Are Followers of Jainism Required to Fast?

Jainism is an ancient Indian faith that has a relatively small number of followers. One element of the faith is a tradition called santhara, or sallekhana, which translates to ‘thinning out’. This practice is sometimes used by people who are very old, or who are seriously ill, and who decide to stop eating until they die.

In 2015, the Rajasthan High Court banned the practice of sallekhana, but the ban was lifted by the Supreme Court of India later that year.

Sallekhana is not a compulsory part of Jainism, but it is a practice that many followers choose to adopt towards the end of their life. A follower of Jainism would subscribe to four great vows: non-violence, not lying, chastity, not stealing, and no-possession. There are seven other vows three which are merit vows, and four discipline vows, which include limiting movement, not updating a single website, and fasting for limited periods of time.

Limited fasting is something that followers of Jainism do from time to time throughout their life. Sallekhana is something that many terminally ill followers adopt, under the guidance of a spiritual counsellor. It can take some years for the process to play out, because many followers will start by giving up solid food bit by bit, drinking milk and taking whey. Later, they will swap to spiced water based drinks, then to hot water, and then they will eventually stop even drinking water, and allow themselves to die. Some people will choose to do this while also voluntarily restricting their movement.

The procedure is not considered a form of suicide to those who follow Jainism. Suicide is frowned upon in this religion, but this is seen as being a religious vow and procedure. There are five transgressions from the vow, which include desires for certain types of rebirth, recollections of certain pleasures, and longing for certain pleasures, or for a quick death. The purpose of the vow is to thin out the body as well as the spiritual existence too.

Fasting is not forced upon followers of the religion, and this is one thing that was central in the Supreme Court’s decision to over-rule the banning of the practice. Voluntary fasts, such as upvaas, are common in the religion. Followers of that fast will give up food for a period of time but may still drink water. There have been some deaths as a result of this fast, often if the person fasting does not replenish electrolytes, which makes the fasts controversial.

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Why is Vegetarianism Required as a Part of Jainism?

Jainism is a religion that is practiced by a small number of people from India. Only approximately one percent of the population of India subscribes to Jainism, but the Jains contribute more than half of the financial assistance given to India’s poor for medical and social support. The Jains believe that it is wrong to harm any living thing, and that killing living beings is wrong. They have several traditions and values relating to non-violence, respect for others, telling the truth, and not stealing or even coveting physical possessions.

Because of their stance against acquisition, they believe that it is important to not eat meat. The Jain diet is incredibly strict, and fasting is encouraged from time to time. Jain cuisine does not include meats, but also excludes potatoes, eggplants, garlic and onions, because they are thought to possess qualities of darkness, putrid smell, and also lethargy.

The Jains believe that eating fish, eggs or meat is an injurious, violent act. If a person directly, or even indirectly, supports killing or injury then this will harm their karma. Jains are required to follow a lacto-vegetarian diet, and some Jain scholars believe that veganism is an even better choice, because the production of dairy products could be considered to be violent towards cows. Certain levels of Jainism forbit the consumption of wine and honey, and there are fruits which are forbidden as well.

Jains are required to take care to ensure that no small animals (such as insects) are harmed during the preparation of meals, or even incidentally during day to day life. Harm that is caused by accident is seen to be just as bad as deliberate harm.

In addition to limits on the foods consumed, Jains are expected to filter water. This is an older practice, from the days of wells, but many practitioners still do it today, filtering their tapwater in the traditional way. Some of the strictest adherents will filter even bottled water, although this is not strictly necessary.

Jainism is a niche religion, and it is something that has attracted a lot of attention and controversy in recent years because of the extensive fasting that they encourage, and the extreme nature of some of their stricter vows. The core of their beliefs, however, is that no one should harm other living beings and that purity of life and of spirituality is essential.

What Is Absolute Reality As A Philosophical Concept?

The concept of “absolute reality” is a complex one, and one that philosophers, theologians and even some scientists have weighed in on from New York to Delhi. But what is absolute reality in regards to philosophy? As with most things in the field of philosophy, a lot of it really does boil down to personal opinions. People have presented proof from sources ranging from ancient traditions to more modern interpretations.

