The Gifts of Jainism – World Religion News


Buddha was not the only holy man teaching in India around the 5th century B.C.E. At the same time, one called Mahavira was also accumulating disciples for a religion that had predated him by, some say, 5,000 years or more, but which marks its historic beginnings with him: Jainism.

Jainism and Buddhism have their similarities. Both believe in helping people as a spiritual asset. Both dispute the division of humanity into different castes. And both believe in karma—accountability for the actions one has done in life. Both aim for the liberation of the soul from saṃsāra, the endless cycle of birth and death.

But whereas Buddhists believe in non-violence while acknowledging that to live is to suffer, Jains not only practice non-violence, but they also center their faith around that central tenet. Everything is possessed of life, but human beings stand alone as capable of understanding life’s value and thus bear responsibility for preserving it from harm. For most Jains reverence for life and commitment to non-violence extends to their diet, vegetarianism. Lord Mahavira, it is said, exemplified non-violence from the womb, where he declined to move so as not to cause pain or discomfort to his mother. Stories recount how he defeated his enemies by persuading them to change their ways, although he could have easily conquered them by means of force.

The five cornerstones of Jainism are non-violence, truth, non-theft, self-control and detachment from worldly possessions. The gift of Jainism is a faith that encourages us to practice reverence for life and to find solutions against violence, difficult though that may be.

Modern-day Jains practice their beliefs in real-time with real people. The World Community Services Committee of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America provides humanitarian services all around the world, including medical services to disadvantaged and poor people while also being at the forefront of emergency situations such as earthquakes, famine, floods and hurricanes, among other scenarios, all in all participating in over 65 humanitarian projects worldwide.

Another committee, Jivdaya—a Sanskrit word that means “compassion for living things”—applies the Jain principle of non-violence to care for aged and ill animals in India and the U.S. with food, shelter, and medical attention, saving thousands from the slaughterhouse.

The gift of Jainism is the recognition of the beating pulse of life everywhere, its sacredness and value and its place at the very top of our priorities anywhere and anytime.

 For more articles in this series, visit The Gifts of IslamThe Gifts of Wicca or The Gifts of Scientology.

Image Credits: “Rai Sabha Chand at a Jain Shrine by Ali Reza,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CC0.

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