What am I— Where have I come from ?– What am I here for ?
Since the beginning of time, humanity has sought answers to these troubling questions and has attempted to unravel the mysteries of creation and the cosmos through religious and metaphysical speculations. In India, several different solutions have been put forth in the form of theological and ethical systems Among them is Jainism-one of the most ancient religions of India. This system of religious, philosophical and ethical teachings has in name form the Sanskrit word Jina”, which signifies conqueror. The designation Jina” is applied to those mortals who have over-powered the world of passions and emerged as spiritual victors The followers of the faith are know as Jains”-the followers of “Jina”
Jainism is one of the oldest religions in India. According to Jaina tradition, the religion is eternal having been revealed repeatedly by twenty-four Tirthan- karas. The first Tirthankara was Rsabha and the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara was Vardhamana Mahavira.
Jainism contains the traces of the earliest developments of philosophical thinking in the history of mankind. It has been generally recognized that Jain philosophy was sufficiently advanced before the tenth century B.C. Earlier glim- pses of Jainism have, however, been lost in the antiquity and the available sources of information do not provide hope of recovering them.
Let us take up the question regarding what history has to say about Jainism. In the opinion of some, the word “Aristanemi” occurring in the Brahmanic works refers to the twenty-second Jain Tirthankara having that name.. According to Jain traditions, he was related to Srikrishna. Aristanemi’s name is also mentioned as Jinesvara in Mahabharata. This leads us to one conclusion that Aristanemi did exist. If we take him as a contemporary of Krishna, it can be safely inferred that he flourished at the time of the Mahabharata in about 1400 to 1500 B.C. Bhagwan Rsabladeva was the Bru Tirthankara of the Jainas. The vedas of the Bramanic tradition also refers in some Rsabha. Reading the biographical account of Rsabha as found in the Puranas, the reader will have no doubt that it a the biographical account of Reablia of Jainat. According to Bramanic tradition. Rabhadeva belonged to the fifth generation of Manu. flourished in the Puranic times. It should, therefore be considered as falling beyond the purview of history. So it is clear that he
It is now a settled fact that Mahavira being a contemporary of Budha, flourished in the sixth century B.C. According to Jain tradition, Parshvanatha (the 23rd Tirthankara) got emancipation 250 years before Mahavira. This empo wers us to fix the life time of Parshvanatha at about 800 B. C. Something has already been said about Rsabhadeva and Aristanemi from amongst the Tirthan- karas, who flourished before Mahavira.
From the above discussion, we are now in an unassailable position to state categorically that Jain religion had evolved its definite shape and substance at least before 800 B.C. and it had carved out its name and fame as one of the sects representing Sramanic ideology (emphasizing principles of self-descipline and non-violence). There is no source available to us other than the Jain scriptures to venture a guess about the form of Jainism which was prevalent in the days of Aristanemi or of Rsabhadeva.