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what is the relationship between hindu and jain religions?

hindu and jain, both religions are independent. it is a wrong belief that the jain religion is derived from the vedic religion. because of the thousands of years of common history and parallel culture of hindus and jains, there are many similarities. both religions preach that non-violence constitutes the supreme religion. hindus and jains are not distinguishable when it comes to their attitude towards the life. it should be also noted that there are some distinct differences between these two religions. the concept of “non-violence” is much more detailed in jainism. we, jains do not believe that the universe was created. we believe that the universe is self-regulated. no one decides for us what we should get. we believe that we are the master of our own destiny. there is no divine power who decides for us. we believe all living beings are equal and all human beings are capable of achieving the liberation regardless of their race, cast, sex or color. we do not believe that the souls who have gone to moksha come back to earth (take a rebirth) to save the world.

who was the founder of jainism?

there is no founder of jainism. jains believe that our universe has always been and will always continue to be here, so there can be no founder. however, the level of devotion towards religious practices varies. therefore, every few million years (the equivalent of one jain time cycle – kaalchakra), a group of 24 saints/perfect role-models (known as tirthankaras) re-establishes order and preach about ahimsa (non-violence) and other jain tenets. the most well-known of the current saints is lord mahavira, the 24th saint, who was born in 599 bc in modern day bihar, india. the first of the current group is lord rishabdev, who lived many years before mahavira.

why are there only 24 tirthankaras?

“the answer to this question can be perhaps available from the 87th stanza of a scripture written by acharya somdev suri. he observes:
“there are indefinite number of grahas (planets) : nakshatras and stars (heavenly elements in the sky). but their numbers are shown to be limited by the rule of nature. in the present era of utsarpini time-span, there are 24 times only when these heavenly elements are positioned in the best location. this is a certainty. therefore there are exactly 24 tirthankaras.”

why do i have to pray everyday? why do we worship tirthankar's idol?

we pray/worship to pay our respects to the tirthankars because they have attained liberation and have laid down the path of liberation. we want to get inspiration to become like them. by praying them, we receive the spiritual incentive to follow the right path of purification. we do not pray/worship for any favors or material benefits from the tirthankars or from monks and nuns.

why do we need a worshipping place? can't we do same thing in our own home?

the worshipping place provides the necessary environment for spiritual up-liftment just as the school provides for education. one who is spiritually advanced, can continue the spiritual activity at any place. but for most of the sansäris (house-holders) we need to depend upon outside sources such as temple to make initial progress in the spiritual direction. it is also acceptable that one can practice his/her religion from home as long as he/she achieves the similar or better results. for most people, the combination of both is recommended.

science has proved that there is a life in the plant. then, how can we eat vegetables and fruits?

jainism has said that there is a life in the plant much before the science has proved it. it is true that vegetables and fruits, both have lives. the ideal situation for a jain would be to eat the ripe fruit that has just fallen off a tree. vegetables and fruits are one-sensed living beings. one-sensed living beings have only “touch” sense. their development of consciousness (knowledge) is significantly less than the higher (two, three, four and five)-sensed living beings like us, animals, birds, etc. for example, the level of knowledge of one-sensed living beings is only a small fraction of one letter. it is impossible to live a life with absolute non-violence. we need to eat to survive and we need to earn to live as a “house-holder”. but the basis of jainism is “non-violence”. therefore, we must minimize the act of non-violence. eating vegetables constitutes minimum act of violence because: 1) animals have more life-force, called prän and more knowledge (purer -much more developed- consciousness) than the vegetables. therefore, killing animals constitutes the higher form of violence. 2) many other living organisms reside in an animal body and they get multiplied in a dead body. 3) vegetables have less living cells and more water content. 4) we do not kill the plant for vegetables. we take leaves, vegetables and fruits off the plants. by removing vegetables and fruits from a tree, we sometimes lengthen the life span of the tree. 5) eating vegetables is healthier. 6) the anatomy (teeth, digestive system, tongue, etc.) of human beings is for eating vegetarian food.

