Source : Ramesh Nahata
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Jainism believes that universe and all its substances or entities are eternal. It has no beginning or end with respect to time. There is no need of some one to create or manage the affairs of the universe. Universe in run own its own accord by its own cosmic laws. Hence Jainism does not believe in God as a creator, survivor, and destroyer of the universe.
However Jainism does believe in God. When a living being destroys all his karmas, he possesses perfect knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. He becomes omniscient and omnipotent. This living being is a God of Jain religion. Hence Jains do not believe in one God. Gods in Jain religion are innumerable and the number is continuously increasing as more living beings attain liberation. Every living being has a potential to become God of the Jain religion.
While travelling on the path of spiritual progress, a person destroys all eight types of his karmas in the following sequence.
First Mohaniya (delusion), then Jnana-varaniya (knowledge), Darasna-varaniya (vision), and Antaraya (natural qualities) all three together.
Lastly the remaining four namely Nama (body), Ayu (life span), Gotra (social standing), and Vedniya (pleasure and pain of the body). He then attains liberation.
The first four karmas are called Ghati karmas because they obscure the natural qualities of the soul. The last four karmas are known as aghati karmas because they are related to the body of the soul. Once a person destroys all Ghati karmas, automatically he will destroy all his Aghati karmas at the end of his present life. No fall back can occur.
A person who destroys all eight types of karmas is called Siddha. A person who destroys only four ghati karmas is called Arihanta (Tirthankara, Jina etc). Both Arihantas and Siddhas are classified as Gods in Jainism.
When a person destroys his ghati karmas, he attains keval-jnana. He has regained the original attributes of his soul which are perfect knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. He is omniscient of the past, present and future forms of all entities (living and nonliving beings) of the universe. He is still a human being. He preaches the religion and remains in the state of blissful condition for the rest of his life. He is known as an Arihant.
Arihantas have two categories:
Immediately after attaining keval-jnana, if a person establishes the four-fold religious order of monks, nuns, sravaks (male laypeople), sravikas (female laypeople) is known as Tirthankara.
He preaches the Jain philosophy, religion, ethics, etc. to his followers.
Twenty-four Tirthankaras are born during this descending part of the time cycle (Avasarpini Kaal) of this region (Bharat Kshetra) of the universe. No two Tirthankaras have lived at the same time in this region. Generally a Tirthankara is born when the religion is at its depression state. He revives the same philosophy and religion at that time. Sometimes he gives a different form to the religion depending upon the time, place, and human behavior.
For example, Lord Mahavir preached five great vows, while Lord Parshva preached four great vows. The vow of celibacy was included in the non-possession category during Parshav's time.
Tirthankaras are also known as Jina or Nirgrantha.
Jina means one who has conquered his inner passions like desire and hatred.
Nirgrantha means one who has gotten rid of all attachments
The only difference between Tirthankara and ordinary-kevali is that the latter does not establish the religious order. He remains in the state of perfect blissful condition for the rest of his life after attaining Keval-jnan.
In the religious scriptures the name Arihantas and Tirthankaras are interchangeably used because ordinary-kevalis do not play a significant role in the religious order.
All Tirthankaras and ordinary-kevalis destroy their remaining Aghati karmas, and attain liberation at the end of their present life. Now they are known as Siddhas. They are totally free. They do not possess body. They are free from the birth and death cycle. They do not feel pleasure and pain, or joy and sorrow. They live in an ever lasting blissful condition at the top of Lokakas known as Moksha. All siddhas possess the same quality of soul, and their attributes are same. However, they still maintain their unique identity.
For Example, Lord Mahavir's soul as a siddha has a different form than the soul of Lord Bahubali.
Both Arihants (Tirthankaras and ordinary-kevalis) and Siddhas are considered Gods of Jain religion.
Q. In the Namokar Mantra we pray to the Arihants (Tirthankara) first and then to the Siddhas second. Even though the Siddhas are perfect souls and have destroyed both Ghati and Aghati Karmas, and Arihantas have destroyed only Ghati Karmas.
A. It is because Arihants after attaining keval-jnana (after destroying ghati-karmas), preach the Jain philosophy and religion. They explain the path of liberation and attributes of Siddhas. Without the help of Arihantas we would not have known Siddhas. For this reason we pray Arihantas first and Siddhas second.
The Four-Fold order
- Monks and Nuns: They practice self-control and have given up all desires and earthly possessions become the spiritual practicers and teachers.They follow strictly five maha-vrats.
- Sravaks and Sravikas (Lay followers): They are not required to renounce the world, but are expected to discharge household duties by honest means and live a progressive pure life. They the follow twelve vows of lay people