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What Is Jainism

Jainism - The 'Jains' are the followers of the Jinas. 'Jina' literally means 'Conqueror.' He who has conquered love and hate, pleasure and pain, attachment and aversion, and has thereby freed `his' soul from the karmas obscuring knowledge, perception, truth, and ability, is a Jina. The Jains refer to the Jina as God. They teach us to reduce vices like rãg (attachment), dvesh (aversion), krodh (anger), màn (pride), mãyã (deceit) and lobh (greed).

Jain religion is unique in that, during its existence of over 5000 years, it has never compromised on the concept of nonviolence either in principle or practice. Jainism upholds nonviolence as the supreme religion (Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah) and has insisted upon its observance in thought, word, and deed at the individual as well as social levels. The holy text Tattvartha Sutra sums it up in the phrase 'Parasparopagraho Jivanam' (all life is mutually supportive). Jain religion presents a truly enlightened perspective of equality of souls, irrespective of differing physical forms, ranging from human beings to animals and microscopic living organisms. Humans, alone among living beings, are endowed with all the six senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and thinking; thus humans are expected to act responsibly towards all living beings by being compassionate, non-egoistic, fearless, forgiving, and rational.

Jainism recognizes this fact while analysing the Universe and maintains that the whole Universe can be broadly divided into two categories, viz., Jiva and Ajiva, meaning motivating conscious and unconscious matter thus pervading everything noticed in this Universe. On the basis of this finding, about two thousand five hundred years ago, not with the help of any laboratory testing but by sheer analytical logic, the Jina seers saw the life force not only in plants and vegetables but also in so called inanimate matter such as earth, water and air.

The jain code of conduct is made up of the following five vows, and all of their logical conclusions:

  1. Ahimsa (nonviolence)
  2. Satya (truthfulness)
  3. Asteya (non-stealing)
  4. Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
  5. Brahmcharya (chastity)

Jain religion focuses much attention on Aparigraha, non-possessiveness towards material things through self-control, self-imposed penance, abstinence from over-indulgence, voluntary curtailment of one's needs, and the consequent subsiding of the aggressive urge.

The Jains are divided into two major sects, Digambar and Svetambar. The differences between the two sects are minor and relatively obscure. Digambar Jain monks do not wear clothes while Svetambar Jain monks, wear white, seamless clothes.