Founded between 599 and 527 BC by Vardhaman Jnatiputra (Nataputta Mahavir or The Great Hero) in India.

At age 28, Mahavir left his family to lead his life as a begging monk in order to escape the burdensome cycle of reincarnations in India.

He adapted the practice of nudity and at age 40 he achieved enlightenment. He spent the rest of his life preaching his doctrine and organizing the community of the faithful.

Mihavir and his followers migrated to south India where Jainism is now popular, but the religion spread throughout all of India.
Jainism has a small presence in the United States.

Dharma is one's ethical duty. Karma is the scorecard of life and one's actions. A soul can only reach liberation if it gets rid of all its karma. The soul is called the Jiva by Jains and exists forever. Each soul is always independent and is responsible for everything it does. The soul experiences the consequences of its actions and can become liberated from the cycle of birth and death. But not all souls can be liberated. Some souls are not capable of achieving this.

Jains believe that the world they live in really exists and is not an illusion. The universe is made of living things, jivas, and non living things, ajivas. It was not created by a god, it has and will always exist. The universe is in five parts, the supreme abode (where liberated souls live for ever), the upper world (where celestial beings live, but not for ever), the middle world (where human beings live), the lower world (consists of the seven hells where people are tormented by demons and each other), and the base (where the lowest forms of life live).

Role of Women: A women's very femaleness creates spiritual inequality. They are not allowed to be naked in public because this makes them be seen as second-class citizens. This ban keeps men from experiencing a sexual desire. Menstrual blood is a sign of impurity. Digambara sect believes women cannot achieve liberation without being reborn as men first, but the Svetambara sect disagrees.

Jain Sects: The 2 major sects are the Digambara (sky clad) and the Svetambara (white clad). Each of these are divided into subgroups.

Jain Holidays

Mahavira Jayanti (Mahavira's birthday celebrated by temple worship and parades)

Paryushana ("to stay in one place" 8 days long which signifies a time of reflection and repentance)

Diwali (It is celebrated all over India, but is special to Jains because it is believed to be when Mahavira gave his last teachings and attained intimate liberation)

Kartak Purnima (Is a time for pilgrimages to holy sites associated with Jainism)

Mauna Agyaras (A one day long fasting and silence period/meditation on the 5 greats beings)

Jains believe in reincarnation and that after each bodily death the jiva is reborn into a different body to live another life until liberation is met. A Jain must reach moksha to reach liberation.

Jain symbols

The Swastika - the four arms symbolize the four states of existence; heavenly beings, human beings, hellish beings, and Tiryancha.

The Jain flag has 5 entities that symbolize enlightened beings, liberated souls, spiritual leaders, spiritual teachers, and spiritual practitioners.

The Jain emblem symbolizes the universe. The upper is heaven, the middle is the material world, and the inner is hell.

The Jain Ahimsa means non-violence and non-injury. It is symbolized with a wheel inside of a hand.

The liberated soul represents the ultimate goal of ethical living.

Holy Books

The Agama Sutras are the texts containing the teachings of Mahavira. However, Jain scripture is the not completely the same between the Digambaras and the Svetambaras. In the beginning, monks and nuns were not allowed to posses religious books, therefore everything had to be passed on by oral tradition. In 350 BCE a famine struck the land and killed most to all the monks and nuns. The Digambara believe many of the teachings died with the monks and nuns, but the Svetambara believe many survived. These teachings play a different role for each sect. However, both believe the texts of the Purvas were lost. Monks and nuns are now allowed to write teachings down, but each sect still has different belief in which scripture to use.

Impact on the World

Raychandbhai Mehta helped Gandhi to see the power in nonviolence, one of Jain's ethics. The history of India could have been very different if it wasn't for the Nationalists' nonviolent resistance to British rule. If Jainism never influenced Gandhi it could have been more bloody. Jainism's belief in nonviolence also indirectly inspired Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Jainist and Buddhist have had a few disagreements throughout history that still are relevant today. View of women and nudity are a few of the controversial topics.

Jain art is beginning to be studied more and put on exhibit more often.

Jainism today is one of the smallest major religions in the world with only a few million followers. Jains are spread throughout the world, but India still contains the largest population of Jains.

Works Cited : "Jainism." BBC. BBC, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/jainism/>. ; Wilkinson, Philip. "Jainism." Religions. New York: DK Pub., 2008. 225-32. Print.
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Alyssa Radabaugh

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