Article: Jina

Contributed by Jasmine Kelly


  • The child is a prince, brought up in luxury and enjoying the pleasures of the world.
  • The gods remind the young man of his great destiny as a Jina, prompting him to give up the ease of his worldly life and become a monk.


This manuscript painting shows the 24th Jina Mahāīra enduring some of the trials – upasarga – each Jina goes through to test his spiritual resolve. He takes the kāyotsarga meditation posture though animals attack and two men push spikes into his ears.

Mahāvīra is tested
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

  • The monk is a 'perfect ascetic', exemplary in his behaviour and spirituality.
  • He undergoes a series of gruelling physical and mental trials – upasarga – that tests his strength and mental fortitude to the limit before he can purge his soul of karma.
  • While meditating under a tree, the ascetic reaches enlightenment, equivalent to absolute knowledge or omniscience.
  • The gods build an assembly hall for the new Jina, who preaches his first sermonsamavasaraṇa – to all animals, gods and human beings using the divine sound – divya-dhvani.
  • The Jina forms a fourfold community consisting of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.
  • His teachings are collected into Āgamas by his chief disciples – gaṇadharas.


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