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Jainism and Hinduism

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Jainism and Hinduism

Jainism and Hinduism are two ancient Indian religions. There are some similarities between the two religions, but the differences between the two are very great.[1] Jain temples, gods, rituals, fasts and other religious objects are different from that of Hindus.[2]

Jain is derived from the word Jina, referring to a human being who has conquered all inner passions (like anger, attachment, greed and pride) and possess Kevala Jnana (pure infinite knowledge). Followers of the path shown by the Jinas are called Jains.[3][4] Followers of Hinduism are called Hindus.[5]

Philosophical similarities and differences

Jainism and Hinduism have many similar characteristic features, including the concepts of samsara, karma and moksha. However, they differ in the precise nature and meaning of these concepts. The doctrine of Jainism has minor similarities with Nyaya-Vaisheshika and samkhya school. The Jain doctrine teaches atomism which is also found in Vaisheshika system and atheism which is found in Samkhya.[6] Within the doctrine of Jainism, there exist many metaphysical concepts which are not known in Hinduism, some of which are dharma and Adharma tattva (which are seen as substances within the Jain metaphysical system), Gunasthanas and Lesyas.[6] The epistemological concepts of Anekantavada and Syadvada are not to be found in the Hindu system. There were, in the past, attempts made to merge the concepts of Hindu gods and Tirthankara of Jainism. The cosmography of Jains resembles that of Hindus and there are similar names of heavenly gods within both these system.[7]


In Hinduism, salvation means merging of soul with universal soul or eternal stay in paradise, in Jainism, it is action-less and peaceful existence. In Vedic philosophy or Sanatana Dharma, salvation is giving up the sense of doer ship and realizing Self to be the same as Universe and God. In Jainism, salvation can be achieved only through self-effort and is considered to be the right of human beings.[8]

In Jainism, one definite path to attain liberation (moksha) is prescribed. The prescribed three fold path consists of the three jewels of Jainism (Right belief, Right knowledge, Right conduct). In Hinduism, no one definite path to salvation is prescribed.[8]


According to Jain cosmology, the universe is eternal. In Hinduism, it is believed to be made by a creator.[8]


Karma is an invisible force in Hinduism, whereas it is a form of matter which can stick to soul in Jainism.[8]


In Hinduism, Gods are worshipped for minor boons and are offered food etc.[8][9] In Jainism, the Tirthankaras represent the true goal of all human beings.[10] Their qualities are worshipped by the Jains.


The religion of Jains included women in their fourfold sangha; the religious order of Jain laymen, laywomen, monks and nuns.[11] There was a disagreement between early Hinduism, and ascetic movements such as Jainism with the scriptural access to women.[11] However, the early svetambara scriptures prevented pregnant women, young women or those who have a small child, to enter to the ranks of nun.[12] Regardless, the number of nuns given in those texts were always the double of the number of monks. Parshvanatha and Mahavira, two historical teachers of Jainism, have large numbers of female devotees and ascetics.[12] Tirthankara Mahavira and Jain monks are credited with raising the status of women.[13]

Religious texts

Hindus do not accept any Jain text and Jains do not recognise any Hindu scripture.[14]

The Vedas

The scriptures known as Vedas are regarded by Hindus as one of the foundations of Hinduism. Those who rejected the Vedas as the prime source of religious knowledge were labeled "nāstika".[15] As a consequence, Jainism and Buddhism were categorized as nāstika darśana.[15]

The orthodox schools of Hinduism, such as Vedanta, Mimamsa and Samkhya, claim the Sruti do not have any author and hence are supreme to other religious scriptures. This position was countered by Jains who said that saying Vedas are authorless was equivalent to saying that anonymous poems are written by nobody. Jain scriptures, on the contrary, were believed by them to be of human origin, brought through omniscient teachers, and hence claimed greater worth.[16] According to Jains, the origin of Vedas lies with Marichi, the son of Bharata Chakravarti, who was the son of the first Tirthankara Rishabha. Jains maintain that these scriptures were later corrupted by Brahmins.[17][18] Jains pointed that Hindus do not know their own scriptures since they were unaware of the names of tirthankaras present in Vedas.[16]

Jains had a long-standing debate with Mimamsa school of Hinduism. Kumarila Bhatta, a proponent of Mimamsa school, argued that the Vedas are the source of all knowledge and it is through them that humans can differentiate between right and wrong. Jain monks, such as Haribhadra, held that humans are already in possession of all the knowledge, which only needs to be illuminated or uncovered in order to gain the status of omniscience.[19]

