Jainism is one of the world’s oldest religions, originating in India at least 2,500 years ago. The spiritual goal of Jainism is to become liberated from the endless cycle of rebirth and to achieve an all-knowing state called moksha. This can be attained by living a nonviolent life, or ahimsa, with as little negative impact on other life forms as possible.
The traditions of Jainism were largely carried forward by a succession of 24 tirthankaras, or teachers, most notably Vardhamana Mahavira, the last of the tirthankaras and likely a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. Both Mahavira and Buddha emphasized the importance of self-discipline, meditation and ascetic life as the key to salvation. Their teachings often stood in contrast to those of Vedic priests of the time who emphasized ritual practices and their own role as intermediaries between humanity and the gods.
Today, a sliver of India’s population (0.4%) identifies as Jain, making it the smallest of the country’s six major religious groups after Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism.
Jainism at a Glance :
Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Each of these souls is considered of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.
Jains are strict vegetarians and live in a way that minimises their use of the world's resources.
Jains believe in reincarnation and seek to attain ultimate liberation - which means escaping the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth so that the immortal soul lives for ever in a state of bliss.
Liberation is achieved by eliminating all karma from the soul.
Jainism is a religion of self-help.
There are no gods or spiritual beings that will help human beings.
The three guiding principles of Jainism, the 'three jewels', are right belief, right knowledge and right conduct.
The supreme principle of Jain living is non violence (ahimsa).
This is one of the 5 mahavratas (the 5 great vows). The other mahavratas are non-attachment to possessions, not lying, not stealing, and sexual restraint (with celibacy as the ideal).
Mahavira is regarded as the man who gave Jainism its present-day form.
The texts containing the teachings of Mahavira are called the Agamas.
Jains are divided into two major sects; the Digambara (meaning "sky clad") sect and the Svetambara (meaning "white clad") sect.
Jainism has no priests. Its professional religious people are monks and nuns, who lead strict and ascetic lives.
There are two types of Jains, namely Digambar and Shwetambar.
1. Digambar(Dik+Ambar): Meaning, whose clothes(ambar) are his directions(dik)
These are the type of Jains who believe that the only way to achieve salvation is to eliminate all the attachments of life. It is due to this belief that Digambara Monks do not wear any clothes. Comparatively digambara sect is more rigid than shwetambara.
Digambaras are further divided into
Beespantha | Terapantha | Taranpantha
2. Shwetambar(Shwet+Ambar): Whose clothes(ambar) are white(shwet)
These type of Jains do not shun clothes. Shwetambara monks wear a simple white clothing(dhoti). Followers of this sect believe that there is not sufficient evidence to support that Jains need to give up clothes.
Shwetambaras are further divided into:
Murtipoojaka | Sthanakvasi | Terapanth
Along with some differences, both believe in basic principles of Jainism and the nuns of both the sects wear clothes. Some Shwetambaras decorate the idols with Jewellery while Digambaras do not. Also, Shwetambara idols’ eyes are looking upward while Digambara idols’ eyes remain lower than the line of sight but not closed.