An ascetic religious tradition founded in India in the 6th century B.C., distinguished by their doctrine of salvation through atheism and asceticism. Jainism is essentially considered a religion on account of its adherence to the twin beliefs of transmigration and liberation of the soul.
View of Deity
There is no God, Supreme Being, or Creator. Nor, according to Mahavira (supreme teacher of present day Jains and contemporary of Gautama the Buddha), are there any other deities. The universe is eternal, infinite and uncreated and operates in accordance with its own inherent principles. There are two canons of Jain scripture: 1) the Svetambora, and 2) the Diambara. The Jain canon is thought to contain Mahavira’s basic teachings and those of his followers.
View of Human Nature
Human beings have an eternal soul that moves up or down the levels of existence depending on how much karma matter the soul carries. Human beings have free will and can achieve enlightenment and self-salvation through their own efforts.
Purpose of Life
The purpose of life is to free people’s soul (jiva) from matter (ajiva) and the eternal round of birth, death and rebirth so that their soul can enter the heavenly realm and enjoy peace and bliss.
View of Spirituality
Spiritual enlightenment is viewed as pure omniscient consciousness or infinite knowledge. Release from karma matter and spiritual enlightenment is gained through overcoming attachment to worldly things (asceticism), faith in the Jain saints, right knowledge, right conduct (e.g., ashima or non-violence), and meditation.
View of Morality
Jains believe in a variety of moral values and behaviors, including charity, meditation, and ahisma (respect for all life). Jains believe lying or giving false evidence, stealing, committing adultery, gambling, eating meat, and drinking liquor are wrong. Extreme asceticism is viewed as fundamental and essential for annihilating karma matter.
View of Life After Death
At death, the souls of human beings float (go up or down) to another level of existence depending on the amount of karma matter they have collected in their previous life (doing evil collects karma matter). When all karma matter is annihilated, people’s souls are liberated and ascend to the top of the universe, where all released souls (siddhas) dwell in a state of bliss. Released souls have no individuality and are omniscient.