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January 2003: Jainism

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Steve, Jan 9, 2003.

  1. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    I've decided upon Jainism as the Religion of the Month for 1/03.

    Jainism is a small religion, relatively speaking, observed and practiced by some 5 million believers, primarily in India. Jainism is one of the oldest religions to be found in India.

    Jainism was established around 600 B.C. and arises from a long tradition, preceding that date, taught by the "Tirthankaras", that teaches a path to religious awakening by renouncing the world through strict austerity. The main sacred writings of Jains are called Agamas, claimed to be handed down from Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, who codified and consolidated the traditional teachings of the "Tirthankaras".

    Followers of Jainism, known as Jains, do not believe in a creator. They strive to break the cycle of reincarnation (implying that they believe in the existence of it) by minimizing their impact on the world, thus reducing the amount of karma they accumulate. By thus reducing their accumulated karma, which drives reincarnation, they free their jiva, or soul, from the cycle of reincarnation.

    In practice, this means that Jains live ascetic lives, living very frugally, eschewing material possessions and wealth. Additionally, their religion is founded upon a strong belief in "ahimsa", or non-injury, to all living beings, even down to the smallest micro-organism.

    Jains take special measures, sometimes wearing cloths over their mouths to avoid ingesting flying insects, to keep from harming other living beings. This means, of course, that they are strict vegetarians.

    Two useful links are Jainism.org and http://www.religioustolerance.org/jainism.htm


    Could Jainism thrive in Western societies, focussed as we are upon material gain?

    Is asceticism a valid path to religious enlightenment, or just a very difficult lifestyle?

    Is <u>all</u> life equally important, even down to the microbic level?
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Man, you guys are awesome! :)
  3. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Well, thanks, but now Domhain has almost a whole month to decide and compose. I'll have a tough act to follow, in March!
  4. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    About your first question, it appears there is a rather large community of Jains in North America. Large enough, in fact, to have a <A HREF="http://www.jaina.org/">rather spiffy website</A>. Apparently there now 57 Jain communities across North America, compared to only 4 in 1981.

    The organization they've established, JAINA - Federation of Jain Associations in North America, lists the following objectives:
    1. To provide religious and educational activities related to Jain religion and to develop better understanding of the Jain religion.
    2. To assist and promote charitable and humanitarian community services in North America and Worldwide.
    3. To promote vegetarianism and non-violence.
    4. To provide and promote academic and cultural interchanges and cooperation among Jains in North America, India and other countries.
    5. To assist existing associations and promote formation of new associations throughout North America.
    6. To assist in the establishment of Jain Temples, Sthanaks, Pathshalas and other facilities for carrying on Jain activities.
    7. To liaison with government agencies in pursuance of above objectives.

    It would appear the answer to your first questions is an enthusiastic affirmative.
  5. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    By definition, Jains are atheists? I'm sure what I don't know about the world's religions could fill a warehouse, but I always thought of religion and the idea of a creator as going hand in hand. I guess that's not really the case.

    Are there many other religions that are atheistic? How about Scientology? Oh, and let's not forget the Raelians. ;)
  6. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    It seems to me that these believers are the "meek". They want as little as possible impact on ANY life on the earth. I believe the opposite and that impace should be more positive than negative.
  7. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    An interesting question. The concept of reincarnation does imply some sort of "spirit" on an individual level. Can a person believe in such spirits and still be said to be an athiest? Where does the concept of "god" begin? And by desiring to stop the cycle of reincarnation, it would seem that Jains are aiming to deny the continuation of the "spirit".
  8. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    If one were to look at this literally, wouldn't they be breaking the convents of their beliefs by eating plant life?
  9. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    What organism, animal or plant is the dividing line between animal and plant?
  10. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Many would say plants are "alive", and taking the statement "living beings", I'm curious if this sets up a paradox within the religion. And there definitely would be micro-organisms on the plant as it was cooked and/or ingested.
  11. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Microrganisms also exist in water.
  12. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Correct. So I refer back to my original question... Would this not be breaking the convents of the religion by harming these micro organisms?
  13. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    Their beliefs allow them to eat that which does not kill the plant or animal from which it came. It is called A Fruitarian diet, according to one of the links. Milk , fruit and nuts for example.

