Jain Sects And Their History

The Jain religion is one of the oldest religions in the world. The Jain religion was also known as Shraman Dharma, Nirgranth Dharma etc. It is not an offshoot of any other religion but is an independent religion recognized by these various names during different time periods. It has been taught by Tirthankars also called Jina. A follower of a Jina is called a Jain and the religion followed by Jains is called Jainism. Each Tirthankar revitalizes the Jain order. The Jain Order is known as the Jain Sangh. The current Jain Sangh was reestablished by Lord Mahavira, who was the 24th and last Tirthankar of the current time period. The Jain Sangh is composed of the following four groups:

1) Sädhus (Monks)
2) Sädhvis (Nuns)
3) Shrävaks (Male householders)
4) Shrävikäs (Female householders)

The first Tirthankar of the current time period was Lord Rishabhdev, who is also known as Ädinäth. Names of other popular Tirthankars are Lord Shäntinäth (the 16th Tirthankar), Lord Nemnäth (the 22nd Tirthankar), Lord Pärshvanäth (the 23rd Tirthankar), and Lord Mahävira (24th Tithankar). Lord Mahävira is the most popular Tirthankar of our time.
Lord Mahävira attained nirvän (liberated from the worldly existence) in 527 B. C. He had eleven ganadharas (disciples). Nine ganadharas attained liberation (salvation) during the lifetime of Lord Mahävira, while aother two Gautamswämi and Sudharmäswämi survived him. Gautamswämi attained perfect knowledge and perfect perception and became Arihant the very night of Lord Mahavir's nirvän. The remaining ganadhar, Sudharmäswämi, was the next to attain perfect knowledge and perfect perception and became Arihant. Jambuswämi, the disciple of Sudharmäswämi was the last Arihant of the present half time cycle. After Jambuswämi none attained perfect knowledge and the knowledge declined slowly as time went on. Lord Mahavir's teachings were carried on by his ganadharas to us in the form of Scriptures (Agams). They were compiled into twelve separate parts, known as the Dwadashangi (twelve parts). These twelve compositions were acceptable to all followers. However, the dwadashangi were not put in writing for a long time. The Jain pupils learned them by memorizing them. About 150 years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavir, there was a drought for 12 years. During this time, some monks along with Bhadrabahuswami migrated to South. After the drought was over, some monks came back to North. They observed that there was some inconsistency in oral recollection of the Jain scriptures by different monks. That made them to compile scriptures. To accomplish that, the first council (conference) of monks was held in Patliputra about 160 years after Lord Mahavir’s nirvana. Monk Bhadrabahu, who had the knowledge of all 12 Angas, could not be present at that meeting. The rest of the monks could compile only the first eleven Angas by recollection and thus, the twelfth Anga was lost. The monks from the South did not agree with this compilation, and the first split in Jainism started. Jains divided into two main groups, Shwetambars and Digambars. Shwetambar monks wore white clothes. Digambar monks did not wear any clothes at all. The second council (conference) was held in Mathura, 825 years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavir, under the leadership of monk Skandil. Simultaneously, another council was held in Valabhi under the leadership of Monk Nagarjunasuri. However, the texts of Jain Scriptures were not written systematically until after the third council that was held at Vallabhi 980 years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavir under the leadership of monk Devarthigani.

Jain Religion has been divided into two major sects:
1.    The Digambar sect
2.    The Shwetambar sect