The current State of Jain Dharma and Challenges for Future Generations

October, 2023 by Dharmaraj Khot
The great Jain Acharya Shri Samantbhadra declared that “Sotyeti Dharmamatmin, Na Dharmo Dharmikair Vinah1 – Religion (Dharma) cannot exist separately without a religious person, implying that the religiosity of living beings is itself evidence of the existence of Dharma and that the two cannot be separated. One can further deduce that the rise and decline of Dharma is associated with the rise and decline of a religious person or the religiosity of the entire community, because the religiosity of community is nothing, but a collection of religious actions and behaviours of the community put together.

The current and evolving behaviours and practices of Jains, whether as an individual, family or as a society, appear to indicate a troubled, confused and a systematic decline of the glorious religion of Jinas2. The current plight of Jains is evident in the following patterns that are increasing at an alarming pace which are putting in question the longevity of Vitraag Jain Dharma:

  • Laxity in living the Jain values (Personal Conduct).
  • Systematic erosion of interest in Jain Dharma as a family (Family Conduct).
  • Further divisions in the community due to sectarian and sub-sectarian interests (Societal Conduct).

While no justice can be made in highlighting the continued decay of Jain practices in such a small essay but let me make an attempt to deal with them briefly.

Personal Conduct Issues:

Personal conduct is defined as a set of actions and behaviours undertaken by a person in his or her daily life. The personal conduct should be in consonance with the broader ideology and principles of Jain Dharma. When one’s personal conduct is in accordance with the principles and values of Jain Dharma it actually helps promote the religion, builds a strong moral compass and acts as a catalyst for positive change in others.  Currently, there appears to be a rise of laxity in personal conduct in the form of adoption of partial or full non-vegetarian diet, occasional or regular consumption of alcohol, periodic gambling, lack of respect for family elders (parents, relatives, others), reduced interest in Jain activities, lack of self-discipline, absence of temple visit, deceitful behaviour (in professional and personal sphere), wanton thrust for power, money and pleasures, lack of pride in being a Jain, and finally, and probably the most important, the worship of non-Jain deities.

Family Conduct Issues:

In the current day and age, the Jain parents, in general, are not a force for believing, practicing, and sustaining a strong desire for Dharma (Piety) and for regulating one’s conduct accordingly. If parents themselves are not truly interested in Dharma, how can we blame children for their disinterest in religion? Children’s view of the world in their formative years is primarily shaped by what they see in their parents. If the seeds of disinterest are sown early, the fruits of Dharma will not grow in future, which may bring unpalatable results in later years.

Every Jain family has its own system of values that is specific and peculiar to that family only. I call this phenomenon as a “micro value system”. This micro value system derives its strength and modus operandi from the basic framework of “Jain Value System” which is common to all Jain families. The Jain Value System is an important foundational element of family’s micro value system. There are many other factors that impact and influence one’s micro value system, including the following:

  • Religious role models in the family.
  • Proclivity for understanding Jain scriptures.
  • Degree of involvement in Jain temple and other Jain activities such as Pathashala, Swadhyaya, reading, etc.
  • Adherence to ritualistic traditions.
  • Overall religious tone and family religious atmosphere.

Each family’s micro value system greatly influences that family’s “index of religiosity” and consequently determines family’s response mechanism to internal and external activities governing the family’s religious and moral fabric, including the acceptance and/or non-acceptance of interfaith marriages.

Interfaith marriage (a marital union between a Jain and non-Jain person) should receive some scrutiny as this phenomenon is sharply rising.

No insult or disregard is intended for non-Jains in this context, since Jain Dharma teaches us to maintain friendship, kindness, and non-violent mindset toward all living beings – Jain and non-Jains alike, and respect another’s point of view. In fact, the chief disciple of the last Tirthankara, Shri Mahavir Bhagwan, was Shri Gautam Swami, who was a Brahmin by birth, but became a great Jain sage, compiled Jain scriptures for posterity, and finally attained Keval Jnana3 – a testament to the greatness of Jina’s magnificent Jain Philosophy that each and every living being can attain the everlasting bliss regardless of who they are and where they come from. Therefore, the argument is not against the non-Jain fellow human beings, but rather against the value system of present-day Jain families that does not allow a systematic assimilation of a non-Jain into Jain principles and practices. If we cared deeply enough, we would take effort to imbibe Jain values on our non-Jain family member.

Interfaith marriage might well prove be the most pervasive and yet most unappreciated threat to the existence of Jain Principles in the years to come.  It will trigger the most systematic diffusion and erosion of Jain values in most fundamental way, i.e., by changing the Jain ecology or the micro value system that I have referred to thus far in this article. The question is whether we have the wisdom to see it and when challenged with such a situation, whether we as a family are prepared to put in the effort to imbibe Jain values on the non-Jain family member.

Societal Conduct Issues:

The Jains are a very small but an influential religious group in India. Even with such a small population, we are already beset by sectarianism between Digambara and Shwetambara.

