Atheism in Jainism

Being indestructible and absolutely independent, souls are not phases of nor emanations thrown out by something else. The Jains from the beginning have held that there is no Brahman-Atman, such as the Brahmins describe. No unity of substance or being holds the universe together. There is no Supreme Ruler of the world, such as the devout look to. There are numerous higher beings, who might be called "gods," and who exist on the various levels of the celestial regions; but they are finite beings, subject like men to rebirth. No help, Mahavira taught, could be expected from such beings, themselves in need of redemption. Therefore human souls caught in the predicament of existence in the physical world, an needing to find a way of escape from karma through moksha or release, must realize that salvation is self-attained. Praying to the gods is of no avail.

A monk or nun should not say, "The god of the sky! The god of the thunderstorm! The god of lightning! The god who begins to rain! ... May rain fall, or may it not fall! May the crops grow! May the sun rise!" They should not use such speech. But, knowing the nature of things, he should say, "The air; a cloud has gathered, or come down; the cloud has rained." 12

Nor does it avail to turn to other men, or ot the words of others, as having inherent efficacy to save. The priests are of no special authority. The Vedas are not especially sacred, and cannot be used as miraculous agencies of release from rebirth. Rather than trust to these external aids, let each man realize that salvation lies within himself. "Man," runs one of Mahavira's most emphatic utterances, "thou art thine own friend. Why wishest thou for a friend beyond thyself?"13

12 Sacred Books of the East, vol. XXII, The Gaina Sutras, translated by Hermann Jacobi, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1884 p 152
13 ibid., p 33
--in John B. Noss, Man's religions (Macmillan: NY 1956) p 149

[thanks to Jeet (sanghvijr@aol.com) for getting me off my butt
enough to include "the oldest atheistic religion - Jainism."]

As much as people believe or choose to believe that Jainism is an atheistic religion, I must strongly inform you of the fact that Jainism is NOT an atheistic religion. We do not deny the belief of god, only we do not acknowledge god as the Creator of the universe or of man or of earth, but we believe Mahavira, a human who attained liberation is now one with God, an ever spiritual being. So please clarify that Jainism is NOT an atheistic religion. Thank you.
- Anshu Jain anshu@dragg.net Oct 29 1997

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created 1jun1996, revised 20mar98     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info