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Jainism


The religion of protest in India originating in the sixth century BC. One of its leaders was Jina, the victor. The religion protested against the complicated ritualism and impersonality of Hinduism.

Among the assertions of Jainism which still exist is the coexistence of two eternal independent categories known as Jiva (animate, living soul" the enjoyer), and Ajiva (inanimate, non living object: the enjoyed).

The Jains strongly believe in karma. They contend actions of mind, speech and body produce subtle infra-atomic particles of matter which cause bondage of the individual soul. In order to avoid this bondage or entrapment the person must refrain from violence in order not to bring about suffering in life. One attains salvation by practicing the three "jewels": of the right faith, the right cognition and the right conduct.

Spirits know their identity by undergoing successive incarnations. After nine incarnations there comes the attainment of Nirvana.

Yatis (ascetics) attain Nirvana with the five vows, panca-mahavrata: ahimsa, never to inflict injury on any creature; satya, to always be truthful; asteya, never to steal; brahmacarya, to practice sexual restraint; and aparig-raha, to give up worldly goods. These vows help to promote self-mastery.

The Jains worshipped many of the Hindu gods plus two great prophets Mahavira and Jina. They believe that a succession of 24 Tirthankaras (saints) originated their religion with Mahavira the great hero and Jina, historical figures, being the last of such saints.

The two main sects of Jains, the monks of Digambara (space-clad, or naked) and the monks of Svetambara (white-clad, or wearers of white cloth), produced huge quantities of secular and religious literature in the Prakrit and Sanskrit languages.

Most Jains art was primarily found in cave temples elaborately decorated with carved stones and illustrated manuscripts. This art was modeled after Buddhism but was richer in texture and fertility. Much was destroyed in the 12th century when some sects rejected the worship of images. Muslim raids looted many of the art treasures too. In the 18th century the inspiration of iconoclasm was further rejected from temple worship. Complicated rituals were replaced by more austere worship practices.

Currently the religion is mainly located in the most northern part of India, in the Bombay region, and in the larger cities on the Indian peninsula. In the 1960's the Jains totalled only 1,500,000 but they predominantly influenced the Hindu religion. The Jains mainly are traders, and their wealth and authority make them very influential.

Most, if not all, Jains practice nonviolence which has lead to extreme references for animal life. This is especially true of the Yatis. Example of these extremes are wearing a cloth over the person's mouth to prevent insects from flying in, carrying a brush to sweep clean the place where he is about to sit, and removing any living creature from harm.

These Yatis nonviolence practices greatly influenced the Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi whose actions further generated a world-wide nonviolent movement. A.G.H.


Sources: 1, 2.