    Some of their beliefs have a lot of merit. Non violence in all parts of the person, physical , mental and verbal, speaking the truth, not stealing, remaining sexually monogamous and avoiding the accumulation of excessive material wealth. This gives them a lot in common with other religions such as Christinaity in some respects.

    It will be an interesting to see a list of commonly held beliefs across a number of religions as the religion of the month progresses.
  14. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Karma is intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind. Karma means good and bad volition.

    The law of karma does not apply to actions such as walking, sitting or sleeping. Such actions do not produce effects apart from the actions themselves. Similarly, accidentally killing an insect is considered a neutral action because it is unintentional.

    There was once a blind monk who would , while walking about, accidentally step on ants, thereby killing them. when his fellow monks noticed this, they report it to the Buddha who pointed out that as the blind monk's killing of the ants was unintentional, it was neither wholesome nor unwholesome karma and no corresponding effect would arise.
  15. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    True and perhaps untrue.

    The misconception by Western thought that the Eastern religions deny the presence of a Deity is perhaps the greatest reason why so few bother to pursue a great bank of knowlege that pre-determined many of the later religions. The difference is that Western Religions find a need to label a deity with a name;
    Yahweh, Allah, God etc. and place him outside the realm of the physical into some ethereal location such as heaven.

    The Jainists, buddhists and hindus do not give a name to the deity. They do have minor gods with names, but these are symbolic presentations of certain ASPECTS of the main deity.
    Just as Christians do not pray to the Statue or Cross but the ideal that they represent.

    The "spirit" or essence of a deity that is defined as the "soul" in Western Religions is indeed an integral part of Eastern Religions. Again, it is a commonality with all main World Religions.

    An idea of what re-incarnation really means can fill a book. But a simple layman's definition is that it is the life force, spirit or soul that is the manifestation of the deity within each of us that is constantly yearning for complete integration with the whole, defined as "Enlightenment" in the Eastern context.
    Reincarnation is the effect of Karma. As stated in a previous post, Karma is intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind. Karma means good and bad volition. Essentially it is the concept of cause and effect.
    Christians use the word "sin" to describe aspects of karma.

    The limitations that we have, in pursuing this ultimate goal of total integration with the whole, lies in the removal of ignorance or the removal of wrongful thoughts that separate us in our understanding of this integration. Negative Karma therefore, continues this limitation, while positive Karma brings us closer.

    The soul, spirit, or the essence of the deity within is part of the deity itself. In order to understand, one must presume the premise that God, or the deity, is immortal. If so, the soul or spirit becomes immortal also. Thus one cannot "deny the continuation of the spirit".

    If reincarnation is an effect of karma, meaning that one has not learned the essential lessons for full "enlightenment" then one must continue the lessons over and over again until it is learned.
    The Janists attempt to minimize the negative Karma to the extent that the removal of the negative cause and effects will eventually stop the cycle of re-incarnation because the lessons have been learned.

    The above stated information is essential in understanding the basic and underling principles of the Eastern Religions. Just as Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism are different world religions they share the same principles as do our Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian etc. Each are separate entities themselves, yet their basic ideals are the same. The differences are but dialects of a single spiritual language that employs different words but expresses the same ideas.
  16. mikepd

    mikepd Veteran Member

    What bruzzes said because I am impoverished of thought in how to improve upon his post. My only original comment is to wonder if we are not brothers as we think so much alike on this subject it is almost scary. He is a unique mouse indeed!
  17. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Bruzzes has shined in this forum, that's for sure. He has been on a roll lately.
  18. IamZed

    IamZed ...

    I would rather have a steak and a potato while others wonder if plants have brains. I know the steak had a brain somewhere and that did not stop me.
    I do like these peoples wish to get off the reincarnation train. Life after life has always equated to hell to me. When I lay my head down for the last time that had better be it.
  19. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Surprisingly, some define Hell as the never-ending cycle of re-birth.

    Again, different classrooms and different levels of understanding.
    If one just strives to do their best without harm to another then one has made a major step in the right direction. Belief in life after death is not a pre-requisite for attainment. Each step forward brings us a little closer to the ultimate goal.
  20. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Can you explain the differences between "lesser wheel" and "greater wheel" buddhism? How does Zen-Buddhism fit into the religious structure. Were do the Sikh's fit in? Zorastarian's? Would Shintoist's be the equivilent of our Pagan Religions?

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