UPSC Prelims 2023 Question:
"Souls are not only the property of animal and plant life, but also of rocks, running water, and many other natural objects not looked on as living by other religious sects."
The above statement reflects one of the core beliefs of which one of the following religious sects of ancient India?
Correct Answer: Option b) Jainism
Learn more about Jainism as a religion in India.
- The central tenet of Jainism is non-violence. No other religion lays as much emphasis on non-violence as Jainism. As Jainism placed great emphasis on non-violence, strict observers of the faith wear a muslin cloth around their mouth and nose so that they would not inhale small insects even by mistake. To avoid trampling on ants and other insects, Jain monks used feathers to sweep the path before walking. Jains could not practise agriculture or other crafts that involve killing or injury to living organisms. Hence, they took to trading and money-lending and excelled in it. As a result, they were closely associated with urbanisation.
Historical beliefs of Jainism as a Religion
According to Jaina traditions, twenty-four Tirthankaras were responsible for the origin and development of Jaina religion and philosophy. Of these, the first twenty-two are of doubtful historicity. In the case of the last two, Parsvanatha and Mahavira, Buddhist works confirm their historicity.
- Adinath/Rishabhdev: The first Tirthankara (supreme preacher) and establisher of the Ikshvaku dynasty.
- Ajita: The second Tirthankara
- Neminatha: the twenty-second Tirthankara
- Parsvanatha: According to Jaina tradition, the twenty-third Tirthankara, Parsvanatha, was the son of King Asvasena of Varanasi and his Queen Vama.
- Parsvanatha believed in the eternity of ‘matter’.
- The followers of Parsvanatha wore white garments.
- Thus, it is clear that even before Mahavira, some kind of Jaina faith existed.
- Mahavira: The twenty-fourth Tirthankara was Vardhamana Mahavira.
Therefore, option (b) is the correct answer.
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