Jainism FAQs

Do Jains belong to castes?

Jainism recognises the equality of all souls regardless of the bodies they take. However, as a religion that originated in India and still remains a small minority, Jainism has been heavily influenced by Hindu practices and ideas, including that of caste. Jains reject the Hindu notions of caste being fixed by birth and the supremacy of brahmins but have probably accepted the caste system for a long time. Scholars disagree when Jains adopted the fourfold caste or varṇa system but it is important in Jain legend. For example, Jinas' parents are always of the kṣatriya caste of warriors and kings, who have the role of 'protectors'.

In practice, contemporary Jains belong to castes – jātis – like other Indians. This is the social framework that has validity, especially for marriage purposes.

Do Jains do any special jobs?

This 1868 photograph from 'The People of India' shows a Jain banker in northern India. Jains do not have jobs that involve violence. As part of the fourfold community, lay Jains make donations to temples and give alms to mendicants.

Nineteenth-century Jain lay man
Image by J. Forbes Watson & J. W. Kaye © Smithsonian Institution

Honouring the principle of non-violenceahiṃsā – extends to the jobs that Jains have. They are usually found in occupations that avoid violence, such as trade, medicine, art and clerical jobs.

Jains in business do not take part in commerce that involves violence, such as trading in weapons, timber or charcoal.

Jains who are born in south India often live in rural environments so they practise agriculture.

Contemporary urban Jains often work in professions such as IT, accountancy and the civil service.

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