At its most basic, the absolute is the term for the most real being or pattern that underlies all things in reality. Anything dubbed an absolute in philosophy or spirituality, as well as certain other contexts, is seen as the most absolutely real element reality itself. Hence the name “absolute reality“.

However, the exact nature of this absolute varies from culture to culture. While many modern philosophers have come up with complex and multifaceted ideas about the absolute nature of reality, the concept predates modern civilization and reaches as far back as human civilization itself. While many recent philosophers may disagree, most ancient philosophers saw the world as driven by an absolute reality wherein a divine source that was underlying in all things. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad. This explained things across the human experience and indeed all of reality itself.

The complexities of these beings and their specific natures were among the first philosophical discussions, dating all the way back to the Maxims of Ptahhotep, the single oldest philosophical tracts in human history.

The exact nature of divinity and its order, as well as where all things form in this order, created the first philosophers. The problem of evil originates from balancing out such ideas of order alongside the frailties of human nature. Some philosophers have even managed to place value inside the absolute on things that would seem to have no place in the nature of reality.

Saint Augustine found value in the concept of “monster” as being closely related both philosophically as well as linguistically to the idea of demonstration. Confucius managed to create a philosophical center for the concept of the family name, similar somewhat to other ideas about the value of a person’s name.

Inside the idea of the absolute reality, the exact nature of something so absolute and unfathomable varies from culture to culture. It sometimes even varies from person to person. Sometimes even the right words for such a reality can change the nature of a person’s ideas about the absolute. Though many westerners are vaguely familiar with the “Great Spirit” of the Sioux and Algonquian nations, some translators of the term for such a higher entity say is better translated as “Great Mystery”.

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What Is The Tattvartha Sutra

The Tattvartha Sutra is among the most ancient texts of Jainism and one of the foundational texts of the entire Jainist faith. It goes by another, somewhat telling name of the Moksha-shastra, which roughly translates to “scripture describing the path of liberation”.

An early authority on the faith and practices of Jainism, the text considers of exactly 350 sutras (an extended string of related aphorisms or sometimes even a single aphorism) across 10 chapters that was intended by the author, the acharya (a revered leader among Jainist ascetics) Umaswati, a pivotal figure in Jainism. Exactly when the book was written is a matter of conjecture, with speculation ranging from the 2nd century CE to the 5th century CE.

The text is written in Sanskrit and begins with a graceful invocation of higher powers. The theological underpinnings of the text begin with the seven categories of truth inside Jainist faith. A number of these seven categories of truth involve the idea of “karmic particles” which is something of an extremely crude translation of a Jainist idea focusing of a supernatural sort of physical substance that permeates the universe and is drawn to human souls when a human soul sins.

The soul in Jainism is seen as pure (indeed, the first of the seven categories of truth is the simple statement that souls exist), while karma is seen as an impurity in the soul and “karmic particles” are seen as uncountable motes of soul taint that drag the soul back in to the material world after death against its will.

In the seventh chapter of the book, Acharya Umaswati presents the Jaina. vows that encapsulate the core of the Jainist ethical system. While like all core concepts of any religion’s ethical systems the exact particulars of these ethics are complex and heavily debated, they do form an ideal that faithful followers of Jainism are expected to adhere to. Avoiding violence, theft, carnality, possessiveness and deception are all core concepts inside Jainist ethics, though different viewpoints of the specifics have been argued for centuries.

The final chapters discuss the nature of karma and rebirth and how one affects the other, as well as how a person’s actions in life change their karma and thus the nature of their rebirths. The tenth and last chapter describes the state of liberation from the endless cycle of rebirth, with the end goal of faith and adherence to Jainism leading towards souls reaching the end of the universe.

The following video will be sure to give you some more information on Jainism!

What is the Acaranga Sutra?

