Terrorism Continues Unabated Despite COVID-19 Restrictions

One might think that even terrorist organizations would take heed of COVID-19 preventative measures to ensure they live to fight another day — but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, terrorism continues to plague countries like India. Indian Permanent Representative to the U.N. T.S. Tirumurti believes that India is home to nearly every religion in the world and that many pacifist religious communities (such as those who believe in Jainism) are among them.

Tirumurti said, “We now have countries taking advantage of the ongoing pandemic and spreading divisive hatred to other parts of the world on the basis of religion. COVID has not prevented them from supporting cross-border terrorism to kill innocent people and spread religious hatred.”

He acknowledged that anti-semitism was a large part of the problem in other countries, but not India. He explained: “I also come from a country which does not have any trace of anti-semitism.”

He was referring to India’s large Jewish community, which has thrived inside the country’s borders since before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Jain followers believe in peace more than anything else, and strive to live in harmony with all creatures big and small. They are notorious for this peace, and very few followers in Jainism ever turn to more radical beliefs — especially those that condone violence and terrorism.

Speaking of active terrorists around the world, Tirumurti said, “We ask them to look inwards to promote harmony within their own societies, stop sectarian violence and ensure the protection of minorities. We believe it is important for the United Nations to speak decisively and not take sides with one group of religions vis-a-vis the others or justify terrorism in any way.”

Are you interested in joining the fight against terrorism? The first step begins at home! Put out your hand for members of other communities and educate yourself and others on the various differences that make us unique — because we are stronger when we embrace those differences and the ones who hold them.

Does Jainism Provide Insight About Medical Treatments?

Jainism is one of the world’s most enigmatic and misunderstood religions, which isn’t so surprising. Although the religion is popular in much of the eastern world, the west knows virtually nothing about it. Jains have strong beliefs regarding a person’s journey through life and death, and these beliefs help guide and advise followers on how to best make difficult decisions. So what do Jains believe regarding best practices surrounding medical treatments?

First and foremost, Jains believe that all forms of life are important — but that human life is of paramount importance. This provides some guidance on the most controversial types of medical treatment, but Jains have the opportunity to interpret some texts in their own way. This allows them to make decisions that are best suited to them individually.

The belief that life is so important means that medical procedures like abortion are unacceptale. More controversial is the fact that Jains are urged to protect the baby’s life even when the mother’s is in danger. Although the practice of aborting a pregnancy when the mother’s life might otherwise be lost is frowned upon, it is accepted in some circumstances so long as the mother continues to repent. In addition, contraceptive action is frowned upon in most Jain circles.

When the situation is dire — such as when traumatic brain injury makes lifelong debilitation or mental impairment more likely — then the individual in question may decide what actions should be taken under which circumstances. These actions are dependent on the advice of Jain spiritual leaders, though, and should not be taken lightly. It should be noted that assisted suicide is unacceptable.

Strangely, autopsy is acceptable in Jain culture. Other procedures before or after death, such as blood transfusion and organ transplantation, are acceptable and done only in accordance with an individual’s wishes. Certain medical procedures are not performed on many Jain patients because of how they are derived from animal products. Remember, Jain’s hold all life sacred — down to the smallest microbe. Even some foods are banned due to the high likelihood that microscopic life will be damaged. 

Because of this same belief in protecting all life, Jain’s will accept care or end-of-life caregiving only when it does not cause harm. Jain medical providers should always understand these beliefs, and try to administer medicine in accordance with them. 

When a Jain follower reaches the end of his or her life, it is perfectly normal to expect a great deal of visitation by friends, family members, and other pillars of the community such as religious leaders. Community is an important part of Jain philosophy, and Jains do their best to provide comfort to those who are about to take the next step of their journey from life into death. 

Many daily rituals performed by Jain followers occur due to these beliefs. The Jains do not pray to one god in particular — instead, they worship life in all its forms.

