General Facts About Jainism
Jainism is one of the oldest religions known today and its origins lie in the country of India
Theologians often classify Jainism as a philosophy, a way of living life, rather than a religion.
The origins of Jainism can be traced back to the Indus River valley civilization of 3000 B.C.
Jains believe that there were 24 great teachers the last of whom was Lord Mahavira who lived during 6th century B.C. These twenty-four teachers are called Tirthankaras-people who had attained all knowledge while living (Moksha) and preached it to the people. Thus, there is not one all-powerful supreme being that controls all.
Jains believe in reincarnation. Their souls, which are believed to be a unique substance in the universe, take different living forms in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. This cycle has been going on forever, the universe has no beginning or end, it has always been and always will be. The ultimate goal is to get rid of one's karma on their soul so that they may end this cycle. Once this goal is reached their soul has attained all knowledge and it rests in the heavens forever (Nirvana).
Karma theory is about actions and the results they bring to the soul's path. It is the simply the law of cause and effect with respect to the soul.
E.G. One's actions for today will effect what will happen to them in this or their future lives.
The way to get rid of one's karma is to follow certain rules of doing good somewhat similar to the ten commandments. These include the principles of:
1. Ahimsa - To protect all life (non-violence)
2. Satya - To speak truth
3. Asteya - To not steal
4. Brahmacharya - To not commit adultery
5. Aparigraha - To limit one's possessions
Jains uphold these principles by practicing vegetarianism, non-violence in thought, deed, and action.
Jains perform their sacred rituals at the temple or Derasar. Some of these rituals are:
Puja - Concentrating on one's soul through intense prayer sometimes in the presence of sculptures of the teachers to serve as an example of how to attain Moksha.
Samayik - Forty-eight minute ritual that asks for forgiveness for one's sins
Namokar Mantra - A short prayer that can be said at any time that shows obeisance to the perfect souls that have achieved Nirvana.
The biggest event in the Jain calendar is the holy week (8-10 days) of Paryushan where Jains reflect upon their actions throughout the past year. The week takes place in August or September and is concluded by a three hour prayer called Pratikraman.