Jainism, an ancient religion from India that is practiced by up to more than four million adherents across the globe. Its beliefs and practices are based on the teachings of its founder Mahavira. It is a religion famously dubbed as ‘The world’s most peaceful religion’ due to its teachings of self-control, restriction, and non-violence. The great lengths that the followers of Jainism take when it comes to non-violence are extraordinary. At first glance, you would notice that the practitioners are ascetic and preach that their religion is essentially non-violent, it is considered to be a virtue known as ‘Ahiṃsā,’ that is the Sanskrit word for non-harming or non-violence, meaning ‘to strike’. Not only do Jains preach this virtue…they also practice it. The reason for this practice of non-violence is mainly because those within this religion believe that animals and plants, along with human beings, contain living souls, and therefore it is absolutely forbidden to kill or harm all beings having life or potential life.
Most religious practitioners from the Jains are ascetic monks and nuns and you will find that they carry with them a broom called a “punji”, which is used to sweep the floor in front of them, before taking a step to ensure that any insects that were in front of them have been gently swept away. You can also find them using the feathers of peacocks. In order to collect the feathers off of the peacock without inflicting any harm, the feathers are only collected once the animal has shed them naturally without any human disturbance.
Since they do not demonstrate violence towards animals, you will find that all Jains are vegetarian, but you will find some who will go as far as to abstain from all dairy products, upholding a strict vegan diet. Some Jain scholars and activists support veganism. This is because the modern commercialized production of dairy products involves violence against farm animals. Some Jains will even go as far as abstaining from eating root vegetables, like Potatoes or Onions, because of the organisms that are injured and disturbed during harvest, and some will even equip themselves with masks that cover their mouths, to ensure that one may not accidentally inhale any airborne life-forms or harm them with their hot breath.
Along with being vegetarians or strict vegans, they also cannot eat raw food, eat at night, or any food which has not been thoroughly inspected for life forms. Monks and nuns are not permitted to cook, which is why they go around to houses of other Jains and beg for food. These teachings have made Jainism popular and seemingly different from other religions. But now, let’s take a look at its founder.
It is believed that Mahavira was born into the royal Kshatriya family, his father was King Siddhartha and his mother Queen Trishalaas. In his youth, Mahavira was a prince, in his early life it is believed that he had married and had a daughter, however, at the age of 30, Mahavira decided to abandon everything. He left his royal life as a prince he left his home and family, and decided to live an ascetic life in pursuit of his spiritual path. At the age of 43, after 13 long years of deep meditation, while Mahavira was under the Sala Tree he attained what is known as Kevala Jnana, which when roughly translated from Sanskrit could be ‘complete understanding’ or ‘supreme wisdom.’ And at the age of 72, he reached a state of Nirvana. But doesn’t this sound seemingly similar to a founder of another religion?
Let us take a look at another man by the name of Siddartha Gautama, otherwise known as “The Buddha”. He, too, was born in the Indian Subcontinent under the Shakya Republic in a place called Lumbini situated in modern-day Nepal. His original name was Siddhartha Gautama, and he was born into a luxurious life by his father Suddhōdana, who was often referred to as a King, and his mother Queen Maya. During the celebration of the birth of Buddha pbuh, a hermit seer named Asita announced that the child would grow up to either become a great king or a great Sadhu which can be understood as a religious ascetic or holy person. His father had shielded Buddha pbuh from religious teachings and knowledge about human conditions such as suffering and death, in hopes that Buddha pbuh would become a great King rather than a Sadhu. He was mainly brought up in his luxurious palace. At age 16, Buddha pbuh married Yaśodharā who bore him a son named Rahula. For 29 years, Buddha pbuh is said to have lived a life of luxury, completely ignorant of sickness, aging, and suffering, that was until he decided to renounce everything that he had ever come to possess, including his wife and new-born son in the middle of the night. He wanted to liberate the human self from worldly suffering, and he believed that there was more to temporary life than living a luxurious lifestyle and its pleasures that he once had. In order to find the answers to his questions and the truth, Buddha pbuh began his pursuit of a spiritual path as an ascetic, and it is believed that one day he finally reached his goal. He meditated under a Bodhi Tree for seven weeks, in an attempt to reach enlightenment, and at the end of the seven weeks, he had attained what he aimed for – Nirvana.