Vedic sacrifices

The practice of Vedic animal sacrifices was opposed by Jains. Hemachandra, a Jain monk, cites passages from Manusmriti, one of the law book of Hindus, to demonstrate how, in light of false scriptures, Hindus have resorted to violence. Akalanka, another Jain monk, sarcastically said that if killing can result in enlightenment, one should become a hunter or fisherman.[16]

Hindu epics and Jain counter epics

The rejection of Hindu epics and scriptures were dominant in Jainism since very early times. The central Hindu scriptures and epics like Vedas, Mahabharata and Ramayana are categorized as false scriptures in Nandi-sutra,[20][21] one of the svetambara's canonical literature. Later, Jains adapted various Hindu epics in accordance with their own system.[22][23][18] There were disputes between Jains and Hindus in form of these epics.

Jains and Hindu Gods

Within the doctrine of Jainism, the tirthankara holds the highest status. Hemachandra says that a deva (roughly god) is the one who has conquered his internal desires and passions. This requirement, according to him, was fulfilled only by the tirthankara. The gods of Hindus were attached to worldly pleasures such as women and weapon and hence could not be regarded as necessary for spiritual upliftment.[24][25]

To demonstrate the authority of Jainism over Hinduism, jain monks such as Haribhadra wrote satires in which he says that cheats, thieves and other low tricksters gathered and created various stories which were then ascribed to various gods. This is how the Hindu pantheon of gods came to be. He made a point that humans would imitiate gods, if gods behaved badly in the stories, so will the humans. Hindu deities, such as Shiva, are generally viewed in purely negative terms within Jainism.[26] Yogindu, a digambara monk, says that Vishnu and Shiva were ignorant of their own supreme soul within their body. Jinadasa, a svetambara monk and Harisena, a digambara monk wrote satires on Shiva mythology.[26][27] Yogindu, a digambara monk, says that Vishnu and Shiva were ignorant of their own supreme soul within their body.

Jain attitude towards Vishnu (another god of Hindus) is mixed. This was probably because Jains have been in close proximity with Vaishnism. One of Vishnu's incarnation, Krishna, was seen as cousin of 22nd Tirthankara Neminatha since very early times. Jains often made fun of Vishnu's omnipresent nature on the grounds that if he is present everywhere, then we basically drink and wash with him.[27] Some works mention him as a Jain monk who overthrew a minister who wanted to expel Jain monks from the kingdom. Vaishnav works, in part, also tried to incorporate Jain tirthankara into their system. The first tirthankara, Rishabha, is sometimes seen as an avatar of Vishnu.[27]

Similar characters

Some personage mentioned in the Vedas and Jain scriptures are same.


The first Jain tirthankara, Rishabha finds a mention in Rigveda and Vishnu Purana. Vishnu Purāna mentions:

ऋषभो मरुदेव्याश्च ऋषभात भरतो भवेत्
भरताद भारतं वर्षं, भरतात सुमतिस्त्वभूत्
Rishabha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabh,
Bharatavarsha (India) arose from Bharata, and Sumati arose from Bharata.
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,31)

Integration in Hindu society

Successful integration

Over the years, Jains have tried to mix with its surrounding Hindu society, partly due to the fear of persecution and partly out of sheer influence. Jain scholars and monks in general allowed a sort of cautious integration with the Hindu society.[28] Somadeva, a Jain philosopher monk, said that Jains could perform the local rituals and customs if they did not infringe the basic principles of Jainism. In today's date, there are a lot of common aspects in social and cultural life of Hindus and Jains. It is quite difficult to differentiate a lay Jain from a lay Hindu.[29] The Jain code of conduct is quite similar to that which is found in Hindu Dharmasashtra, Manusmriti and other Law books of Brahmans.[30] Many Jains now worship Hindu gods and celebrate Hindu festivals.[30][31] The difference in the rituals of practitioners of the two religions would be that the Jains do not give any importance to bathing in holy water, cremating or burying ascetics.[30] According to religious scholar M. Whitney Kelting, some of the "names and narratives" in the Hindu's list of satis are also found in the Jain tradition.[32] In the Hindu context, a sati is a virtuous wife who protects her husband and his family and has the "intention to die before, or with," her husband.[32] Kelting notes that those satis who die on the funeral pyre of their husband, or who "intended to die" but were prevented from death, may attain a status called satimata.[32][33] Kelting says that the Jain tradition, due to principle of non-violence and equanimity, doesn't allow self-immolation.[34][32] They, instead, see renunciation rather than self-sacrifice as the highest ideal for a Jain sati.[32] Hindus think Jainism is simply another branch of Hinduism.[30] Jain philosophers, like Champat Rai Jain, even today hold that Hinduism is an offshoot of Jainism.[7] However, such claims are not supported by historical facts.[7]

Hindu revivalism and Indian identities

With the onset of British colonialism, select groups of Indians developed responses to the British dominance and the British critique of Hinduism.[35] The Brahmo Samaj strived towards mono-theism, while no longer regarding the Vedas as sole religious authority.[36] The Brahmo Samaj had a strong influence on the Neo-Vedanta of Vivekananda,[36] Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan and Gandhi.[35] They strived toward a modernized, humanistic Hinduism with an open eye for societal problems and needs.[35] Other groups, like the Arya Samaj, strived toward a revival of Vedic authority.[37] In this context, various responses toward Jainism developed.

