HAVE YOU HEARD OF JAINISM BEFORE?
Inside a Jain temple, Jains celebrating the 10 day Das Lakshana (Paryusana) festival. Taken at the Jain Center of America, New York City, New York, USA.
JAINISM in India is one of the oldest religions in the world. Those who follow this religion are called JAINS. They have the following beliefs:
1 – There is nothing like God or Creator who made, created or maintained this Universe. As far as Jains are concerned, the Universe has always been and will always exist on its own, same goes for everything inside the Universe. They believe all the constituents and actions are governed by universal natural laws that it is not possible to create matter out of nothing and hence the sum total of matter in the universe remains the same (similar to law of conservation of mass). Jainism insists a religious and virtuous life is possible without the idea of a creator god. According to Jainism, time is beginningless and eternal. Jains believe that his universe is not created nor sustained by anyone; It is self sustaining, without any base or support.
2 – They have a concept that is beyond God. They believe one can achieve a state that surpasses the holiness of what other religions call ‘God’. For Jains, God is not the highest spiritual manifestation. Jains do not rely or depend on any God or any supreme being for spiritual enlightenment.
3 – According to Jainism, Soul is the master of its own destiny. One of the qualities of the soul is complete lordship of its own destiny. The soul alone chooses its actions and soul alone reaps its consequences. No God or prophet or angel can interfere in the actions or the destiny of the soul. Furthermore, it is the soul alone who makes the necessary efforts to achieve liberation without any divine grace.
4 – Jains believe there are heavenly beings called devas but they are not gods and also suffer or enjoy and eventually die like humans.
5 -The Jaina position on God and religion from a perspective of a non-Jain can be summed up in the words of Anne Vallely.
“Jainism is the most difficult religion. We get no help from any gods, or from anyone. We just have to cleanse our souls. In fact other religions are easy, but they are not very ambitious. In all other religions when you are in difficulty, you can pray to God for help and maybe, God comes down to help. But Jainism is not a religion of coming down. In Jainism it is we who must go up. We only have to help ourselves. In Jainism we have to become God. That is the only thing.
Jains praying at the feet of Lord Bahubali, the world’s largest monolithic statue.
6 – They have what they call the FIVE VOWS, these are: to cause no harm to any living being by actions, speech or thoughts, to always speak the truth and in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence may be observed, not to steal, sexual chastity for those who can do it and detachment from material things.
7 – Jain monks and nuns live very ascetic lives: no cars, walking on barefoot everywhere, don’t use electricity or phones and depend on what people offer them. They are NOT priests. Mahatma Gandhi was heavily influenced by Jainism.
8 – Jains do not pray for any favors, material goods or rewards. In Jainism, the purpose of prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires and to assist in the liberation of the soul.
9 – Paryushana or Daslakshana 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 and prayer/meditation to help. The five main vows are emphasized during this time. There are no set rules, and followers are encouraged to practise according to their ability and desires. 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.” Jains believe strongly in forgiving others, and yet have no hope of forgiveness by a higher power. Jains believe that liberation is by personal effort not an appeal for divine intervention.
10. Jainism is older than Christianity, Islam and many other religions. Jains are found mainly in India, USA and Europe, they place a lot of emphasis on education and are considered the most literate of all religious groups in India, at 94.1% literacy.
11. It was once a major global religion but it has declined significantly now due to Hindu and Muslim expansionist actions over time in India.
12. Jains believe that it is allowed for one to deliberately and slowly starve to death by reducing meal intake during famine, old age, conditions of incurable disease or great disability. -CREATIVE COMMONS