Jain Tirth - an Introduction

India is a land of spirituality where great persons were born to sing immortal songs. The places stamped by their holy feet became famous as sacred places. Idols of Tirthankara- Parmatmas, promoters of Jainisim, were installed there. India has a large number of such sacred places. they are powerful means of crossing the samsara. They provide an opportunity to cure the disease of transmigration. They are made sacred by the touch of holy feet of Arihanta- Tirthankaras. They save pilgrims who get free from worldly affairs and often journey to the temples. The atmosphere of sacred places on high mountains, river banks of level land is filled with the ringing sound of words of wisdom uttered by patrons of spirituality. Sacred places are silent but they tell immortal stories of holy selfs of Tirthankaras and other saintly beings . Picture writings and various kinds of idols convey the message of Tirthankaras. The name of sacred places tells glorious stories of its past history, its architecture, its culture,its prosperity and the mind of the masses. Visits of monks and nuns preserve the sacredness of sacred places. Jain temples are also not mere buildings of clay, stone and mortar. Our houses are also made of the same material but there is a vast difference between the two sacred places are that purify the pilgrims. Your mind feels sudden joy and teems with bright thoughts. You recover from greed of money and spend it. Fellow-feeling is promoted and pilgrims from different nations and cities live with love.

Wonderful is the influence of sacred places. Go to Mt. Shaturnjaya. When you reach its foot, you feel the eagerness to see, God, give him gifts and gain piety. The voice from within comes resounding, " Let me sing your virtues and praise you. From a distance I have come, please appear before me." Go to Shnkhevaraji and your mind will be filled with bright thoughts of purification. You will feel that your self is totally transformed. You will return dancing and jumping as if you have gained something. You sing with joy -" O, Shankhesvara! You turn a mere stone into a philosopher's stone and you turn dross into gold." Go to Mt. Sametashikhara. The land of nirvana of twenty Tirthankaras will sing immortal songs and great you. - "Come, worship God's feet and make your life's journey successful." A sacred place has special features. It is a place that purifies millions of lives. it is a place that inspires one to leave off greed of money.

Special features of sacred places of Jains :-

It is said that there are as many gods in India as there are humans. This statement is of course discerning. But the omniscient God of Jains says that the embodied pure self in its own form is identical with the Supreme being. As the cover of Karmic body opens, the self appears as the Supreme being . this is a special feature of Jain philosophy. It is a special feature of sacred places of Jains that they are regarded to be supermundane in the sense that the worship offered in the sacred places of Jains, had nothing to do with worldly beliefs Tirthanlaras say, " Worship God and become God." Perfect cleanliness is maintained in sacred places of Jains. The atmosphere is clam holy because eating, sleeping and sitting idly are prohibited there. Cleanliness of body, clothes vessels and possible purity of mind are insisted on.The management of sacred places of Jains is not in the hands of individual owners. The sangha looks after their management. Almost all necessities are provided in small as well as big sacred places. The Jain Sangha believes that pilgrims should be helped in their spiritual pursuits, Pilgrims also extend their possible co-operation in maintaining the sacred places in a dignified way. In Jain philosophy, Tirthankaras are held in very high esteem. The past, present and future groups of twenty four Tirthamkaraas and the presently journeying twenty Tirthankaras alone are regarded to be worthy of worship. They have their own dignified position in Sacred Places. Endowed with perfect knowledge and pure conduct, the Tirthankaras alone are promoters of religion. It is Tirthankaras who render splendour to the Sacred Places.

The Significance Of Visiting Sacred Places :-

Sacred places are innocent places which are free from worldly affairs. They who visit sacred places try to live an innocent life. Sacred places remind us of the holy life of Tirthankaras. Worthy people sing God's virtues and become one with God. Devotional sentiments permeate thought sacred places. Pilgrims who visit sacred places can not but sing the virtues of God. Only sacred places promote welfare and bring happiness. Sins are washed off, there. People who are agonised by worldly agonies get peace there. The modern man has developed hill stations but nowhere can man get the peace that sacred places offer. Hill stations cannot liberate you from sins. Sacred places make the present life and the subsequent lives happy.