Possible Jain Artifact Discovered In Tiruvallur

A rock sculpture depicting the Jain successor of the 23rd Tirthankara — known as Mahavira or Vardhamana — was recently discovered in the Tiruvallur district of India during an excavation of a temple located near Puliyur village. Based on the physical characteristics of the statue, scholars have placed it in or around the 11th century AD, but more work must be done to make these initial speculations more conclusive. Most notably, Mahavira was sitting.

Scholars also believe the statue was lost because of shifting philosophies surrounding the concept of Jainism.

The temple is known as Bajanai Koil by locals. Scholar Sridhar Appandairaj and Jain Priest K Jeevakumar made the pilgrimage to analyze the potential finding for themselves. According to locals, the statue was assumed to characterize Buddha. Sridhar said, “A senior citizen in the village would perform puja on the sculpture until two years ago. He told the villagers it was the idol of Buddha and they still believe so. The priest is no more today. We told the villagers that it’s the sculpture of Mahavira, not Buddha.”

He added, “The stylistic pattern shows it was sculpted during the later period of Jainism, say after the 10th century AD. Many ancient sculptures of Jain Tirthankaras have been found abandoned in Tamil Nadu. We have constructed shelters for those sculptures in many places. After we talked, Puliyur villagers have said they will protect it.”

The finding proves a point long argued by Indian scholars: while the country is home to over a billion people, many live in remote areas where poverty is more transparent than efforts to industrialize or modernize. That helps preserve artifacts thought unimportant before they can be discovered by scientists. 

Jeevakumar said, “The image is placed on a pedestal, a reason why it remains intact. But the features on the face have been lost due to lack of care. We have district administration and we hope that they will take immediate action to preserve the sculpture.”

Best Jain Temples For Indian Citizens Traveling In Eastern United States

This year has hardly been the most optimal time to travel, but the days of COVID-19 will be behind us sooner or later. And some people need to travel for business or family regardless of the personal risks. Jain believers living in India might not realize that there are plenty of temples where they can worship and find common ground with others right here in the United States — if you know where to look. Here are the Jain temples you might want to visit.

Maryland is home to many of these temples, which should be no surprise since many Jain politicians or businessmen and women need to travel there. The Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington is currently open by appointment for Darshan on weekends, but please be aware of current restrictions and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19. Please do not travel to the grounds if you have fever or show other symptoms. 

The JSMW is currently experiencing increased membership coupled with new community activities, which is why a 5.25-acre parcel of additional land was bought as part of a 2011 deal to add at least two new temples and one new community center. The center will offer educational opportunities like estate planning and advanced directive workshops. Please visit the website before you travel there.

The Greater Baltimore Temple in Maryland is a great place for Jain followers to practice their beliefs when they cannot be home. Sharadeeya Navaratri continues through this Sunday, October 25th. The temple is also currently requesting donations, which have become much more infrequent because not everyone can visit in person.

Not sure if Baltimore is the right location for you? Educators there offer a children’s educational program devoted to Bal Vihar for those aged 4 to 16 years old. Participants will learn about Hinduism and Jainism, and practice Indian languages. There is also a large community hall that can normally be rented out by believers, but it is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Please check back frequently to find out when it reopens!

Contact the Greater Baltimore Temple by writing to P.O. Box 690 on 2909 Bloom Road or send an email to gbt101@yahoo.com.

To discover additional temples in North America, visit the Federation of Jain Associations in North America, where Americans and Canadians work together to promote education about Jain practices. The temple in Blairstown, New Jersey is the perfect place for a pilgrimage to the United States — and in fact it was the first constructed for just that sort of pilgrimage internationally.

The federation is better known as JAINA, which provides many programs related to: youth services, government and public affairs, religious services, administrative services, community outreach, publication, production, humanitarian services, environment, education, and biennial conventions and festivals for Jains around the world.

The Greater Baltimore Temple in Maryland offers online services for anyone who wishes to join:

Estate Planning For The Jain Family

At no point in modern history has it been so clear that planning ahead should be priority one — both for your own benefit and also your family’s. Estate planning is a venture that helps provide families with some security should the worst happen. What will happen to the family assets? Both physical belongings and monetary accounts make up a person or family’s estate. But Jains are expected to live with few assets to call their own. How does that work?

