Worship and the Scriptures

Texts and scriptures have an importance in religious worship, but different Jain sects give different emphasis to these. For example, The Kalpasutra, is a sacred text used by the Shvetambaras during the Paryushan festival and is recited and celebrated during this time. It contains the stories of the lives of the 24 Tirthankaras or prophets of Jainism and rules of code of conduct of monks and nuns.

The Digambaras place a strong emphasis on scriptures and their study and encourage discussion and dialogue about them. There is a strong emphasis on this. Even Sthanakvasi Jains attach importance to scriptural study and reflection. They are written in Prakrit and Ardha Maghdi, ancient language of India which have links to Sanskrit. Ardhamaghdi was the language of common people during the time of Lord Mahavir whilst Sanskrit was the language of the educated elite Brahmins. Thus not only the faith, but even the language of the scriptures was democratic and non-discriminatory.

The scriptures were written almost a thousand years after the death of Lord Mahavira. Oral recitation and memorization was given significant importance and is critical even in this day and age. Many religious rituals are conducted in these ancient languages which have been preserved over all these years and even young people in Britain can recite prayers and rituals which were originally written in these words.

The interpretation of these texts changes over time and different emphasis is given by different spiritual leaders and saints. Even lay people are allowed to interpret them and write articles and books based on their interpretations. Many have done so and there are scholars who are not brought up in the Jain tradition but are highly respected.

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