THE ANCIENT INDIA AND ITS RELIGION
Before proceeding further and dealing with the origin and antiquity of Jainism it is felt necessary that
something should be said about the history of the ancient India with particular reference to the state
of religion at that time. Broadly speaking answers to the following questions are deemed desirable.
(a) Who were the original inhabitants of India? And what was their religion?
(b) How did the religion and culture of those inhabitants compare and differ from those of the Aryans?
(c) What are the Upanishads and how are they related to the Vedas and Jainism?
(d) Why do the Jains deny the authority of the Vedas?
The difficulty in answering such questions consists in the pre-conceived notions held by the people at large, and that if anything is stated which appears new to them, they are hardly prepared to lend their ears to it. There was even a period in the world including Indian history, when those who spoke against the then accepted theories, were subjected to the persecutions and the writings which do not conform to such people’s whims and caprices, were consigned to fire. Such times have, however, passed and there is now no reason why the truth be withheld.
Original Inhabitants:- The original inhabitants of India were the people called the Kols, the Bhils, and the Dravadians. While much is not known about the former two, the Dravidians, it has now been proved by the excavations at Mohanjadaro and Harappa1, were more civilized. Speaking about their influence on the religion of Hindus, Prof. Ishwari Prasad in the concluding portion of the chapter ‘Prehistoric India’ of his book ‘History of India’ says-
“ We have spoken of the Dravidian influence on Indian languages. In religion there are prominent survivals of non-Aryanism. In the Vedas we have no evidence of the worship of the mother Goddess and the phallus2 which have a prominent place in modern Hinduism.No doubts they were borrowed from the Mohanjadaro people. Similar is the case of Siva-pasupati, who now occupies a supreme position in the Hindu pantheon4.
“In philosophy also some notions must also be traced to non-Aryan sources. The theory and practice of yoga (meditation through some particular process) which are entirely foreign to the sentiments of Vedas were known to the Mohanjadaro people, and there is no harm in believing that the later Hindus learnt them from the non-Aryans. Some scholars think that Jainism and the Sankhya system of Indian philosophy are greatly indebted to non-Aryan thought. Add to this the institution of image worship which did not obtain in the Vedic times but became an all important feature in later Hinduism. Hinduism as we know it now is, therefore, not the exclusive gift of Indo-Aryans: the non-Aryans also played an equally prominent part in its evolution.”
The above is an important quotation from the history book written by an eminent scholar whose bias, if at all, must be leaning more towards Hinduism than towards Jainism.
1 Mohanjadaro and Harappa are the two old sites excavated in Sindh and Montgomery Districts of the Punjab some thirty six years ago. As the places are in the valley of the River Indus, it has been Christened Indus Valley civilization. Excavation recently made establish that this civilization extended up to Lothal in Saurasthra.It is 5000 years old and flourished between 3000-1500 BC. The people of this Pre-historic civilization were Dravidians or proto3-Dravidians. It was a highly developed urban civilization, providing amenities like the underground drainage, well laid out roads etc. the people had a highly developed artistic sense reflected in their paintings on the vases and the gold ornament. Their pictorial script has not been fully deciphered as yet. They domesticated animals, made use of cotton, and cultivated wheat and barley. Pottery making was a highly developed industry and the various artisans’ viz. carpenters, the stone cutters and the jewelers plied their trade. The leadership of the people was in the hands of industrialists. Some of the articles discovered Mohanjadaro, Harappa and Lothal including the damaged statue, the photo of which is given elsewhere in this book are housed in a museum opened recently at Lothal.
2.Phallus= image of the male genital organ venerated in certain religious systems as symbolizing generative power in nature.
3.Proto= Prefix= First.
4.Pantheon= A temple in Rome dedicated to all the Gods.
Unfortunately the learned Professor does not speak in his book in what way the scholars believe that Jainism and the Sankeya system were indebted to the non Aryan thought? Who was Siva? And what was phallus-worship? Who taught the Dravidians the theory and practice of meditation through the particular method called yoga? and the last but not least, if yoga is foreign to the sentiments of the Vedas, to which religion it is akin to, why and how? An attempt will be made in these pages to throw some light on the subjects.