The Jain Center of California provides some of that much needed security by way of information.

Those who join the JCC will be allowed to join informative seminars to explore options related to Medicare, Medicare, Social Security and other benefits such as transportation or housing. Groups will also have the opportunity to attend competitions and tours, with religious observations at the top of the list.

Are you a Jain senior living in the United States? The Jain Senior Association has been active for over 20 years to provide fulfilling daily activities to those who might want to become closer with their communities during retirement. More importantly, estate planning advice is available to all members.

JAINA is the Federation of Jain Associations in North America. If you are a Jain who is not living in Southern California, this is probably the best place to look for financial or estate planning advice.

JAINA’s mission is manifold, but includes:

“Talking to Jain brothers and sisters should give single seniors identity, safety, and belonging. They can share their experience with people in similar situations and that could possibly help relieve stress and tension. They can also get moral, spiritual, and motivational support over the phone. The group can also provide a good platform for swadhyay, sharing of reading material, and up-lifting conversations with like-minded people.”

Those interested should contact Bharat Kothari at 630-877-5845 or Surjit Kaji at 510-795-7600.

Because Jains usually do not have many belongings, they often feel like they do not have an estate — but everyone does! For example, even those who have nothing should still consider the benefits of a last will and testament, or at the very least providing instructions for a health care proxy in the event that something terrible happens. All of this is part of proper estate planning. And even Jain individuals can benefit from taking out a life insurance policy to leave their families some protection.

Most Jains who seek out estate planning advice feel alone — like they lack the social and emotional support that is such a strong pillar of Jain teaching and community. But it does not have to be that way. Whether or not you feel alone, we at Anekant firmly believe that preparing for the future is something you need to do in the here and now, even if you have a strong family. In fact, that’s an even better reason to get started!

Ahimsa in Jainism

Jainism is built upon a foundation of non-violence — ahimsa — which is one of the guiding principles by which Jains live. Everything else that Jains believe is directly connected to this pacifist way of life, from how the interact with those of different faiths right down to what they eat. In fact, Jains might find it impossible to act in any way at all were it not for how living through ahimsa is regulated.

Many of us live peacefully. But how many of us extend the notion of “peace” to everything we do on a day to day basis? You might have friends or family members who are vegetarian or vegan — or perhaps you choose this diet for yourself. But even these dietary restrictions are chosen for certain reasons that differ from person to person. Jains are vegetarian because this diet does the least amount of harm to living beings.

However, nothing is quite so simple.

For Jains, “macro” forms of life and “micro” forms of life bear no discernable distinction. In other words, you can cause just as much chaos by killing small forms of life as you can by killing larger ones. But it’s completely impossible to live without killing microorganisms! Think about it: every step you take might demolish entire communities of tiny organisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye! 

Therefore, the Jains take specific actions (or avoid them) in order to avoid hurting all forms of life. Certains types of foods are also avoided simply because they are more likely to be filled with microorganisms. 

In order to live through ahimsa, it is important to study the opposite: violence. Jains use “violence” as sort of an umbrella term for which they have many categories. For example, there is intentional violence, violence through self-defense, domestic violence, or violence while working. Knowing what the main categories of violence are, and how enacting one could result in the personal injury of another, are important to Jain believers.

Jains also distinguish between the how and why. Violence can be perpetuated in three basic ways, for example: body, speech, and mind. Even motivation for violence matters in Jain philosophy. These potential motivations include anger, greed, price, and deception.

Why put such stock in a completely nonviolent way of life? It’s not because Jains believe in a supremely omniscient or omnipotent god like other religions. It’s not even for the betterment or wellbeing of the communities in which Jains live! The entire point of philosophical ahimsa is that harm to others directly equates to harming oneself. You cannot hurt another without also causing harm to yourself!

Ironically, Jain philosophy is all about “self.” But in order to eventually liberate what other faiths call the “soul,” it it necessary to put oneself above all others. Then again, by doing so — you would also be doing what is right for everyone else!

