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The Jain symbol that was agreed upon by all Jain sects in 1975.

Jainism /ˈnɪzəm/ is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul toward divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state of supreme being is called a jina ("conqueror" or "victor"). The ultimate status of these perfect souls is called siddha. Ancient texts also refer to Jainism as shraman dharma (self-reliant) or the "path of the nirganthas" (those without attachments or aversions).

The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Among the five great vows taken by Jain ascetics, non-violence is the first and foremost. Jains believe in reincarnation; the soul is trapped in the cycle of birth and death (samsara) due to the actions of karmic particles. They emphasize that liberation can be achieved through the three jewels of Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. According to Jains, reality is multifaceted, and humans can grasp only a partial understanding of reality. This has led to the development of doctrines like Anekantavada (theory of multiple viewpoints), Syadvada (theory of conditional predication) and Nayavada (theory of partial viewpoint). Jains follow the teaching of 24 Tirthankara (ford-makers). Contemporary Jainism is divided into two major sects, Digambara and Svetambara.

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Ahiṃsā in Jainism is a fundamental principle forming the cornerstone of its ethics and doctrine. The understanding and implementation of ahimsa is more radical, scrupulous, and comprehensive than in any other religion. Non-violence is seen as the most essential religious duty for everyone (ahiṃsā paramo dharmaḥ, a statement often inscribed on Jain temples). Like in Hinduism, the aim is to prevent the accumulation of harmful karma. When Mahavira revived and reorganized the Jain movement in the 6th or 5th century BCE, ahimsa was already an established, strictly observed rule. Parshva, the earliest Jain Tirthankara, whom modern Western historians consider to be a historical figure, lived in about the 8th century BCE. He founded the community to which Mahavira’s parents belonged. Ahimsa was already part of the "Fourfold Restraint" (Caujjama), the vows taken by Parshva’s followers. In the times of Mahavira and in the following centuries, Jains were at odds with both Buddhists and followers of the Vedic religion or Hindus, whom they accused of negligence and inconsistency in the implementation of ahimsa. There is some evidence, however, that ancient Jain ascetics accepted meat as alms if the animal had not been specifically killed for them. Modern Jains deny this vehemently, especially with regard to Mahavira himself. According to the Jain tradition either lacto vegetarianism or veganism is mandatory.

Selected biography

Idol of Pārśva, Pārśvanātha Jain Temple, Lodhruva, 10km north of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Pārśva (Sanskrit: पार्श्वनाथ) (also Parsvanath) was the twenty-third Tirthankara "Ford-Maker" in Jainism (traditionally 877777 BCE).[1][2][3] He is the earliest Jain leader generally accepted as a historical figure.[4][5][6] Pārśva was a nobleman belonging to the Kshatriya varna.

Parshva lived a life of a nobleman for 30 years and was never married before renouncing the world to become a monk. He meditated for 84 days before attaining kevalajñāna.[7] According to the Jain tradition, he attained nirvana 250 years before the nirvana of Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankar.[4] The chronology accepted by most Jains (Svetambaras) places Mahavir's death in 527 BCE.[8] Parshva was the son of king Ashvasena and queen Vama of Varanasi. He renounced the world and became an ascetic when he was 30 years old.[9] He achieved Nirvana atop Sammet Sikhar, now named Parshvanatha after him. He was called purisādāṇīya "beloved of men", a name which shows that he must have been a genial personality.[10] He remains beloved among Jains.[11]

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Image of a Siddha: the soul who attains Moksa; although the Siddhas (the liberated beings) are formless and without a body, this is how the Jain temples often depict the Siddhas.


WLA lacma Jina Rishabhanatha.jpg
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  1. ^ Fisher, Mary Pat (1997). Living Religions: An Encyclopedia of the World's Faiths. London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1860641482.  p. 115
  2. ^ "Parshvanatha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  3. ^ Bowker, John (2000). "Parsva". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  4. ^ a b Charpentier, Jarl (1922). "The History of the Jains". The Cambridge History of India. 1. Cambridge. p. 153. 
  5. ^ Ghatage, A.M. (1951). "Jainism". In Majumdar, R.C. and A.D. Pusalker. The Age of Imperial Unity. Bombay. pp. 411–412. 
  6. ^ Deo, Shantaram Bhalchandra (1956). History of Jaina monachism from inscriptions and literature. Poona [Pune, India]: Deccan College Post-graduate and Research Institute. pp. 59–60. 
  7. ^ Danielou, A (1971) L'Histoire de l'Inde Translated from French by Kenneth Hurry. pp.376 ISBN 0-89281-923-5
  8. ^ Kristi L. Wiley: Historical Dictionary of Jainism, Lanham 2004, p. 134.
  9. ^ Ghatage p. 411, Deo p. 60.
  10. ^ Ghatage p. 411.
  11. ^ Walther Schubring: Jinismus, in: Die Religionen Indiens, vol. 3, Stuttgart 1964, p. 220.
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