Fast Facts on Jainism

An Overview of Jainism

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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.

The Facts of Jainism

Date founded
c. 550 BC
Place founded
Eastern India (also see Jain history)
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 (also see Jain beliefs)
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.
Jainism symbols
See images of Jainism

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