Criticism of Jainism

Criticism of Jainism
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Jainism has been criticized in one way or another by proponents of other religions, and by Jains espousing reform or simply expressing dislike.


Fasting to death

Santhara, commonly called Sallenkhana or "Facing North" is a procedure in which a Jain stops eating with the intention of death. Those who undertake santhara are revered by fellow Jains and their deaths are celebrated publicly. Experts estimate that over 200 people die annually across India from such fasts. Human rights organisations say santhara is comparable to suicide and euthanasia and must not be allowed to continue. In India, euthanasia is banned and suicide is a crime. People who try to kill themselves are jailed and people who help them in the act are charged with abetting a suicide. If there is a hunger strike and someone fasts to the point of danger, the police are allowed to force-feed the person and charge them with a criminal offense. In Rajastan, a lawyer petitioned the High Court of Rajasthan to declare santhara illegal. There is ongoing human rights debate about whether santhara has any place in modern society. [1]

Criticism of extreme non-violence

Some baptists have criticised the extremity of the Jainism's non-violence doctrine by saying "It affects the food that they eat and the way they live. Jains can consume no flesh or root vegetable. Some refuse to eat between sunset and sunrise for fear an insect might fall into their food. Some even wear masks over their mouths to avoid disturbing air bodies." [2][3]

Criticism of non-creationism theory

According to Jain beliefs, the universe was never created, so Jainism along with Buddhism has been categorized as atheist philosophy or nāstika darśana, by Hindus. However, the word nāstika corresponds more to heterodox rather than atheism. Accordingly, those who did not believe in the Vedas and rejected the creation of the Universe were labeled "nāstika". In particular, Advaita Vedanta Hinduism criticises the Jain position on the supremacy and potency of Karma in Jainism, specifically the insistence on non-intervention by any Supreme Being.[4] For example, in a commentary to Brahma Sutras (III, 2, 38, and 41)), Adi Shankara argued that the original karmic actions themselves cannot bring about the proper results at some future time; neither can supersensuous, non-intelligent qualities like adrsta—an unseen force being the metaphysical link between work and its result—by themselves mediate the appropriate, justly deserved pleasure and pain. The fruits, according to him, then, must be administered through the action of a conscious agent, namely, a supreme being (Ishvara).[5]

Some Christians also criticised Jainism on its nonreliance on outside intervention. In 1915, Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson, an Irish missionary, declared that “the heart of Jainism is empty” since it does not depend on beseeching an omnipotent God for salvation. While fervently appealing them to accept Christianity, she says Jains believe strongly in forgiving others, and yet have no hope of forgiveness by a higher power. Jains believe that liberation is by personal effort not an appeal for divine intervention.[6] “The Heart of Jainism” was written from her missionary point of view without respecting Jain sensibilities.

If atheism is defined as disbelief in existence of a God, then Jainism cannot be labeled as atheistic, as it not only believes in existence of gods but also of the soul which can attain godhood. As Paul Dundas puts it:

[W]hile Jainism is, as we have seen, atheist in a limited sense of rejection of both the existence of a creator God and the possibility of intervention of such a being in human affairs, it nonetheless must be regarded as a theist religion in the more profound sense that it accepts the existence of divine principle, the paramātmā i.e. God, existing in potential state within all beings.[7]

The Jain position on God and religion is summed up in the words of Anne Vallely.

Jainism is the most difficult religion. We get no help from any gods, or from anyone. We just have to cleanse our souls. In fact other religions are easy, but they are not very ambitious. In all other religions when you are in difficulty, you can pray to God for help and maybe, God comes down to help. But Jainism is not a religion of coming down. In Jainism it is we who must go up. We only have to help ourselves. In Jainism we have to become God. That is the only thing.[8]

Status of women

Although Jainism is dedicated to equality in many ways, women do face difficulties in attaining moksha "liberation" in Jainism. Some texts state that women are spiritually unequal and impure. Women are believed to be harmful by nature. Their menstrual blood is considered to be impure in several important Jain texts. The bleeding that occurs in menstruation is thought to kill micro-organisms in the body, making the female body less nonviolent than the male body. [9] although that idea doesn't have any scientific support. The very femininity of females is a deterrent to their religious freedom. [10][11]

Digambar as in particular believe women must be reborn in male form before they can achieve moksha. They claim that women cannot become full monasticism or nuns because nakedness is key to achieving non-attachment but they ban women from being nude in public. Digambaras believe that if women go without clothing, men will experience sexual desires, thus diverting them from divine liberation. In turn, women would feel ashamed, and they would also be denied holy deliverance. In addition, Members of the female sex are obliged to take care of children and other dependents such as the aged. Because the women do this, they form earthly attachments to these people. If she can't break free from those attachments, she will never be able to be truly free from earthly bonds.

The Svetambara, disagrees with this position, holding that one of the Tirthankaras, Mallinath, was a woman. [12] Indeed, the majority of Svetambara monastics are female.

See also


  1. ^ "Religions - Jainism: Fasting". BBC Religions. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  2. ^ "Criticism of Jain traditions and an attempt to stop spreading of Jainism by Baptists". Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  3. ^ Bryan Cribb (1999-08-26). "Religion of 3 million in India researched by seminary team". Baptist Press. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  4. ^ Pande G. C. (1978) p.1
  5. ^ Reichenbach, Bruce R. (April 1989). "Karma, causation, and divine intervention". Philosophy East and West (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press) 39 (2): pp. 135–149. doi:10.2307/1399374. JSTOR 1399374. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  6. ^ Stevenson (1999) (Original 1915) p. 289
  7. ^ Dundas (2002) p.111
  8. ^ Vallely, Anne (1980). In: Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnology of a Jain Ascetic Community. University of Toronto Press: Toronto .p.182
  9. ^ "Women in Jainism". Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  10. ^ "Women in Jainism". BBC Religions. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  11. ^ "Women Impure During their Menstrual Cycle?". Anekant Education Foundation. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  12. ^ "Religions - Jainism: Jain sects". BBC. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 

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