How to Become a Jain
Many people are asking me about the process of adopting Jainism as a religion. I receive a lot of emails from every corner of the world regarding this issue. In this article, I am giving my views on converting to Jainism. This article will help them who want to become lay followers of Jainism. Please feel free to ask any question on this issue
A Query Mail About Adopting Jainism
This is a typical query about converting to Jainism.
I'm J.M. John Marshal, a student of bioinformatics in Tamil Nadu Agricultural university, Coimbatore.
I'm writing this email to you in order to get any information on how can I adopt Jainism. My parents are Christians and I was also made Christian since birth itself via Baptization. But later I've came to know my preferences suited well for Jainism. Even in the case of being a Christian, I contradicted it and changed to atheistic and agnostic views. I'm saying that I’m interested in adopting Jainism, not because of my hostility to Christianity and I don't have any such hostility to it too. But the way of thinking, the philosophy that stretches me inside, the atheistic views and materialistic philosophy of me and my inclination to veganism and vegetarian principles, moreover my position in atheist as opposed to the reductionist materialism of neuroscience or the solely experience based principles as in mystics etc and placing myself in a middle way, all which I think, it is better if I adopt Jainism. I've been thinking these for several days.
I had found a Jain philosophy book of my mother and read it and found my views matching with it more. So, please can you say the procedures to adopt Jainism.
- J.M. John Marshal
What is Jainism?
Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It has a rich heritage in India. There are about 20 millions of Jains world over.
The basic things one should know about Jainism are that:
1. Jainism believes in equality of all living beings, and it opposes discrimination of any person or group of persons in the name of Gender, Color, Race, Caste, Creed, Ethnicity, Language, Nationality etc.
2. Jainism does not believe in creator God. Jainism believes that the universe was not created by anybody, and it is beginning-less and endless.
3. Jainism believes in soul and liberation of the soul.
4. Jainism believes that all living beings have souls.
5. Jainism respects all types of living beings and opposes to kill or cause to kill them.
Who Can Become a Jain?
Anybody can become a Jain. A person of any nationality, ethnicity, creed, caste, color, gender, linguistic group can adopt Jainism as a lay follower or as a Jain monk.
There is no Baptism like process for becoming a Jain. You can become a Jain on your own, by studying basic philosophy and adopting the Jain way of life. Knowledge is the base and when you acquire knowledge, it automatically changes your conduct. According to Jainism, conduct without knowledge is useless. Acquiring knowledge is a long term process. But you can declare yourself a Jain by following the basic principles of Jainism after knowing the reasons of why to follow those principles.
What you have to follow?
After knowing the basic principles of Jainism, you have to follow the five vows of Jainism. The vows are as following:
The vow of Non-violence: You should not kill or cause to kill any living beings intentionally and should not support such killings by others. As a result of non-violence, you have to adopt vegetarian or vegan life style. But you should know that the non-violence is not limited to not killing living beings, it also includes hurting the sentiments of others, and bad wishes for others.
There are few exceptions like violence in response when somebody attacks on you, your family, friends, society or nation, or the non-intentional violence in your livelihood and activities such as cultivation, business and industry etc.
The Vow of Truth: You must abstain from lying or untruthfulness. However you should know that truth is a relative thing and here lying means speaking untruthful things with wrong intentions. Further, you should avoid speaking truth which will hurt others.
The Vow of Non-stealing: You should not steal anything that belongs to others. This is not just limited to money and wealth; you should not steal the rights, concepts, intellectual property etc. of others.
The Vow of limiting sexual pleasure: Be loyal with your spouse. Do not involve in others for sexual pleasure.
The Vow of non-attachment: For living, you have to earn money. You should earn according to your necessities and desire, but never get attached to the money and wealth. Never be a money oriented person. Further, you should donate a part of your money for welfare of needy persons. Remember that attachment is root of all sins.
Remember that all these vows are code of conduct. To become a Jain, you must know that Jainism is all about knowing self. Once you start to try knowing self, you will automatically follow to start these vows. Without knowing self, following the vows is an external thing.
What You Should Avoid?
To become a true Jain, avoid sectarian views. If you get involved with sects, it will kill your Jain spirit, as sects are nothing but involving people in rituals and dividing them by creating disputes between them.
If you acquire any knowledge from Jain monks of sectarian views and orthodox Jain scholars, it will develop sectarian views in your mind. So self study is a very important thing to get true knowledge.
Always keep in mind that performing external rituals, visiting temples on daily basis, blind faith in monks is not the right way of being a Jain.
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