Jai Mahavir ji
Fundamental Features of Jainism.
Jainism and communication
By Dr Prasannanshu, M. Phil, Ph. D (Delhi University)
Jainism as a religion fascinates one in more
than one way. Some the first things you become aware about Jainism are
the Eco-friendliness of the religion as it believes in the
fundamental truth that ‘ mutual support and interdependence binds all
the living beings’, the compassion most vociferously proclaimed in
term of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence; the heights achieved in the field
of scientific knowledge and mathematics-incidentally Jains have been
aware of the presence of micro organism millennia before the invention
of microscope and marvels of mathematics are studded richly in the 'Ganitasaara'
of the Jain Saint-scholar Mahavira.
An aspect of Jainism, which is often overlooked,
is its achievements in the field of communication. One of the first
things a student of communication reads is about the barriers to
communication and how to overcome them. A look at the history tells us
that Jain preachers took a bold step of using ‘prakrit’ the
then language of the masses to send out its messages. It was a bold step
as at that time any language other than Sanskrit was not considered
prestigious and doing serious business like the propagation of the
principles of a religion in a language used by common folks was to
render oneself open to the criticisms and ridicule. It indeed required a
firm understanding of the process of communication and commitment to
break the barriers to communication and to send out the message as far
and wide as possible which perhaps motivated the Jains to pray, preach
and prepare their canonical literature in a language which in general
was looked down upon and could in no way have been considered fit for
serious discourses like propounding abstract entities such as religious
In Jain tradition the ‘samavasarana’ of lord Mahavira or his first sermon is considered a very important event. Kurt Titze in his book ‘Jainism: A pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-Violence’ says that ‘according to Jaina mythology, a Tirthankara attains enlightenment and is about to deliver his message, God Indra orders the erection of a huge auditorium with flights of steps leading from four points of the compass up to the central platform where the nude tirthankra, sitting or (rarely) standing under the Ashoka tree, proclaims his message to the assembled audience consisting of monks and nuns, kings and chieftains, lay people in great numbers as well as four legged animals, birds and even snakes, fishes and turtles.’ It is said all members of the disparate gathering were able to see and hear Lord Mahavira and the message was imbibed by them effortlessly. It is also said that the ‘Samavasarana’ message was very brief and to the point. The concept of ‘Samavasarana’ is indeed interesting from the point of view of communication: in a modern communication class it is taught that the audience should be addressed in a laguage which it understands, the listeners should not be forced to make an effort to understand the message. Whatever is said should sink directly into the hearts of the receivers. Brevity, Clarity, Simplicity, Visibility, and audibility are some of the fundamental principles of communication, which were observes in the ‘Samavasarana’.
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