Jain tradition speaks of 24 Tirthankaras of which, the first 22 seem to be mythical and have no historical foundation. The last two were Parsva and Mahavira. Parsva is believed to have lived some 250 yrs before Mahavir and is always referred as “beloved of men”. He believed in the eternity of matter as Mahavir did. The followers of Parsva preached that self-control results in the cessation of Karma and penance leads to annihilation. With this Mahavir agreed, as with the four vows enunciated by Parsva i.e. life should not be taken, no falsehood spoken, nothing should be received which is not freely given and non-attachment should be practiced. But there was a difference between the two sects, that Parsva followed allowed the use of a white garment by the monks while Mahavir forbade this. Hence the two sects titled Svetambara (white-clad) and Digambara (naked).

Thus unlike Buddha, Mahavir was more of a reformer than a founder of a new religion. He became a monk at the age of 30, left home in the beginning of winter, 13 months later he abandoned his clothing and began to wander in the nude. He attributed life not only to plants and animals but also to earth and water, assumed the real cause of worldly misery to be Karma, engineered by indulgence by sensual pleasure, and the essential misery of life to be due to the endless cycle of life and birth. Mahavir added a few doctrines to this of Parsva; he taught five vows as against four referred to above, in all probability being chastity. He is credited with the systematic arrangement of its philosophical texts.

Jainism showed a close affinity with the Samkhya system. It also developed a kind of logic, which cut at the root of all stable knowledge. It was called Syadvada or the theory of May Be. Jains had a theory of reality. Their logic was a subtle and disguised protest against the dogmatism of the Vedas, and not intended to deny reality. The world according to them was not altogether unknowable, only one must not be cocksure about one’s assertions. The world consisted of two categories the conscious (jiva) and the unconscious (ajiva).

Jiva corresponds to what we call the soul. It suffers by its contact with matter and is born repeatedly and its highest endeavor is to free itself from bondage. And this salvation can be achieved by higher knowledge and meditation upon the great truth. According to some, jiva should be taken to mean life. Ajiva was equivalent to mean the universe minus the jivas. There is no God or Creator and man is the architect of his own destiny. By living an austere life of purity and virtue, he can escape the ills of life. The best life was the life of renunciation. It was the shortest way to salvation.

Jainism is thus a moral code rather than a religion in the western sense of the term. It recognized no Supreme Being but there were a number of deified men who had been spiritually great. It did not encourage dogmatism. When all knowledge is only probable and relative, your opponent’s view as is as true as mine. The result of this spirit of accommodation was that Jainism has survived today while Buddhism vanished from India. The custom of idol worship may be traced back to the Mauryan-Sunga period. Mahavir in 468 BC.

Impact - Buddhism and Jainism emphasized non-injury, compassion for others, suffering, austerity and non-violence. The most important teaching was that of non-violence. Not only had it influenced the minds of people of those times but even today, Indians of all hue and cry reiterate their love for non-violence inspite of the gravest of provocation by our enemies.

Buddha introduced a unique institution of monasteries whereby young men and women gave up ordinary lives and moved into monasteries to achieve higher spiritual goals. Thus the services of these people were permanently lost to society and not available for protection of Dharma. These movements made asceticism popular across the country. These influences increased man’s ability to suffer oppression, made our hearts soft, weakened society and reduced the will to fight for the protection of Dharma. Since Buddha and Mahavir were divine souls and not rulers, it did not lead to an immediate loss of political control by the ruling class.

After the second nuclear test i.e. Pokaran II, influenced by the principle of Ahimsa, a number of Indians were unhappy. What was the need? We are the land of Ahimsa. Amongst our neighbors China conducted its first test in 1964 and Pakistan is known to have achieved nuclear capability in 1987. Many believe that Operation Topac in Jammu and Kashmir was launched in 1989 i.e. after they had achieved nuclear deterrence