The Jain religion began over 2500 years ago in India. It was a way of living that would allow an individual to break free of karma and enter complete liberation. When followed, the Jain religion would cause a person to avoid having to reincarnate. The individual would enter kevala which is a similar state to nirvana in Buddism. Getting to this pure state requires sticking to a strict path of non-violence.

Its origins are somewhat hard to determine. There are four main teachers of this religions. The most recent one lived during the time of Buddha. He is known as Jina but he went by the name Vardhamana Mahavira or simply, Mahavira.

The Acharanga or acaranga Sutra was written around the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. It is the oldest agam and contains two Srutaskandhas or books. The second book is a treatise and was added to the first book to describe the ways of conduct in the ascetic life. The second book is made up of four sections or Kulas.

The acharanga covers ways to ask for food, a couch, a bowl, clothes and it also explains the penance of the Great Hero Mahavira. The codes of conduct include different postures, humility, traveling, quality of food eaten and spiritual studies. Other conduct that is explained includes principles of speech as well as the restraint of speech, mental thought, and physical actions. The books emphasize purity in all of these things.

These books are considered the earliest known writings on the rules and conduct for mendicant monks and nuns who observe the Shvetambara tradition. The first text was originally only given verbally for many centuries. It is believed that Mahavira gave this text orally to his disciples and the tradition took off from there. These teachings were systemized into 12 angas and then at the Council of Valabhi, the first few lessons of how to maintain vows as a mendicant were established.

There are many lessons on life and how it might end as well as how women should be treated within these books. For example, as to suicide, monks are told that they might become influenced by the cold. If this causes them to break their vows, they are essentially better off committing suicide. The contents of both books are, to this day, open to a lot of interpretation and contrasts between those who follow Jain and other religions are made freq.

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What is Svetambaras?

Svetambaras is associated with Jainism, and is one of the two main sects.

The other sect goes by the name “Digembara, who” and there are certain differences between both sects. Here is a deeper look into what the differences are and what defines Svetambaras.

History

Let’s begin with the history while understanding Svetambaras.

The tradition was founded by Acharya Sthulabhadra and saw various branches of the Vrahada Order. From the classical orders, the names Kharatara, Tristutik, and the Tapa stand out.

It was Vijayananda Suri of the Tapa order, which initiated a movement against wandering monks. This damaged the sect until Acharya Rajendrasuri put together the Tristutik order.

Sventambara monks have followed various traditions since the development with the use of white cloths over their face.

It’s important to note the Svetambaras also split into different “panths.” This began with the Lonka sect in the year of 1474 CE. This led to the Sthānakavāsī in 1653 CE. It wasn’t until a hundred years later, monks from the Svetambaras put together a panth called Terapanth.

At this point in time, the Svetambaras is split between Sthānakavāsī, Murtipujaka, and terapanth.

Clothing

Svetambaras is a sect which sets its practice with wearing all-white clothing and avoiding nudity as seen with digembara.

Notable Points of Svetambaras

Let’s take a peek into some of the key differentiations between the Svetambaras and Digembaras. These differentiations are a clear distinction between the two sects in Jainism.

The Svetambaras do not accept the notion of omniscient beings as described by Digembaras. This is seen with their refusal to accept a saint who became kevali (omniscient). This means the saint didn’t require food to sustain himself and that is disagreed upon by the Svetambaras.

Another difference is seen in the liberation of woman. Digembaras believe a woman can only achieve moksha (liberation) when she is born again into a man. Until then, she is not able to meet this status. The Svetambaras do not hold this view and do believe women can achieve this status.

There is also a lot of emphasis on canonical literature in this sect meaning the Svetambaras hold their opinion on the twelve angas and sutras as being important.

The same applies to their understanding of Tirthankara Mallinatha, who they believe was a female. While the Digembaras hold the opposite view believing Tirthankara Mallinatha was a man. This leads to deviating understandings of the history of Jainism.

Who Are The Digambaras?