A Brief Outline Of The Jain Religion :-

Let us first understand certain terms. A Jina is he who subdues attachment. The followers of Jinas are Jains.The way of good life tempered compassion and concern for welfare of others is dharma. Dharma is the pure nature of self. There are many kinds of dharma which serve as instrumental causes of manifestation of self. Forbearance, softness, sincerity, freedom from greed, thoughtfulness, restraint, penance,renunciation, freedom from the sense of ownership and celibacy- these excellent virtues are kinds of what is supreme dharma. They had to right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. That which holds is dharma. Dharma upholds those who go astray and fall into miseries. Dharma brings cquanimity in universal consciousness.

It is a special feature of the Jain religion that its promulgator is the omniscient Vitaraga (one who is free from attachment) who showers only love and mercy on worldly souls and shows them the right path. Externally, the Jain religion purifies practical life and internally, it purifies the soul. The result of both these purifications is realisation of the self which leads to the final liberation and unobtructed bliss. The human soul is capable of final liberation. He who worships ultimate purity attains the final liberation. The chief mantra of Jain religion is the Navkar Mantra. There are four shelters - Arihanta, Siddha, The monk and the religion promulgated by omniscient Gods. The Jain religion believes in twenty- four Tirthankars and the last of them is Mahavira. The Tirthankara does not take birth again because he has no stock of karmic defilemt. Every Tirthankara establishes the fourfold sangha of monks , nunes, laymen and laywomen. There are four conditions of soul after death - the life of gods, the life of humans, the life of lower animals and the life of hellish beings. The Jain monk keeps the five great vows- ahimsa, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non- attachment. Especially, it preaches compassion.The Jain religion believes that the self can attain the pure state of emancipation by means of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. The conduct of a layperson consists of the five minor laws and he keeps twelve vows in all. Besides a layperson worships God, bows down to guru and visits sacred places. The ultimate means of final liberation according to the Jain religion is meditation. The Jain religion shows various spiritual stages by means of the nine tattvas, reals. It says that the universe is autonomously managed by the six dravyas. The Jain religion believes in God who subdues attachment, gets absolute purification, attains nirvana and is not born again because he has no stock of karmic partides necessary for a rebirth. He has no desire to do anything and bear the fruits of his doings. Since he is omniscient he knows the whole world as it is.

What is the contribution of Jainism to society ?

The Jain religion believes in the pure state of the self and teaches purification. It teaches to cultivate the attitude of friendliness, admiration, compassion and indifference towards all living beings. Not a king, nor an emperor, nor a pauper nor anyone else can get happiness by paining or hurting others. All living beings have an equal right to live. It is man who can think well of miseries of others. Of course, a householder's life involves some violence, but Jainism teaches us do even indispensable duties with awareness and carefulness. In order to avoid indulgence in even little violence , they who are entitled to emancipation, renounce the world and live a restrained life. "Live and let live ." - this is the motto of Jainism.Human life is too highly valuable to be entrusted to non- restraint. If a diamond falls from the hands of a merchant sitting on the desk in ship in the midst of the sea, he cannot get it back. Similarly, if the human life is wasted by indulging in pleasures of senses, spiritual diseases such as anger etc. Selfish acts and worldly affairs, it is extremely difficult to get a human birth again and the best aim of human life is realization of self. For this, vices should be scaled down and virtues should be scaled up. It is necessary to live a restrained life preached by guru. The man who does not desire unhappiness and desires happiness, should abstain from worldly affairs and devote himself to God's worship. In order to develop innocent love, nobility, equanimity, integrity and good conduct, he should engage in worship and keep company with saintly people. Know that the samsara is full of miseries and in order to cross it, practise the pure religion. If you live a householder's life, insist on ethics, good conduct and kindness and aspire to live a monk's life. If you think that have gained nothing in the life that you lived, grasp this instruction and you will get peace and happiness.Forbearance is an excellent virtue of Jains and its festival is "Samvatsari" or "Kshamapana Day". If during the whole year, insects or animals are hurt, if someone is pained or offended by activities of mind, speech or body, you should beseech forgiveness. This quality has purifying and philosophical significance. It reduces the burden of karma. By virtue of the excellent quality of forgiveness, great selfs have attained the final liberation.The Jain religion is not a sect but it is a way of living an excellent life. Without distinctions of class, colour or creed, all can follow it. He who strives, succeeds.