Jainism is an interesting religion in that its followers represent only 0.4 percent of the Indian population,
… yet have the highest rate of literacy, and are the most wealthy of all religious groups in India,
…(according to the Indian census done in 2001).
… this makes them the smallest of the major world religions,
… but also the group that has the most influence on the political, educational and spiritual environment of India.
This is the most important temple for Jainism in India, I think that it looks delightful, with a very light and airy ‘feel’ to it – what do you think ?
Jainism has much in common with both Buddhism and Hinduism, but is a separate religion, and older than both,
… (or rather it is a Philosophy – as like the Buddhists, they do not believe in a God as such).
They believe that the Universe is eternal, and is governed by natural laws.
It is interesting to note that some Hindu Yogis have become followers of Jainism as their studies became more advanced.
The most important historical teacher in Jainism was called Mahavira, who lived in about the 6th Century B.C.,
… although Jainism was already well established by then, and the actual first beginnings are not clear.
Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), had a Jain teacher called Udaka Ramaputta as his first teacher, (after he had renounced his life of luxury to become a wandering seeker after truth).
Jain monks are strict ascetics, and attempt to reach Moksha (or Nirvana or ‘Heaven’) in this life, or soon after.
Mahatma Gandhi was very much influenced by Jainism, and his primary philosophy of the Indian ‘non-violent’ movement was a Jainist principle, and eventually led to Indian independence from British rule.
The graphic on the left is one of the most important Jainist symbols,
… the open hand symbolizes Ahimsa or Non-Violence,
… and the wheel in the palm is similar in meaning to the Buddhist ‘Wheel of Dharma’ and is symbolic of the reincarnation cycles of birth > death > rebirth that are common to both beliefs.
The main beliefs and practices of Jainism revolve around Spiritual Independence, Equality of Life, and Emphasis on Non-violence. As with the Hindus and Buddhists, they believe in the ideas of Dharma and reincarnation.
Compassion for all life, both human and non-human is their most important principle.
All adult Jainists take 5 vows as follows;-
1. Ahimsa – Non-violence.
2. Satya – Truth.
3. Asteya – Non-stealing.
4. Brahmancharya – Chastity (unless married).
5. Aparigraha – Non-possession or Non-possessiveness.
All practicing Jains are vegetarian, as they believe that it is wrong to kill animals (or humans) – for any reason whatsoever.
Some sects even sweep the ground in front of them as they are walking, so that they do not accidentally step on an insect and kill it.
The majority of Jains also will not eat root vegetables, as they believe that this destroys the plant unnecessarily.
Also they do not eat garlic or onion as they feel that these two foods are best avoided as they are seen as possibly creating passion, and possible anger, hatred and jealousy.
Several branches of Hinduism have been influenced by the Jains and have also become vegetarian.
Devout followers of Jainism do not eat, drink, or travel after sunset, and usually get up before sunrise.
Fasting is used often by Jains – especially if he/she feels that they have committed some error in their daily life.
Despite the fairly strict beliefs, Jains are very respectful, friendly and accepting of other beliefs and philosophies and practices.
In fact several non-Jain temples in India are administered by Jains.
They have the oldest and probably the best libraries in India.
The Jains utilize another ancient important symbol – the Swastika ( also called the Fylfot), which is a very ancient holy symbol.
Hitler corrupted it, by using it as his symbol for the Nazis.
In fact the swastika has been used by many civilizations, religions and philosophies – from as far back as the Bronze Age in 5000 B.C.
The Finnish Airforce adopted a blue swastika on a white circle in 1918, as the insignia for their aircraft, and used it for many years until it was changed to a blue circle on a white circle instead.
There are two main branches of Jainism, the Digambar and the Shvetambar, the two differ in several minor ways, and in one major way;-
The Digambar do NOT believe that women can reach Moksha (Nirvana or Heaven) whilst in a female reincarnation.
The Shvetambar believe that women CAN attain Moksha (Nirvana or Heaven) whilst they are in a female reincarnation.
One other interesting difference is that in general, the Digambar monks wear no clothes.
Some very devout Jains of both sects perform a controversial practice if they feel that they are near to death. They will completely fast from food or drink until they die. This is considered to be of great spiritual merit, and allows the person to reflect on their past life, and mentally and spiritually prepare for their next life. This practice is Known as Sallekhana.
The followers of Jainism meditate regularly at least once daily. Their form of meditation is called Samayika, is usually done in a Buddha-like posture as in the picture on the left.
It is a form of Mantra meditation (See the page in this website called Mantras for a better understanding), and the purpose is to overcome the forever changing aspects of their lives and to focus more on the unchanging, changeless reality within all of us – called the Atman
The Mantra used is called the Navankar Mantra (sometimes Namokar or Namashkar), and is the most important prayer used in Jainism.
There are actually 9 mantras, but usually only the first 5 are used. They are in the Prakrit language, which is a very old language from more Northern areas of India.
In Western script, and with their meanings, they are;-
Namo Arihantanam……….I bow to the Arihant (the equivalent of Jain saints)
Namo Siddhanam…………I bow to the Siddha (perfected masters of Jainism)
Namo Ayarianam…………I bow to the Acharya (a guru or teacher)
Namo Uvajzayanam……….I bow to the Upadhyaya (a teacher monk)
Namo Loe Savva Sahunam….I bow to all the Sadhu ( the normal monks)
It seems that Jainism is a very gentle, but at the same time strict, form of religion or philosophy.
The Jains run several animal hospitals or shelters not only in India, but around the world, as part of their all-pervading principle of compassion for all life – human or non-human.
The Jainism Mantra meditation as given above is probably not one to be used by the average student of meditation looking at this website –
… unless you are interested in becoming a Jain, in which case you should find a local Jain community or temple near you.
You should certainly look at the Mantra Meditation page however, as mentioned above, click HERE to go there now.
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