Jainism developed as a contemporary form of Buddhism, so it comes as no surprise that the two religions are laced with strong similarities. One of the most evident of these similarities is the way or path to achieving an elevated state of existence: the Three Jewels. However, the Three Jewels or Three Treasures of Buddhism are a place to seek refuge and safety, while the Three Jewels of Jainism are more of a prescription or a path to kevala.
The Jaina Trinity
In Jainism beliefs, the Three Jewels consist of Right Perception, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct as a path to liberation or blissful existence. These three jewels, in this particular order, make up the Ratnatraya, the trinity. Right perception is coming to an understanding of the truth of reality, right knowledge is freeing oneself from doubts, and right conduct is the manner in which one lives to achieve kevala. All three of these jewels are dependent on one another. They cannot function as pathways to kevala alone. They must be used collectively and interdependently.
Samyak Darshana: Right Perception
Samyak Darshana—Right Perception or Right Faith—is the foundational element on the path to kevala. Before committing to the path, Jains should question and seek to learn the reality of the world. The Jaina Right Perception is closely related to the Buddhist’s Right View as a part of the Eightfold Path. Ultimately, any doubts, concerns, or questions about existence will be answered by the teachings of the Tirthankara, the teachers or prophets of the path to kevala. Right Perception is necessary to move on to Right Knowledge because Right Knowledge cannot be acquired if one still holds doubts about the reality of the world and the path to kevala. If one doubts the teaching of the Tirthankara, one will not be able to fully grasp Right Knowledge.
Samyak Jnana: Right Knowledge
Right Knowledge is the true and complete understanding of the elements of reality. It is a deep study of the components of reality—Six Universal Entities and Nine Tattvas—and how those elements interconnect and define existence. The Six Universal Entities include all living beings couple with five non-living entities:
Dharmastikay: Medium of Motion
Adharmastikay: Medium of Rest
Kaal or Samay: Time
The Nine Tattvas or principles include:
Jiva: Living Matter
Ajiva: Non-Living Matter
Punya: Merit, good deeds
Papa: Sin, bad deeds
Asrava: Flow of karma
Samvara: Impediment of the flow of karma
Bandh: Bondage or darkness of the soul
Nirjara: Destruction of karma
Moksha/Kevala: Liberation of the soul from karma
Samyak Charitra: Right Conduct
After Right Perception and Right Knowledge have been actualized, the Jain can then move on to Right Conduct. This is a collection of specific vows, ethical codes, and discipline one participates in that leads to kevala.
For yatis, Jaina monastic members, Right Conduct includes taking the Five Great Vows of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, an non-possession or non-attachment. For sravaka, nonmonastic Jains, Right Conduct includes taking the Twelve Vows of Laity.
Three Jewels in Jaina Symbolism
The traditional symbol of Jainism was a collection of symbols presented together to represent different aspects of the universe. This included a raised hand to represent nonviolence, a four-armed Swastika above the hand, and three dots above the Swastika to represent the Three Jewels of Jainism.
In recent years, the Swastika, which originally represented cycles of birth and death and different categories of Jaina participation, has been removed as a result of the appropriation of the Swastika by the Nazi party and the devastation they caused during the Holocaust and World War II. The symbol has been replaced by an Om.