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Know your religion: Jainism

Jainism (/ˈdʒeɪnɪzəm/ or /ˈdʒaɪnɪzəm/), traditionally known as Jina Sashana or Jain dharma (Sanskrit: जैन धर्म), is an Indian religion belonging to the ancient Śramaṇa tradition. It emphasizes nonviolence towards all living beings. Jains believe, nonviolence and self-control are means to liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.

The word "Jain" derives from the Sanskrit word Jina (meaning victor). A human being who has conquered all inner passions like attachment, desire, anger, pride, greed, etc. and therefore, possesses pure infinite knowledge (Kevala Jnana) is called Jina. Followers of the path practised and preached by Jinas are known as Jains.

Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four teachers and revivers of Jain teachings known as tirthankaras with Rishabha as the first and Mahāvīra as the last of the current era.




Non-violence (ahimsa)
The principle of ahimsa is the most fundamental and well known aspect of Jain religious practice. The everyday implementation of ahimsa is more comprehensive than in other religions and is the hallmark for Jain identity. Non-violence is practiced first and foremost during interactions with other human beings, and Jains believe in avoiding harm to others through actions, speech and thoughts.


The second main principle of Jainism is non-absolutism (anēkāntavāda). For Jains, non-absolutism means maintaining open-mindedness. This includes the recognition of all perspectives and a humble respect for differences in beliefs. Jainism encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. The principle of anekāntavāda influenced Mahatma Gandhi to adopt principles of religious tolerance and ahiṃsā.


The third main principle in Jainism is non-possessiveness (aparigraha). This is the concept of greedlessness or non-grasping and includes non-materialism. Jainism emphasizes taking no more than is truly necessary. While ownership of objects is allowed, non-attachment to possessions is taught. Followers should minimize the tendency to hoard unnecessary material possessions and limit attachment to current possessions. Further, wealth and possessions should be shared and donated whenever possible. Jainism believes that unchecked attachment to possessions can lead to direct harm to oneself and others.


Five main vows
Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and through reliance on self-control through vows. Jains accept different levels of compliance for strict followers and laymen. Followers of this religion undertake five major vows:


  1. Ahimsa: Ahimsa means nonviolence. The first major vow taken by followers is to cause no harm to living beings. It involves minimizing intentional and unintentional harm to other living creatures by actions, speech or thoughts.
  2. Satya: Satya means truth. This vow is to always speak the truth. Given that non-violence has priority, other principles yield to it whenever they conflict: in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence may be observed.
  3. Asteya: Asteya means not stealing. Jains should not take anything that is not willingly offered. Attempting to extort material wealth from others or to exploit the weak is considered theft. Fair value should be given for all goods and services purchased.
  4. Brahmacharya: Brahmacharya means chastity for laymen and celibacy for Jain monks and nuns. This requires the exercise of control over the senses to control indulgence in sexual activity.
  5. Aparigraha: Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. This includes non-materialism and non-attachment to objects, places and people. Jain monks and nuns completely renounce property and social relations.


Monks and nuns are obligated to practice the five cardinal principles of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possessiveness very strictly, while laymen are encouraged to observe them within their current practical limitations.


Jainism rejects the idea of a creator or destroyer god and postulates that the universe is eternal. Jainism believes every soul has the potential for salvation and to become god. In Jainism, perfect souls with body are called Arihantas (victors) and perfect souls without the body are called Siddhas (liberated souls). Tirthankara is an Arihanta who help others in achieving liberation. Jainism has been described as a transtheistic religion , as it does not teach the dependency on any supreme being for enlightenment. The Tirthankara is a guide and teacher who points the way to enlightenment, but the struggle for enlightenment is one's own.


Arihanta (Jina)- A human being who conquers all inner passions and possesses infinite knowledge (Kevala Jnana). They are also known as Kevalins (omniscient beings). There are two kinds of Arihantas

  • Sāmānya (Ordinary victors) - Kevalins who are concerned with their own salvation.
  • Tirthankara - Tīrthaṅkara literally means a 'ford-maker', or a founder of salvation teaching. They propagate and revitalize the Jain faith and become role-models for those seeking spiritual guidance. They reorganise the fourfold order (chaturvidha sangha) that consists of monks (śramana), nuns (śramani), male followers (srāvaka) and female followers (śravaika). Jains believe that exactly twenty-four tirthankaras are born in each half cycle of time (Jain cosmology). The last tirthankara, Mahavira and his predecessor Parsvanatha are historical figures whose existence is recorded.


