Jainism: Beliefs and Practices
Many of the Jainism roots come from the Hindu religion, but there are also many differences. In Jainism, everything is eternal. It is believed that everything that currently exists was neither created nor will ever be destroyed. It is also believed that the universe is made up of three sections or realms. These realms include: heavens, earths, and hells. There are multiple layers within each realm. In the realm of Heaven there are seven different levels. In the Earth realm there are seven regions which are each divided equally. Last but not least, there is the realm of Hell. There are eight levels of Hell, and the further down they go, the colder it gets.
The Jains believe in a “Perfect Universal Presence”, as well as many other deities whom live in the different realms of Heaven. In this realm there are higher and lower Gods, each with a specific purpose. The most important diety is Ambika, the Mother Goddess of Jainism. Humans are able to attain divinity as well throughout their lifetime.
Living beings, which are called Jivas, can be found in the earth realms. A Jiva is basically a soul that is attached to the body. There are two categories of Jivas: liberated and non-liberated. The liberated Jivas are the Jivas that have no Karma and are now free from the cycle of rebirth. Therefore they are not found in the earth realm. The non-liberated Jivas are the Jivas that still have Karma and are still going through the cycle of rebirth. There are two types of Jivas: Immobile and single sensed, and mobile and multi sensed.
The immobile singled sensed Jivas are made up of five types. These are the Jivas whom have soul in their bodies but do not try to remove their misery or derive happiness. They are:
- Pruthvikaya: These have a body in the form of earth.
- Apkaya: These have a body in the form of water.
- Teukaya: These have a body in the form of fire.
- Vayukaya: These have a body in the form of wind.
- Vanaspatikaya: These have a body in form of vegetation.
The Mobile multi sensed Jivas are broken down by birth and divisions. These Jivas move according to their will, cry, experience fear, and have other senses.
The human form is the only form that can achieve liberation. The purpose is to attain Moksa, which means to break away from the cycle of rebirth. There are five levels of human development. They are:
- Sadhus (monks) and Sadhvis (nuns)
- Upadhyayas (teachers of the Jain scriptures)
- Acharyas (spiritual leaders)
- Siddhas (liberated souls)
- Arihantas (liberated souls that have attained salvation)
There are a few very important practices. Jain monks and nuns practice strict asceticism and strive to make their current birth their last, thus ending their cycle of transmigration. They practice the Five Great Vows. These vows are: non-violence, truth, no stealing, celibacy, and non possessiveness. Being disciplined is not only for the monks and nuns, but for all Jain followers.
The Jain followers have the option to worship in public at stone temples or in the comfort of their own home. Some of the rituals include chanting mantras, meditating, and looking at images of the Gods. During the times of worship it is important to focus and try to attain a peaceful state of mind.