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In India, many religions, beliefs, and cultures can be found in the various regions from the north to the south. From Hinduism to Sikhism, all the religions play a vital role in maintaining the cultural diversity of the world’s second most populous country. However, there is one religion, not as common as its Hindu counterpart, which tends to lag behind in its spread throughout the world. Known as Jainism, this ancient religion of India has failed to spread proficiently, as its rigidity calls for rituals, ceremonies, and guidelines that are not feasible to be followed in the modern world.

Probably one of the oldest religions of the world, Jainism incorporates the ideals and motives of Tirthankars, humans who have attained salvation, into its teachings. Following spiritual greats such as Lord Rishabdev or Bhagvan Mahavir, this religion calls for individuals to lead a peaceful and pure life, in order to benefit the soul. With no creator or destroyer, the central belief of Jainism is compassion to all fellow living beings, including anything with a soul (Introduction to Jainism). Enforcing the strict diet based on vegetarianism, Jains basically want to free themselves from the cycle of birth and death, by attaining moksh (salvation). How they do so depends on karma, the bondage of deeds to the soul. Paap, bad karma, causes destruction, while punya, good karma, is the way to success. Yet, while trying to attain moksh, Jains also strictly obey the five major rules that outline this religion, ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), achaurya (non-stealing), bramacharya (celibacy), and aparigraha (non-attachment). As Bhagvan Mahavir once said, Jains should “never tell a lie, never steal, lead a life of chastity, and renounce the pleasures of a worldly life,” (Singhvi).

So, a strict religion with many ideals and principles centered on a theory of salvation is what one finds in Jainism. Yet, why has it been restricted to India? After all, aren’t Christianity and Islam just as harsh? Don’t they too call for certain beliefs and principles that are arduous to abide to in the modern world? Well yes, they too are challenging, but an understanding of the vows, day to day life, and the characteristics of monkhood show why Jainism is a harder religion to follow in the ever changing 21st Century.

Commonly referred to as the five pillars of Jainism, the five vows provide a strict rubric to the rigid structure of the religion. Ahimsa, the first pillar, means non-violence. “According to Jainism, all living beings, no matter of their size, are equal,” (Shah, P.). Therefore, no living being posses superior characteristics over another, and has the right to kill another creature. Not only is physical violence prohibited, but mental violence, bad thoughts, and ill felling also lead to the accumulation of paap. As all non-vegetarian food harms another being in some way, whether it is a pig, cow, lamb, chicken, or an egg, Jains are strictly required to follow a vegetarian diet and to make sure they never hurt another soul.

Following ahmisa, satya or truth, is the second pillar of Jainism. Why is the truth good? Well, Jainism believes that speaking lies leads another being to be affected in a hard way. So, by lying, we are typically not following the characteristics of ahmisa as well.

The third pillar is that of achaurya or non-stealing. Stealing is like telling a lie, as one is un-truthfully taking the possessions of another person. “The vow of non-stealing insists that one should be totally honest in action, though, and speech,” (Shah, P.).

The fourth pillar of Jainism lies in bramacharya or celibacy. Abstinence from sensual pleasures is required by all devotees of Jainism, as it is believed that any pleasure sensually leads to paap. Not only are sexual activities prohibited, but also thoughts pertaining to the same objectives are also not allowed.

Finally, aparigraha or non-attachment emerges as the final pillar of Jainism. Maybe the hardest vow to follow, aparigraha calls for individuals to not posses any possessions. As jealousy, ego, and hatred rise with the possession of



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