Article: Jainism and scientific thought

Contributed by Aidan Rankin and Kanti V. Mardia

Glossary

Ahiṃsā

The principle of non-violence that is one of the five chief vows of Jainism.

Ajīva

The ‘absence of soul’ in non-living things. There are five types of ajīva:

  • the medium of motion – dharma-stikaya
  • the medium of rest – adharma-stikaya
  • space – ākāśa-tikaya
  • visible matter – pudgala-stikaya
  • time – kāla.

The last is not always counted. Together with jīva or 'substance with soul', ajīva forms the universe.

Anekānta-vāda

The doctrine of 'truth from many viewpoints', which is typical of Jainism. It means that the same reality can be seen from various angles and that reality cannot be understood from a single viewpoint.

Āsrava

Karmic influx. Karma is a very subtle matter that is attracted to the soul by actions. Āsrava refers to the beginning of the process, when karma enters into the soul and becomes bound with it.

Bandha

'Karmic bondage'. This refers to the period when the karma has entered the soul and lies dormant before producing its effect or coming to fruition.

Bhavyatva

Soul that is worthy of liberation.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Darśana

Vision, insight or perception. It works with the quality of jñāna – knowledge in the soul – to gain deep, true understanding and is ever-changing.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Dharma

Duty, religious codes or principles, the religious law. Jains think in terms of dharma or underlying order in the universe.

Related to this, the term is also used for the true nature of an object or living entity. For example, the dharma of:

  • fire is to burn
  • water is to produce a cooling effect.

The 15th Jina of the present age is called Dharmanātha or Lord Dharma. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the vajra – diamond thunderbolt. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Dhyāna

Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.

Dogma

An authoritative belief or set of principles, particularly on religious matters or set out by a religious group as a necessary tenet.

Guṇa

Quality, positive point.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jīva

Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.

Jñāna

'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:

  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.

With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Karma

Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.

Karmon

A contemporary term for a sub-atomic particle of karmic matter, coined by Kanti Mardia. These 'karmons' interact with the soul and conceal its key qualities, such as bliss – sukha.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Loka

The universe in Jain cosmology, composed of the upper, middle and lower worlds. Human beings can live only in part of the Middle World.

Mithyādṛṣṭi

Wrong insight, wrong views. This describes following doctrines that are not Jain.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Nirjarā

Progressive elimination through religious practice of karmic matter that has entered the soul.

Pāpa

Wrong or bad action. Similar to a bad merit in Buddhism.

Predestination

Doctrine or belief that salvation or events are destined to take place and cannot be changed, regardless of an individual's actions.

Puṇya

Sanskrit for a 'right or good action'. Similar to a merit in Buddhism, it helps to reduce karma.

Samiti

Carefulness, which has five aspects. Ascetics can reduce accidental violence by being careful and observing rules in these five areas:

  • motion – īryā
  • speech – bhāṣā
  • cooking, eating and begging for food – eṣaṇā
  • lifting and placing items, moving things – ādānanikśepaṇa
  • disposing of bodily waste – pariṣṭhāpana.

Saṃsāra

Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.

Satya

Reality or truth. This is very important to Jains and the satya-vrata is the second of the mendicant's Five Great Vows and the lay person's Five Lesser Vows.

Siddha-śilā

The realm of liberated souls, at the apex of the universe. All the liberated souls – siddha – dwell there in eternal bliss.

Syād-vāda

'Doctrine of it might be’, which is similar to the notion of ‘in some respect'. The doctrine of qualified assertion is typical of Jain philosophy, which is meant to describe the multi-faceted nature of reality.

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