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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.

Selected article

Lesyas depicted in the parable of six travellers

In Jainism, karma is the basic principle within an overarching psycho-cosmology. In the Jain cosmology, human moral actions form the basis of the transmigration of the soul (jīva). The soul is constrained to a cycle of rebirth, trapped within the temporal world (saṃsāra), until it finally achieves liberation (mokṣa). Liberation is achieved by following a path of purification.[1]

In Jain philosophy, karma not only encompasses the causality of transmigration, but is also conceived of as an extremely subtle matter, which infiltrates the soul—obscuring its natural, transparent and pure qualities. Karma is thought of as a kind of pollution, that taints the soul with various colours (leśyā). Based on its karma, a soul undergoes transmigration and reincarnates in various states of existence—like heavens or hells, or as humans or animals.

Jains cite inequalities, sufferings, and pain as evidence for the existence of karma. Jain texts have classified the various types of karma according to their effects on the potency of the soul. The Jain theory seeks to explain the karmic process by specifying the various causes of karmic influx (āsrava) and bondage (bandha), placing equal emphasis on deeds themselves, and the intentions behind those deeds. The Jain karmic theory attaches great responsibility to individual actions, and eliminates any reliance on some supposed existence of divine grace or retribution. The Jain doctrine also holds that it is possible for us to both modify our karma, and to obtain release from it, through the austerities and purity of conduct.

Several scholars date the origin of the doctrine of karma prior to the migration of the Indo-Aryan peoples. They see its current form as a result of development in the teachings of the Śramaṇas, and later assimilation into brahmanical Hinduism, by the time of the Upaniṣads. The Jain concept of karma has been subject to criticism from rival Indian philosophies—like Vedanta Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sāṃkhya.

Selected biography

Image of Rishabhanatha at Kundalpur pilgrimage site in Madhya Pradesh, India

Jains believe that twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras or "ford-makers", teachers who establish the Jain teachings grace every half cycle of time indefinitely. Jains trace their history through a succession of these tirthankaras. Rishabhanatha is said to be the first Tirthankara of the present half cycle of time. He is known by many names like Ādinātha (the first world teacher), Adish Jina (first Jina or conqueror), Adi Purush (first perfect man), Ikshvaku, Vidhata and Srista.

Jains believe that Rishabhanatha introduced karma-bhumi (the age of action) by teaching six main professions to the householders for livelihood. They were Asi (swordsmanship for protection), Masi (writing skills), Krishi (agriculture) Vidya (knowledge), Vanijya (trade and commerce) and Shilp (crafts).

Selected picture

Defaced Jain statues at Gopachal Hill
Defaced Jain statues at Gopachal Hill in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. These statues were carved from the hill.


WLA lacma Jina Rishabhanatha.jpg
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  1. ^ Chapple, Christopher (1990): p. 255.
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