true bliss of the soul when one has truly achieved these and the other three major mahavratas of brahmacarya (chaste living or sexual restraint), satya (truthfulness) and asteya (non-stealing) – cumulatively known as the Five Great Vows.

The celebration of Paryushana itself has no strict protocol, and it only suggests that its followers practice as they are able. Typically common in either sect, however, is the recital of several chapters from holy text. For the Svetambara (also known as the “white-clad”), followers often recite from the Kalpa Sutra, a collection of biographies of Tirthankaras – saviors and spiritual teachers – or of the Antagada Sutra to learn of those who had achieved moksha – spiritual liberation from the cycle of karma, similar in concept to Buddhism’s nirvana. The Digambara (the “sky-clad”) often recite from the Tattvartha Sutra, which compiles a rich philosophy of Jainism in the span of ten chapters. This text is generally regarded as one of the authoritative texts on Jainism as a whole, and is held in high esteem between both the Digambara and the Svetambara.

Both Digambara and Svetambara also celebrate Paryushana by way of fasting, and this only has slight differences between the two factions. Digambara often practice this by consuming food or water no more than once per day. Svetambara recognize this by consuming only water, also boiled, between sunrise and sunset. Fasting for Jains is said to be a process of purifying the body and the soul, and that the act of fasting in itself will not suffice for Jains – one who truly follows this spiritual path during a fast must also restrain themselves from having the very desire of eating and drinking, or else the fasting is viewed as worthless.

The other major component and reason of Paryushana, forgiveness, falls in line with the great vow of ahimsa – non-violence. For both Svetambara and Digambara, the final day of the festival of Paryushana culminates in a mass prayer for forgiveness of all offenses. Jains of both sects often practice this by chanting, “Micchami dukadam.” Roughly translated, this means, “If I have offended you – knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, in word or in action – then I seek your forgiveness.” Because Jains actively ask for forgiveness, essentially, from all living beings – not only friends, family or strangers – some also refer to this act as the “rite of universal friendship.”

HOLY DAYS OF JAINISM

Jainism has been a part of Indian traditions and culture dating more than 25 centuries. Though it is one of the oldest traditions and religious philosophies in India, it Is not considered part of “mainstream” religious teaching in the country, as Hinduism has long been the standard of the South Asia country.

Jainism is not so much a “religion” – it Is considered “nontheistic” – as it is a way of life, a philosophy of living. But even as just a philosophy, Jainism has developed an estimated 5 million followers, with most of them in India. It is a philosophy centered around non-violence to all living creatures (meaning it generally has a vegetarian lifestyle), and a progression through successive lives” until perfection is achieved in moral and spiritual living.

While taking some ideas from Hinduism and Brahmanism in that Jainism used to be considered a denomination of either, it does have just enough different from those religions as to be considered its own philosophy. Just like those and otherworldly religions, Jainism has its share of holy days and festivals that carry significance to adherents and are generally followed and honored with rituals and celebrations to further the goal of achieving spiritual purity.

There are five main holy festivals in Jainism:

  • Mahavira Jayanti, which celebrates the birth of Jainism’s founder Mahavira (who lived in the 7th century A.D.). Occurring in late March or early April, Mahavira’s birthday is celebrated with worship by the community of Jains, processionals, and devotionals.
  • Paryushana, which is an eight-day festival held in late August or early September, and is considered the holiest time on the Jain calendar. All Jains are required to fast (which usually means shunning all food or drink), and each day excerpts of the sacred Jain scripture are read out loud in the community. There are seven days of “attainment” during the festival, and the last day is the day of “fulfillment.”
  • Diwali is essentially a New Year’s celebration, held in late October or early November. The night of Diwali is a time for Jains to recite hymns and conduct mediations. The Diwali is supposed to signify the night in which Mahavira reached a state of “absolute bliss,” or Nirvana. The morning after Diwali is supposed to signify the first day of the new year on the Jain calendar.
  • Kartak Purnima is the Jain pilgrimage, which occurs on a day in late October or early November when Jains travel to one of the Jain holy sites.
  • Maura Agyaras is a full day of meditation and fasting. Held in late November or early December, it is a day in which Jains observe total silence – no communication whatsoever with anyone.

Jainism is similar to Buddhism and Hinduism in that they are about living many lives and making progress toward spiritual perfection using the highest standards of good and moral behavior, thought and action. Fasting and meditation are common rituals among Jains and employment lawyers, and to honor the progress they make every day, having these festivals and celebrations give Jains an opportunity to get closer to their spiritual cores and that spiritual perfection they believe is attainable.

