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GROWTH OF JAINISM
Nov 23, 2013

Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live lives of harmlessness and renunciation. The essence of Jainism is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself.

Jainism originated at a time when the Later Vedic period (1000 BC-600 BC) had come to an end and there was a rise of republics and small kingdoms. The rise of the first kingdoms was marked by the emergence of the ruling class in each kingdom, which belonged to the Kshatriya or the warrior caste. While the Kshatriyas ruled these kingdoms and protected the rest of the masses, the Brahmin or the priestly caste catered to the religious and educational needs of the people, as well as sanctified the rule of the Kshatriyas.

Mahavira (540 BC-467 BC) was the founder of Jainism. Mahavira was born in 540 BC in a Kshatriya royal family in Vaishali (present-day Bihar) .He founded this religion after attaining Enlightenment. The teachings of Mahavira revolve around leading a pious life, to shun all violence, and to be austere. . Mahavira came to be known as the 24th Tirthankara or the great Jain spiritual leader.

Doctrines of Jainism:

Three Gems of Jainism or Triratna:

  1. Right faith (samyak shradha)

  2. Right knowledge (samyak jnan)

  3. Right action (samyak karma)


Five Vows of Jainism ( Pancha Mahavaratas)

  1. Non-injury(ahimsa)

  2. Non-lying(satya)

  3. Non-stealing(asteya)

  4. Non-possession(aparigraha)

  5. Chastity(brahmacharya)


The first four vows were given by Parshwanath, who was the 23rd Tirthankara(great jain spiritual leader), while Mahavira added the fifth vow. Mahavira had asked his followers to shed all clothes and go about naked. This meant that the Jain monks had to observe absolute chastity and abandon all the pleasures of material life. They also had to perform rigorous asceticism along with long periods of fasting, self-mortification, meditation and study of Jain scriptures.

Some teachings of Jainism are:

  • Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Each of these souls is considered of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.

  • Jains are strict vegetarians and live in a way that minimises their use of the world's resources.

  • Jains believe in reincarnation and seek to attain ultimate liberation - which means escaping the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth so that the immortal soul lives for ever in a state of bliss.

  • Liberation is achieved by eliminating all karma from the soul.

  • Jainism is a religion of self-help.

  • There are no gods or spiritual beings that will help human beings.

  • The supreme principle of Jain living is non violence (ahimsa).

  • The texts containing the teachings of Mahavira are called the Agamas.

  • Jains are divided into two major sects; the Digambara (meaning "sky clad") sect and the Svetambara (meaning "white clad") sect.

  • Jainism has no priests. Its professional religious people are monks and nuns, who lead strict and ascetic lives.


Most Jains live in India, and according to the 2001 Census of India there are around 4.2 million living there. However, the Oxford Handbook of Global Religions, published in 2006, suggests that census figures may provide lower than the true number of followers as many Jains identify themselves as Hindu. The Handbook also states that there are around 25,000 Jains in Britain.

 


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