Digambara is a part of Jainism which is part of Hinduism. It is a word that means sky and directions. It actually refers to garments that those that practice this form of Hinduism will wear, representing the four different elements. What is odd about this word is that it is representative of Hindus that do not wear any clothing at all. They carry a broom, one that has peacock feathers, and that is specifically for the purpose of cleaning. They do have a container that contained water, and a book that has Scripture, but clothing is not an option. They were once called naked philosophers, and archaeology has shown that there was this great movement toward nudity centuries ago.

What Is A Digambaras?

Digambaras are those that follow Digambara. These are individuals that not only avoid clothing, but they avoid bathing as well. They practice nonviolence, and they only drink water from a gourd, eating food only once a day. The reason they do not bathe is that they actually believe that doing so would destroy organisms that are currently living in the water. Therefore, they have a high value for life of any kind, even that which is unseen, contributing to the activities that they do every day.

When Did This Start?

This apparently started back in the fourth century BCE. It was the result of the division which occurred at the Ganges. To separate sects decided to go their separate ways, with the Digambaras deciding to choose to no longer wear clothing. This observance of nudity became part of their culture and an integral part of their belief system. They also believe that a perfect saint within their religion does not actually need food to stay alive. They also believe that they should never be married and that women cannot progress unless they come back as a man. When you see depictions of them, not only are they naked, but they are always presented with downcast eyes. Much of what they believed was completely lost by the second century CE, and what we have today are the remnants of that belief system.

Today, those that follow Digambara Jains from India to California worship idols that are completely naked. They are considered to be omniscient beings that have achieved liberated souls, in those that are naked are representative of being stripped of every material bond, part of the path to reaching freedom and enlightenment.

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The Guide To Understanding The Namokar Mantra

The Namokar Mantra is one of the significant mantras in Jainism. This prayer is the first one that is recited by the Jains during meditation. This is done while the mantra is recited. There is no specific person or god recognized during the meditation.

While meditating, the devotee pays respect by bowing to the Supreme Five (the Panch Parameshti). They include:

The liberated souls (Siddha)
Those who destroyed the inimical karmas (Arihant)
The sages and monks around the world (Sadhu)
The Preceptors or spiritual leaders (Acharyas)
The Preceptor of ascetics less advanced (Upadhayaya)

Siddhas

These are the souls that are liberated. The souls are no longer with us in this realm because their complete cycle of birth and death has ended. This means they have reached the highest possible level, or state, of salvation. As a result, they do not have any karmas left, and they no longer connect new karmas. This true freedom is a state called Moksha.

Arihantas

This is a word that is made up of two smaller words. The first word, Ari, means enemies and hanta means enemy destroyer. However, these are not enemies in the physical world. Instead, these enemies are passions or inner desires like:

Ego
Anger
Deception
Greed

These are the inner enemies that are inside of all of us. Once a soul (person) is victorious over these inner desires, the soul is called Arihanta. Then, the Arihanta is able to destroy the four ghati karmas.

These karmas are Jnanavarniya, or knowledge blocking and Darshanavarniya, or perception blocking. The other two are Mohniya, or passion causing and Antaraya, or obstacle causing.

Sadhus

When householders become more detached from the worldly parts of their lives and gain a desire for spiritual growth, they give up the worldly lives, they become sadhvis (nuns) and sadhus (monks). It is at this time, the sadhu or sadhvi voluntarily decides to obey several major vows for the rest of their life.

Acharyas

These are the spiritual leaders and they spread the message of Jina. They must complete in-depth studies to achieve a high level of spiritual excellence. Acharyas also have the ability to lead sadhus and sadhvis.

Upadhayas

This is the title given to sadhus who have gotten knowledge about the philosophical systems. They teach important Jain scriptures to nuns and monks.

These are the principles of the Namokar Mantra. The significance of this mantra is the level of spiritual excellence the devotee will acquire throughout time .

What is Parasparopagraho Jivanam?

Parasparopagraho Jivanam comes from ancient Sanskrit. The words when translated into English roughly means that ‘everything in life is connected and dependent on each other’. This philosophical religious style of thinking believes that everything is important, everything has a soul, even a microbe or a worm or a beetle, all the way up to human beings. Followers of Jainism believe that science should be achieved through the observation of the things that exist without disturbing them.

