Every concept, belief or theory faces some sort of criticism. Few religions or systems of believes can coexist without enduring their fair share of criticism, whether fair or unfair, and Jainism is no different. Jainism is practised by millions in India and many other countries like- Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, Kenya, Asia, and even the United States.
Examples of some major festivals of Jainism are- Paryushana, Daslakshana, Mahavir Jayanti, and Diwali etc.
The word “Jain” itself comes from the Sanskrit word for “victor” and signifies a Jain’s ethical and spiritual journey through life and a continuous number of rebirths.
Most criticism of Jainism is levied intellectually and is based on whether or not the religion’s beliefs and practices remain consistent with those who teach them.
The Jain theory of Karma supposes that karma is a physical substance found everywhere and that the substance is attracted to a person’s soul dependent on the actions of the person. In other words, the more harmonious someone is with the civilization or natural world around them, the more karma he or she would attract.
Critics often question the lack of oversight by a god. How can the fate of your soul be governed entirely by your own actions without any connection to a Supreme Being? Critics believe that at the very least, that which you receive for your good actions must be administered by a Supreme Being, and not by the supposedly tangible substance they call karma.
The ideas fuelling any religion thrive because they offer solutions, but critics of Jainism suggest that certain Jain doctrines promote hesitancy or uncertainty among followers, and therefore create new problems over solutions.
Other critics believe that the very idea of Jainism undoes itself because Jain’s epistemology can’t deny doctrines that contradict its own. Jainism posits a complex reality that cannot possibly be described or comprehended by a single doctrine, and therefore its own must not adequately articulate that which it must articulate in order to make universal sense. The Jain doctrine itself would prefer to reconcile rather than contradict or refute, but perhaps this is a reason for the religion’s popularity, to begin with.
Some criticisms of Jainism practices are discussed as follows:
Bal Diksha: Bal diksha or the induction of minors in monastic order is criticised as a violation of children’s rights. Several child rights activists and government agencies questioned the practice and intervened in some instances. Several Jain institutions see this as an interference in religious matters. The legality of the issue was discussed in the courts and the Gujarat high court advised the state and central government to bring legislation to curb the practice. Since 1955, four attempts to get a legislative bill against Bal Diksha passed in Parliament have failed. The gazette notification of July 13, 2009, stating that Bal Diksha as practised in Jainism does not come under the provisions of the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Justice Act was celebrated but later found forged and a case was filed for forgery.
Sallekhana: Sallekhana is the religious vow of gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids observed by terminally ill or old Jain disciples. It is widely called fasting unto death as there is a reduction in food intake. It is practised with the approval of Jain monks and can last over 12 years or more. It was petitioned that Rajasthan High Court should declare the practice illegal. In response, the Jain community said that the practice was a religious activity which was protected under Article 25 of the Indian constitution. In August 2015, Rajasthan High Court cited that the practice is not an essential tenet of Jainism and banned the practice, making it punishable under sections 306 and 309 IPC (Abetment of Suicide). But a few days later, The Supreme Court of India stayed the High Court’s order.
Status of women:Jainism includes women in their fourfold sangha, the religious order of Jain laymen, laywomen, monks and nuns. The early Shvetambar scriptures imposed restrictions on pregnant women, young women or those who have a small child, to enter the ranks of nuns. Regardless, the number of nuns given in those texts was always double the number of monks. Parshvanatha and Mahavira, two historical Tirthankars of Jainism, had huge numbers of female devotees and ascetics. Moreover, the restrictions on certain women to enter the ranks of nuns were not attributable to Jainism alone, but to the erstwhile patriarchal Indian society as a whole
According to the Svetambara’s scriptures such as Chhedasutra, women were given lesser authority than their male counterparts. Commentaries state that this is because things which could endanger the vow of chastity should be avoided. Nalini Balbir writes that the belief that women are more fragile than men were all-pervading in these texts.
The Digambar sect of Jainism believes that women must be reborn as men in order to achieve liberation. Digambars maintain that women cannot take higher vows of ascetic renunciation.
The Swetambar sect, however, disagrees with this position, holding that one of the Tirthankars, Mallinath, was a woman and even today the majority of Swetambar monastics are female
Naturally, some people in the 21st century take issue with these practices–but really, they aren’t too dissimilar from the practices of religions all over the world, nor are they more radical.
Advaita Vedanta and Adi Sankaracharya
Adi Sankaracharya was the main philosopher who through his philosophy of Advaita Vedanta defeated Jainism. The word “Advaita” essentially refers to the identity of the Self (Atman) and the Whole (Brahman). He wrote, “Ekameva Adviteeyam Brahma” (The absolute is one alone, not two). There is no second, but there is the appearance of an enormous multiplicity. There may be many stalks of sugarcane, but the juice from all of them has the same sweetness.
Beings are many, but their breath is the same. Nations are many, but the Earth is one. In this manner, Sankara proclaimed to the world that it is the unity that underlines the apparent diversity. Satyam-Jnanam-Anantam-Anandam is not separate attributes. They form the very essence of Brahman. Brahman cannot be described, because description implies distinction. Brahman cannot be distinguished from any other than He. The objective world-the world of names and forms has no independent existence. The Atman alone has real existence. The world is only Vyavaharika or phenomenal.