The story of Mahavira and Buddha pbuh are strikingly similar, both were princes who were potentially next in line heirs to their fathers’ kingdoms, they both had given up their luxurious lifestyles and became ascetics, they both meditated under a tree and they both attained their spiritual goal of achieving Nirvana. It is widely accepted and believed that both founders were contemporaries, living at the same time as one another. But what other similarities do they share besides their similar upbringings?
Let us go over their beliefs, such as Nirvana or Moksha, something they both had attained according to their followers. What exactly is Nirvana or Moksha? And why was it so important for both Buddha pbuh and Mahavira to attain it? Nirvana or Moksha to both Buddhists and Jains is the ultimate goal of the human being. The meaning of Nirvana or Moksha is Enlightenment or Liberation. It is a state that when achieved, according to both religions, one has released himself from the main root to all human suffering which is called Avidya, meaning Ignorance. This is accomplished through meditation, which is why Meditation is important to both religions. It is seen as the most common practice between both Jains and Buddhists. One of the most iconic images in Buddhism that you will always come across is Sidhartha Guatama Buddha pbuh meditating peacefully under a Bodhi Tree. This image is very well-known. Buddhist monks can be found practicing meditation for years, in the hope of attaining the same spiritual enlightenment that their teacher Buddha pbuh had reached.
Meditation is believed to be an important method and a way that one may attain Nirvana or Moksha. In Jainism, just like in Buddhism, meditation plays an important role. When you search for images of Mahavira, you will always find him, like Buddha, shown in a state of deep meditation, and according to Sagarmal Jain, its aim is to reach and remain in a state of “Pure-self awareness or Knowing.”
However, meditation is part of the way to achieving enlightenment, there are a set of principles that one should uphold in order to progress spiritually, in Jainism there is something known as “Three Gems” or the “Triple Gems of Jainism.” They are not physical gems, but virtues. They are mentioned in Sacred Jain Text as follows:
“Right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct (together) constitute the path to liberation.” – Tattvartha Sutra 1:1
In Buddhism there is the Triple Gem or the Three Jewels as well, the first being: the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings by Buddha), and Sangha which is the monastic order of Buddhism that practices Dharmas.
When you compare the two separate faiths belief in these 3 jewels, they are essentially the same, Right Faith and The Buddha. In Buddhism Buddha pbuh is the teacher, the guide, he is the one who is believed to be someone who can help liberate the beings who wish to attain enlightenment, it is essential to have faith in the Buddha pbuh, his ways and his teachings, which would fall under: Right Faith. When it comes to Right Conduct and Sangha, the Sangha have qualities that must be upheld and practiced: The good way, the upright way, the knowledgeable or logical way, and the proper way. The vow of Jains when it comes to Right Conduct involves five vows: The 1st. Not to hurt any living beings by actions and thoughts. The 2nd. Not to lie or speak what is not commendable. The 3rd. Not to take anything if not given. The 4th. Chasity or Celibacy in action, words, and thoughts. And the 5th. Detachment from material property.
These Vows in Jainism are very similar to the Eightfold Path and its descriptions: The 1st. Right View The 2nd. Right Intention The 3rd. Right Speech The 4th. Right Action The 5th. Right Livelihood The 6th. Right Effort The 7th. Right Mindfulness And the 8th. Right Concentration.
Now we have Right Knowledge and Dharma:
Dharma is derived from the root Sanskrit word ‘Dri’ which means ‘to hold together.’ The Opposite of Dharma is known as “Adharma” and it is derived from combining “a” with “Dharma”, which implies “not-Dharma”. It can be taken to mean ‘immoral, sinful, wrong, wicked, unjust, unbalanced, or unnatural.’ Dharma thus can be viewed as righteous norms and traditions or righteous duties one upholds to attain good Karma, thus performing positive actions and being virtuous allows one to be in accordance with Dharma.
To a practicing Buddhist, Dharma is the teachings and knowledge that Buddha pbuh had passed down which includes the Eightfold path and the Four Noble Truths: Buddha taught that the truths are that there is suffering in this world, the origin of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path to liberation.
Buddhists, however, are not the only ones who believe in the idea of Dharma. Jains also use the term to refer to their religion. They believe that Jainism is the eternal Dharma, which is why they take their principle of non-violence very seriously, as they believe Ahimsa is the highest Dharma. Which is why you will find in every Jain temple in either Sanskrit or English: “Non-violence is the highest religion.” But Jainism is not the only religion to demonstrate a stance of non-violence. In Buddhism, there are five precepts for the average everyday Buddhist to adhere to. The first of the five precepts is to abstain from the killing of any breathing beings.
