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 B.C.)
and was the founder of the Jain community. He attained enlightenment after 13
years of deprivation. In 420 B.C., 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..."
Jainism is a syncretistic religion,
which contains many elements similar to Hinduism and Buddhism.
Most of the Jains are almost entirely located in India.
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.
They are expected to follow five
principles of living:
Ahimsa: "non violence
in all parts of a person -- mental, verbal and physical."
Committing an act of violence against a human, animal, or even vegetable
generates negative karma which in turn adversely affects one's next
Satya: speaking truth; avoiding
Asteya: to not steal from others
Brahma-charya: (soul conduct);
remaining sexually monogamous to one's spouse only
Aparigraha: detach from people,
places and material things. Avoiding the collection of excessive
material possessions, abstaining from over-indulgence, restricting one's
Jains are recommended to pass
through four stages during their lifetime:
Brahmacharya-ashrama: the life
of a student
Gruhasth-ashrama: family life
Vanaprasth-ashrama: family and
Sanyast-ashrama: life as a monk;
a period of renunciation
They believe 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 beings live.
Middle world: the earth and the
rest of the universe.
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 rest.
They believe everyone is bound within the
universe by one's karma (the accumulated good and evil that one has done).
They believe Moksha (liberation from an endless
succession of lives through reincarnation) is achieved by enlightenment,
which can be attained only through asceticism.
They believe in following Jains, a