What is Jainism Religion 🥇History of Jain Dharma

What is Jainism Religion | History of Jain Dharma

Jainism, some called it the world’s most peaceful religion.

Its monks are famous worldwide for their strict adherence to non-violence.

Going as far as to sweep the floor as they walk to avoid stepping on lifeforms, covering their mouths as to not swallow or breathe hot air on living creatures, and following a strict vegetarian diet that not only bans all meat, fish, and eggs but also potatoes!!!

So what is Jainism, why is it considered the world’s most peaceful religion, and why is this monk butt naked! Well, Let’s Find Out.

Read in Hindi जैन धर्म का इतिहास  🙂

So, this is the official symbol of Jainism.

Yes, that is a Swastika….we’ll get to that.

Adopted in the 1970’s it represents the main beliefs of Jainism.

I’m not going to explain what it means right now. Rather we’ll fill this symbol in as we go along.

A Jain is someone who accepts the teachings of the Tirthankaras.

‘Jainism’ comes from the word “Jina”. The Sanskrit word Jina means ‘spiritual victor’ while Tirthankara means ‘maker of a ford’. Different kinds of ford, thank you.

Tirthankaras are the most important people in Jainism.

They have removed all their attachments to the world and during their lifetimes they managed to break free from the cycle of rebirth and death that Jains believe keeps souls trapped on Earth.

They then built a metaphorical ford across the river of rebirth so others can follow them to liberation.

In non-Jain histories, a guy called Mahavira tends to gets labeled as the founder of Jainism.

In the same way, as Jesus does in Christianity. For the Jains though, Mahavira, who predated the Buddha by a few decades, is just the last one in a line of 24 Tirthankaras…

well technically

there has been an infinite number of Tirthankaras but we just don’t have time to get into that.

Jains believe they all preached the same eternal truths anyway.

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all grew up together in ancient India.

The world that these three religious buddies evolved in during the sixth and fifth centuries BCE was dominated by two ideas.

The first of these is samsara, when we die our souls move to a new body and we are trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Which is not super fun.

The second idea was karma, that actions, good or bad, affect your future rebirths.

What is Jainism Religion | History of Jain Dharma

Right so, Jainism is quite complicated, the best way to understand it is to break it down into its 8 core ideas.

8 core ideas of Jainism (Jain Dharma)

  • 1. The Three Jewels
  • 2. Ahimsa – Non-Violence
  • 3. Anekantavada – No one opinion is correct
  • 4. Samsara & Moksha.
  • 4(A) Karma – What Goes Around Comes Around
  • 5. Monks and Nuns
  • 6. Regular Jains, the normies
  • 7. Loka – The Jain Universe

The Tirthankaras preached that the path to freeing your soul was the ‘Three jewels’.

The Three Jewels of Jainism (Jain Dharma)

  • Right Faith – samyag-darśana
  • Right Knowledge – samyag-jñāna
  • Right Behaviour – samyak-cāritra.


Right Faith – samyag-darśana

Right Faith is accepting the 7 truths or tattvas of Jainism. A list inside of another list.

How exciting!

7 truths or tattvas of Jainism (Jain Dharma)

  • 1. Jiva – All living things have an immortal, perfect soul
  • 2. Ajiva – Non-living things have no soul
  • 3. Asrava – Doing actions drags karma to your soul
  • 4. Bandha – Karma can stick to your soul
  • 5. Samvara – You can stop the influx of karma
  • 6. Nirjara – You can separate karma from your soul
  • 7. Moksha – Separating karma from your soul free it from the cycle of rebirth and death

Right Knowledge – samyag-jñāna

The second Jewel is:

Right Faith is believing those 7 truths. Right, Knowledge is truly understanding them.

You can do this by listening to Jain monks and reading Jain scripture.

Right Behaviour – samyak-cāritra.

The last Jewel is:

Right Behaviour is using your faith and knowledge to live a life that is good and does not harm others.

You can do this by following the Five Great Vows of Jainism, the Mahavratas.

Another list inside of a list, yeah Jains love lists…like a lot!

The Mahavratas of Jainism (Jain Dharma) are:

  • 1. Ahimsa – Non-violence
  • 2. Satya – Always being truthful
  • 3. Asteya – Not Stealing
  • 4. Brahmacharya – Being faithful to your partner or being totally celibate
  • 5. Aparigraha – Not being weighed down by possessions or unnecessary attachments to people, places, or things.

These Three Jewels are seen as the only path to moksha, freeing your soul.

They are so important that they were incorporated into the official Jain symbol as those 3 dots there.

Ahimsa is by far the most important of the Vows and is strictly followed by all Jains.

So let’s take a look at it.

2. Ahimsa – Non-Violence

Some Jain temples have an inscription above their doors, usually in Sanskrit but sometimes English, that reads. “Nonviolence is the highest religion.”

Jains believe that if you want to achieve moksha then you need to stop harming other lifeforms.

Jains believe that every living thing has a soul and can therefore feel pain and suffering.

Animal and even human rights are a fairly new concept but Jains have granted something similar to all life, even microbes, for thousands of years.

