Jainism: Religions of the World

A Jain temple in Rajasthan, India.
A Jain temple in Rajasthan, India.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that preaches complete non-violence, peace, and kindness towards all creatures of nature. The followers of the religion take five main vows including non-violence, not lying, not stealing, chastity, and non-attachment. The word Jain is borrowed from Sanskrit word jina which means conqueror, a person who has conquered all the passions within and around him. People who follow and practice jinas are referred to as Jain. The key focus for Jainism is self-discipline. The majority of people who practice Jainism reside in India with over 7 million followers. Other followers of the religion are found in Canada, some parts of Europe, Kenya, and the US. The modern Jainism is divided into two sects: Digambara and Svetambara

The Main Teachings Of Jainism


The teachings of Jainism are based on three principles including non-violence, non-absolutism, and non-possessiveness. The principle of non-violence, also known as ahimsa, is the most famous and fundamental principle of Jainism. The implementation of the principle of non-violence is more comprehensive in Jainism than in any other religion. Jains believe in not harming anyone in any way including in thoughts, action, and speech. The religion extends the principle of ahimsa and kindness not only to human beings but also to all living beings including animals. For this reason, Jains are strict vegetarians with majority practicing Lacto vegetarianism. Insects are also offered protections in Jain practice with insects protected from intentional harm. Insects are thus escorted out of the house rather than killed. The religious groups protect plants from unnecessary injuries and only allow plants to be destroyed for the sake of food. Jain, therefore, believes that the intention and the emotion behind any act of violence are greater than the action itself.


The principle of non-absolutism (anekantavada) means having an open mind in all perspectives and respecting the different beliefs. Jainism encourages its followers to consider the views and beliefs of the opposing parties including religious tolerance. Jain bases the principle of non-absolutism on the concept that all objects are infinite in their quality and mode of existence so the finite human mind cannot completely understand them. Only an omniscient being can understand objects in all aspects. Therefore, no single human being can have a claim to the absolute truth. The theory of the object and the omniscient being is illustrated by the parable of the blind man and the elephant with the blind man only partly succeed in describing some parts of the elephant because of his limited perspective.


Jainism encourages the principle of non-attachment (aparigraha) which discourages attachment to the worldly possessions. The principle includes non-possessiveness and non-materialism. Jains are discouraged from possessing more than what is necessary. They are allowed to own objects but are also taught on the non-attachment to the object that they own. Therefore, Jain minimizes the tendency of hoarding unnecessary material possession and limits their attachment to their possession. The attachment to possessions is of two forms, attachment to internal and external possessions. The passion of the mind includes anger, ego, deceitfulness, and greed. Defects include laughter, like, dislike, sorrow, fear, and disgust.

Practices Of Jainism

Jains adhere to some of the beliefs and practices more than other religions. The common practices in Jainism include vegetarianism which is a hallmark of the religion. Jains are strict vegetarians in line with their principle of non-violence to all beings. The followers of the religion also practice fasting all year round. Fasting can include various forms based on one’s ability and may include skipping a meal or two per day. Prayer is key in breaking the barriers of worldly attachments and passions. The followers of Jainism do not pray for any favor or material things. They instead recite Navkar Mantra, a fundamental prayer, all day. Jains meditate in the form of samayika to achieve a state of quietness and to comprehend the unchanging truth about self. Jains believe that meditation assists in balancing one’s passion, especially the internal control of thoughts since they have a direct influence on one’s actions and goals. Meditation is prescribed on twelve forms of contemplation mention in several of Jains’ texts.

Festivals And Rituals

Paryushana is one of the most important annual festivals observed by the Jaina. The event is celebrated either in August or September lasting 8 to 10 days with lay ministers increasing their levels of spirituality through prayer and fasting. The followers are encouraged to participate in the festivals according to their ability and desires with no set rules for the event. The five vows are emphasized during the festival. The last day of the festival focuses on prayers and meditation, and at the end of the event, followers are asked to forgive each other for any offense committed in the last year. Mahavir Jayanti is also an important event among the Jains. It is a celebration of the birth of Mahavir which is held in late March or early April depending on the lunar calendar. The Diwali festival, also celebrated by the Hindu, is also marked by the Jains but in an atmosphere of serenity, calmness, and equality. The lights during Diwali celebrations symbolize the removal of ignorance. The various sects of Jainism observe several rituals. Darsana (seeing of true self) is a basic ritual practiced by the followers of the religion. They also follow the six obligatory duties called avashyakas at all times. Jains take a pilgrimage to four categories of sites including a center of learning, a location of a divine event, places associated with great men, and site of Moksha.

The Philosophy Of Jainism

Jain philosophy separates the body from the soul completely. The philosophy deals with the study of knowledge and vitalism with the concept of non-injury at the core of the philosophy. The philosophy attempts to explain the concept of being and existence, nature of bondage and how one can free himself from such bondages. The distinguishing features of Jain philosophy include belief in the existence of soul and matter, a refutation of the idea of the existing divine creator, the potency of karma, multiple facets of truth, and morality and ethics. One’s nature of the soul is responsible for the decisions that they make while self-reliance and one’s effort are responsible for his liberation. Substances are distinguished from the body by declaring substances as simple elements while the body is a compound of one or more substances. The nature of karma provides liberation of the soul while there are ten life-principles including five senses, organs of speech, and energy among other principles.


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