Ancient history of India reveals that there were three major religions
in India. They were Brahaminism, Buddhism and Jainism (Nirgranthas).
Latest research and excavation at Mohenjodaro and Harappa has shown that
Jainism existed before five thousands year ago, even though Jains
believe it to be eternal.

"There is truth in the Jaina idea that their religion goes back to a
remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the pre-Aryan,
so called Dravidian illuminated by the discovery of a series of great
late stone-age cities in Indus valley, dating from third and
perhaps even fourth millennium B. C." 1

Claims of Eternity
Naturally the followers of every religious faith proclaim their religion
as having its source in antiquity and Jainas are no exception to this.
The traditions and the legendary accounts prove the existence of Jainism
as eternal. Jainism is revealed again and again in every cyclic period
of the universe by forty-eight Tirthankaras (twenty-four in each half
cycle). The Jainas divide the whole span of  time into two equally
spanned cycles, namely, Utsarpini and Avasarpini. During Utsarpini,
there is a gradual ascendancy in moral and physical state of the
universe, while during Avasarpini, the case is just reverse, i.e. the
gradual descent of moral and physical state of universe. Each of these
two is subdivided into six aras each extending from over crores of years
to twenty-two thousands of years. This time-cycle goes on endlessly and
humans like us rise to be Tirthankaras (Jina) at regular intervals.
They, themselves, practice the eternal principles of Jainism and attain
omniscience (Kevaljnan) and preach and expound us the same.

Pre-Aryan Roots
Almost all the scholars agree that Jainism has Pre-Aryan roots  in the
cultural history of India. As Dr. A. N. Upadhye remarked -- "The origins
of Jainism go back to pre-historic times. They are to be sought in the
fertile valley of Ganga, where they  flourished in the past, even before
the advent of Aryans with their priestly religion, a society of recluses
who laid much stress on individual exertion, on practice of a code of
morality and devotion to austerities, as means of attaining religious
Summum Bonum." 2

In the same vein Joseph Campbell, commented "Sankhya and Yoga
represented a later psychological sophistication of principles preserved
in Jainism. They together are theory and practice of a single
philosophy." 3

Other scholars such as Prof. Buhler4, H. Jacobi, J.G.R. Forlong, Dr.
Hornell, Pt. Sukhalalji, Prof. Vidyalankara, Acarya Tulasi, Prof.
G.C.Pandey and others believe that Jainism is one of the earliest known
religious systems prevailing in India amongst the non-Aryan races which
belonged to Indus valley civilization.

In the Buddhist scripture Majjima Nikaya, Buddha himself tells us about
his ascetic life and its ordinances which are in conformity with the
Jain monk’s code of conduct. He says, "Thus far, SariPutta did I go in
my penance. I went without clothes. I licked my food from my hands. I
took no food that was brought or meant especially for me. I accepted no
invitation to a meal." Mrs. Rhys Davis has observed that Buddha found
his two teachers Alara and Uddaka at Vaisali and started his religious
life as a Jaina. 5

in Dighanikaya’s Samanna Phal Sutta, the four vows of Lord Parshvanath
(who flourished 250 years before Mahavira’s liberation) have been
mentioned. Attakatha of Anguttara Nikaya has reference to Boppa Sakya a
resident of Kapilvastu who was the uncle of Buddha and who followed the
religion of the Nigganathas i.e. Jains. 5

Critical and comparative study has brought to light several words like
‘Asrava’, "Samvara’ etc., which have been used by Jains in the original
sense but which have been mentioned in Buddhist Literature in
figurative   sense. On the basis of these words Dr. Jacobi has concluded
that Jainism is much older than the religion of Buddha and therefore it
is incorrect to imagine Jainism as the off-shoot of Buddhism. 5

Some historians think that Jainism is, no doubt, much prior to Buddhism,
but it is a protestant creed which revolted against the sacrifices of
the Vedic cult. The advanced researchers show that the above stand has
no foundation. The respectable and reliable sacred books of the Hindus
themselves establish the most ancient nature of Jain thought. Rigveda,
the oldest Hindu scripture refers to Lord Rishabha Deo, who was the
founder of Jainism. It also talks about Vaman Avtar-incarnation, who is
the 15th incarnation amongst the 24 incarnation. Rishabha’s name comes
as the 9th incarnation Vishnu. Rishabha’s name occurs before Vaman or
Dwarf Ram, Krishna, and Buddha incarnations. Therefore it is quite clear
that Rishabha must have flourished long before the composition of
Rigveda. The great  scholar Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, ex-president of Indian
Union, in his ‘India Philosophy’ had observed, "Jain tradition ascribes
the origin of the system to Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara. There
is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhaman or Parsvanath.
The Yajurveda mentions the name of three Tirthankaras-Rishabha, Ajitnath
and Arshtanemi. The Bhagwat Puran endorses the view that Rishabhadeva
was the founder of Jainism." (Vol. II, p. 286) 5

