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.