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- Last Updated: March 6, 2013
- Originally Published: July 22, 2012
Jainism is currently the world's ninth largest religion. Jainism developed in the Ganges River Basin of eastern India, but it has no recognized founder. Jains, as the adherents are called, do not believe in a supreme being or creator. Instead, they see the universe as eternal, uncreated, and unending. All living creatures have a soul that can be purified and released from the cycle of death and rebirth to reside in complete spiritual freedom. The core belief of Jainism is non-violence, as established by a line of twenty-four ancient prophetsending with Vardhamana Mahavira. The sacred texts of the Jains are the —Mahavira's teachings, as compiled by his followers.
- Reality: The universe is divided two ways: and . Jiva resides in all living beings that have consciousness—the soul is an indestructible, invisible, shapeless energy housed in the body—while ajiva has no consciousness; it is motion, rest, space, matter, and time.
- Food: Jains generally follow a vegetarian diet.
- Meditation: The is common to all Jain sects. It is a forty-eight minute period, immediately following sunrise each day, during which Jains withdraw from all activity and reflect on things spiritual.
- Moksa: Moksa is the ending of the cycle of and the merging of the individual soul into the universal existence.
- Nirvana: Nirvana is a final release from the bondage of . It is an eternal release common to Indian religions.
Timeline of Jainism
- Jains believe that the universe and Earth were never created nor will they end. Jain legends speak of ancient prophets, or tirthankara, who are believed to have brought the Jain faith to each age of the world.
- Vardhamana Mahavira (c.599-c.527 BCE), known as the great hero, was the last of twenty-four ancient prophets of the current age. Born a prince, Mahavira renounced his title and property and spent his life preaching that salvation comes through , a discipline of a spiritual nature, attained through the denial of all worldly concerns.
- The faith remained almost wholly within the Indian subcontinent until the 20th century CE, when trade brought Jains to Africa, then to Europe and North America.
- Now numbering more than four million, Jainism is world's ninth largest religion. Most Jains still live in India, but new followers are joining in other countries.
Tenets of Jainism
Jains see life is a series of deaths and rebirths in which each soul begins spiritually pure.
- Impure actions cause karma to form a shell around the soul and keep it from achieving spiritual freedom.
The flow of karma into the soul can be stopped by the a series of practices known as the
- Right faith: Belief in real existence.
- Right knowledge: Knowledge of real nature without doubt or error.
Right conduct: The practice of the
- Non-violence: Adherents should avoid all mental, verbal, and physical violence. Even employment that unintentionally destroys life should be avoided.
- Non-possessiveness: Adherents should focus on detachment from things that distract spiritually. This includes avoiding the excessive ownership of possessions, abstaining from over-indulgence, and so on.
- Non-stealing: Adherents must not steal from others, and must avoid greed or exploitation.
- Chastity: Adherents must remain faithful to their spouses.
- Truthfulness: Adherents should speak the truth always and avoid all falsehood.