Another important belief in both faiths is Karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means ‘action.’ Whatever deed or action you perform, whether it be good or bad, becomes your Karma. Karma is viewed as a law of nature. It applies to all people and beings, whether you believe in Karma or not, you will not find an escape from it. Just like gravity, whether you want to believe it or not, the law of gravity applies to everyone and everything on this planet. A person, whether aware or unaware of his Karma, must reap what he or she sows, whether you like it or not. So if you do good to others, good will return to you, if you do bad, then bad will be your reward.
According to the Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, it states that,
‘…there is nothing mightier in the world than karma; karma tramples down all powers, as an elephant a clump of lotuses.’ -Bhagavatī Ārādhanā
Jains believe in both heaven and hell, just like the Abrahamic faiths, Heaven is a realm where all souls who have accumulated good karma reside. Naraka is the realm which is equivalent to the understanding of how Abrahamic faiths see Hell. Sudharma Swami, a disciple of Mahavira had asked him concerning Hell and its punishments and how people end up going there.
Mahavira answered him saying:
“Those cruel sinners who, from a desire of (worldly) life, commit bad deeds, will sink into the dreadful hell which is full of dense darkness and great suffering. He who always kills movable and immovable beings for the sake of his own comfort, who injures them, who takes what is not freely given, who does not learn what is to be practised. The impudent sinner, who injures many beings without relenting will go to hell; at the end of his life he will sink to the (place of) darkness; head downwards he comes to the place of torture. The prisoners in hell lose their senses from fright, and do not know in what direction to run. Going to a place like a burning heap of coals on fire, and being burnt they cry horribly; they remain there long, shrieking aloud.”
In Buddhism heaven and hell exist, Buddhists believe that a person’s residence in either realm is only temporary until they come back into this earth to reincarnate and start life on this planet anew. Naraka is the realm, the soul incarnates to Naraka in order to receive its punishments with various types of tortures depending on the evil deeds they had committed as a build up of all the negative karma an individual acquires in his or her lifetime. And Heaven consists of many layers and it is known as a place with many pleasures you can enjoy, however, you are not free from the cycle of samsara, so after you have used up all your good karma, you are reincarnated again, and if you want to get back to heaven after your death, then you must live life righteously again, however, the ultimate goal in both religions is not to claim residency in paradise, rather it is to achieve a state of enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of continuous rebirth, so the achievement of Moksha or Nirvana is the ultimate goal to escape Samsara. And both religions believe in “Samsara,” the cycle of rebirth known as reincarnation.
Buddhism and Jainism are well known for their beliefs and understanding of reincarnation into a human vessel, animal vessel, trees, or plants. Your next body all depends on your Karma you have accumulated in this world. Reincarnation can act as a blessing for an individual. If you have been a good person in your life, through various good deeds and intentions-thus collecting good Karma-then your next life will be better than your previous one. Perhaps you have lived a life in poverty in one incarnation, but in your next you are brought up in a luxurious lifestyle. However, those who have committed evil deeds and had evil intentions, their bad Karma would potentially send their souls into vessels which are pitiful. Perhaps they could incarnate as oppressed individuals suffering from the extreme conditions of their environment, or perhaps into vessels which are not human, whether it be a pig, monkey, fly, or worm. The possibilities for an individual to reincarnate into lowly vessels due to an individual’s evil deeds are unlimited.
In India you will find both Buddhist and Jain temples across the region. It is their place of worship, you will find that the practitioners and monks in these temples display a very similar practice, meditation, which both founders, Buddha pbuh and Mahavira had incorporated into their religions, as we have already covered.
The Buddhists, who have held onto the teachings of Buddha pbuh closely and have read the scriptures, worship a God, a singular God known as the “Adi-Buddha”. He is known as the first Buddha or Primordial Buddha, and he also has another name known as ‘Vajradhara’, the ultimate Buddha.
Since this is the One God, the creator of all things, this makes Buddhism monotheistic, and very much like the Abrahamic faiths’ point of view of a singular God, who is deserving of worship, even by the Buddha pbuh himself.