jains believe in the non-violence. then, how can we take milk, butter, cheese etc.?

a) the question implies that if we cannot eat meat of cow, how can we consume cow’s milk. when we eat cow’s meat, we kill the cow. when we use cow’s milk, we do not kill the cow. but we must make sure the cow’s milk is extracted without causing pain to it and the milk was in excess (we did not deprive the cow’s off-springs). if we do not remove the excess milk from cow, we may be doing more harm to it than help. when we use the butter and cheese, we should make sure that they (specially the cheese) do not contain any animal ingredients. jainism considers that the use of milk and milk products is not conducive to spiritual advancement. there are people in the world who are called vegans. vegans do not eat dairy products.

what's wrong in buying readily available meat, when you yourself haven't killed?.

“a) dead bodies of animals contain lot of living organisms and that keeps on multiplying as time passes. most organisms have the same color as of the meat. therefore, eating meat of naturally dead animal does involve a high level of violence. secondly, there is the risk of dying by eating the dead animal because it may contain deadly decease or our digestive system may not adjust to that meat-eating. it is of course hard to court death in absence of innocent food. there are, however, examples of jain monks who died due to severe draught rather than eating meat or even drinking sentient water. as jains believe that there is life after death, we should not worry about dying. one may argue that the human life is very difficult to attain. this is true. but the act of bad karma (päp) like eating meat may lead to hell in the next life. meat eating only when there is no other alternative is not acceptable to jainism. if we practice the minor vows for house-holders, then we will not be traveling to an unknown area. we will be limiting our travels to the familiar areas. we will also be limiting our activities to the essential needs. by resorting to such precepts, one can avert such hypothetical situation. jainism is more about prevention of wrong situations.
b) this is fallacious since purchasing creates demand and encourages others to kill. thus it is equivalent to oneself committing the deed. the ‘neat’ packaging of meat hides the pain that occurred before. it is unfortunate that packaging keeps scenes of slaughterhouses off the minds of the consumers. mahavir bhagwan said, “”it is himsä (violence) – whether a man kills living beings himsellf/herself, or causes others to kill them, or gives consent to others to kill.”

i go to my friend's place, can i eat from the dish containing meat on one side?

the issue is not whether you eat from the dish containing meat on one side. the real issue is how to avoid such a situation. you should let your friend know that you are a vegetarian and you do not eat meat. in all probabilities your friend will understand and respect your belief and will not put you in a tough situation by serving you a dish that contains meat. if he/she does, then he/she may not be your friend.

what are the core principles of jainism?

“jainism is a religion and a way of life. jains have five core practices that derive from the anuvrata (lesser vows) that laypeople take and the mahavrata (great vows) that monks and nuns take:

ahimsa (non-violence) is compassion and forgiveness in thoughts, words, and deeds towards all living beings. for this reason, jains are vegetarians.
aparigraha (non-possessiveness) is the balancing of needs and desires, while staying detached from our possessions.
astaya (non-stealing) is the avoidance of taking that which does not belong to us or that we have not earned.
satya (truth) is to speak the truth, however when speaking the truth would lead to violence it is preferable to remain silent.
bhramacharya (celibacy) is the practice of reducing indulgence in order to reduce attachments in our lives.”

do jains believe in god?

“jainism is a non-theistic religion. this means that the presence or lack thereof of a supreme god is not vitally important in the context of jain tenets. all jains agree that because of the nature of karma (you are the controller of your own actions and thus the consequences), praying to a god would not yield any benefits or grant any wishes. additionally, since jains believe that the universe had no beginning (has existed eternally) there is no conception of a creator god in jain philosophy.
there is a heaven (devlok) in jainism, though in that context, heaven refers to a place where celestial beings, after a period of time in heaven, must be reborn as humans in order to achieve nirvana.”

so jains believe in reincarnation?

