Jainism - Beliefs and Practices
Jainism is a very ancient world religion with a history of over 3000 years, which originated in the Indian subcontinent, like Hinduism and Buddhism. Although it has some similarities with both traditions, Jainism is different from them with its own unique and distinguishing features. It is also older than Buddhism and is truly one of the most ancient and living religions of the world, besides Hinduism and Judaism. Jaina Dharma, as it is known popularly, is a truly ascetic religion which places heavy emphasis upon ethical conduct, personal purity for the liberation of the individual Souls. Jainism does not believe in a Creator God. It accepts the material universe as a self-existing system. Everything in it, including the individual Soul, is an aspect of matter. Each Soul is eternal but it has states, shapes and sizes. In the bound state (bandha) it is subject to karma and rebirth. It attains liberation only when it is able to completely get rid of karma. Jainism was founded by 24 Perfect Beings, known as Tirthankaras, who appeared upon earth in the past and laid the foundation for its doctrine. Mahavira was the last and the most popular of the Tirthankaras. Since it is a difficult and austere religion, from the earliest times, Jainism enjoyed popularity only among certain sections of Indian society, especially merchant communities. It is a predominantly Indian religion, with some following abroad. In this section we included information on the history, beliefs, practices, philosophy, and ethics of Jainism, and comparison with other faiths. Jayaram V.