A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the origin of jainism: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the first part in the series called the “the jaina philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 1 - The Origin of Jainism

Notwithstanding the radical differences in their philosophical notions Jainism and Buddhism, which were originally both orders of monks outside the pale of Brahmanism, present some resemblance in outward appearance, and some European scholars who became acquainted with Jainism through inadequate samples of Jaina literature easily persuaded themselves that it was an offshoot of Buddhism, and even Indians unacquainted with Jaina literature are often found to commit the same mistake. But it has now been proved beyond doubt that this idea is wrong and Jainism is at least as old as Buddhism. The oldest Buddhist works frequently mention the Jains as a rival sect, under their old name Nigantha and their leader Nātaputta Varddhamāna Mahāvīra, the last prophet of the Jains. The canonical books of the Jains mention as contemporaries of Mahāvīra the same kings as reigned during Buddha’s career.

Thus Mahāvīra was a contemporary of Buddha, but unlike Buddha he was neither the author of the religion nor the founder of the sect, but a monk who having espoused the Jaina creed afterwards became the seer and the last prophet (Tīrthaṅkara) of Jainism[1]. His predecessor Pārśva, the last Tīrthaṅkara but one, is said to have died 250 years before Mahāvīra, while Pārśva’s predecessor Ariṣṭanemi is said to have died 84,000 years before Mahāvīra’s palambhaḥ. The story in Uttarādhyayanasūtra that a disciple of Pārśva met a disciple of Mahāvīra and brought about the union of the old Jainism and that propounded by Mahāvīra seems to suggest that this Pārśva was probably a historical person.

According to the belief of the orthodox Jains, the Jaina religion is eternal, and it has been revealed again and again in every one of the endless succeeding periods of the world by innumerable Tīrthaṅkaras. In the present period the first Tīrthaṅkara was Ṛṣabha and the last, the 24th, was Vardhamāna Mahāvīra. All Tīrthaṅkaras have reached mokṣa at their death, and they neither care for nor have any influence on worldly affairs, but yet they are regarded as “Gods” by the Jains and are worshipped[2]

Footnotes and references:


See Jacobi’s article on Jainism, E. R. E.



See “Digumbara Jain Iconography (i. a, xxxii [1903] p. 459” of J. Burgess, and Biihler’s “Specimens of Jina sculptures from Mathurā,” in Epigraphica Indica , 11. pp. 311 etc. See also Jacobi’s article on Jainism, E. R. E.