yes. every soul has passed through countless lives whether as a plant, fish, hellish being, heavenly being, etc., carrying with it the accumulated effects (karma) of its deeds and passions, both good and bad. the ultimate goal of jainism is to end this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, by shedding all of your karma.

what is the jain point of view on free will vs. destiny?

the soul has certain qualities and characteristics attached to it (which could be attributed to “destiny”). these qualities can be modified given the right instrumental causes. the instrumental causes are created by the karmas associated with the soul and the presence of other living beings and material surroundings. however, a person can modify his/her reactions to such causes and thus alter the consequences of one’s karmas. (free will). overall, this process heavily favors free will over destiny/determinism in jainism. one can be born with certain characteristics (destiny), but can certainly alter the consequences of those characteristics (free will).

considering the principal of non-violence, can jains defend themselves from violent attacks?

if unavoidable, a layperson (shravaka [male] and shravika [female]) may defend him or herself. it is also the duty of jain laypeople to defend their country when called upon to serve. monks (sadhus) and nuns (sadhvis) cannot defend themselves, but take every possible opportunity to make sure that they are not in a position to be attacked in the first place.

what is the reason jains dont eat after sundown?

the most fundamental tenet of jainism is ahimsa (non-violence), which extends to not harming any living being. eating after sundown involves a higher risk of accidentally killing innocent insects that come out at night. while some believe that this extension of ahimsa was more applicable before the advent of electricity, there are a certainly a number of small bugs attracted to light bulbs. these wonderful creatures are at greatest risk of being harmed at nighttime. in addition, avoiding meals after sundown has many health benefits as well. your bodys circadian rhythms (day-and-night cycle) are designed for maximum energy efficiency – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090312140840.htm – and disruption of these rhythms can lead to myriad health problems, all of which are described in the linked article.

why don't jains eat root vegetables (ex. onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, and carrots)?

jains dont eat root vegetables as its harvesting causes harm to the plant and underground living beings. with most root vegetables, the process of uprooting kills the entire plant. this process also causes harm to living beings in the ground. also, the bulb of root vegetables is able to sprout and create another plant; thus, by eating it, we are causing harm to a potential life. with non-root (terrestrial) vegetables, the consumption doesnot kill the entire plant (the plant either lives on or seasonally withers away in a natural process).

what is the jain view on alcohol?

jains refrain from alcohol for two main reasons. first, due to the influence of alcohol on ones mind and actions, jains feel that drinking alcohol is a form of self-harm. second, alcohol processing can often involve non-vegetarian additives, such fish glue, gelatin, or egg whites. these ingredients are not required to be declared on labels. thus, alcohol consumption directly violates a fundamental principle of jainism: non-violence to oneself and other living beings.

what is the significance of diwali in the jain context?

diwali (deepavali or festival of lights) is usually celebrated in late october or early november (on the new moon day of kartik). on this day, mahavir, the last tirthankar, attained nirvana; he was liberated from karmic bondage and the cycle of life and death. during the night of diwali, holy hymns are recited to honor mahavir. the new year is celebrated on the next day.

what are the different types of jain pujas (prayer rituals)?

“there are basically two types of prayers:
dravya puja (with symbolic offerings of material objects).
bhav puja (with deep feeling and meditation).”

what are jainisms major contributions / impacts on society?

“jainism has impacted the indian and global society in many ways. in india, jains had a major influence in the fields of philosophy and ethics through concepts such as karma, ahimsa, moksha, and reincarnation. jains in the wealthier classes also contributed to the development of society through investment in schools, colleges, and hospitals. their major presence in the state of gujarat has also influenced the gujarati cuisine to be predominantly vegetarian.
globally, the most well-known impact of jainism is its influence on the life of gandhi. while gandhi grew up in the hindu religion, his household was strongly influenced by jainism. he learned the concepts of non-possessiveness, non-violence, and self-control to lead a simple personal life. his peaceful campaign of civil disobedience led millions of people to freedom in india as well as influenced future leaders to utilize the strength of non-violence.”

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