One of the most important scriptures of Tantric Buddhism, Guhyasamāja Tantra, states:
“Then Vajradhara, the Teacher, who is bowed to by all the Buddhas, best of the three diamonds, best of the great best, supreme lord of the three diamonds.” – Guhyasamāja Tantra
As for the Jains, they do not believe in a creator God, but according to most Jains they believe that Mahavira himself did not see a creator God for the universe. He believed that the Universe was always present, without beginning, and without end, infinite. However, it is debated whether or not there is a God in Jainism, because a Jain Monk by the name of Samantabhadra had mentioned in his work the following regarding what it means to have ‘Right Faith,’ one of the Three gems that we had gone over. It is stated:
“To believe, by fulfilling the eight requirements of true belief and without the three kinds of error and eight kinds of pride, in the true God, Scripture and Preceptor, the causes of the highest good is called Right Faith. In the nature of things the true God should be free from the faults and weaknesses of the lower nature; (he should be) the knowledge of all things and the revealer of dharma; in no other way can divinity be constituted. He alone who is free from hunger, thirst, senility, disease, birth, death, fear, pride, attachment, aversion, infatuation, worry, conceit, hatred, uneasiness, sweat, sleep and surprise is called a God. He who is the enjoyer of the highest status, who is of unsurpassed splendour, who is free from all kinds of desires and impurities of sin, who is endowed with omniscience and devoid of beginning, end and middle, and who is a friend of all kinds of living beings – such a Teacher is called hitopadeśî.” – Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra, Shloka 4-7
Whether or not Jains believe that the God referred to here has created the universe or not, it is without a doubt that ‘God’ here is seemingly a singular monotheistic God. The interpretation and belief is, of course, for the individual to decide.
Since there is no doubt a God in Buddhism, he had to have sent Buddha pbuh as a reformer in a time that his teachings were needed. In our day and age, it seems that the teachings of Buddha pbuh have fallen on deaf ears, as our world today is in a miserable state, and Dharma has been lost and forgotten amongst the people.
Most of the people in the world today believe that we are living in the end times, or close to the end of times era, especially the Abrahamic faiths whom await a Messiah to rid the world of its corruption and wrongs. God is merciful and compassionate, just as he sent Buddha pbuh to the people of the Subcontinent of India to restore Dharma, would not God send another after him to restore Dharma anew, teaching mankind once again, and reforming the worlds condition?
Buddha pbuh did speak about one who was to come after him, one that is better than him. According to the Dīgha Nikāya, the Buddha pbuh said:
“At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Maitreya, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha, even as I am now. He, by himself, will thoroughly know and see, as it were face to face, this universe, with Its worlds of the spirits, Its Brahmas and Its Maras, and Its world of recluses and Brahmins, of princes and peoples, even as I now, by myself, thoroughly know and see them.”
Jains believe that time is endless. According to them, there is a cosmic wheel of time which displays six different eras. The First Era is described as being a time of utmost happiness and no sorrow. The Second Era is a time of moderate happiness and no sorrow. The Third Era is a time of happiness with very little sorrow. The Fourth Era is a time of happiness with little sorrow. The Fifth Era is a time of sorrow with very little happiness, and lastly The Sixth Era would be a time of extreme sorrow and misery.
According to the Jains, we are currently living in the Duḥṣama period, a period of sorrow with very little happiness. Some believe that these times are completely natural, and that humanity will be fed up with the Sixth Era of such misery that they will revert back naturally to the era of utmost happiness and no sorrow, thus continuing the cycle of time according to the Jains, and this is believed to happen without any intervention from a divine savior or reformer.
But such a dramatic change in which a golden era of absolute happiness, empty of misery, cannot be brought about naturally. Just as a house does not manifest naturally out of nowhere and must have a planned design by an architect, and workers who are willing to work with his plans in order to build it, so too must there be an architect, with his supporters for a golden age to come about, as world peace and happiness does not come out of thin air.
The civilization that is in misery must have someone who can build that world, that golden age. There must be a man, a savior, a reformer, a genius spiritual architect that can perfectly pull off having the whole world under a divine state of happiness and tranquility, and that savior and reformer is here. His name is Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan fhip, the successor of Imam Mahdi pbuhahf.
Are you willing to be of those who support him and give him victory in order to herald in a global divine just state? The Jains and the Buddhists strove hard for centuries, in order to attain the truth and to reach enlightenment, but the man who can lead you out of this illusionary world and give you the truth and enlightenment that you seek is here amongst you.
It is time that we support the one sent by God in our time, it is time that we adhere to his teachings and his dharma, it is time that we break the cycle of suffering, corruption and injustice, and replace it in this new age to come, a new world filled with justice and equity. It is time that we become united.