Jainism FAQs

Jain beliefs

What is a Jain?

A Jain is someone who accepts the teachings of the Jinas. A Jain believes in Jain principles and tries to act by them in everyday life. These principles form the religion called 'Jainism'. Most Jains are of Indian ethnicity. The word ‘Jaina’ is an alternative spelling which is less used nowadays in common parlance.

What do Jains believe?

A typical Digambara representation of a siddha, shown as an empty space. This underlines the idea that a siddha has no body and is a soul that has recovered its original purity. It regains this purity when it is liberated from the cycle of rebirth. In thi

Image of a siddha
Image by Hindi Granth Karyala © Public domain

Jains believe that the only way to be rid of the karma that traps the soul in the endless cycle of birth is to follow the teachings of the Jinas. They hold that the path to liberation involves the 'three gems':

  • the proper view of reality – samyag-darśana
  • the proper knowledge – samyag-jñāna
  • the proper behaviour – samyak-cāritra.

The proper view of reality demands belief in the truths – tattvas:

  • the sentience of the soul, which is found in many physical forms – jīva
  • that some things do not have souls – ajīva
  • influx of karma to the soul – āsrava
  • binding of karma to the soul – bandha
  • stopping the influx of karma – saṃvara
  • separating existing karma from the soul – nirjarā
  • liberation of the soul – mokṣa.

Jains hold that each person is responsible for his or her own spiritual condition. The teachings of the Jinas help those who want to listen to progress towards spiritual enlightenment. Lay people can only advance to the fifth of 14 stages – guṇa-sthāna – while monks and nuns – who renounce the world, as the Jinas did – can progress further. The 15th and final stage is liberation of the soul, which then ascends into the apex of the universe, where it exists in perpetual bliss with other liberated souls – siddha.

Jains believe that each Jina has essentially the same eternal message, which he preaches to the fourfold community he founds. This consists of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women. They pass on his teachings, which can be summarised as the principle of non-violenceahiṃsā.

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