The Aryans:- The Aryans were mostly wandering nomads, who depended on their wealth in cattle. When these nomads invaded the North Wesrern areas of Indai, the original inhabitants particularly the Dravadians offered a very stiff resistance which was not merely military, but it was also inspired by cultural differences. The nomads contemptuously called the Dravadians, the more advanced people, as city developers for it looked strange to them that some people should live in cities, containing well-built houses.,
The Deities worshipped by Aryans included natural elements such as fire and air, the most important and powerful being Indra. His worship called yojna consisted in sacrificing animals and offering large quantities of an intoxicating drink called soma-juice. This was used to invoke his aid against their enemies.
The Aryans settled in the plains of Punjab and the western portions of the Gangetic plains after successfully defeating the people of the land. Excavations so far made reveal that the farthest limit of the archaeologically established Aryans settlements extended to the places now called Lucknow.*
*Read also what in Hinduism and Veicism in “Allegories in the World Religious” in this book.
The Vedas:- The Vedas of Aryans consisted of thee main groups 1) Mantra, 2) Brahmans , and 3) Upanishadas. The mantras are four in number a) Regveda, b) Yajurveda, c) Samveda, dI Atharveda. The second section, called the explanatory treatises or manuals, which elaborately describe the procedure to be adopted in conducting the various sacrifices. Although intended exclusively for the priests, they incidentally give us some insight into the condition of the then prevailing Aryan society. Thus there are references to human sacrifices, and at the later stage of transition, a change from human to animal sacrifice, and thence to a substitution of a rice- cake in place of human and animal sacrifice both.
Jainism differs from the Vedic religion which has sanctioned animal sacrifice, and it is its main theme. In Aswametdh sacrifice alone over three hundred verities of animals used to be sacrificed to the Gods.
See what do the Smirti says:
“Whatever existed in the world, all that Parjapati ( the Lord of Creatures) had ordained to be the food of living beings, all both mobile and immobile, is the food of living creatures.
“ An eater eating an animal and thinking it to be his legitimate food does not commit sin in as much as the ordainer has created same animas as eaters and others as their food.”
They also prescribed what flesh a Brahmin should eat as his food and what he should avoid. The orthodox Brahmans, who believe the Vedas to be the word of Brahma and infallible authority, performed animal sacrifice.
To quote the words of Late Lokmanya Tilak, vide Bomaby Samachar dated 10th Dec. 1904:-
“ In ancient times, innumbearble animals were butchered insacrifice, evidence in support of which is found in various poetical compositions such as Meghduta of Kalida. The credit for the disappearance of this terrible massacre from the Brahmanical religion goes to the Jains”.
Even today several hundred goats and buffaloes are sacified daily at the altars of the so called gods and goddesses.
Our revered leader late Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru expressed his disgust and abhorrence at the idea of reviving such practices, and said:-
“I am grieved to learn that it is proposed to offer animal sacrifices in temples. I think that such sacrifices are barbarous and they degrade the name of religion. I trust the authorities will pay heed to the sentiments of the cultural people and refrain from such sacrifice.”---
It was because of the influence of the Jainism that people gave up, though not completely, sacrificing animals. They, however, could not overcome the temptation and used coconut, which resembles the head of a goat and pithi in place of in place of a goat’s flesh (the colour of blood) is used as wrapper in the various ceremonies.
Ahimsa Parma Dharma is the hall-mark of Jainism. It is a dictum accepted by some of the Hindus as well, but they pay only a lip service to the great principles, and even make convenience exceptions in its observance. The Budhists also owe allegiance to the principle and declare from the house tops that they do nor kill with their own hands, but buy meats from the butchers. What such people willfully ignore is that the butcher does his work for obtaining money; it is the trade with him. His success in the trade depends upon the demand in market and it being the consumers, who create the demand, it is they who are blame.
