What Do Jain Meditation And Ritualistic Worship Mean?

Much of the Jain daily grind involves prayer and meditation in order to fit into the vast paradigm of nature. They adopt rules to prevent them from doing harm to other natural creations, no matter how small. Each action a Jain takes showcases the utter devotion to this cause — from the foods they eat, to the jobs they avoid. What does meditation mean for a Jain? What rituals are involved in Jain worship?

First, meditation is generally considered mandatory to a Jain, much like five daily prayers are considered mandatory to those of Islamic faith. Jains don’t meditate in order to gain insight, self-realization, or anything else that might be easily attributed to “similar” Indian religions like Buddhism or Hinduism. Instead, Jains meditate to prevent karmic attachment that might prevent them from end-of-life liberation. 

Padmanabh Jaini said these periods of meditation were usually brief, and the goal is equanimity. The ritual generally occurs three times daily by those who follow the practice (not all do). Many choose to perform this action inside a Jain temple instead of home. They might also include volunteer or charity work as part of the routine. 

Jains worship a number of deities, but they don’t believe in a Supreme Being above all the rest. In fact, they might not be considered deities at all, depending on who you ask. Most of those worshipped are Tirthankaras present in the Jain texts, or those who achieved spiritual liberation at the end of their lives here on Earth. 

One strange ritual (that the Indian Supreme Court has ruled criminal) is the practice of slowly starving oneself with the intention of eventually dying. Called sallekhana, it is not often performed anymore. 

Another ritual involves mantras, one of which is the “five homage.” This mantra (or prayer) has been performed since the beginning of the Jain faith. Notably, it is the oldest in the world!