Dayanand Saraswati and the Arya Samaj

The Arya Samaj "teaches that the Vedic religion is the only true religion revealed by God for all."[38] The Arya Samaj was founded by Dayanand Saraswati (1824-1883), who "was the solitary champion of Vedic authority and infallibility".[37] Swami Dayanand Saraswati authored Satyarth Prakash,[39] a book containing the basic teachings of Saraswati and the Arya Samaj.[40] It contains "Dayananda's bitter criticisms of the major non-Vedic religions of Indian origins."[38] In the Satyarth Prakash, he writes that he regarded Jainism as "the most dreadful religion",[41] and that Jains are "possessed of defective and childish understanding."[41][note 1]

Ideology with "Dharmic religions"

In modern times, the orthodox measure of the primacy of the Vedas has been joined with the 'grand narrative' of Vedic origins of Hinduism. The exclusion of Jainism and Buddhism excludes a substantial part of India's cultural and religious history from the assertion of a strong and positive Hindu identity. Indian-ideology solves this problem by taking recourse to the notion of "Hinduness", which includes Jainism and Buddhism. A recent strategy, exemplified by Rajiv Malhotra, is the use of the term dharma as a common denominator, which also includes Jainism and Buddhism.[43]

Communal harmony

Dharmasthala Temple shows the communal harmony between Jains and Hindus, as the priests of the temple are Shivalli Brahmins, who are Vaishnava, and the administration is run by a Jain Bunt family.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Daniels cites Dayanand in his investigation of the claim that "Hinduism is the most tolerant of all religions and Hindu tolerance is the best answer in fostering peace and harmony in a multi-religious society",[42] taking Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda and Mahatama Gandhi as cases.[42] He asks the question "Why was Dayananda so aggressive and negative in his response to other religions?".[42] Panicker also mentions that Dayanand's views are "strongly condemnatory, predominantly negative and positively intolerant and aggressive."[38]


  1. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 135-136.
  2. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 138.
  3. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 15.
  4. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 164.
  5. ^ Britannica Hinduism
  6. ^ a b Glasenapp 1999, p. 496.
  7. ^ a b c Glasenapp 1999, p. 497.
  8. ^ a b c d e Sangave 2001, p. 137.
  9. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 181.
  10. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 182.
  11. ^ a b Balbir, p. 121.
  12. ^ a b Balbir, p. 122.
  13. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 147-148.
  14. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 136.
  15. ^ a b Nicholson 2010.
  16. ^ a b c Dundas, p. 234.
  17. ^ Feynes, p. xxiv.
  18. ^ a b Glasenapp, p. 497.
  19. ^ Olle 2006, p. 91.
  20. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 237.
  21. ^ Iyengar, p. 62.
  22. ^ Schubring, p. 17.
  23. ^ Jaini, p. 305.
  24. ^ Dundas 234-235.
  25. ^ Cort 2001, p. 93.
  26. ^ a b Dundas, p. 235.
  27. ^ a b c Dundas, p. 236.
  28. ^ Jaini, p. 287.
  29. ^ Glasenapp 1999, p. 493.
  30. ^ a b c d Glasenapp 1999, p. 494.
  31. ^ Babb, pp. 3-4.
  32. ^ a b c d e Keilting 2006, p. 183.
  33. ^ Keilting 2009, p. 22.
  34. ^ Keilting 2009, p. 21.
  35. ^ a b c King 2001.
  36. ^ a b Rambachan 1994.
  37. ^ a b Rambachan 1994, p. 38.
  38. ^ a b c Panicker 2006, p. 39.
  39. ^ Panicker 2006, p. 38.
  40. ^ Panicker 2006, p. 38-39.
  41. ^ a b Daniel 2000, p. 92.
  42. ^ a b c (P.S. Daniels (2000))About the Book: , Hindu Response to Religious PluralismEastern Book Company,
  43. ^ Springer 2012.
  44. ^ Official website: Dharmasthala


  • Nalini Balbir
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