Fast Facts on Jainism
Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that emphasizes non-violence and the ascetic life. It began in the sixth century BCE, the same time Buddhism was developing.
Jains derive their name from the jinas, spiritual conquerors who have achieved liberation and perfection. Included among these are the 24 spiritual leaders called "ford-makers" or tirthankaras. The last of the tirthankaras was Mahavira (599-527 BC), a contemporary of the Buddha and the man generally considered the founder of Jainism.
Jinas are believed to reside in the top level of heaven, above the realm of the gods. Accordingly, liberated souls are revered more than the gods.
Jainism incorporates the traditional Hindu concepts of karma and reincarnation, but rejects the Veda scriptures, castes and the idea of a creator god. The goal of life is to reach liberation by a life of purification and discipline as taught by the tirthankaras.
The unique emphasis of Jainism is on peaceful, disciplined living for monks and also for laymen. Jain ritual centers around on sacred images and mantras.
Most Jains reside in India, where they make up 0.5% of the population. About 25,000 Jains live in the UK and 25,000 reside in the USA.
- Date founded
- c. 550 BC
- Place founded
- Eastern India
- Mahavira (c. 599-527 BC)
- 4 million (most in India)
- US adherents
- UK adherents
- 25,000 (most in Leicester, England)
- Main location
- Major sects
- Digambaras ("sky-clad"); Shvetambaras ("white-clad")
- Sacred texts
- teachings of Mahavira in various collections
- Original language
- Spiritual leaders
- House of worship
- Polytheism and pantheism
- Ultimate reality
- Uncreated and eternal universe
- Human nature
- The soul is uncreated and eternal and can attain perfect divinity. Only in human form can one achieve liberation.
- Purpose of life
- Gain liberation from cycle of rebirth.
- How to live
- Cause no harm to any sentient being.
- Repeated reincarnation until liberation.