The Jain Philosophy On COVID-19: Let Us Come Together Even As We Remain Apart

Indian society has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the world in a powerful fist clenched tight with fear, misinformation, and uncertainty about the future. One of the core tenets of Jainism relies on our ability to remain strong in the face of adversity. Ahimsa describes our capacity to live non-violent lives even as forces far out of our control repeatedly strike us. COVID-19 is just one such force.

How we respond to this crisis is what makes us who we are.

Will Jains react by abandoning our beliefs? No. Defying the teachinings? Absolutely not. We will continue to live in peace with all creatures, big and small, the best we can. Many people do not know that Jain monks already wear face coverings on a routine basis to prevent themselves from inhaling microorganisms that cannot be seen by the naked eye. In that way, we prevent ourselves from infecting others with the novel coronavirus — or at the very least reduce the risk to the extent that is possible.

Many have questioned whether or not the Jains consider coronavirus to be just another living thing with which to live in harmony. The answer is complicated. Science usually categorizes a virus as something that is not alive. But Jains are free to choose. Usually we prefer to err on the side of caution.

Also, we must consider the weight with which we consider life’s obstacles. Should we place more weight on coronavirus than, say, global climate change? The former affects humans, but it won’t wipe out our species. The latter will affect all living beings on this planet, which could lead to the destruction of many. Humanity has other obstacles. We hope that the current pandemic will not turn attention away from those that carry greater urgency.

We ask everyone who reads about Jainism to continue living together, in harmony — and avoid the urge to live in fear or swallow misinformation during this time.

Ethics of Jainism: Everything You Should Know

How much do you really know about the Jain religion? Few systems of belief are as practical (depending on your point of view) in real-world values as Jainism. The world’s two most prominent religions — Christianity and Islam — have histories steeped in violence. But not Jainism. Although Jainism is much less popular and lesser known than the aforementioned, the religion’s teachings are ancient, and its believers firmly devout in their practices and traditions. 

Jainism is built on a foundation of careful ethics and strong morals.

There are two basic paths for a Jain to follow: Ascetic and Sravaka. The former describes the path for those who wish to devote themselves entirely to Jain philosophy by disregarding typical human indulgences. The latter describes the path for those who wish to build and maintain a successful Jain household. But what is the core principle of both paths? Jains must inflict no injury; not to the people with whom they interact on a daily basis or to the very microorganisms underneath each footfall. 

In order to achieve such a passive lifestyle, the ethics of Jainism demand that each ascetic follower take and uphold five strict vows: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha. Taken together, these vows ask Jains to adhere to a peaceful, truthful life without giving into the need for material possession.

The Purusarthasiddhyupaya (yes, a real Jain tex) reads: “All these subdivisions (injury, falsehood, stealing, unchastity, and attachment) are himsa as indulgence in these sullies the pure nature of the soul. Falsehood etc. have been mentioned separately only to make the disciple understand through illustrations.”

In addition to the five major vows, ascetic Jains are expected to uphold two lesser vows as well: guna vratas and siksa vratas. Sravaka Jains are expected to uphold minor versions of the aforementioned five vows and the minor vows as well. Guna vratas means vows for merit while sinksa vratas means vows for discipline.

The guna vratas are vows that limit a believer’s limits, mostly physical. They allow a follower to break or bend several of the major vows in order to keep the lifestyle of a householder, which, for example, could include inadvertently slaughtering those pesky microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. This minor vow also limits a follower’s vulgarity and material possession at home.

Siksa vratas is all about one’s resolve. For example, a person might transgress by placing consumable food on a surface inhabited by microorganisms when it was not necessary (i.e. such as placing that food on a leaf before consumption).

By now, you can probably ascertain that Jainism is strict. Non-Jains fail to uphold typical Jain practice and tradition simply by enjoying a meal in the wrong way or made up of the wrong foods! (You also may have guessed that the Jain diet is indeed vegetarian!)