Ahimsa is the hand in the middle of the Jain symbol and the text there at the bottom reads “All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence.”

3. Anekantavada – No one opinion is correct

Life is complicated.

To understand it a little better Jain’s came up with the “Many-pointed Doctrine”, Anekantavada.

No single viewpoint can be the only truth. Instead, the full truth must be built out of a bunch of viewpoints.

There is a famous story in Jainism that helps get this point across.

Five blind men go up to an elephant and each touch one part and attempt to describe what the creature looks like.

The guy at the trunk says it must be as thick as a tree trunk.

The guy at the tails says no, it’s actually more like a rope.

The guy at the belly claims it’s a wall, the other guy at the leg disagrees saying it’s a pillar and the last guy grabbing the ears thinks there all fools because it’s clearly a fan.

The story then goes on to say that a nearby wise man told them they were all right, but only partially, and that all their points together could describe the whole elephant……

That wise old man… Albert Einstein.

After explaining the elephant to the blind men, the wise old man bestowed more knowledge upon them.

Some modern Jains often see anekantavada as a part of ahimsa, as tolerance of other worldviews.

Especially when it comes to other religions.

4. Samsara & Moksha.

Samsara, the endless cycle of death and rebirth. For Jains, rebirth is not a good thing.

Even a good rebirth as say as a prince or a potato is sad because no matter how good your life is all happiness is temporary because it all ends in death.

There is only one cure for this, moksha.

If you achieve Moksha, then your soul will escape the cycle and go live at the top of the universe in infinite bliss.

This can only be done by completely removing karma from your soul.

4(a) Karma – What Goes Around Comes Around

The term karma means ‘action’, but this action has consequences.

Jains believe that your karma affects how you will be reborn in your next life. But good or bad rebirth is irrelevant to the Jains because it’s the fact that karma keeps rebirth going that they see as the problem.

Jains have a rather unique view of karma. They see it as a physical substance.

Jains believe Karma is atoms that cover the entire universe.


When you do any action it attracts these good or bad karma atoms to your soul.

Then later in life or possibly in another life they release their good or bad effects.

Once they’ve done that they fall off your soul.

Passions such as hate, anger, greed, and lust will act as a glue that makes even more atoms stick to you, and so will make the consequences more powerful.

Imagine your soul as cloth and karma as dust, passionate actions make the cloth wet and so dust sticks to it easier.

Karma is what keeps you stuck in the Samsara cycle. Karma physically binds your soul to this earth.

But wait, there’s more! You can escape this by burning away all the karma attached to your soul.

The best way to do this is by becoming a Jain monk or nun.

5. Monks and Nuns

The monk & nun life is based around the five Mahavratas (great vows) that we saw earlier.

The first of the Mahavratas is Ahimsa.

For regular Jains, Ahimsa means trying to avoid harming other forms of life. For a monk or nun, this is turned up to 11 and includes even microscopic life.

What is Jainism Religion | History of Jain Dharma

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Along with being strict vegetarians, they can’t eat raw food, eat at night, or eat any food they haven’t inspected in case they accidentally consume other lifeforms.

They can’t cook so they go around to Jain households daily and beg for food.

It is considered a very holy act for those regular Jains to donate food to them.

They also carry small brooms to brush away tiny lifeforms in their way so they don’t crush them, cannot ride in vehicles because of the damage they cause, and cannot bathe because of the harm done to water-borne life.

Some Jain monks even wear mouthguards to avoid inhaling airborne life or harming it with their hot breath.

The second Mahavrata is not to lie.

The third is not to steal.

Those two are simple, I hope even non-Jains are sticking to those.

The fourth Mahavrata is the complete renunciation of sexual relations.

Because ehhhhhh….how

do I say this…. Strict Jains believe that eh….

people pollen contains vast numbers of living things most of which would die soon after the act.

They also believe that having a romantic relationship is a form of attachment, kind of like the Night’s Watch.

I probably should have just said that…

can we delete the people pollen part? 🙂

The fifth and final Mahavrata is that of non – possession.

Jain monks carry nothing but a few necessary items, like their brooms, and move every day to avoid attachment to one place.

For Jains, this is the best possible life because of how non-violent it is.

It is the best way to achieve moksha and regular Jains hold the monks and nuns in very high regard.

Due to the monks and nuns dependence on the Jain community, the relationship between the two is extremely close and personal

Interestingly the earliest of nuns in history are probably found in Jainism, and can be traced back to the times of Mahavira and Jainism is unique in the fact that nuns outnumber monks by a huge margin.

6. Regular Jains, the normies

The vast majority of Jains are not monks or nuns.

Many accept that their time to be a monk or nun will come in future life.

They follow the 5 “Small Vows” (anuvrata) which are like a diet version of the 5 Great Vows.

These aren’t strict rules, they’re more what you’d call “guidelines”.

Regular Jains should try to avoid violence and violent jobs. They shouldn’t lie.

They shouldn’t steal or cheat people in the business.