The excavations made at Mohenjodaro and Harappa show that Jainism
existed five thousands years ago, because the pose of the standing
deities on the Indus seals resembles the pose of standing image of
Rushabhadeo obtained from Mathura. The feeling of abandonment that
characterizes the standing figure of the Indus seals, three to five
(Plate II, I G.N.) with as bull in the foreground may be the prototype
of Rishabha.  (Modern review Agust 1932 - Sindha Five Thousand Years
Ago). Rishabha has been spoken of as Yogishwara by the poet Jinasena in
his Mahapurana. Therefore, the Indus valley excavated material glaringly
establishes the fact that the founder of Jainism belonged to the
pre-Vedic period. The nude Jain idol of 320B. C., in Patna Museum, of
Lohanipur helps us to support the above contention. 5

The renowned Jain scholar Prof. A. Chakravarty’s researches have brought
to light priceless material which proves the most ancient nature of Jain
thought. When the Aryan invaders had come to India, the Dravidians, who
inhibited this land vehemently opposed them. The Rigveda Aryan thinkers
refer to these Anti-Aryan Dravidians as enemies and therefore, called
them in uncomplimentary terms. They were called ‘Dasyus’. The Aryan god
Indra is hailed as Dasyushatya, slaughterer of Dasyus. These enemies
were styled as ‘Ayajvan’-non sacrificing, ‘Akraman’ without rites,
‘Adevaya’ indifferent to gods, ‘Anyavrata’ following strange ordinances
and ‘Devapeeya’ reviling the gods. They are described as black skinned
and ‘Anas’, snub-nosed. The other epithet was ‘Mridhravac’
unintelligible speech. Oriental scholars are of opinion, probably
rightly, that these races of Dasyus who opposed the Aryans were the
Dravidians, who inhabited the land, when the Aryans invaded the country.
They are called ‘Sisnadevas’, because they worshipped the nude figure of
man. 5

The critical study of some Vedic Hymns like Nadsiya Sukta shows that
there must have been a peculiar current of thought existing in the
pre-Vedic period which influenced the Vedas. Dr. Mangaldev feels that
"Jain Philosophy might be a branch of the pre-Vedic current of thoughts.
Some Jain terms like ‘Pudgal’ - matter supports the aforesaid point." 5

A glance over the glorious past of Jainism reveals the fact that the
lives of Rushabhadeo and the succeeding twenty-three Tirthankaras had
deeply impressed the entire world culture. When the Alexander invaded
India he came across a host of nude Jain saints in Taxila whom the Greek
writers call ‘Gymnosophists.’ The Greek word connotes the nude
philosopher. The mystic group of Israel, called the Essenes, was much
influenced by these ‘Gymnosophists’, who were preaching their message of
Ahimsa, the central truth in Jainism to the people of Alexandra in
Egypt. Historical records tell us that the Greeks were much influenced
by Jain thoughts. Alexander had taken one Jain saint, Calanes. With him
to his country. 5

It is to be noted that the Essenes of Israel were ascetics following the
tenets of Ahimsa. They had great hold upon the people and they commanded
deep influence in Palestine. John the Baptist was an ascetic teacher of
this school of Essenism. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity was
much influenced by John’s Non-violence cult and other teachers of
Essenism. In six hundred B. C. this cult of Non-violence was progressing
beyond Syria and Palestine. The Jain teachings has also influenced
Pythagoras, the philosopher of pre-Socratic period, who flourished in
532 B. C. and led the non-violence way of life. During this period Lord
Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, whom the ignorant people called the
founder of Jainism, was living. Perhaps Lord Mahavira’s teaching had
influenced the people of far off countries. 5

In his book, The Magic of Numbers, E. T. Bell (p. 87) tells that once
Pythagoras saw a citizen beating his dog with a stick, whereupon the
merciful philosopher shouted, "Stop beating that dog. In this howls of
pain I recognize the voice of a friend…For such sin as you are
committing he is now the dog of a harsh master. By the next turn the
wheel of birth may make him the master and you the dog. May he be more
merciful to you than you are to him. Only thus can he escape the wheel.
In the name of Apollo, My father, stop or I shall be compelled to say on
you the ten fold curse of the Teteractyas." This reveals the effect of
Jainism. 5

