Jainism is an ancient religion of India that promotes non-violence and spirituality. It promotes the conquering of one’s inner complications to achieve an ultimate state of being. The beliefs of Jainism come from Hinduism. The universe and all aspects of it are eternal in that it wasn’t created and it can never be destroyed. Like Christianity there are three areas of the universe : heaven, hell, and earth itself. The difference is that Jainism believes heaven has seven levels and hell has eight. Upon achieving the ultimate state of being an individual is considered a Jina, a liberated soul.
Everything that lives and breaths has a soul. Souls come with infinite knowledge and power but karma hides the many capabilities. Each individual soul has power over its own life whether in heaven, hell, or on earth. The religious principles are designed to eliminate the harmful karmas and allow for full knowledge and power over life.
The Five Major Vows:
Jainism promotes non-violence, non-stealing, non-materialism, chastity, and non-lying. Harm can never be caused to other living beings whether intentional or not intentional. Along with not harming others, you must go above and beyond and respect all others. This becomes an issue in always being truthful. Truthfulness in this religion is define as always speaking the truth in a way that doesn’t cause harm to others. If saying a true statement will cause someone harm, then it’s appropriate to say nothing at all.
Thou shall not steal is not only a principle of Christianity and its many forms but also of Jainism. Jainism requires not only that no being shall ever steal objects but that they should also never take things forgotten by others, purchase things that are available through theft, and never slack and not perform an honest day of work.
Non-materialism is being detached not only from material items but also from people and places. An individual must always rely on their own wisdom and self-reliance. Apart from children who still need their parents for protection and to teach them the ways of this religion, all beings are on their own. There is no supreme God that controls the universe, we are all in control of our own destinies.
Chastity is a vow because the soul must always be pure. This cannot be accomplished while giving into sensual desires. The mind and the body will not be pure if you allow lust to further cloud your knowledge and power.
Restraints and Carefulness:
Always retain your control over your mind, body, and speech. Your mind will lead you on the path of self-actualization. Your body must be controlled so you don’t give into lust and don’t cause bodily harm to others. Speech can do more harm than most think in Jainism. Controlling one’s speech ensures that no one is hurt by harmful words, and that one always speaks the truth or remains silent.
There are five things beings must always remain careful about. They include: walking, communication, eating, handling of tools, and disposing of waste. Safety of others as well as one’s self is very important.
It is important not to assume the karma discussed in this religion means the same as it does in other Hindu based religions. This is not the what goes around comes around works of fate that others regard it to be. Karma in Jainism is a system of moral laws. Every time an action is made has moral repercussions. When you do something that results in negative moral repercussions, it wont come back to haunt you per say, but it is a barrier between you and self-actualization. Karma are the clouds that overcast your sunny soul.
Those who practice Jainism must be vegetarians. There are different degrees of vegetarianism and this particular one is very strict. Not only is meet absolutely forbidden from the diet because causing an animal harm is against the principles, but also eating vegetables classified as root vegetables is not allowed. Potatoes, onions, and turnips are just a few examples. Bacteria is a living organism and as such may not be consumed by those who follow Jainism. The root vegetables in the ground are covered with this bacteria and cooking and gathering these items will cause harm or death to the bacteria. Seeds are a form of life as well. For this same reason food that is left out cannot be consumed. Bacteria forms on these items and killing them is sacrilegious. No leaving a pizza on the counter until the kids get home even if only for a little while. Although Jainism followers debate on whether a seed that has not yet sprouted is alive or simply as dormant as an inanimate object. This debate means some Jainism followers eat seeds and some do not.
As ruled in 2005 Jainism is considered an official minority religion in five states. It is up to the individual state to decide whether they recognize this religion and its principles. In 2006 Jainism was discussed in the Supreme court once again. It was ruled that Jainism is not simply a part of the Hindu religion but a religion on its own with distinct characteristics that make it unique from all others.
Jainism has a very interesting view on death. One that I personally agree with but did not know before conducting research that others thought this way. You cannot learn all you need to in one life so those who lived life well with limited karma but not yet achieving their ultimate being are allowed a new life. This is an opportunity to be reborn and learn things from a new perspective and another chance at enlightenment and self-fulfillment. If a soul eliminates its karma and achieves the highest state of being they get to go to the heaven. If a soul consistently performed negative acts that clouded their soul will all sorts of bad karma, they go to a level of hell. The level of hell is based on the bad acts in life. What is interesting about these hells are they get progressively colder instead of the traditional hot most associate with hell. Hell is also not eternal. Those who follow Jainism believe people can learn and change as after completed punishment should be allowed another chance to reach enlightenment. This is a truly optimistic perspective on death. It’s not over, no matter how awful you were in life, you are not damned to hell for all eternity. Life has always been viewed as a learning opportunity, but in Jainism death can also be a great source of knowledge.
Information found on Religious Facts and Wikipedia .