There continues to be further divisions, sub-sectarianism, internal bickering, power struggle, lack of empathy for fellow Jains etc. We do not have the wisdom among ourselves to unite in one cause when our religion and religious places of worship are under attack from external threat.  It is simply pathetic that we are fighting among ourselves to claim Shri Sammed Shikhar, when the only goal there should be is the worship and adulation of the Jinas. When we are not united among ourselves, we will be unable to protect the glory of this religion from external threats.

Let us find out way to co-exist with our differences. In this regard, the Jains residing in North America are certainly leading by example and are creating a future model of co-existence wherefrom our larger fraternity in India can learn.  Let us co-exist in a manner that is respectful of each other’s macro and micro traditions and by creating an environment where we celebrate our commonalities.

Potential Solutions:

I am advocating for us to live as an “enlightened”, educated, and forward-looking society whose roots are firmly grounded in Jain Principles, whose actions and behaviours are influenced by Jain Principles and whose collective activities strengthen our religion and help our future as a community, and to the extent possible help other fellow human beings in need irrespective of their religious affiliations.

As the saying goes – “Charity always begins at home”, we must begin to change ourselves to see changes in others and then will we be able to see and expect resultant changes in the community at large.  Simply stated, we need to go back to the basics.  The revered Acharya Shri Umaswami provides us the basic framework – “Samyakdharshanjnancharitranimokshamargah:4 – The trinity of Rational Perception, Rational Knowledge, and Rational Conduct forms path to liberation.  Consider this as a path, an order, or a salvo of a Jiva in the pursuit of ultimate happiness. If we focused on improving our commitment to the trinity as an individual, as a family and as a society, I sincerely believe we can vastly improve ourselves and those around us as well.  So how do we go about it?

Be Aware and Self-enlightened (Personal):

We need to be aware of who we are and what our true identity is through the eyes of Jain Scriptures, for they alone have the potential to awaken our consciousness. We need to commit to learn little bit more about ourselves – to create, develop and nourish the right belief about our own nature of existence, that we are full of conscious energy (Chetan Atma), that we are seer and knower, that we are responsible for our own destiny, that we are capable of achieving everlasting bliss. This type of firm belief will in turn unleash a wave of positive energy, positive action, and enlightened understanding of the self and of the world around us. This will put an individual on the right footing to be a change agent for compassion, love, kindness, equanimity, forbearance, forgiveness, and nobility. Such person would constantly seek to understand and be understood for happenings around oneself. This would help to control and manage our passions (Kashayas) resulting in a positive model behaviour.

Foster Jain Micro Value System (Family):

The families must take as much effort, if not more, to build, nurture and sustain the religiosity and piety (Dharma) within children as they teach their children how to become smart in the worldly affairs.  We take great pains to ensure our children become successful in worldly life by providing them with good education, setting high expectations and following through by being involved in their life. And we must do all these things and do it well. However, the problem starts when we do this ONLY at the expense of ignoring to help them build a true affinity towards Dharma. It is primarily so because parents themselves have not understood the place and importance of Dharma in their lives. If they have not understood that, how can they pass this on to their children? Sending children to Pathashala only will not solve the problem, but it is a mere starting point. Parents must take proactive and deliberate efforts to inculcate a feeling of true affinity towards Dharma.  And that begins with parents first.

If we, parents, become strong religious role models to our children, it is more likely that they will be influenced at an early age, and be more inclined to follow-through in their life. Regardless of the conditions and circumstances in which they will live, such children will place Dharma on their list of priority.

Make a Positive Impact on the Community at Large (Societal Impact):

An enlightened and aware individual and family will make a positive impact on the society around them.  They will carry themselves in the most dignified manner with a feeling of obligation toward each other.  They will unleash a positive force by constantly seeking to reconcile and understand the differences, and only work to the betterment of the community as a whole.  They will avoid personal calculations, sect-specific selfish goals, and work as a whole community to spread the message of the Jina. Instead of squabbling over personal and sect-specific differences and issues, they will work to resolve those conflicts, establish boundaries of comfort and discomfort, and take those actions that benefit the community as a whole. If one sect is in danger or facing challenges, other sects would come to help, and above all genuinely respect the differences and treat fellow Jains with dignity, trust, and utmost respect.  If we can establish this type of fellowship among our own people, our problems as a community will disappear. We will be stronger bound by a common purpose and steadfastness to each other.

Reference notes:
1Shri Ratnakarand Shravakachaar, Shloka 26
2Spiritual conquerors who establish the four-fold order of Jain Dharma and the Jain Philosophy
3Perfect Knowledge attained upon the destruction four types of Ghatiya karmas.
4Shri Tattvarth Sutra, Chapter 1, Sutra 1

About Author

dakhot01@gmail.com

Dharmaraj Khot is a leader in the financial services consulting industry having served in multiple leadership roles with prestigious global management consulting firms, including as a Managing Director. He has more than 22+ years of professional experience advising Fortune-500 U.S. based global financial services firms. His clients include global asset managers, global mutual fund firms, global investment banks and global asset servicing organizations. His academic qualifications include CA, MBA (USA), ICWA and M.Com.

