Are Jains Allowed To Divorce?

This is a somewhat “taboo” subject for Jain followers. Jainism is a religion that teaches pacifism is the height of everything on the journey to liberate the soul. Peace is paramount! This religion is millennia old, and set in its ways. But what do these principles really mean when Jains conduct daily routines? Probably not what you’d expect. Not only are Jains urged to protect life both big and small, for example, but they are also taught to protect and nurture their relationships.

In a previous post, we discussed Ahimsa, the vow of non-violence. You might remember that “violence” to a Jain isn’t really defined the same way as it is to everyone else. To them, aggression constitutes an overt form of violence. The mere thought of violence is contrary to the vow of Ahimsa. Conflict is simply not acceptable to Jains. They must make peace in order to live their lives.

How does divorce fit into the equation? If you’re reading carefully, then you already know: divorce doesn’t fit into the equation. The act of divorcing a partner is considered anti-Ashimsa. 

The purpose of Jainism is to overcome the conflicts that lead to these perhaps impetuous reactions. To Jains, divorce is nothing more than a complication of everyday life and the principles they should be following. That’s why the Jain faith strongly urges those considering divorce to work things out instead. To them, seeking inner peace will help strengthen (or repair) relationships. Harmony is the way!

However, a religion this peaceful and pacifist can’t have it both ways — right? What we mean to say is that you can truly believe in Jainism but still legally divorce, if that’s how you want to approach your soon-to-be-ended relationship. Other Jains won’t denounce you or eject you from the faith. They might not approve of your decision, but in order to achieve peace and harmony in their own lives, they have to accept your decision. 

Keep in mind though, that the taboo is still there. And if some Jains might consider divorce an option — even though this course of action is not compatible with Jain vows and principles — then other Jains might similarly act outside of their vows and showcase the stigma more openly. Whichever decision you make, it’s best to think it through first.

Jains living in the United States might find themselves more open to the potential for divorce, in part because the stigma against it is less spoken here. What should you do before seeking a divorce? We recommend first sitting down with your spouse to discuss each of the many consequences in the future. This is particularly in line with Jain beliefs. After that, it makes sense to discuss the consequences of not getting a divorce. Is there any way to reconcile before making this choice that cannot be undone? 

Next, we recommend sitting down with Jain priests at a temple near you for spiritual guidance. Their advice is not absolute and you are not bound to do what they ask or suggest. Last but not least, we recommend consulting with legal representatives who know what the process would look like. Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou offer such consults for free.