When & Where:
Jainism is one of the oldest religions in India. Present historians say that it is at least 5000 years old but Jains believe it to be eternal. Jainism is thought to have begun in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 B.C.
Jainism comes from the Sanskrit word “ji” which means to conquer. Jains are followers of “Jinas” which means conqueror. This title of Jina is given to 24 teachers called Tirthankars, who are the religious gurus of the Jains. These Tirthankars guided the evolution of Jainism by first achieving and then teaching the Jain path of purity and peace, which leads to the highest spiritual liberation. Rishabadev was the first Tirthankar and is considered the original founder of Jainism, but not much is known of him. Actually, not much is known of the first 22 Tirthankars. The 23rd Tirthankar was Parshva, who died in the 8th century B.C. The 24th and last Tirthankar was Vardhaman Mahavir who lived 599-527 B.C. For a more in-depth account about individual Tirthankars go to this web site: http://www.jaindharam.org/Tirthankars.htm.
Lord MAHAVIR (“Great Hero”) lived at the same as the Buddha and like him, rejected the concept of the caste system. He was born into KSYATRIYA (warriors) family and was born a prince. Being the son of a king, he had all the pleasures, comforts and services that he wanted and were at his command. However, he left his home at the age of 30, giving up his worldly possessions, becoming a monk in find out how to do away with the pain and sufferings from life. For the next twelve and half years, he spent his life in deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires, feelings, and attachments. He was careful to avoid harming, and even annoying, other living beings such animals, plants, and insects. He was calm and peaceful against all hardships. By the age of 42, he fully developed his spiritual powers and reached the state of KEVALAJNAAN (perfect enlightenment). In this case, enlightenment means understanding ultimate truth.
For the next 30 years, Lord Mahavir traveled bare foot around India
preaching the eternal truth that he realized. He was trying to teach
how one can attain total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery,
and death as well as how to achieve the permanent blissful state within
one's self. This is known is MOKSHA (absolute freedom).
At age 72, Lord Mahavir attained Moksha and his soul, now purified, left
his body, achieving complete liberation. He is now a liberated soul,
living in state of complete bliss forever. To learn more about Lord
Mahavir, visit these sites: http://members.tripod.com/~jainoc/mahavir/mahavir.html
The fundamental principle of Jainism is AHIMSA (nonviolence). Nonviolence is defined not only by refraining from doing hurt through physical actions but also through mind and speech. It prohibits injury to all living beings, not just human beings. Jains believe that all human beings, animals, insects, and plants, have JIVA (living souls). In its purest state, the soul is “omniscient.” However, contact with AJIVA (matter), pollutes the SAMSARI JEEV (worldly soul). Each samsari jeev lives through SAMSARA (cycle of birth and death). KARMA (bondage of material particles) is best described as “atomic particles” which cling to the soul. Karmic matter invades and attaches itself to the soul, hiding the potential omniscience of the soul. The more bad karma you have, the worse the embodiment of the new soul. Through purification of karmic matter, the soul can attain salvation at a state of peace and purity.
Jains believe that acts of violence, greed, selfishness, dishonesty, just to name a few, obscure the soul while deeds of kindness and reparation liberate it. Jains are the followers of Jinas, who are conquerors. They are conquerors of their inner enemies. The inner enemies are anger, ego, deceit, and greed. Any activity of thought, speech, or action that helps us get rid of our inner enemies is considered a Jain activity.
Another important aspect of Jainism is that there is no beginning or
end to the universe. The idea of God itself exists only insofar as
one's self. Those who have attained KEVALJNAAN (perfect enlightenment)
and omniscience through personal efforts and have liberated their soul
of Samsara are considered Gods. There is no God that creates, protects,
or destroys the universe. Instead of believing in God as a creator,
Jains believe in many Gods who are individuals, like you and me, who have
The path to moksha, is the central teaching of Jainism. Liberation of the JEEV (soul) from karma is achieved by pursuing TRIRATNA (the "three jewels"): SAMYAK DARSHAN (right faith), SAMYAK JNAAN (right knowledge), and SAMYAK CHAARITRA (right conduct). Basically, the best way to live your life, if you wanted to achieve moksha was through no food or material connection at all. This is quite impossible, so Lord Mahavir made a second path for human beings to follow. The path followed is through Samyak Chaaritra, and include PANCH VRAT’s (five vows). These are AHIMSA (non-violence); SATYA (truthfulness); ASTEYA (non-stealing); BRAMACHARYA (celibacy); and APARIGRAHA (non possession/detachment).
Every soul in its purest form is a god. Every life form is equal and is able to become God. We rid our karma though knowledge, service, self-control, meditation, penance, practicing tolerance and repentance. Achieving moksha is what we want to do to accomplish. Jainism strives for the realization of the highest perfection known to mankind, which is in its purest form, free from all pain, suffering, and Samsara.
There's Jainism in a nutshell. To find out more about this religion visit the following web sites: