Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter J - JAINISM

Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

The universe is viewed to be full of life in various forms, and any form of violence that is committed to these life forms through thought, deed, or word is said to stain one's Jiva. The Jain people have taken Ahimsa to the ultimate level, as can be seen with their diet. Jains are strict vegetarians and will not eat any root foods such as garlic, onions, or potatoes, for they might disturb and even kill the Jivas that live in the ground. Onions have layers, and are therefore believed by the Jains to house innumerable Jivas. Jain monks and nuns wear mupatti-a cloth over the mouth-so that no Jivas are injured while breathing.

There are two monastic orders within the Jain tradition. The first is called Svetambara, which include men and women. They wear white garments, and women are capable of achieving liberation within this order. The second order is called Digambara, and this order insists on nudity. They are reluctant to have nuns within this order for it may deter from their goal of Kaivalya, which is a lesser goal of liberation from the worldly cycle of rebirth.

There are sacred symbols and places where Jains are able to express their devotion to their religion. Worship and rituals are an integral part of Jain piety. Worship is done at a shrine in the home or at a temple to revere the Jinas and other liberated beings. Within the temples, the focal points are images of Tirths. Placing flowers within a temple is a demonstration of respect and honor toward the Tirths. Jains worship every day. The devotion of Jains is unlike worldly passion, as it is spiritual devotion and directed toward the Jinas. When devotion is stimulated through worldly desire, this is wrong action and damaging to the soul, but when it is prompted through a love of liberation it destroys karma and helps to free the soul.

Many Jains participate in pilgrimages to certain temples and other sacred sites. When at these holy places, the adherent is to express religious focus and spiritual reflection; participate in religious rites; interact with monks, nuns, and laypersons, and embrace the sense of community.

The role of children within the Jain tradition is one of great importance. Children are celebrated within Jainism, included in worship ceremonies, and taught at a very young age the practice of Ahimsa (nonviolence) as with their actions to others and their diet restrictions. Within the pilgrimages, religious development in children begins as they witness their parents' ritual conduct about the three jewels of Jainism, and listen to their prayers as well as services led by the religious leaders.

The swastika is a symbol of importance to the Jain people. The Sanskrit word "swastika" literally means well-being. The diagram of the swastika sees the human predicament and ways to overcome it. The four spokes represent the four stages of existence in the wheel of samsara, which is the cycle of life and death. The swastika appears on temples and households. This sacred symbol is used as a focal point for meditation practices among Jain members.

The practice of Ahimsa can be seen in modern times in the lives of important historical and religious figures. Gandhi welcomed the belief in nonviolence into his cause for independence from the British occupation in India. Later, in the United States, another prominent figure adopted the belief in nonviolence as seen through the teachings and practices of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ahimsa is attainable and can be extremely rewarding for the soul and for the individual. However, the individual must make the choice to devote his or her life to achieving Ahimsa.