An ascetic sect of Buddhist hermit-yogis monks who attempted to develop magical and miraculous powers through severe self-denial. The founder of Jainism (ca. 6th century BC) was Jina, also called Mahavira (Great Hero, or Great Man). He was born of a virgin mother, Devananda, referred to as the “Blessed Goddess.” He worked miracles such as walking on water, healing the sick, changing water into wine, exorcising demons, and making the blind to see. Supposedly he gained such powers because he renounced all sensual pleasures and maintained a life of constant meditation in a forest hermitage.
From the time of Alexander the Great, the Jain monks traveled westward impressing and influencing the Persians, Essenes, and later the Christians. A.G.H.