- Founder/s: Vardhamana, better known as Mahavira*
- Approximate age: 2600 years**
- Place of origin: India
- Holy book/s: Agamas***
- Original language of holy book/s: Sanskrit
- Demonym of adherents: Jains
- Approximate number of current global adherents: 5-10,000,000
- Place of worship name/s: derasar, basadi, vasati
* Followers claim he’s not the founder, only the teacher in this era (see the time cycle at the bottom of the post) who gave the religion its present form. There is no founder as such, but the very first teacher of this half-cycle is Rishabha (aka. Rishabhadev, Ādinātha, Adish Jina, Adi Purush, Ikshvaku, Vidhata and Srista).
** However, followers claim the religion is ageless and had no beginning.
*** The Digambara sect disputes this. It claims the written Agamas are long-gone so there’s no holy book anymore, and the religion is only transmitted orally! Any and every holy book is corrupt to them.
One of the most famous aspects of this religion is its principle of ahimsa (non-violence/ non-harm). The most-often cited example is their refusal to step on insects or other small animals that may be in their path.
Huge thumbs up from me!!!
Why? Insects are innocent creatures just trying to stay alive like us. Anyone who thinks they don’t matter just because they’re smaller than us deserves to be stepped on in my opinion. Though I don’t take it to the extent of sweeping the road in front of me before each step (as Jains purportedly do), I will definitely either move the minibeasts out of my way or I move out of their way. Simple.
Plus it’s pretty realistic with how ahimsa relates to interpersonal relations. For example, if a person kills someone by accident or self-defence, that’s less sinful than premeditated murder.
Anekantavada – non-absolutism, or the doctrine of multiple viewpoints. They believe that knowledge obtainable through normal means is inherently unreliable so it’s ok to have differences of opinion. This also means that they don’t claim to be sole possessors of truth, which I highly respect.
Satya – truth. They place a very high value on truth. In fact it’s one of their core principles.
Just like Hinduism, it espouses the doctrine of karma. You reap what you sow. Forces people to pay attention to themselves and take responsibility for their actions.
What do I consider negative about the faith?
Ahimsa is taken a bit too far. Apparently clergy members wear muhapatti cloth over their mouths to stop air-born microorganisms from being disturbed by the warm air of their breath! And though the logic behind sweeping the road in front of you is sound (to avoid accidentally stepping on insects in your way), it’d be easier on the insects if you just look out for them and move out of their way. The bristles of your broom may impale them or something.
Like a lot of religions it sees matter/ the body as a prison for souls from which we need to be liberated. This explains why asceticism is such a big deal – and in fact the Buddha himself found this out the hard way. When he was an ascetic (under the tutelage of a Jain) he almost fasted himself to death, which according to Buddha for Beginners is the ultimate goal of Jainism.
Some aspects of the aparigraha (non-possessiveness) principle are excessive. Though I agree we shouldn’t hoard objects for the sake of it, I take issue with the concept of “hoarding” passions. Plus, the monks and nuns take anti-materialism to the extreme of giving up all property and relations with other people. They don’t cook or prepare any food for themselves, only eating what others give them, and only travel by foot.
It believes the universe is eternal, with no beginning and no end. However, scientific evidence shows it very much did have a beginning (the Big Bang) so it stands to reason that it’ll have an end.
Oh, and the treatment of women is… disagreed on. There are 2 main sects of this faith, Digambara & Svetambara. The Digambara Jains prescribe nakedness in public, but only for men since naked women would hinder everyone’s liberation – including their own. They also believe menstruation makes women inherently less non-violent than men, because menses supposedly kills microorganisms in her body, and motherhood makes women inherently less able to break free of worldly attachments.
Not only that, some even argue that in order to achieve liberation women first have to be reincarnated as men.
I’m not sure whether this would count as a good or bad thing, but they also believe that since the universe is eternal time is eternal. This means it just carries on in an endless cycle of good and (thankfully much shorter) bad eras. We are in the 5th (therefore 2nd worst) of the 6 eras of increasing sorrow, where everyone only lives to about 100 years, religion (including Jainism!) & general morality is dying out, and people only grow to about 6 feet tall. Once those 6 eras are all done, time will rotate back round towards the eras of increasing happiness.
Why would this be good or bad? Because if it’s true, it means evil (including misery, pain, premature death & killing, etc.) is part of the divine plan. Something or someone wanted this to happen. The upside to that is that the eras of happiness are much longer – but too bad we won’t be alive to experience it, or remember it if we get reincarnated!
But only another 18,500 years to go. Give or take.
Please see their scriptures here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jai/index.htm
Back to Part 9
On to Part 11