Three years of Jain Avenue and Us
Jainism has been a prominent religion for ages because of its emphasis on introspection and self-purification. Lord Mahavir’s main teaching is ‘soul is pure and immortal, everything else is situational and temporal’. So, the main goal of Jainism is Aatma (Soul) purification in order to attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Religion gives strength and guidance to life. Online Digital multimedia Jain Avenue magazine completes three years, let us understand how we want to show our identity as ‘Jains’? Are we on right Path? Our entire mission is to attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Today let us examine ourselves with a few questions.
Is Jainism about “strict rituals” or “sound practices in life”? Going to Derasar or doing Pratikraman daily are examples of rituals while practicing non-violence and minimalism are examples of practices.
Is a person Jain because that person ardently follows certain rituals OR is that person Jain because person practices certain behaviours?
Is Jainism so hard, difficult, and punitive that it has now become “IITs/MIT of education” OR is Jainism simply a set of easy, practical, and relevant principles and practices that almost anyone can follow? Getting into IITs is one of the most daunting tasks in the world and the name itself evokes respect but equally huge fear and a sense of impossibility. Has Jainism become that difficult? Has it become a symbol of “aspirational only”?
At the cost of generalization, question that needs to be asked is – why does mention of “Jainism” usually brings just the thoughts of monks in white robes or very strict rules leading to extremely austere lives, asceticism, turning away from pleasures of life and undertaking extreme penance?
Why does mention of “Jainsim” not bring immediate thoughts of “kindness and caring”
Do we need people who are “Jain by practice” or “Jains by birth or religion only”? What needs to be done by “Jains” so that the world identifies “Jainism” with societal context rather than just a strict religious context?
Can a person be “Jain by practice” but “Sikh/Muslim/Jew by religion”? If a person follows principles of Jainism in true sense but visits Gurudwara or Mosque, is that person a Jain or non-Jain? Does it even matter how we classify that person? What needs to be done by “Jains” so that the world relates “Jainism” to something good that should be adopted as a philosophy and practice rather than one more religion that is trying to spread itself?
What needs to be done by “Jains” so that the world relates “Jainism” with education, welfare, healthcare, non-violence, healthy living, Jivdaya, Anukampa and so on.
Answers to these questions are neither easy nor deserve a collective debate beyond a point. It eventually comes down to our intent and ability to associate Jainism with either “Jain by birth” or “Jain by Beliefs and Actions”. ( Janm se ya karma se? ) What are these beliefs and actions? One can even argue that these beliefs and actions too are part of religion itself and hence religion is encompassing. Well, rather than arguing in favour of or against this view, we need to see these beliefs and actions in themselves.
Jain Avenue is for practisers and let’s bring this to practise by setting up our own example.
Sejal Shah (Ph.D.)