Most people don’t know what Jainism is and a majority of those who do, think of it as a sub-sect of Buddhism. I have to be honest, I am a Jain and although fairly well-acquainted with the basics of my religion, am not that familiar with its rich history. Reading and understanding is not my cup of coffee so I did what I am sure every sane person will do – I spent 2 days with Jain saints in Mumbai! I am not going to lie – it was tough especially following some of the customs which I thought were archaic but I came away with a deep appreciation of my religion & the fundamental principles it sits on. While I may not agree with everything (my parents are not going to be happy to read that!) I do intend to incorporate some of the more liberating principles in my day to day life.
What you read next is my take on Jainism. It is definitely a much watered down version of the nuances but I am going to do my best to explain it as succinctly as possible. Additionally, after reading this, if you feel like visiting Jain saints, check out this MYrago experience that lets you do the same. All proceeds will go to charity as you will soon learn that the Jain Saints are not into material possessions. Okay here goes…
Jainism is an ancient religion from India that was formed around the same time as Buddhism (which I guess explains the confusion between two). It was founded by Mahavira – who like Buddha, was born into the warrior caste, along the Ganges valley. He questioned the regular ways of being, customs & traditions of the Brahmin orthodoxy and renounced all his worldly possessions to go in pursuit of truth. What he came across was that the path to true liberation consisted of practicing compassion for all living beings (from man to worm) and renunciating all of life’s possessions. This revelation led to his enlightenment which then led to the formation of Jainism!
The basic foundation of Jainism is way to bliss and complete liberation is through practicing non-violence and renunciation. Nonviolence is practiced by ensuring welfare of every being in the universe – being strict vegetarians is one thing but Jains go the extra mile by not consuming any vegetables that are grown underground as the act of uprooting these vegetables is associated with disruption of the local ecosystem.
Renunciation, on the other hand, is practiced by leading a minimalistic life and acquiring objects only out of necessities vs. desire. Additionally, Jains believe in reincarnation but the goal is to break the cycle of reincarnation and the only way to liberate oneself from this continuous cycle is by eliminating all karma from the soul…. Okay that was way too heavy! Doing an analysis of how I lead my life as compared to the Jain principles, I would give myself a solid C+! The only saving grace I have is that I am a vegetarian…in all other matters, I am the complete opposite. But like I said, I hope to include some of the more practical principles in my day to day to feel more liberated than I currently feel.
An irony, if I may point out, is that with all talks of renunciation & giving up of worldly possessions, Jains seem to predominantly choose Entrepreneurship as primary means of occupation. Entrepreneurs of varying degrees – from diamond merchants to music moguls to Travel Savants (hello, ME!). But hey we live & we learn, right! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed participating in this experience. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! And if you are interested in learning more about Jain spirituality from the saints, do make sure to check out our MYrago experience!