Process of Synthesis
Evidently, with the emergence of Upanisada era (about 800 B. C. and
after) the process of synthesis of non-Aryan Sramana and Aryan Vedic
cultures started. The social, economic and political interaction between
Aryan settlers and  their more advanced non-Aryan brothers, enriched
their knowledge of the former. They began to interpret their Vedas in
the light of this enhanced knowledge. At this stage, a recapitulation of
periodic division of early Indian history would be of some interest to
understand the long process of integration of the non-Aryan and Aryan
cultures, Roughly, the period corresponding to 3500 B. C. to 1500 B. C.
is considered to be the period of Indus valley civilization of non-Aryan
races in India. This coincides with the Sumerian and Akkad civilizations
of Middle east, prospered in about 2300 B. C. (They were also river
valley civilizations) and Minoan civilization of Crete. Thus the period
corresponding over two thousand years can be carved out for River valley
civilization which spread over northern and western parts of India
extending upto Saurastra in Gujrat. It is a story which is five to six
thousand years ago. 6

Aryan invasions of India dated approximately before 1500 B. C., i.e.,
about three to four thousand years ago from today, practically coincided
with the Hellenic invasions of Greece. They seem to have brought some
portions of Rgveda and other Vedas with them From 1500 B. C. to 800 B.
C. -- a period of about 700 years may be termed as Vedic and subsequent
Brahmana period. Brahmanas elaborate the rules and details for the
employment of the Mantras or hymns at various sacrificial rituals. As a
result of which the priestly class, with sole and exclusive right of
performing rituals gained much social prominence and virtually dominated
the society. During this period the Aryans had completely settled and
had fully vanquished the non-Aryan races. These were being absorbed in
their social structure principally as `Dasyus'  absorbed in their social
structure principally as `Dasyus' (labor class) and were treated as
second class citizens. However, the Aryans had tremendous capacity to
absorb and to assimilate all new things of life.  They not only adopted
many cultural and philosophical thinking of their non-Aryan brothers,
but also enriched the same by their own original thoughts. They realized
that beyond this mundane existence as well as after life, there is
something distinct. For attaining that something the propitiation of
gods by sacrifices and offerings of livings beings is not the way. When
acquainted with the non-Aryan theories of austerities, non-violence,
Karma and soul, they realized that something, the aim of their pursuit
could be apprehended by working on these theories. This becomes quite
evident when in Chandogya Upanisad Rsi Aruni explains to his son the
newly found secret of the real nature of the self, not taught to him
during the course of the long term of his education in existing Vedas
(Ref. to the dialogue between Aruni and his son Svetaketu in Chapter on
"Ontology of Atman" in this book). Naciketa of Kathopanisad goes to Yama
(God to Death) to learn the science of Atman (soul) by asking the
question "When a man dies, does he still exist or not? " Thus there was
a fervent intellectual agitation in the post-Brahmanic period when the
Rsis of Upanisadas began to challenge the usefulness of sacrificial
rituals and began to apply their mind objectively to the teachings of
Sramana traditions of ancient India. This trend had started long  before
Upanisadic period but it gained momentum only during that period.
Twenty-third Tirthankara of Jainas, Parsvanatha, recognized now as a
historical person, flourished during 872 to 772 B. C., the time when the
Upanisadas were getting on full swing. Like his successor Mahavira,
Parsva also had a great organizing capacity. He organized the Sramanic
order and propounded `Caturyama' of four principles namely Non-violence
(Ahimsa), Truth (Satya), Non-stealing (Asteya) and Restrictions on
possession (Aparigraha). His Sramana teachings had great influence on
contemporary thinking. And with the advent of Mahavira (526 B. C.) the
time became ripe for the final and decisive assault on priestly
Brahmanic culture of rituals and violent sacrifices. Both Mahavira and
his contemporary Buddha (563 B. C.) led a  relentless crusade against
the social and cultural evils prevalent at the time. This crusade went
on with such a vigor till 8th century A. D. that, but for the advent of
the great Sankara, who assimilated Sramana ideas of Buddhism with his
brilliant exposition of Vedanta. Vedic culture would have been
practically eclipsed throughout India. Now the Sramanic ideas of
non-violence, karma and soul have become so much identified with the
Vedic culture that there is absolutely no difference between the
attitude of a Jaina and a Hindu towards life's problems, individual or
social. These attitudes are so identical that unless one tells you that
he is a Jaina by religion you cannot make out from his behavior that he
is a non-Hindu by faith. 6

1. Prof. Zimmer: Myths and symbols in India Art and Civilization.
2. See: A Cultural History of India, Clarendon Press, Oxford, P. 100
3. Prof. Zimmer: Philosophies of India, Ed. Joseph Campbell, see
editorial, p. 60
4. Prof. Buhler: Indian Sect of Jainism
5. Diwakar S. C., Glimpse of Jainism, Published by Shri Bharatvarshiya
Digambar Jain Mahasabha
6.  Mehta T. U., The Path of Arhat A religious Democracy, Published by
Parsvanath Sodhapitha

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