Today marks the birthday of Bhagwan Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. His teachings emphasize self-reflection, non-violence, and frugality, and he stresses that "Bhagwat Kripa," or god's grace, is not a miracle waiting to happen. Rather, one must follow the eternal path to self-discovery to achieve it. This path is the same for both the Shravak (follower or listener) and the Sadhak (monk), and is discovered through experimentation, meditation, and self-contemplation. Jainism does not impose this path on its followers but instead encourages individuals to choose whether or not to follow it, making it one of the most rational faiths in the world.
Jainism is also known for its teaching of non-violence, but the faith recognizes three kinds of violence and even sanctions two kinds of violence in exceptional circumstances. Violence can be performed through mind, speech, and body, and can be intentional or unintentional. The three kinds of "Hinsa," or violence, that Jainism recognizes are Arambhi Hinsa (intentional violence), Udyogi Hinsa (unintentional violence), and Virodhi Hinsa (violence in self-defence). While Jainism condemns Arambhi Hinsa, it recognizes that Udyogi Hinsa is essential to many worldly activities, and Virodhi Hinsa may be necessary for self-defence or peacekeeping.
Some broad points to understand Jainism better include:
● Jainism is one of the oldest faiths in the world, tracing its roots to ancient times.
● Jains recognize 24 Tirthankaras who have conquered their senses and desires, and who promulgate the five eternal teachings of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possessiveness.
● Each of the 24 Tirthankaras taught the path of liberation through non-violence and self-control.
● The soul is eternal and the body is impermanent.
● The sentient soul and insentient matter come together when the soul is encumbered by passions, attracting fine particles of insentient matter called karmas, which cause worldly bondage.
● Jainism states that the quest of each worldly soul is to shed all karmas, resulting in liberation and the attainment of pure bliss.
● Jains do not believe in an omnipotent being that runs the universe according to His/Her wishes but instead emphasize personal responsibility and rational thinking.
● Jainism holds each person responsible for all their acts of mind, speech, and body, and places great importance on personal conduct.
● All souls are equal, and Jainism does not subscribe to notions of inequality between human beings based on gender, race, religion, caste, nationality, or ethnicity.