Donate SIGN UP

What is Jainism?

16:37 Mon 24th May 2010 |

What is Jainism?

Jainism is an ancient religion from India which prescribes the concept of non-violence and reincarnation. It is often confused with Buddhism because of this.
The main principal of Jainism is Karma. Karma insists that any action taken in this life will affect your being in any future incarnation of yourself. A “Jain,” is someone who follows “Jinas,” – these are spiritually advanced beings who have broken free of karmic bonds and have reconnected with an ancient virtuous path.  All Jains follow the teachings of 24 special Jinas known as “Tirthankaras.” This translates to “ford-makers,” i.e. they can build the bridge or make a path from a normal state of existence to this higher state of being.

Further Principles of Jainism include improving the self though scholarly activities and self control. Both of these activities are designed to help a Jain come to realise their soul’s true nature or intention. Once this is realised it will provide a path for them out of the Samara (the cycle of birth and death) and obtain a kind of ultimate liberation.

The ethical principles prescribed by Jainism are:

•    Non-violence – to cause no harm to living beings
•    Truth – to always speak the truth
•    Non-stealing – to never take anything not given willingly
•    Celibacy – to avoid sensual pleasures
•    Non-possession – to detach oneself from people, places and material things

Jainism and States of Being

To Jains the Universe is eternal but is contained within a cyclical process of change. The constant birth and rebirth of living beings whether they are human or sub-human (animals, insect or plants) is easily understood as simply rebirth after death based on the good (whether this is helpful or scholarly) you did within your lifetime. Those who have broken through are considered “super-human beings,” and are to spend their days teaching others how to attain a state of higher being. There is also a fourth category; “hell-beings.” These are those who have passed from the material world into a much worse state.

Creation and the Universe in Jainism

Jains believe the universe was never created and will never cease to exist. It is infinite and enternal with no true beginning or end but it does have cycles with progressive and regressive phases of spirituality.

The progressive phase of the cycle is known as Utsarpinis – in this cycle humanity progresses from its worst state to its best state. Naturally then, Avsarpinis is a regression from this high state of goodness to a lower state. These cycles are broken up unevenly into 6 periods of time called Aras.

Which Cycle are We Currently in According to Jainism?

Unsurprisingly Jains believe that we are in the fifth Aras of Avsarpinis. The next Aras begins in around 19,000 years and will last for around 21,000 years.

After this there will be the upswing towards a higher state of being. In this phase it is alleged that wishes will be granted by wish-granting trees (known as Kalpavrksa) and people will be born in sets of twins (one male and one female) to represent the full human with male and female characteristics.

Do you have a question about Society & Culture?