- An Introduction
Jainism traces its roots to a succession of
24 Jinas ("those who overcome",
or conqueror) in ancient East India. The first
Jina is traditionally believed to have been
a giant who lived 8.4 million years ago. The
most recent and last Jina was Vardhamana (a.k.a.
Mahavira, "The Great Hero") He was
born in 550 BCE) and was the founder of the
Jain community. He attained enlightenment
after 13 years of deprivation. In 420 BCE,
he committed the act of salekhana which is
fasting to death. Each Jina 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..."
Jainist Beliefs and Practices
The universe exists as a series of layers,
both heavens and hells. It had no beginning
and will have no ending. It consists of: The
supreme abode: This is located at the top
of the universe and is where Siddha, the liberated
The upper world: 30 heavens where celestial
Middle world: the earth and the rest of the
Nether world: 7 hells with various levels
of misery and punishments
The Nigoda, or base: where the lowest forms
of life reside
Universe space: layers of clouds which surround
the upper world
Space beyond: an infinite volume without soul,
matter, time, medium of motion or medium of
Everyone is bound within the universe by one's
karma (the accumulated good and evil that
one has done).
Moksha (liberation from an endless succession
of lives through reincarnation) is achieved
by enlightenment, which can be attained only
They are expected to follow five principles
of living: Ahimsa: "non violence in all
parts of a person -- mental, verbal and physical."
3 Committing an act of violence against a
human, animal, or even vegetable generates
negative karma which in turn adversely affects
one's next life.
Satya: speaking truth; avoiding
Asteya: to not steal from
Brahma-charya: (soul conduct);
remaining sexually monogamous to one's spouse
Aparigraha: detach from people,
places and material things. Avoiding the collection
of excessive material possessions, abstaining
from over-indulgence, restricting one's needs,
Jains follow a vegetarian diet. (At least
one information source incorrectly states
that they follow a frutarian diet -- the practice
of only eating that which will not kill the
plant or animal from which it is taken. e.g.
milk, fruit, nuts.)
They often read their sacred texts daily.
Jains are recommended to pass through four
stages during their lifetime:
life of a student
and social services
Sanyast-ashrama: life as
a monk; a period of renunciation
There are two groups of Jains:
- The Digambaras (literally "sky
clad" or naked): Their monks carry
asceticism to the point of rejecting even
clothing (even when they appear in public).
- The Shvetambaras (literally "white
clad"): their monks wear simple white
robes. The laity are permitted to wear
clothes of any color.