Jainism in Buddha Period
was the senior contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In Buddhist books Lord Mahavir is always
described as nigantha Nataputta (Nirgrantha Jnatrputra), i.e., the naked ascetic of the Jnätr clan. Further, in the Buddhist
literature Jainism is referred to as an ancient religion. There are ample references in Buddhist books to the Jain
naked ascetics, to the worship of Arhats in Jain chaityas or temples and to the chaturyäma dharma (i.e. fourfold religion) of 23rd Tirthankar Parsvanath.
Moreover, the Buddhist literature refers to the Jain tradition of Tirthankars and specifically mentions the names of Jain
Tirthankars like Rishabhdev, Padmaprabh, Chandraprabh, Puspdant, Vimalnath, Dharmanath and Neminath.
The Buddhist book Manorathapurani, mentions the names of many lay men and women as followers of the Parsvanath tradition and among
them is the name of Vappa, the uncle of Gautama Buddha. In fact it is mentioned in the Buddhist literature that
Gautama Buddha himself practiced penance according to the Jain way before he propounded his new religion.
Neminath or Aristanemi, who preceded Lord Parshvanath, was a cousin of Krishna. He was son of Samudravijaya and grandson of
Andhakavrsni of Sauryapura. Krishna had negotiated the wedding of Neminath with Rajimati, the daughter of Ugrasena of Dvaraka. Neminath
attained emancipation on the summit of Mount Raivata (Girnar).
There is a mention of Neminath in several vedic canonical books. The king named Nebuchadnazzar was living in the 10th century
B. C. It indicates that even in the tenth century B.C. there was the worship of the temple of Neminath.
The historicity of Lord Parshvanath has been unanimously accepted. He preceded Lord Mahavir by 25O years. He was the son
of King Asvasena and Queen Vama of Varanasi. At the age of thirty he renounced the world and became an ascetic. He practiced
austerities for eighty three days. on the eighty fourth day he obtained omniscience. Lord Parshvanath preached his doctrines for seventy years. At the age of one hundred he attained liberation on the
summit of Mount Sammd (Parsnath Hills). The four vows preached by Lord Parshvanath are not to kill, not to lie, not to steal, and not to own property.
Lord Mahavira was the twenty fourth, i.e., the last Tirthankaras. According to the tradition of the Shvetämbar Jains the Nirvän
of Lord Mahavira took place 470 years before the beginning of the Vikrama Era. The tradition of the Digambar Jains maintains that Lord
Mahavira attained Nirvän 605 years before the beginning of the Saka Era. By either mode of calculation the date comes to 527
B.C. Since the Lord attained emancipation at the age of 72, his birth must have been around 599 B.C. This makes Lord Mahavira
slightly elder contemporary of Buddha who probably lived about 567-487 B.C. Lord Mahavira was the head of an excellent community of 14,000 monks, 36,000 nuns,
159,00O male lay votaries and 318,OOO female lay votaries. The four groups designated as monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen constitute the four fold order (tirtha) of Jainism.
Of the eleven principle disciples (ganadharas) of Lord Mahavir, only two, viz., Gautam Swami and Sudharma Swami survived him.
After twenty years of Nirvän of Lord Mahavira, Sudharma Swami also attained emancipation. He was the last of the eleven gandharas to die. Jambu Swami,
the last omniscient, was his pupil. He attained salvation after sixty four years of the Nirvän of Lord Mahavira.
There were both types of monks, viz., sachelaka (with clothes) and achelaka (without clothes), in the order of Lord
Mahavir. Both types of these groups were present together up to several centuries after Nirvän of Lord Mahavira.
The keval-Jnani are those who have eradicated four soul defiling karmas and attained the perfect knowledge. Shrut-kevalis
are those who know all 14 Purvas and 12 Ang-Pravishtha-Agams. Das-Purvis are those who knew the first ten Purvas and 11 Ang-Pravishtha-Agams.
The Jain literature, which was compiled by Ganadharas and Srut-kevlis, is known as Ägam literature.
These texts are the Holy Scriptures of the Jain religion. The Jain Ägams consisted of 1) 14 Purvas, 2) 12 Ang-pravishtha-Ägams
and 3) Ang-bähya-Ägams (34 for Shwetämbar murtipujak, 21 for Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi and 14 for Digambar).
With a view to establish order in the preaching of Lord Mahavir, Jain Acharyas assembled three times and prepared three
recessions of the preaching. Whenever the Acharyas saw that the Shrut was waning and that there was disorderliness into it, they
assembled and established order in it. No documentation occurred during the first recension (320 BC in Patliputra under the
leadership of Sthulibhadra) but during the second (380 AD in Mathura and Vallabi under the leadership of Skandil and Nagarjun
respectively) and third (520 AD in Vallabhi under the leadership of Devardhigani Acharya) conferences most of the scriptures, commentaries, and other works were documented.
All sects agree that 14 Purvas and Drastiväd, 12th Ang-pravishtha-Ägams are extinct. Digambars believe all Jain Ägams
are extinct. While Shwetämbar sects accepts the existing Jain Ägams as authentic teachings of Lord Mahavir. However, Shwetämbar
murtipujak believe there are 34 Ang-bähya-Ägams existing. while Shwetämbar Sthanakväsi believe there are 21 Ang-bähya-Ägams are existing.
The composition of scripture has a specific purpose of showing the listener the path of everlasting happiness and
liberation. The Ägam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the eternal truths on thinking,
namely, the principle of relativity, principle of non-one-sided-ness and many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of
life, soul, karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, non-possessiveness.
Jains believe that Ang-Ägams were at all times in the past, are in the present, and will be at all times in the future.
They are eternal, firm, permanent, non-destructive, non-decaying and everlasting. Jains are people of books and there are many
great books written on Jainism by many great Ächäryas and scholars.