There are over 4000 religions in our world. Some of the largest followed religions are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Juche, Judaism, etc.
Jainism is one of these world’s active religions. Jainism was born in India in the same century as Buddhism, and it was established by Mahavira in around 500 B.C. The term “Jainism” is derived from “Jina” which literally means “Conqueror.” It is said that –
“He who has conquered love and hate, pleasure and pain, attachment and aversion, and has thereby freed his soul from the karmas obscuring knowledge, perception, truth, and ability, is a Jina.”
Jainism is very similar to Buddhism, but at the same time, their beliefs are quite different from each other. The main concern of this religion is the welfare of every living being in this Universe.
1. Living Soul
Jains believe that animals, plants, humans (irrespective of different spiritual development) all have a living soul in them and all should be treated with equal respect and love.
2. Strictly Vegetarian
Jains are strictly vegetarian and try to consume as less world’s resources as possible, whereas Buddhists do consume meat.
Jains believe in self-help and they try to get out of difficult situations on their own. They don’t believe that some spiritual being will help them.
They believe in reincarnation (rebirth) and try to attain ultimate liberation by attaining total freedom from the control of others.
5. They believe in five great vows that may lead one to liberation-
(a) Ahimsa – Jains believe in complete non-violence. They believe that even mental torture (harsh words or actions) should be avoided at all costs.
(b) Asteya – Never steal anything from someone else’s possession. They believe that even when accepting help or aid from someone, one shouldn’t take more than what is the minimum needed. To take more than is needed is considered theft in Jainism.
(c) Brahmacharya – Sexual restraint. Sexual pleasure is considered as an infatuating force which distracts one from his aim in Jainism. They believe that the sexual relationship with your own spouse should be limited.
(d) Satya – They believe that one should speak the truth if it is pleasant or remain silent if the truth is painful for others.
(e) Aparigraha – Never have an attachment with any possession as it is believed that attachment may result in greed, jealousy, selfishness and other negative emotions.
Among these vows, Ahimsa is considered the supreme vow.
6. No Priests
Jainism has no priests.The religious people in Jainism are monks and nuns, who lead strict and ascetic lives.
7. Respect Living Being
Most of the Jains are less extreme than Mahavira in diets. But the religious Jains will do everything in their power to prevent hurting any living being. They won’t even walk in fields where there is the possibility of them stepping on insects present. Some of the Jains also cover their mouth to prevent the possibility of swallowing small invisible microbes.
8. Two Communities
Jains are also divided into two communities – Shvetember and Digambar.
Digambar monks (like Mahavira) don’t wear any clothes, but they also don’t walk without clothes outside their temples. The Digambers include only men in their society.
The Shvetembers monks wear white clothes, and they include women too in their society.
9. Ecologically Responsible
Jainism is considered ecologically responsible religion since they believe in non-violence and a living soul in all.
10. Fundamental Aim
Jains believe that the fundamental aim of a human being should be to perfect his soul and this can be done only by following the teachings of Jinas. They believe in returning the soul to its original purity by being free of bad karma.
11. Role of Karma
They believe that one should have the knowledge to recognize and avoid the delusions and distractions of the world. Any karma attached to a soul results in the soul in being reborn in different lives, a cyclical process that can last for eons until the soul is free of all the karma.
12. Jains believe the concept of three jewels –
(a) Right faith (SamyakDarshana) – This means ‘right perception.’ Jains believe that one shouldn’t believe what they are told and jump to conclusions and preconceptions, but they should see by themselves and then analyze.
(b) Right conduct (SamyakCharitra) – This means that one should live his life according to Jain ethical rules, to avoid doing harm to other living beings and freeing himself from attachment and other impure attitudes and thoughts.
(c) Right knowledge (SamyakJnana) – This means that one should have right, precise and sufficient knowledge of universe with right mental attitude. Some Jains also believe that if one has the right knowledge, then he will automatically free himself of all the attachment and desire and will be able to achieve pure soul.
Some Jains believe that a person who has right faith and right knowledge will be motivated and will be able to achieve right conduct.
Jainism differs from different religions in its concept of God. Jainism regards all living souls as divine. They believe that when a soul is free of all the karma, then it attains God-consciousness.
Hence, the primary goal of Jainism is to become a perfect soul (also known as Siddha, Parmatama, or God). The perfect soul possesses pure consciousness, perfect knowledge, power, and bliss. This state is attained when all the karma is removed causing the soul to rise to the ceiling of the universe, known as Moksha.