Siddha- Siddhas are Arihantas who attain salvation (moksha) and dwell in Siddhashila with infinite bliss, infinite perception, infinite knowledge and infinite energy.



In Jainism, monasticism is encouraged and respected. Jain monks and nuns live extremely austere and ascetic lifestyles. They follow the five main vows of Jainism absolutely. Jain monks and nuns have neither a permanent home nor possessions. They do not use vehicles and always travel barefoot from one place to another, irrespective of the distance. They wander from place to place except during the months of Chaturmas. They do not use telephones or electricity. They do not prepare food and live only on what people offer them. Jain monks and nuns also usually keep a cloth for ritual mouth-covering to avoid inadvertently harming micro-organisms in the air. Most will carry a broomlike object (Rayoharan), made from dense, thick thread strands, to sweep the ground ahead of them, or before sitting down, to avoid inadvertently crushing small insects.

The monks of Jainism, whose presence is not needed for most Jain rituals, should not be confused with priests. However, some sects of Jainism often employ a pujari, who need not be a Jain, to perform special daily rituals and other priestly duties at the temple.



Jains pray to these passionless gods not for any favors, material goods or rewards but rather pray to the qualities of the god with the objective of destroying their own karmas and achieving liberation. This is best understood by the term vandetadgunalabhdhaye – i.e. "we pray to the attributes of such Gods to acquire such attributes".


Navkar Mantra

The Navkār mantra is the fundamental prayer of Jainism and may be recited at any time. In this mantra, Jains worship the qualities (Gunas) of the spiritually supreme in order to attain Godhood. The prayer does not name any one particular person. In Jainism, the purpose of worship or prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires and to assist in the liberation of the soul.



Most Jains fast throughout the year, particularly during festivals (fasting in Jainism). This takes on various forms and may be practiced based on one's ability. Some examples include: eating only one or two meals per day, drinking only water all day, not eating after sunset, not eating processed foods, eating food without sugar/oil/salt. Two purposes of fasting are to exercise self-control and to clear the mind to devote more mental energy to prayer.



Jains have developed a type of meditation called samayika, a term derived from the word samaya. The goal of Samayika is to achieve a feeling of perfect calmness and to understand the unchanging truth of the self. Such meditation is based on contemplation of the universe and the reincarnation of self. Samayika is particularly important during the Paryushana religious festival. It is believed that meditation will assist in managing and balancing one's passions. Great emphasis is placed on the internal control of thoughts, as they influence behavior, actions and goals.

Jains follow six duties known as avashyakas: samyika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation).



Soul and Karma
According to Jains, souls are intrinsically pure and possess the qualities of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite bliss and infinite energy in their ideal state. In reality, however, these qualities are found to be obstructed due to the soul's association with a substance called karma. The ultimate goal in Jainism is to obtain moksha, which means liberation or salvation of the soul completely freeing it from karmic bondage.

The relationship between the soul and karma is explained by the analogy of gold. Gold is always found mixed with impurities in its natural state. Similarly, the ideal, pure state of the soul is always mixed with the impurities of karma. Just like gold, purification of the soul may be achieved if the proper methods of refining are applied. The Jain karmic theory is used to attach responsibility to individual action and is cited to explain inequalities, sufferings and pain.


Three Gems
The following three gems of Jainism lay down the path to achieve liberation of the soul (moksha).

  • Right View (Samyak Darshana) - Having the right perception and seeking the truth while avoiding preconceptions that get in the way of seeing things clearly.
  • Right Knowledge (Samyak Gyana) - Having the right knowledge of Jain principles.
  • Right Conduct (Samyak Charitra) - Applying Jain principles to your life.


Jain metaphysics is based on seven or nine fundamentals which are known as tattva, which attempt to explain the nature of the human predicament and to provide solutions for the ultimate goal of liberation of the soul (moksha):


  1. Jīva: The essence of living beings is called jiva, a substance which is different from the body that houses it. Consciousness, knowledge and perception are its fundamental attributes.
  2. Ajīva: Non-living entities that consist of matter, space and time.
  3. Asrava: The interaction between jīva and ajīva causes the influx of karma (a particular form of ajiva) into the soul.
  4. Bandha: The karma masks the jiva and restricts it from having its true potential of perfect knowledge and perception.
  5. Saṃvara: Through right conduct, it is possible to stop the influx of additional karma.
  6. Nirjarā: By performing asceticism, it is possible to discard the existing karma.
  7. Mokṣa: The liberated jiva which has removed its karma and is said to have the pure, intrinsic quality of perfect knowledge and perception.


