Introduction: Diversity, Change, and Continuity
This chapter examines the early historical context of Jainism and explores the dominant ideas of bondage and liberation. The beginnings of Jainism are lost in the dim reaches of antiquity, perhaps rooted in an indigenous Indian culture prior to the Vedic age. The time of Mahvra and the Buddha and the several preceding centuries were filled with intellectual excitement, culminating in the great and enduring ways of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism by the fifth century BCE. The Jaina practice of yoga recalls the lotus-postured figure on some of the Indus seals; and the older Jaina sculptures strongly resemble nude terra cotta figures found in the Indus Valley. The Agas compiled by Indrabhuti constitute the heart of Jaina scriptures. Altogether there are about forty-five volumes of canonical scripture, collected, composed, and compiled during the thousand-year period between the death of Mahvra and the Valabhi Council in the fifth century.