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What is Jainism?

Updated on March 25, 2016
Jain symbol of Ahinsa, non-violence
Jain symbol of Ahinsa, non-violence

Jainism is a less known Eastern Religion. It originated in ancient India and influenced Indian culture and society to a great degree.

We can trace the origin of Jainism to Indus Valley Civilization, one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. This religion was basically for living an ascetic life. Jainism does not believe in creator God. It believes in the birth cycle, soul and its liberation. For every Jain, i.e. the follower of Jainism the ultimate goal of life is Moksha, i.e breaking the cycle of Birth, Death and Rebirth.

Followers of Jainism are peaceful people and they do not like to engage in any violent activities and businesses. They are staunch vegetarians and do not kill or cause to kill any animals.

Jain Monks and Nuns

There are about 15000 Jain monks in India. They live an ascetic life, wander here and there and preach the people. The Jain monks are divided in 4 various sects. Monks of Digambar sect are naked, while other wear white cloths, including the nuns of Digambar sect. All the monks and nuns wander on their bare feet. They wander all over India and neighboring Nepal. Many of the Jain monks and nuns are highly educated, know at least three languages and write books on Jainism related topics.

Anybody who have studied basics of Jainism and follow the principles, can become a Jain monk or nun. It is not necessary to be a born Jain to become a Jain monk or nun.

Lay Followers of Jainism

There are about 10 millions of the followers of Jainism in India, and another 10 millions in the other parts of the world.

The Jain population in India is less than 1% of the total population. However, Jains have contributed a lot in the building of modern India. They are working in various fields including Business and Industry, Education, Film Industry, Government and Politics, Art, Science & Technology, Social Activities etc.

It is interesting to know that Jains are the most literate people of India. Most of the Jains belong to Middle Class, Higher Middle Class and Higher Class families.

The followers of Jainism are spread all over India. Most of them are multilingual people, however their Mother Tongue is generally one of the following languages: Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannad, Tamil, Tulu, Marawadi. Hindi is second language for most of the Jains, if it is not first one.

Five Vows of Lay Followers of Jainism

Every Jain has to follow following principles:

Ahimsa i.e. Non-Violence: Not to kill or cause to kill any animals.

Truth: Always choose the path of truthfulness.

Non-Stealing: Not to steal anything

Celibacy: Abstaining from sexual activities with other than spouse.

Non-Attachment: Not being attached with material things.

The same vows are for Jain monks, but for them the degree of following is very higher.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Indian Space Scientist .
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Indian Space Scientist . | Source

Famous Jains

There are many famous followers of Jainism worldwide. Here is a small list:

Claudia Pastorino: Pop singer from Italy
Dr. Michael Tobias: Film Producer and Author from USA
Charlotte Laws: American Author and Animal Rights Activist
Ajit Jain: Possible successor to Warren Buffett
Anshu Jain: Global Head and Managing Director of capital markets at Deutsche Bank.
Sunny Jain: Musician and Music Composer
Sheetal Seth: American actress and producer
Sanjay Leela Bhansali: Director of Hindi movies
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai: Father of Indian space program
V Shantaram: One of the Pioneers of Indian film industry
Kiran Shah: British actor and stuntman

Some great people of India and other countries were inspired and influenced by Jainism. Such persons include Pythagoras, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

What is Jainism? By Acharya Yogeesh

An Overview of Jainism

© 2013 Mahaveer Sanglikar


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  • Au fait profile image

    C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

    This sounds a lot like true Christianity. There are Christian sects that do not eat meat or kill animals for food.

    The Old Testament still has value in prophesy and history, but when Jesus came He ushered in a new non-violent era. The fact that some people who call themselves Christians do not adhere to His (Jesus') teachings is a reflection on them as it should be, yet most non-Christians prefer to blame Christianity and God, rather than the individual with flawed judgment.

    People should not make the mistake of judging any religion by it's followers, as followers are subject to making flawed interpretations, and twisting words from their Holy Books for their own convenience.

    However a lot of people prefer to lay the blame for evil and cruel acts on religion when in fact the entire responsibility lies with individuals and their failure to accept the teachings of their own Holy Book.

    God gave all humans a free will -- ALL humans. Therefore we can all choose our thoughts and deeds and behaviors. Yet many people who claim to have read and understood the Bible prefer to blame God, Christianity, and religion in general, on the ugly, evil things some people choose to do with their free will. They see religion of all kinds as the problem when in fact it is the flawed human interpretation of most religious Holy Books that is at fault.

    Evil people will do evil. If no religion existed in our world there would still be evil people. Who then would be to blame for them and their deeds if there were no religion to scapegoat?

    Very informative article you have here. I like to learn about other religions so that I can better understand the people who practice them.