They shouldn’t be too frisky and should remain loyal to their husband or wife and should do their best to unburden themselves of their wealth ideally through charity.

Jains are an extremely charitable community.

But rather than their cash donations going to monks or nuns, they are spent on temples, health clinics, schools, libraries, or animal shelters.

Regular Jains practice strict vegetarianism. Eggs are counted as meat.

Jain doesn’t like to harm insects so honey is out too.

Anything fermented is considered to have life forms in it, so alcohol is out the window.

Root vegetables like Potatoes, Onions, and Garlic, literally my entire diet, are canceled because you need to rip the entire plant out of the ground to eat them thus causing destruction.

Due to these vows, Jains have gravitated towards careers in things such as business and law.

What is Jainism Religion | History of Jain Dharma

Today Jains are one of the wealthiest and most educated groups in India.

7. Loka – The Jain Universe

The Jain universe or Loka is made up of three parts. The wide top part is the heavenly realm, the waist is Earth, and the wide bottom part is hell.

At the tippy-top of the universe is the Siddha Loka where the souls of those that have achieved moksha go and enjoy infinite bliss. That’s where all the Tirthankaras are chillin.

Oh, would you look at that, we’ve got some more of our Jain symbol filled in.

Jain Hell is very Dante’s. There are seven layers, the deeper down you go the worse it gets.

You stay in hell until all of your bad karma is burned away and you get to be reborn on Earth again.

Now Hell in Jainism isn’t really a punishment like it is in other religions.

Rather it is seen as the natural consequence of bad karma.

The zone above the waist is the realm of the gods.

This realm is super fun. There is no suffering. Everyone is happy, The are unlimited refills and a trampoline.

The people that are reborn here are the ones with really good karma.

But just like with Hell this isn’t really a reward. You are reborn here due to the laws of karma and even the Gods eventually die and karma still binds their souls in Samsara.

So even the gods will eventually be reborn on Earth and will need to try and achieve moksha.

This is why some Jains say that bad karma is a chain of iron and good karma is a chain of gold, but both are chains.

All souls can be reborn in the Loka as any of 4 types. Plant/Animal, Human, Wellbeing, or God.

Which is what that Swastika in the Jain symbol represents, each of the four potential rebirths.

BOOM looks like we filled in the whole symbol.

The Swastika also represents the cycle of death and rebirth.

All Jain temples and holy books must contain the swastika.

It is an ancient and beloved symbol in India for many different religions. The Nazis made things a bit awkward in that regard.

Every living thing from a grape to a god has the ability to be reborn as a human and achieve moksha.

So those are the 8 main concepts of Jainism. But it does leave us with some questions.

You may be wondering is there a Jain God? What do they pray to? What’s the dealio.

Well the Jain concept of God is very unique. They don’t believe in the creator of the universe.

Instead, it has simply always been here.

The Liberated Souls at the top of the Loka are beyond all wants & desires so they would see no reason to interfere on Earth.

Jains worship them to be more like them rather than asking them to help them out in life.

Some Jains worship the Gods in the upper heavenly realm and since Jains are surrounded by Hindus they tend to worship the same gods.

But in the Jain worldview, those Gods in heaven are imperfect and are still trapped in Samsara just like them.

What about different religious sects, does Jainism have those?

Of course, it does just like every other religion.

The two main sects are the Digambara and Svetambaras.

Now you may be thinking ughhhh to yourself right now.

What boring theological reason could there be for this split.

Is an argument about how to make holy bread or who should

have been the main religious guy over another.

Nope…This one about naked dudes.

The main theological divide between the Digambara and the Svetambaras is whether or not monks should wear clothes.

The Digambaras ( “sky-clad”) claim that to be completely non-attached to the world, monks should also renounce clothing.

This had the consequence of saying that women could not achieve moksha, because they can’t be naked in public.

The Svetambaras (white-clad) disagree and argued that a person can be unattached to clothes mentally but still wear them. So women can achieve moksha just like men.

There are some more differences between them, such as which Jain scriptures they accept, but the main one is the clothing.

What is Jainism Religion | History of Jain Dharma

Modern Day Jainism (Jain Dharma)

Jains have been highly influential in India for thousands of years. Shaping its vegetarian-friendly diet and lending the concept of Ahimsa to Gandhi’s independence movement.

As knowledge of the Jains becomes more common outside of India it confronts many people with difficult concepts.

People tend to assume that the world exists for human consumption. To fulfill human desires.

But for Jains, the world is something to give up.

Where humans are not dominant over other lifeforms but rather a part of an intricate web, where animals and plants are more than things to consume.

In the last century, Jainism has found itself in a strange position.

Their ancient philosophy has garnered the eye of the modern world as their ideas of non-violence, strict vegetarianism, and what could be called an environmentalist outlook are strikingly relevant in a world coming to terms with the fact that it may be consuming itself.

Karma particles track you in real life and have severe consequences.

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AUTHORNishant Chandravanshi

Nishant Chandravanshi is a YouTuber, Indian News Personality, Political Commentator & Activist. Nishant Chandravanshi is the founder of Chandravanshi & The Magadha Times.


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