THE 9 PHILOSOPHIES OF JAINISM

Jainism is one of those spiritual philosophies that is entirely about self-improvement.

Similar to Hinduism, Jainism is a philosophy that considers a person as going through a continuous cycle of birth, life, death, and re-birth in succession so that each new life is a little more “pure” than the last, until the person reaches a state of perfection so that the cycle of birth and death is broken.

This attainment of perfection believed by Jains come from basic principles of good actions, thoughts and behaviors – which are often called Right Belief, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct.Based on these principles, Jainism takes thought and action and value them as the same, while some religions (including original Christianity as Jesus taught it) tended to make thought superior to deed. In Jainism, if the action is not spiritually sound, then the thought is not either, and vice versa.

The Jain philosophy of right action and right thought has a foundation that consists of what are called “nine fundamentals” of Jainism. We’ll spell these out one by one.

  1. Jiva is about a soul that is eternal, invisible, formless and cannot be destroyed. It is seen as an eternal energy, and all living beings are called Jiva.
  2. Anjiva is that which has no soul or consciousness (a non-living thing). Anjiva is divided five ways: method of movement (Dharmastikay), method of rest (Adarmastikay), matter itself (Pudgalastikay), space (Akashatikay), and time (Kala).
  3. Punya, which is received by completing tasks of good. These can include charity, forwarding religious philosophy to others, and other deeds deemed “wholesome.” Punya means literally “results of good deeds,” not the deeds themselves. It is fruitage, if you will.
  4. Pap is the opposite of Punya in that it is the result of bad actions or behaviors. Any act of cruelty, anger or violence can bring about negative results to the perpetrator.
  5. Asrava is essentially “karma is a b**ch.” Any badbelief, passion or negligent behavior brings about bad karma, or asrava, which “attaches” to the soul.
  6. Samvar is that which would stop the karma that comes from asrava. Samvar is about repentance, careful reflection, self-control and suffering for past bad deeds.
  7. Bandh is the idea of karmas putting us in bondage. This comes about when we react to a situation with a sense of investment, whether emotional, mental of spiritual.
  8. Nirjara is the erasure or elimination of karma. Karmas can be shed either actively or passively. Passive means waiting until the karmas “mature” and give off their results, while active iscan be asking for forgivenmess, paying penance, and meditating – all meant to accelerate the “maturing” of the karmas.
  9. Moska, which is liberation, or freedom from all karmas.

Jains will be expected to honor five main tenets, which will help ease the amount of karmas that must be covercome to achieve liberation. The five tenets are non-violence toward any living creature, non-attachment to any and all posessions, celibacy or at least sexual control, plus no lying and no stealing.  Karmas may still come, but following these five tenets as closely as possible will keep most karmas away and make it easier to achieve spiritual freedom.

Do Jains Believe In An Afterlife?

The idea of an afterlife in Jainism might exist, but not in the way that most other people think about it. To the Jains, life is a path to spiritual enlightenment and eventual liberation guided by the Tirthankaras. One life, however, might not be enough to get there, and depending on the sect of Jainism to which you belong, you might not be able to get there at all if you were born a female. That’s where reincarnation comes into play.

If you’re a Jain, then how you live your life affects what happens to you after you die. That said, there are 17 different kinds of death that a Jain can experience, two of which are said to be more important than all the rest.

One is called Akama Marana. This type of death is experienced by someone who doesn’t want to die. While this might seem like it would be the most common form of death, that’s an outside perspective. To a Jain, this life is just a single leg of a very long trek to liberation. That said, this is the form of death often experienced by those ignorant of the cycle of reincarnation. If you aren’t aware of how a person is reborn, are ignorant of the other worlds and universes that exist, or don’t comprehend how your soul might eventually be liberated at the end of your long journey, then you have experienced an Akama Marana.

The second important form of death is called Sakama Marana and is more typical of a Jain believer. One who experiences this form of death isn’t afraid to die and will accept death as a transition to the next life or liberation. This person knows that death is inevitable and natural, and attempting to prevent or postpone death is futile. Most Jains strive for this type of death, as it runs parallel to their beliefs.

Jains believe that the soul is eternal. The cycle of life and death is everlasting until spiritual enlightenment and liberation can be achieved. In fact, the only purpose of the physical form of matter is its effect on living beings: how we experience life in both pleasure and pain, and how we live and die as well.

In order to achieve liberation from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, a Jain must live life according to a number of important doctrines, all which stress the importance of peace. The Jains believe in striving to live in community not only with their human neighbors but also with animals. The 24 Tirthankaras are presumed to be the only religious followers (and leaders) of Jainism to have been liberated from the cycle and so for everyone else, it continues, on and on.