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This paper will explore the Jain religion both past and present. Jainism, also known as Jain Dharma, which is one of the most ancient religions in the world still existing today, was traditionally developed in ancient India in the 6th century B.C. . The paper goes on to describe the history of Jainism, the life of its founder, Mahavira, and the beliefs and philosophical tenets of Jainism. This paper will also go on to describe the deities of Jainism and also the importance of their places of worship. This paper will explore several articles on the Jain religion and how it has changed over time.
Keywords: Jina, Tirthankaras, Ahisma, Mahavira, Shvetambara, Digambara

The word Jainism is derived from Jina, meaning victor or conqueror. The universal message of Jainism is that of non-violence. There is no creator or God in this religion. It all started with Mahavira who was born around 599 BCE. He decided to abandon his well known life and take a not so traveled path of an ascetic life. He gave away his possessions, and embarked on a new journey. He endured vigorous discipline, including bodily and spiritual injury for twelve years. He emerged from this a teacher, preacher and founder of a new religion. This paper will give you a brief history of Jainism and answer the following questions:
1. Where did the religion start?
2. Who are the deities, leaders, and places of worship?
3. Are there any divisions associated with this religion?
4. How has this religion changed over time?
5. What does the future hold for this religion?
Even though Jainism is a fairly small religion with only about 3.5 million followers, it is still very much alive today.
Where it Started Jainism is believed to have come about in India in the 6th century B.C., around the same time as Buddhism. Some say that Jainism was established by the 24 Jinas, or Tirthankaras, which are “path makers” or people who have attained the highest level of enlightenment. Although not much is known about most of these 24 Jinas, the twenty-fourth Jina, who was known as Mahavira, is believed to be the founder of Jainism as we know it today.

JAINISM 4 Mahavira was born in 599 B.C. into a family of knightly caste. His father, Siddhartha was a lord, and his mother, Trisala, was also believed to come from a noble family. Mahaviras’ parents followed the teachings of Parsva, who was known as the 23rd Jina. Parsva taught the “fourfold teaching”, which were chaturyama dharma, abstention from violence, theft, untruth and acquisitiveness (Mahavira’s teachings, N.D.). After the death of both of his parents, at the age of 30, Mahavira decided to renounce his worldly life in a quest for total enlightenment. For the next twelve years he endured great hardships. He gave up all his worldly possession, even his clothes, and trained himself in the art of meditation, so that he could find the enlightenment that he so craved. Also during these twelve years Mahavira would go long periods without food, and did everything he could to avoid harming any living things including plants and animals. After living an ascetic lifestyle for 12 years, Mahavira came to believe that he had finally achieved total enlightenment. Once he achieved enlightenment he then sought out to spread his knowledge and converted twelve disciples and proceeded to teach them the way to enlightenment so that they would be able to spread his new found freedom (What is Jainism, 2011). Mahavira taught his disciples that in order to achieve total enlightenment they had to follow certain principles. The first things he taught them was the three Ratnas, or jewels. These were (a) Right faith, which meant to believe in truth (b) Right knowledge, which meant to study so as to understand what life is about and (c) Right conduct, which was the combination of both faith and knowledge so that someone can live their life right (Mahavira’s teachings, N.D.). Mahavira also taught that there are five principles to live by. Robinson stated that these were as follows:

1. Ahisma: non-violence. Committing an act of violence against a human, animal, or even a vegetable generates negative karma which in turn adversely affects one’s next life.
2. Satya: speaking truth; avoiding falsehood.
3. Asteya: to not steal from others.
4. Brahma-charya: (soul conduct); remaining sexually monogamous to one’s spouse only.
5. Aparigraha: detach from people, places and material things. Avoiding the collection of excessive material possessions, abstaining from over-indulgence, restricting one’s needs, etc.
These things are what the Jain religion is based on. Mahavira was the one to bring these beliefs to the Jain religion, and are what the Jains follow today.
Leaders, Deities, and Places of Worship
The main deities of the Jain religion are believed to be the 24 jinas, or Tirthankaras. These jinas, or Tirthankaras are said to be, “an ancient line of teachers said to possess infinite knowledge and to have attained perfect purity” (The Jain way, 2009). The 24 Tirthankaras are:
1. Lord Rishabha 13. Lord Vimalnath
2. Lord Ajitnath 14. Lord Anantnath
3. Lord Sambhaunath 15. Lord Dharmanath
4. Lord Abhinandannath 16. Lord Shantinath
5. Lord Sumatinath 17. Lord Kunthunath

6. Lord Padmaprabhu 18. Lord Arahnath
7. Lord Suparshvanath 19. Lord Mallinath
8. Lord Chandraprabhu 20. Lord Munisuvrata
9. Lord Pushpadanta 21. Lord Naminath
10. Lord Sheetalnath 22. Lord Neminath
11. Lord Shreyansnath 23. Lord Parshvanath
12. Lord Vasupujya 24. Lord Mahavira
Some consider these 24 Jina’s to be the founders of the Jain religion. An article on the details of the Tirthankaras states that: They have attained all the achievement of ultimate nature including the ultimate knowledge after making vigorous efforts. Their principles are for betterment and the welfare of others. Their path is to provide total fearless life and that of non-violence and to distribute love and friendship. Their vision of life is very wide and they have no insistence for anything. Their way of life is for giving up possessive passion and being free from the karmas (Brief details of, N.D.). Jain’s don’t believe in one God who created the universe, but they do however believe in divine beings worthy of praise and devotion. To the Jain religion anyone can become a “god” because to them we all have the potential to become a perfect being (God, 2011). Jain’s believe that the universe and everything in it are eternal. There is no beginning and there is no end. Although Jain’s do not believe in God or any god’s, the people of the Jain religion choose

