The universal symbol of Jainism is a congregation of various symbols with each one of them having a deeper meaning. It comprises of
- an outline
- The text “Parasparopagraho Jivanam” or “Live and Let Live”.
- The Symbol of hand with a circle composed of 24 spokes and the text ‘Ahimsa’
- the four arms of a swastika
- three dots above the swastika
- a crescent
- a dot above the crescent
An Outline – The outline of the Jain symbol represents the universe (Lok) as described in the Jain scriptures. This outline is divided into three LOKS (realms). The lower, middle and the upper portion. Jains believe that this universe was neither created by anyone, nor can it be destroyed. It may change its form, but otherwise, it has always existed and will continue to exist.
- Lower Portion – It indicates ADHOLOK (hell). The Adhlok further consists of seven hells or Narakis.
- Middle Portion – It indicates MADHYALOK (material world). It consists of the earth and the planets.
- Upper Portion – It indicates URDHAVA LOK (heaven). It contains the heavenly abodes (Devlok) of all the celestial beings and above that abode of the Siddhas (Siddhashila).
- Further Reading on the Concept of Jain Symbol –
- According to Gommatsara – Jiva-Khand i.e. the loka or Universe is 14 Rajus high. The base is 7 Rajus, then gradually decreases to one Rajus at a height of 7 Rajus, i.e. at the Middle of the Universe where the Middle World or the region of the human and subhuman being is situated. Then it gradually grows to a thickness of 5 Rajus at a height of 3.5 Rajus. This is the point where the sixth Heavens ends, and which marks the Middle of the Upper World, or the region of the heavenly beings; finally it gradually decreases to a thickness of one Rajus at the top of the Universe. It is here, that the Sidha Ksetra, or the region of the eternally liberated souls is situated.
- The text at the bottom of symbol is “PARSPAROGRAHO JIVANAM”. This is a Prakrit text which means “Live and Let Live”, i.e. all living beings should help one another.
- The Symbol of hand with a circle composed of 24 spokes and the text ‘Ahimsa’ – The hand shows fearlessness and the text ‘Ahimsa’ symbolize the feeling of AHIMSA (non-violence) towards all living being in this world. The circle in the middle of the hand symbolizes SAMASARA (reincarnating cycle) and the 24 spokes represents the preaching from the 24 Tirthankars (enlightened souls). The preaching can be used to liberate a soul from the cycle or reincarnation.
- Four Arms of a Swastika – The four arms of the swastika remind us that during the cycles of birth and death we may be born into any one of the four destinies: heavenly beings, human beings, animal beings, (including birds, bugs, and plants) and hellish beings. Our aim should be the liberation and not the rebirth. To show how we can do this, the swastika reminds us that we should become the pillars of the four fold Jain Sangh, then only can we achieve liberation. The four pillars of the Jain Sangh are sädhus, sädhvis, shrävaks, and shrävikäs. This means that first, we should strive to be a true shrävaks or shrävikäs, and when we can overcome our social attachments, we should renounce the worldly life and follow the path of a sädhu or sädhvi to be liberated.
- Three dots above the swastika – The three dots above the swastika represent ‘Ratnatraya’ the three jewels of Jainism: Samyak Darshan (Right Faith), Samyak Jnan (Right Knowledge), and Samyak Charitra (Right Conduct). We should have all three: right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct together to follow the Jain Way of Life (JWOL). By following JWOL we can achieve the ultimate aim of Jainism i.e. liberation.
Let’s try to understand further about the ‘Ratnatraya’s –
o Samyak Darshana (Right Faith) – It means an inclination, attitude or frame of mind that is free from any predisposition or preconceived notions. an individual, in pursuit of spiritualism, has to adopt rational perception and knowledge, and then practice ethical conduct.
o Samyak Jnana (Right Knowledge) – Right knowledge reveals the true nature of reality. Right knowledge is essential to provide the right guidance to the soul in its journey towards spiritual uplifting.
o Samyak Charitra (Richt Conduct) – the heart of right conduct for Jains lie the five great vows:
o Nonviolence (Ahimsa) – to cause no harm to any living being
o Truthfulness (Satya) – to speak the harmless truth only
o Non-Stealing (Asteya) – to take nothing not properly given
o Chastity (Brahmacharya) – to indulge in no sensual pleasure
o Non-Possessiveness/Non-attachment (Aparigraha) – to detach completely from people, places, and material things.
- A Crescent – The crescent of the moon represents the abode of Siddhas (Liberated Souls) known as Siddhashila. This region is beyond the three worlds and it is the permanent place for the siddhas.
- A dot above the Crescent – The dot represents a siddha. In order to achieve this stage, a soul must destroy all attached karmas. Every living being should strive for this state of the Salvation or Liberation.