| Preach to the choir|
|Crux of the matter|
|Speak of the devil|
|An act of faith|
Jainism is a non-theistic religion whose ultimate goal is to rise through the spiritual ladder in successive incarnations to reach the state of godhood called Jina (meaning soul, or life), one who has achieved perfect liberation from the bondage of Karma. 24 of the spirits that have risen to this level during this time period are identified and referred to as tirthankaras, the oldest (at a YEC-challenging 592 quintillion years) being Lord Rishabha, the youngest (a mere spring chicken at just over 2600 years) being Mahavira. Tirthankaras are regarded as capable of helping humans achieve liberation.
Basics of Jainism
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- The followers of Jainism are called Jains.
- Jainism is not based on any other religion. However, many Jains observe the holy days of Hinduism and revere the Hindu religious figures. Furthermore, Buddha statuettes are a common feature in the homes of Jain families.
- Jains do not believe in God or that the universe was ever created (in their view it is eternal). Jain texts were among the earliest recorded to have formulated a problem of evil against God's existence (see below for the quote).
- Time has no beginning or end, and one's soul lasts forever. The soul moves to another body upon death of the previous body until true liberation from Karma is reached, becoming a pure untethered soul.
- There is a practice of non-violence toward any living creature, as all living beings have souls, but Jains can eat vegetables, as they are only a "one-sense living being." Yes, vegetables have a sense of touch.
- Some devout Jains only eat food that has grown above ground, such as berries, apples, etc. out of fear that farming and eating some vegetables will kill animals such as worms or other organisms in the soil. This strict diet therefore excludes many staples of other cuisine, such as onions or garlic, making Jain food extremely boring.
- The swastika is a holy symbol, but is not to be confused with the Nazi version. It symbolizes a cycle of destinies: heavenly beings, human, hell beings, and other beings (plants, animals, etc.).
- The universe is shaped like a man with his hands at his waist and legs spread. In the head are the celestial beings (those who have achieved liberation). Above the waist are the heavens. Below the waist is hell. At the waist are the humans. That explains why some humans are assholes.
- Jains tend to live in a closely-knit (read: closed) society. Arranged marriages are still common (albeit less so in communities based outside of India), and are often between cousins. Marriage outside of the culture is frowned upon. This level of inbreeding can lead to genetic disorders, such as high incidences of diabetes or skin problems.
“”Some foolish men declare that creator made the world. The doctrine that the world was created is ill advised and should be rejected. If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now? How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression. If you declare that this raw material arose naturally you fall into another fallacy, For the whole universe might thus have been its own creator, and have arisen quite naturally. If God created the world by an act of his own will, without any raw material, then it is just his will and nothing else — and who will believe this silly nonsense? If he is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in him? If, on the other hand, he is not perfect, he could no more create the universe than a potter could. If he is form-less, action-less and all-embracing, how could he have created the world? Such a soul, devoid of all morality, would have no desire to create anything. If he is perfect, he does not strive for the three aims of man, so what advantage would he gain by creating the universe? If you say that he created to no purpose because it was his nature to do so, then God is pointless. If he created in some kind of sport, it was the sport of a foolish child, leading to trouble. If he created because of the karma of embodied beings [acquired in a previous creation] He is not the Almighty Lord, but subordinate to something else. If out of love for living beings and need of them he made the world, why did he not take creation wholly blissful free from misfortune? If he were transcendent he would not create, for he would be free: Nor if involved in transmigration, for then he would not be almighty. Thus the doctrine that the world was created by God makes no sense at all, And God commits great sin in slaying the children whom he himself created. If you say that he slays only to destroy evil beings, why did he create such beings in the first place? Good men should combat the believer in divine creation, maddened by an evil doctrine. Know that the world is uncreated, as time itself is, without beginning or end, and is based on the principles, life and rest. Uncreated and indestructible, it endures under the compulsion of its own nature.
|—Jinasena (9th Century) in the Mahāpurāna, as translated in Primal Myths (1979) by Barbara Sproul|
There are five things all Jains should remember to follow in their daily lives:
- Ahimsa (non-violence)
- Satya (speaking the truth)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Brahmacharya (chastity or faithfulness to a spouse)
- Aparigraha (non-attachment)
Perhaps the most famous contribution to come out of Jainism is the story of the six blind men feeling an elephant. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant and declares that elephants are different objects, e.g., one feels the ears and declares that elephants are fans, the tail a rope, the leg a pillar, the side a wall, the tusk a pipe, and the trunk a tree branch. They all argue with each other, even though everyone is "correct", because they all feel different parts of the truth. It's a quite popular (and effective!) tale for getting people to understand that their own point of view is not the absolute and entire truth.
Of course upon hearing the story, six blind elephants decided to determine what a "human" was, and after stepping on one they all agreed that "human" was a type of pancake.