Jainism is an ancient faith put forward by a Jaina (Titze & Bruhn, 2008). A Jaina is not a specific immortal being or an incarnation of such supernatural being, but rather a normal human being who, through his or her strenuous endeavors, has managed to triumph over worldly passions. A Jaina is thus a normal human being who has outwitted internal forces and is therefore considered victorious.
It is purely of human origin with no signs of affiliation to supreme beings, having emanated from the mouth of a mortal individual, preferably a dignitary who has perfected the art of self-control. This religious movement originated in eastern India in ancient times, but precision on its timing is indeterminable. Speculations about its exact origin suggest that the movement could have begun during the beyond 5000 years ago (Shah, 1998).
Foundation, basic beliefs, prayers and customs
The main principles of Jainism are founded on basic beliefs and and the dignity associated with this victorious achievement or the Tirthankara. Those who achieve this and teach others on their struggles and efforts on achieving are known as Tirthankara, and thus, Jains believe that there have only been twenty-four such teachers. It is believed that the latest of these, refereed to as Mahavira or in English; a great Victor was born in India at around 600 B.C (Shah, 1998).
Subscribers of this religion also believe in a world that has no beginning nor an end in itself since they do not recognize a beginning or an end in them or the world. Jains believe in the cyclic nature of the universe, whereby the universe is considered to have only one cycle (Shah, 1998).
Cosmologically, they believe that the universe is independent of supernatural forces and is thus thought to be limitless in existence. They classify cycles as either progressive (Utsarpinis) or regressive (Avsarpini. During the formers half cycle, there are associated with better conditions of happiness, age, body, region, and progress. During the latter, there is associated deterioration of these conditions from best to worst.
There is no believe in the supernatural being or mortal, and thus there is no specificity in this religions worship but rather worshipping of great Victors and Jaina. They also believe that to conquer the inner passions; one must detach from the material world and then exercise a peaceful lifestyle, full of discipline.
There is also basic believe on non-violence to all living things and therefore practice a strict balanced diet in avoidance of causing harm to other living things. This diet includes only vegetables and fruits to avoid harming animals and microbes (Thomas, 2010).
They also believe that the soul should completely be isolated from all matter for it to become a pure soul. Thomas (2010) argues that salvation of Jainism only happens in the complete segregation of the pure soul from matter which would be considered impure and thus prefer this condition where they believe that all the suffering which adhere to earthly personality all are dismissed. Their view of the universe is different from scientific views.
They conceive it as made up of two parts, which include the occupied space, and the other is unoccupied space (Shah, 1998). The former is thought to be in resemblance of man in shape and has got three distinct parts. These include the upper, the middle, and the lower part with each of them having support for specific worlds. The unoccupied space is thought to be made of space, and this space is what surrounds the occupied world.
The rest of the occupied worlds are made up of different world with steps of hells, which all count to seven, the middle space containing nothing and the upper space consisting of the heavens. Determination of final destination is dependent on purity graded on the harms done while living. A pure soul will climb all the stairs to heaven- the most top position, but an impure soul will get stuck at the seventh hell, which is the lowest position.
Non-violence is the major emphasis of Jainism communities. It extends to both the physical and mental aspects of humanity. They , greed, and deceit as the greatest enemies of humankind. This principle is thought to aim at reducing the Karmas in an individual. They thus recommend its reduction through forgiveness, humility, and contentment in all aspects.
Jains consider Karma as someone made of material in nature, consisting of fine particles of matter which are inconceivable by human senses or any other measurement. Karma has been thus classified as either destructive karma or Non-destructive Karma. The former affects the nature of the soul, while the latter only affects the body in which the soul lives.
Shedding of past Karmas is referred to as Nirjara, which consist of different method which includes a passive method that involves the allowance of Karma to ripen in time and experience. Acquisition of a new Karma is assumed. Secondly, shedding can be done actively by accelerating the ripening process and thus making reductions of the effects under production by Karma (Glasenapp & Shrotri, 2006).
Jains have got strict customs and practices. They strongly consider vegetarianism as the purest practice of survival since they avoid harming living things. They consider roots of some plants as consisting of microbes which they fear harming and thus do not consume them and also filter water and other food stuffs in avoidance of this harming effects. Some sects of Jains eat before night fall. They also consider human life as the greatest form of life.
Their prayers and rituals are integrated into their daily lives. In upholding non-violence, they boil water in hours for later use and also spread grain for birds in the morning. Their mediation is based on equanimity usually done in the morning, day or noon and lasting for 48minutes and routine repetition of prayers usually about the good things.
Their worshipping sessions are done before the Jain idols by lamp-lighting in front of them. They bathe in the image symbolic of newborns, Antaraya Karma praying is considered to remove spiritual uplifting of Karmas. They also pay respect to merchants through prayers (Shah, 1998).
Their symbolism is based on the water the life of ocean birth. Chandan Puja symbolism believes in right knowledge while that they should not grow rice plants. Their festivals are celebrated on scripture, renunciation, repletion of holy hymns, and meditation. They include Navpadi Oli, which deals with austerities, Mahaparva based on enthusiasm and felicity. Bhai Beej is based on brotherhood and is considered a special day for this.
Spread and influence
It is widely believed that Jainism may have influenced the emergence of Buddhism since Buddhists believe that Mahavira and Buddha were great contemporaries and during that time, Jainism as a religion was already too old that it had well-established faith and society in India. Its believed to also have greatly influenced Hindu thinking.
As evident from some Hindu books, there is a beautiful association of Jainism through story telling about the great Jaina to have ever lived. They claim that in the history of Jainism, there had been no recorded wars under this religion (Pruthi, 2004).
With approximately twelve million followers, its influence is thought to have surpassed these numbers in India alone. Having extensively lived in this country for a long time, since ancient times, some states like Gujarat and Maharashtra have the highest number of populations. Punjab is also close in statistical proximity with the named states. Outside India, the influence of this religion is felt in different parts of the world.
For instance, in the US, the UK, and East Africa are the immediate regions that have felt the effect of Jainism. There are predicted large communities of Jainism within these countries, and the effect is still growing such that, there is an expectation of future growth in these regions. Even though there is no universality in the language of communication, Jains practice the same core values and beliefs and thus are the same all over the world despite the obvious demographical differences.
East Africa was the first destination of Jainism, whereby they constructed the first temple in Mombasa Kenya in the early 60s (Glasenapp & Shrotri, 2006). Spread to the west occurred in the 70s and 80s whereby the Gujarat community spread to the US and UK and subsequently built a temple in these new regions, gaining followership. In the Asian region, there are predicted small numbers of Jain communities, Singapore, Nepal, and Malaysia.
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