Upanishads:- As the composition of the Vedas by several Rishis, spread over a period of time exceeding a thousand years, it is reasonable that social and religious conditions underwent a considerable change, so that the last group, called Upanishadas, otherwise known as Vedas are later development. They are the important philosophical treatises considered to be the various Hindu systems of the later period. But the Upanishadic ideal is opposed to the early Vedic ideal, for while the Vedic school stressed the need of performing Yojnas, consisting of sacrifices and maintained that the caste system was a fundamental Dharma of the Hindus.
According to the Vedic school those who desired the happiness of swarga, or paradise, should perform sacrifices, while the Upanishadic ideal attached little importance to the world of Indra, who was not looked upon as the savior or protector. Indra, according to this school, possessed no extra ordinary powers, for the shared with them their human weakness even to a much greater degree, and was thus given up as worthy of emulation or adoration.
Ahimsa Parma Dharma, the religious originally preached Rsabha and His Successors, which was to the direct contradiction to the cult of sacrifice, now came to be considered of prime importance. In the Meru Tantra a Hindu was defined as one who shuddered at the very thought of himna, and yojna which previously consisted in sacrifice of poor animals now accordingly to the Saruti meant the sacrifice by man of all his sensual desires and material tendencies in the fire of janama. In Aswa-medh-yojna the aswa meaning a horse, that had to be sacrificed was explained away as symbolizing the giving up of the ephemeral* Jagat, the mind with the totality of its cosmological** conceptions. Likewise the aj was not the poor helpless goat but the unborn and unsprouted*** seeds of the vasnas and karmas or actions. Nay a clear warning was given that no innocent goat was killed. Those who ascribe these meanings do not, however, explain why so many ambiguous words and phrases were used in the Vedas which resulted in the spilling of blood of tens of millions of the dumb and helpless animals and what made this change from himsa to ahimsa.
*Ephemeral= from Ephemera an insect that lives one day only;Ephemeral, adj. lasting one day; short-lived.
** Cosmological= adj. from cosmos, universal.
*** Unsprouted= from sprout to grow.
Let us explain. This was all due to Dravadian influence which was in itself due to Rsabha cult.
Who was Rsabha? Is He any historical person? What was the religion or cult that He preached? Do we find mention of His name in the Vedas? How is this idea reconciled with Mahaviar being considered as the originator or founder of Jainism or Rsabha having a pre-Vedic, or pre-historic existence? are questions which we will discuss later. Suffice to say here that whatever others may opine according to the Jains it was His cult that was in the words of Sir Shanmukham Chetty, Ex-President, Central Legislative Assembly, and India, uttered by him in his presidential speech at the Mahavir Jayanti celebrations at Madras.
“Chiefly professed by the Dravadians, the aboriginals of the country before the Aryans came.”
And who were generally the inhabitants of Mohanjadaro and Harappa etc. It was again Lord Rsabha. Who, as will be explained later on, came to be worshipped as Shiva, Shanker, Vishnu and Mahadeva and yoga spoken of as being something “foreign to the sentiments of the Vedas” was learnt by the Hindus from Him.
Influence by His teachings some of the Rishis who wrote portions of the Vedas and Upanishads accepted the Jain Tirthankaras as the Saviours and they accepted the religion of ahimsa. It is this influence which explains the contradiction involved in the certain parts of the Vedas and the volteface* in the Upanishads. It was again his influence that the Upanishads spoke of the life principles which is present through out the organic kingdom from the plant world to the higher human beings. The vital principle, not perceivable by the sense, was recognized to be present in the smallest of the seeds. It was considered to be responsible for the seed growing into a plant then into a large tree, and sometimes even remaining dormant. The rishis called this vital principle, which could neither be seen, heard, touched, and tasted as Atma or soul. They tried to understand this Atma which could be realized through non-violence completely eschewing the practice of shedding blood. This was understood to be so because it was realized that the animals have also the same vital principle. It is important to note that though generally speaking the Upanishads owned the principle of non- violence, here and there they made convenient exceptions in the case of Vedic sacrifices.
*Volte-face= complete change of positions.