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20 July, 2012
Jainism: A Concise Encyclopedia
Jainism is not a religion in the Western
or semitic sense of the term, but in the Indian or Eastern sense, which is no
more than a way of life that insists on cessation from violence, theft, lies, having
possessions, or indulgence in sensual pleasures.
It is one of the
six daily duties of Jain laymen to show compassion to all living beings and to
help the needy. Four kinds of gifts are to be offered to the distressed – food
(ahara), protection (abhaya), medicine (ausadha), and
learning (sastra) – irrespective of faith, caste, or creed.
Jain belief it was Rsabhadeva, the first of the twenty-four Tirthamkaras, who
taught men 72 arts and women 64 and initiated them into the Jain way of life.
His mission of elevating the ethical and spiritual standard of mankind was
continued and put into practice by the successive Tirthamkaras. In the hands of
he last two Tirthamkaras, Parsva and Mahavira, the traditional knowledge
derived from their spiritual ancestors assumed new form and colour. None of
them claimed to be the founder of any system. They were great reformers who
modified the entities of the existing religion evidently to meet the demand of
In the earlier
phases of its development, the geographical boundary of Jainism comprised Anga,
Magadha, Kausambi, Sthuna and Kunala according to the Kalpasutra.
Orissa, along with the country around Ujjayini was also a stronghold of early
Jainism. In the South the spread of Jainism is associated with the legends of
Bhadrabahu and Candragupta. The latter is said to be a devout Jain who breathed
his last at Sravanabelgola in Karnataka. By the end of the third century AD
Jainism had taken firm root throughout India.
There are no
comprehensive reference works on Jainism, one of the great religions of the
world. This volume tries to fill this gap. About 2,500 entries in the work seek
to provide and invaluable survey of Jainism from A to Z.
Indologist, N.N. Bhattacharyya requires no introduction. He retired as
Professor of History from Calcutta University. A reputed scholar, he wrote a
large number of books, most of which have gone into several printings. He
passed away in 2001.
Religion, Reference, India, South Asia, Reform Movement, Spirituality, Ethics