Modern science studies things by doing just the opposite which is disturbing them for the purpose of observing. Some people say that Jainism represents the earliest belief that there were unseen microorganisms that existed and has therefore been attached to the earliest beginnings of modern science. Of course, the big thing that stands between this philosophical religion and science is the belief that observation should be done without disturbing the nature of things.

Modern science believes that disturbing things and seeing what happens is the best way of progressing scientific knowledge. Most modern science prefers to see itself as disconnected from philosophy or religious thinking. Those who follow the ideas of Jainism typically stress the ideas and philosophy of nonviolence and protecting nature and the natural harmony that it has created.

Declaration Of Nature

According to one of the leaders of this philosophy, if someone fails to recognize the interconnectedness of vegetation, air, water, and fire, they fail to understand the fundamental truths about themselves and their surroundings. This philosophy believes that everything that exists is dependent on one another and for that reason when the nature around us is not cared for then we put ourselves in jeopardy.

Jainism Motto

The actual phrase Parasparopagraho Jivanam is considered the motto of this philosophy. The center of this philosophy is about the harmony of nature and the pursuit of non-violent acts and that motto is considered its epiphany. It is said that this motto has been adopted and accepted by all sects and versions of this philosophical pursuit.

Anyone claiming an understanding of this phrase will believe in the preservation of nature and the ways of those things and circumstances found in nature. To disturb the harmony of one thing is to disturb the harmony of all things. Caring for and protecting all things in nature is thought to be the path to caring for oneself.

This philosophical religion from India simply teaches to love nature. Understand that all things including people are interconnected with all other things. It teaches that everything from a microscopic organism to human beings are important.

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Jainism: The 5 Main Vows & What They Mean

Jainism is a non-theistic religion, meaning there isn’t any focus on a god or deity entity that gives laws from heaven. Jainism comes from India where it was founded sometime around the 6th century BC as a sort of “counter-reaction” to the orthodox teachings of brahmanism at the time. Jainism teaches that salvation occurs through a multi-life process of striving for perfection with a strong emphasis on giving no harm to living creatures.

The tenants of the Jain faith come from five main vows, often called the five abstinences or the five ascetics. If you want to understand the Jain faith then you need to understand these.

#1: The Vow of Ahimsa (Non-Violence)
The most important of the vows, and the cornerstone of Jainism, is the vow of non-violence. This refers to the cornerstone belief that no living being has a right to injure, harm, or kill any other living being. This includes everything living: insects, plants, & animals. They understand that it’s impossible to survive without killing or injuring some life, so the goal is minimum killing.

Violence means every type: mental, emotional, and psychological count and need to be avoided as much as physical violence. Even thinking or imagining harm towards someone is considered forbidden violence.

#2: The Vow of Satya (Truthfulness)
The vow of truthfulness doesn’t just mean never lying and avoiding deception, but it goes one step further to demanding of followers to have the courage to tell the truth and kindly correct falsehoods in the open, even if that can mean harm to oneself.

#3: The Vow of Asteya (Not Stealing)
The vow of not stealing goes hand in hand with the vow of truth. This not only means the basic of not taking property that isn’t yours or credit for something you didn’t do, but also having a realistic understanding of what you need versus what would be comfortable. When taking alms or donations, not stealing means taking only the minimum of what you need – not more to be comfortable.

#4: The Vow of Aparigraha (Non-Acquisition)
This vow starts with the idea that the more attachment to material forms of wealth you have, the more you will fall into sin. While material wealth and possessions are the main focus, on the high level with monks this even goes to pushing away from the pleasures of sensation, feelings, or even relationships.

#5: The Vow of Brahmacarya (Chaste Living)
In this case chaste living means the total and complete abstinence from sensual pleasure, including thoughts, as well as abstaining from the various pleasures of the senses which can mean music from the ears, spices for the taste, the beauty of a member of the opposite sex on the eyes, etc.

These are the main 5 vows of Jainism.