CREDOS: Jainism — I

According to the history of Jain religion, there were 24 jinas or tirthankas in the Jain clans. The 24th and the last jina was Vardhaman Mahavira (599-527 BCE), who was also the founder of Jain religion.

Vardhaman was born as a royal prince near Benaras. He felt the pleasures of life to be worthless and gave up his royal palace and clothing at the young age of 30. He then followed the path shown by Brahmin ascetics.

During the 12 years of meditation, austerities, and self-denial, Mahavira went fasting for long periods, naked, unsheltered, and he even avoided harming living beings, including human beings, animals, insects, birds, and plants. At the end of 12 years of his meditation, he attained perfect realisation, knowledge, power, and bliss. For his brave act and eternal realisation, he became known as Mahavira (the Great Hero) and jina (the conqueror) among his followers.

Philosophy of Jainism: Based on the teachings of Mahavira, Jain doctrines were developed. The main beliefs are as follows. All the 24 jinas or tirthankaras were born as human beings, who attained perfection or enlightenment through meditation and self-realisation. In other words, they are the ‘Gods of Jains’.

Mahavira organised his followers into four orders such as sadhu (monk), sadhvi (nun), shravak (layman), and shravika (lay woman). After Mahavira, tirthankaras continued this organisational order and even today the membership of this sect is on the rise.