Jainism is an India Religion that follows a path of non-violence. The primary idea behind the religion is that people must actively advance their soul on a spiritual journey in order to reach a divine state. Jains believe all living things have the potential to reach a divine state. To them, every living thing is equally as important as every other living thing. For example, a grass hopper is equally as important as a human being.
Jainism provides followers with a path of non-violence so they might reach this divine state. If you are a Jain, you want to prevent actions your life that could bring bad Karma your way. Karma is essentially the belief that what comes around goes around, and that bad deeds bring bad consequences, while good deeds bring good consequences. By refraining from negative actions, Jains believe they will defeat their inner demons and reach a supreme state called jina.
Jainism is a smaller but rather influential India religion with as many as 10.2 million followers in India. The religion itself is an ancient concept. There were two directions of spiritual thought in Ancient India Culture. One, was the Brahmana Vedic Religion, which developed into Hinduism through civilizations similar to Harappa, the other was of the Shramana School of thought, which became Jainism.
Both religions are Dharmic, meaning that they emphasize living in a virtuous manner in order to achieve freedom from reincarnation. Each religion has influenced the other through time. In fact, many Hindus consider the religion to be one of the many branches of Hinduism, while Jains prefer to be considered an independent religion of India.
Jains follow the spiritual accomplishments of 24 important people called Tirthankaras. In the past, these Jinas successfully shed their worldly possessions in effort to seek a life of self discipline. Today's Jains follow in the foot steps of these 24 Tirthankaras.
The holiest symbol for Jains is a simple swastika. A Jain swastika is normally depicted with three dots at its top as well as a a crest and a dot.
Followers are encouraged to take on spiritual development through self control and wisdom. The goal is to discover the soul's true nature. This religion provides a path for reaching freedom from an ongoing cycle of birth and death. This is because Jains, like most Hindus, believe that the life cycle is never-ending and that the soul incarnates in different life forms through time. Every soul must follow self discipline to reach ultimate liberation from this cycle.
Jains live through non-violence because they believe that by not harming others, they will be subject to less karma and be able to reach their goal faster. Like Buddhists, Jains believe that becoming pure requires patience and care. As in Buddhism, the purpose of Jain dharma is to remove the negative effects of karma through purification.
Karma has a different meaning to Jains than it does to Hindus. In Hinduism, it's a force that controls the fate of living beings in unexplainable ways. Jains see karma as very fine matter that interacts with the soul and causes great changes. Karma is material to them.
Jainism has stirred up controversy in India due to one of its traditional rituals. The particular ritual involves a holy fasting until death. When someone believes they are close to death, they gradually cease eating and drinking. This fatal fast allows a Jain to reach death with dignity and to avoid negative karma from harming plants or other living matter. This fasting can take years in extreme cases! The ritual is considered controversial for obvious reasons
There are five basic living principles that Jains follow:
1) Do not harm others
2) Speak truthfully and in a harmless manner
3) Do not take anything that is not given to you
4) Do not indulge in sensual pleasures
5) Detach from people, places, and material things
Many scholars suggest that the Jain influence promoted many sectors of Hinduism in becoming vegetarian, but Jain's stance on nonviolence goes beyond vegetarianism. Jains do not eat foods obtained with what they believe to be unnecessary cruelty. They avoid rooted vegetables, like potatoes and garlic, in order to preserve the lives of these plants. Traditional Jains do not eat, drink, or travel after sunset.