He is also a student, thinker, author, and practitioner of Jain Dharma. A frequent speaker, Dharmaraj has taught Shri Tattvārtha Sutra, Shri Dravya Samgraha, Shri Chhaha-Dhālā and Shri Ratnakaraṇda Śrāvakāchāra. He has authored modern English translation of two original Jain granthas composed in Sanskrit – Shri Istopadesa and Shri Samadhitantram. He has edited Hindi translation of Shri Tattvārtha Sutra and an English translation of Shri Dravya-Samgraha Grantha.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Manish Modi
Manish Modi
9 months ago

Superb! Every Jain must read this article at least once.

🙏🏻🇮🇳

Dharanendra Kumar S J Kumar S J
Dharanendra Kumar S J Kumar S J
9 months ago

Jai Jinaendra

Dharanendra Kumar S J Kumar S J
Dharanendra Kumar S J Kumar S J
9 months ago

Pl translate to all languages to reach all Jains..

R P Jain
R P Jain
9 months ago

Brilliant article; well written

Shailendra Kumar Jain
Shailendra Kumar Jain
9 months ago

Jai Jitendra

Preeti Jain
Preeti Jain
9 months ago

Very nice article – to the point. Thank you.

Himanshu Gandhi
Himanshu Gandhi
9 months ago

👍
Pranam Prabhu.

I remain defeated in all attempts to change anything beyond me

पर का क्या करूं मैं, पर करे अपना काम

Absolute acceptance of my limitation of being pure awareness is my only win

जगत से सदा ही न्यारा, रहा मात्र ज्ञाता द्रष्टा आतमराम

🙏

Last edited 9 months ago by Himanshu Gandhi
Himanshu Gandhi
Himanshu Gandhi
9 months ago

Pranam Prabhu.

I applaud your sincere efforts to help the cause and stem the downhill slide; hence the 👍.

It is simply our Raag that goads us to help others. Even while earnestly doing so, we remain aware of the Vastu Swarup that Sansara happens on its own. होता जगत स्वयं परिणाम मैं जग का करता क्या काम.

Even while Samaysar ji was getting written Archaryadev Kundkundi ji explicitly noted inthere that I remain Suddh Chetna and simply a knower, perceiver and not the scriber of Granth ji.

The only tenable Purushartha that results in Jeev’s exit from Sansara is realization and absolute acceptance of this reality.

As such, “enlightened understanding of self” that I am “full of conscious energy” and “seer and knower”, is the critical stepping stone. Each and every Siddha, Arihanta, Acharya, Upadhyaya, Sadhu and Shravak (one who has attained Samyak Darshan) has firmly accepted such.

For one firmly set on the path of Vitragta while still in Sansara, SubhRag will come about Sahaj and inadvertently; and such will be a Nimmit in activities for greater good. Even then, mindset of a Witness and not of a Doer, keeps one entrenched in Samtabhav.
🙏

Pravin Shah
Pravin Shah
9 months ago

Nice presentation of thoughts by Dharmaraj bhaiya…good article

Sonika shah
Sonika shah
9 months ago

Need of the time to think and revive why we are born blessed as jains and how we can be more beneficial by focusing on all – personal, family society and the surroundings and enchance our lives… thankyou Dhamaraj for the article…

UdayLengde
UdayLengde
9 months ago

Can we make it marathi

Dharmendra SETHI
Dharmendra SETHI
9 months ago

Good one Dharmaraj bhai, you summed it up perfectly. Jai Jinendra

Sandeep
Sandeep
9 months ago

Awesome!

Shrey Shah
Shrey Shah
9 months ago

Dharmrajbhai, Jai Jinendra!

Very well & succinctly addressed the current state of Jainism & challenges it faces! Nice essay! Thought provoking, bold yet respectful commentary of issues with its likely solutions as you see it!
Keep up the good work!
Thank you for enlightening us!
– Shrey Shah, JCGB

Speedy Keto ACV
7 months ago

I really like reading through a post that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

Pipe fittings supplier
7 months ago

The factory’s skilled workforce employs advanced manufacturing techniques to produce fittings that meet international standards and specifications. Elitepipe Plastic Factory

Fake Temp Mail
6 months ago

I do not even understand how I ended up here, but I assumed this publish used to be great

Tree Mail
6 months ago

Somebody essentially help to make significantly articles Id state This is the first time I frequented your web page and up to now I surprised with the research you made to make this actual post incredible Fantastic job

Tree Mail
6 months ago

Normally I do not read article on blogs however I would like to say that this writeup very forced me to try and do so Your writing style has been amazed me Thanks quite great post

خبرة المصنع
6 months ago

Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is just cool and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

Puravive Pills
6 months ago

certainly like your website but you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very troublesome to inform the reality nevertheless I will definitely come back again

Puravive Supplement
6 months ago

you are in reality a good webmaster The website loading velocity is amazing It sort of feels that youre doing any distinctive trick Also The contents are masterwork you have done a fantastic job in this topic