What Would A Jainist Say About The Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

Jains are an interesting group of believers. They represent one of the most peace-loving groups of people who are living on the planet today, and what’s more — their words are backed up by their actions. You won’t see Jains arguing over which religion’s beliefs are more valid than another’s or starting a war or telling someone they don’t belong. It’s not in their fundamental disposition to do any of that.

But because they are so pacifist, they don’t believe that any life form should be harmed — no matter how small. That means that Jain diets are sometimes dictated by the type of microorganisms that could be harmed during the cultivation or consumption of certain kinds of vegetables or fruits. Sounds complicated, right?

You wouldn’t be wrong.

But those beliefs have led to questions about how Jains view the current novel coronavirus outbreak, the end result of which is a disease called COVID-19. Do Jains believe even a virus should be spared from medical onslaught? Not quite. First of all, the jury is still out on whether viruses should be classified as “life” at all. Second, Jains will still put human suffering high on the totem pole.

The Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington wrote to its Jain following recently: “During these challenging times of Coronavirus, I hope we all give the utmost priority to the health and safety of ourselves and the community. JAINA is happy to know how our Jain Centers are supporting the community during this difficult time.”

Brianne Donaldson was recently named the Shri Parshvanath Presidential Chair of Jain Studies at the University of Irvine in California (UCI), but her career is mostly on hold due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. One case has been reported on campus so far, and students and faculty are mostly locked down.

When the outbreak begins to subside, Donaldson expects to continue her work regarding Jain views on applied ethics through a philosophical approach, which will include a focus on animal studies

Donaldson said, “I look forward to bringing Jain studies — and South Asian religious and philosophical traditions more broadly — into campus conversations and courses at UCI. I am also exploring opportunities where the rich textual history, metaphysical insights and ethical commitments of South Asian traditions, including Jainism, can contribute to other disciplines and discussions, such as medical humanities, animal ethics, anthropology, agricultural ethics, plant-based food initiatives, and nonviolent advocacy, among others.”

Trivia: How Much Do You Know About The Jain Religion? Part II

One of India’s most popular religions is also one of the least known elsewhere in the world. We strive to change that. We want everyone to know a little bit more about those who practice Jainism — because we feel that they represent some of the kindest, most peaceful people in this chaotic world of ours. Do you know all there is to know about Jains? This is how you put your knowledge to the test! Today we look at the traditional Jain diet.

Do Jains Eat Meat?

No! Traditionally, the Jain diet is vegetarian. However, the Jains believe in peace between all living organisms, down to the smallest insect. That might require believers to give up certain vegetarian foods that cause harm to those lifeforms. That’s why Jains don’t eat any vegetables that grow underground. These foods include potatoes, garlic, and onions. Harvesting these vegetables requires a farmer to uproot the entire plant, thus damaging or killing it in the process.

Do Jains Support Veganism?

Some activists do support veganism, but it is not required so long as the vegetarian does not harm other living organisms. The reason Jains support veganism is also based on the important religious principle of non-violence: dairy products often come at the price of animal products. That’s why Jains traditionally avoid products such as milk and cheese in the modern age. Long ago, animals that provided these foods were treated humanely. The foods were therefore included in the overall diet.

Do Jains Drink Alcohol?

Ancient Jain texts ban the consumption of alcohol by a Jain householder. In addition, the texts specifically ban food items such as butter, flesh, honey, and wine because of the damage they do to animals or insects. Many fruits are also off-limits: Gular, Anjeera, Banyan, Peepal, and Pakar. 

Are Jains Allowed To Drink Unfiltered Water?

No! There could be small microorganisms living in that water. But the rule is much more relaxed these days because avoiding contaminated water is so difficult in parts of India. Some Jains will routinely filter water on their own or simply use bottled water.

Are Jains Allowed To Eat Fungi?

Nope! Mushrooms, fungi, and yeasts are all forbidden. These foods not only grow in unclean places but might also contain smaller microorganisms that should not be needlessly harmed.

When Can A Jain Cook Meals?

Jain texts dictate that followers should always eat in the light of the sun, which means cooking at night goes against the teachings. This rule can be taken even further: some Jains won’t eat foods that were stored overnight, especially because they are more likely to have grown bacteria.