JAIMISM 7 to worship statues, icons, and images and symbols of the 24 Tirthankaras in homes and temples in hopes to seek their blessing and liberation (Jayyram, 2011). Many places in India have special meaning to the Jain religion because they are believed to be where the enlightened ones left the world and reached total liberation. “Most of the great pilgrimage sites are distant from the centers of population, almost always on the tops of hills or mountains, and often in surroundings of natural beauty conducive to devotion and meditation (Marett, N.D.). Many of the temples in India are known for their cleanliness and the sacred atmosphere. No kind of worldly activity goes on inside these temples; shoes are removed, and the worshippers come cleanly dress and bathed. One of the most sacred of places to the Jains is Mount Parsvanatha, or Sametsikhara, in Bihar. Here it is believed that no less of 20 of the 24 Tirthankaras left their physical bodies and achieved enlightenment. The summit has several temples, all which are fairly modern (Marett, N.D.). “Pilgrimages and temples are a living part of Jain religion, not some moribund tradition of the past”(Marett, N.D.).
Divisions of Jainism “There are two major Jain sects, the Shvetambara (the white-clad) and the Digambara (the sky-clad). Their names reflect what became the main issue between them: Digambara monks go naked because, unlike Shvetambara ascetics, who wear white robes, they regard clothing as a possession, and the renunciation of all possessions is a prerequisite for the monastic life and ultimate liberation” (Jain Dharma Sects, 2011). According to (N.D.) some of the differences of the two are as follows:

1. Practice of nudity: Digambaras stress the practice of nudity as an absolute pre-requisite to the mendicant's path and to the attainment of salvation, but the Svetambaras assert that the practice of complete nudity is not essential to attain liberation.
2. Liberation of Woman: Digambaras believe that a woman must be reborn as a man to attain liberation, whereas the Svetambaras believe that women are capable of the same spiritual accomplishments as man without having to be reborn.
3. Food for Omniscient: The Digambaras believe that once a person becomes omniscient, he no longer has the need for food, but the Svetambaras do not agree with that.
4. Tirthankara Mallinatha: The Svetambaras believe that the 19th Tirthankar was a female, but the Digambaras believe it to be a man.
Although it is unclear as to when exactly the split happened, some of the reasons for the split were (a) a dispute over which teaching of Mahavira were the true ones (b) disagreements on how the teachings were to be interpreted (c) areas of different cultural conditions which led to geographical differences (Religion and faith, N.D.).
When Jainism first came about, its’ principles and guidelines were very severe in nature, and those who adhered to them lived a very ascetic life. For some members of the Jain religion their belief in Ahisma leads them to become either monks or nuns, and follow the wandering ascetic lifestyle. “Most Jains today, however, are laity, living worldly lives but seeking to adhere to the principle of

JAINISM 9 ahimsa in as many ways as possible. The laity support the wandering ascetics, providing them with food and shelter; the ascetics in turn provide religious and moral guidance” (Jain, 2011).
What the Future Holds Jainism is still very much alive and kicking in today’s society. The beginning of the 20th century brought a number of Jains to the western world to seek out business opportunities, and now there is roughly 200,000 Jains living outside of India (Shah, N.D.). “There is bright future of Jainism in the Western World. UK government has given its recognition to Jain Faith and now it is at par with other nine faiths such as Christianity, Muslim, Buddhism, Bahai’s, Sikhism, Judaism and Hinduism. In all government correspondences related to faiths now the Jain Faiths will be included” (Shah, N.D.). Jainism may not be the biggest religion out there, but it should still be recognized as a religion of importance.
Jainism is a religion that is based on the theory of Ahisma, or non-violence. Early followers of this religion live a very ascetic lifestyle in order to achieve total enlightenment. Mahavira is thought to be the founder of Jainism as we know it today. Today, only Jain monks and nuns lead the extreme ascetic lifestyle, as to where lay Jain’s live worldly lifestyle while doing their best to adhere to the Jain philosophy. Even though it is one of the smaller religions in the world, it is still very much a practicing religion. Jainism is alive and well, and has now come to the western world. Jainism has a bright future, and will be around for years to come.

Brief details of tirthankaras (N.D.) Retrieved from
God (2011) Retrieved from
Jain (2011 Retrieved from
Jain dharma sects (2011) Retrieved from
Mahavira’s teachings (N.D.) Retrieved from
Marett, Paul (N.D.) Pilgrimage and sacred places. Retrieved from
Religion and faith: Jainism (N.D.) Retrieved from
Robinson, B.A. (2010) Jain dharma (a.k.a. Jainism) Retrieved from
Shah, Chandraprakash (N.D.) Jainism present and future in the west. Retrieved from
The Digambara and Svetambara Sects (N.D.) Retrieved from
The Jain way of life (2009) Retrieved from

V, Jayaram (2011) The Jain thirthankaras. Retrieved from
What is Jainism (2011) Retrieved from

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