Some authors add two additional categories: the meritorious (puńya) and demeritorious (pāpa) acts related to karma.


Syādvāda is the doctrine extending from non-absolutism (anēkāntavāda). This recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet Syād to every phrase or expression. The Sanskrit etymological root of the term syād is "perhaps" or "maybe", but in the context of syādvāda it means "in some ways" or "from some perspective." As reality is complex, no single proposition can express its full nature. The term syāt- should therefore be prefixed to each proposition, giving it a conditional point of view and thus removing dogmatism from the statement. There are seven conditioned propositions (saptibhaṅgī) in syādvāda as follows:


  1. syād-asti—in some ways, it is;
  2. syād-nāsti—in some ways, it is not;
  3. syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not;
  4. syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable;
  5. syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable;
  6. syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable;
  7. syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.


Each of these seven propositions examines the complex and multifaceted nature of reality from a relative point of view of time, space, substance and mode. To ignore the complexity of reality is to commit the fallacy of dogmatism.


Jain Community


The majority of Jains currently reside in India. With 5 million followers, Jainism is relatively small compared to major world religions. Jains live throughout India, with the largest populations concentrated in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also have significant Jain populations. Outside India, large Jain communities can be found in the United States and Europe. Several Jain temples have been built in both of these places. Smaller Jain communities also exist in Kenya and Canada.

Jains developed a system of philosophy and ethics that had a great impact on Indian culture. They have contributed to the culture and language in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra,


Paryushana is the most important annual event for Jains, and is usually celebrated in August or September. It lasts 8–10 days and is a time when lay people increase their level of spiritual intensity often using fasting, study and prayer/meditation to help. The five main vows are emphasized during this time. There are no set rules, and followers are encouraged to practice according to their ability and desires. The last day involves a focused prayer/meditation session known as Samvatsari Pratikramana. At the conclusion of the festival, followers request forgiveness from others for any offenses committed during the last year. Forgiveness is asked by saying "Micchami Dukkadam" to others, which means "If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action, then I seek your forgiveness." The literal meaning of Paryushana is "abiding" or "coming together."

Mahāvīra Jayanti, the Janam (birth) of Mahāvīra, the last tirthankara, is usually celebrated in late March or early April based on the lunar calendar.

Diwali is a festival that marks the anniversary of attainment of Nirvana of Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankar of this era. It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival of Diwali. Diwali is celebrated in an atmosphere of austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy and environment-consciousness. Jain temples, homes, offices, shops are decorated with lights and diyas. The lights are symbolic of knowledge or removal of ignorance. Sweets are often distributed to each other. The new Jain year starts right after Diwali.


There are many Jain rituals including ones involving idol worshiping, depending on the sect. One example related to the five life events of tirthankara called the Panch Kalyanaka are rituals such as the panch kalyanaka pratishtha, panch kalyanaka puja, and snatra puja.


Information Source: https://en.wikipedia.org



 Online Resources to Know More About Jainism: 


Jainism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Jainism (/ˈdʒeɪnɪzəm/ or /ˈdʒaɪnɪzəm/), traditionally known as Jina Sashana or Jain dharma (Sanskrit: जैन धर्म), is an Indian religion belonging to the ancient Śramaṇa tradition. It emphasizes nonviolence towards all living beings.


Jainism: Jain Principles, History, Resources, History: Vegetarianism & Ahimsa, Jain Texts. Jain Pilgrimage, Jain Images. Jainism in the Eyes of Others, Jain History: An Outline. Regional Organizations, Slides ...


BBC - Religion: Jainism: Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. The aim of Jain life is to achieve liberation of the soul.


Welcome to JAINISM.ORG: Namo ariha.ntaaNaM. Namo siddhaaNaM. Namo aayariyaaNaM. Namo uvajjhaayaaNaM. Namo loe savvasaahuNaM eso pa.ncha Namokaaro..


Jainism - ReligionFacts: Jainism is an Indian religion that emphasizes complete non-violence and asceticism. Jainism emerged in 6th-century BCE India, the same time Buddhism was ...


Jainworld: GLOBAL JAIN EVENTS. Invitation to Pratishtha Mahotsav in Sydney. Performing Murti-Pratishtha in our own Jinalaya in Sydney is a historic moment of immense ...



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