Jain Philosophy

“The Art of Living”

1. Introduction

2. Concept of God

3. Founders

4. Philosophy

4.1 The Jain Reality (Six Universal Substances)

4.2 Theory of Karma (Seven or Nine Tattvas)

5. Ethical Codes

5.1 Ahimsä (Compassion / Non‑violence)

5.2 Anekäntaväd (Doctrine of many Viewpoints)

5.3 Aparigraha (Non Possessions and Non‑acquisitiveness)

5.4 Relevance to Modern Times

5.5 The Holy Death (Sanllekhanä)

6. Jain Scriptures

7. Followers and Major Traditions

8. Spiritual Practices and Religious Holidays

9. Jain Temples

10. Jain Symbols

11. Greetings

12. Jain Prayer

13. Universal Forgiveness and Friendship Sutras

14. Life of Lord Mahavir

15. Significant points from the Teachings of Lord Mahavir

16. Jain Websites

1. Introduction

The subcontinent of India has been the birthplace of three great religious traditions of the world, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Jainism is one of the oldest living religions of India, predating recorded history as referenced in Hindu scriptures. It is an original system, quite distinct and independent from other systems of all other Indian philosophies. The Jain philosophy was not developed to oppose the elaborate hierarchical Vedic practices as well as it is not an offshoot of Hinduism as some claim. Jainism has become one of the essential spiritual traditions in the South Asian religious fabric.

Jains believe in the philosophy of karma, reincarnation of worldly soul, hell and heaven as a punishment or reward for one's deeds, and liberation (Nirvän or Moksha) of the self from life's misery of birth and death in a way similar to the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Though there are multiple similarities in these South Asian religions, there are some major portions of the belief system that remain unique to each religion. For instance, the Jain philosophy believes that the universe and all its entities such as soul and matter are eternal (there is no beginning or end), no one has created them and no one can destroy them.

Jains do not believe that there is a supernatural power who does favor to us if we please him. Jains rely a great deal on self-efforts and self-initiative, for both - their worldly requirements and their salvation. Jainism appeals to common sense. Jains accept only those things that can be explained and reasoned. Jains believe that each living being is a master of his/her own destiny.

Jains believe that from eternity, the soul is bounded by karma and is ignorant of its true nature. It is due to karma soul migrates from one life cycle to another and continues to attract new karma, and the ignorant soul continues to bind with new karma. This way it provides a logical explanation of our sufferings on Earth.

To overcome the sufferings, Jainism addresses the path of liberation in a rational way. It states that the proper Knowledge of reality, when combined with right Faith and right Conduct leads the worldly soul to liberation (Moksha or Nirvän). This way one can break the continual binding process of karma to the soul and attain liberation from karma.

With regards to truth, the Jain philosophy firmly states that the whole truth cannot be observed from a single viewpoint. To understand the true nature of reality, it is essential to acknowledge the multiple perspectives of each entity, situation or idea. We must strive to be open-minded and embrace the positive thoughts and vantage points of other human beings, religions, and philosophies. This concept is called Anekäntväd.

The ultimate goal of Jainism is for the soul to achieve liberation through understanding and realization. This is accomplished through the supreme ideals in the Jain religion of nonviolence, equal kindness, reverence for all forms of life, nonpossessiveness, and through the philosophy of non-absolutism (Anekäntväd). Above all, these ideals translate into a religion of love and compassion not only towards human beings but also towards all other forms of life.

2. Concept of God

Jainism is a religion of purely human origin. It is propagated by self realized individuals who have attained perfect knowledge, omniscience, and self‑control by personal effort and have been liberated from the bonds of worldly existence, and the cycles of all future life and death.

In ancient times Jainism was known by many names such as the Saman tradition, the religion of Nirgantha, or the religion of Jin. Jin is one, who has conquered the inner enemies of worldly passions such as desire, hatred, anger, ego, deceit and greed by personal effort. By definition, a Jin is a human being, like one of us and not a supernatural immortal nor an incarnation of an almighty God. Jins are popularly viewed as Gods in Jainism. There are an infinite number of Jins existed in the past. All human beings have the potential to become a Jin.

The Jins are not Gods in the sense of being the creators of the universe, but rather as those who have accomplished the ultimate goal of liberation of sufferings through the true understanding of self and other realities. The concept of God as a creator, protector, and destroyer of the universe does not exist in Jainism. The concept of God's descent into a human form to destroy evil is also not applicable in Jainism.

The Jins that have established the religious order and revived the Jain philosophy at various times in the history of mankind are known as Tirthankars. The ascetic sage, Rishabhadev was the first Tirthankar and Mahavir was the last Tirthankar of the spiritual lineage of the twenty-four Tirthankars in the current era.

In summary, Jainism does not believe in a creator God, however this does not mean that Jainism is an atheistic religion. Jains believe in an infinite number of Jins (Gods) who are self-realized omniscient individuals who have attained liberation from birth, death, and suffering.

3. Founders

Approximately 2600 years ago Lord Mahavir or Vardhaman (599 to 527 BC), the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankar of this era, expounded the Jain philosophy, which had been previously preached by his predecessor Tirthankar Parshvanath (about 950 to 850 BC). Lord Mahavir expanded the code of conduct and introduced daily observances for his followers. He felt that such changes were essential for proper spiritual advancement. Thus Mahavir, like other Tirthankars was more of a reformer of an existing religious order rather than the founder of a new faith. The present Jain scriptures are compilation of Lord Mahavir's teachings. In summary, the Jain religion philosophy is eternal but its code of conduct is continually modified by various Tirthankars based on time, place and circumstances of the era.

4. Philosophy

In essence, Jainism addresses the true nature of reality. Mahavir explained that all souls are equal in their potential for perfect knowledge, perfect vision, perfect conduct, unlimited energy and unobstructed bliss. However, from eternity the soul is in bondage of karmic particles of matters and is ignorant of its true nature.

It is due to karma that the soul migrates from one life cycle to another and seeks pleasure in materialistic belongings and possessions and suffers. It is due to ignorance that the soul continuously accumulates new karma as it feeds the passions such as anger, ego, deceit, greed, lust, hatred, and self-centered violent thoughts.

One can detach from karma and attain liberation by following the path of Right Faith (Samyak-darshan), Right Knowledge (Samyak-jnän), and Right Conduct (Samyak-chäritra). Quality, characteristic, energy, power, whose development brings about a realization of truth - that is, of the nature of things as they are - an inclination towards valid discrimination between what is worthy of rejection and what is worthy of acceptance is Right Faith. A valid (true) comprehension of the fundamental verities (categories of truth, realities, fundamental truths, Nav-tattva) (see 4.1 & 4.2) like soul etc. - a comprehension arrived at through the instrumentality of partial truths (Naya) and Complete truth (Pramän) - is Right Knowledge. With Right Knowledge, one gets rid of all passions such as anger, ego, deceit and greed – all attachment & hatred – enjoys his/her own true nature and that is the Right Conduct. Right Conduct includes nonviolence, self-purification, compassion, austerity, penance, non-possessiveness, non-absolutism, and meditation. The spiritual path is determined by this integrated trinity. Not one, not two but all three are needed to attain Moksha. The order of attainment is first Right Faith, second Right Knowledge and last Right Conduct. Right Faith and Right Knowledge are like light and heat of sun – they always happen together.

4.1 The Jain Reality (Six Universal Substances)

Jainism states that the universe is without a beginning or an end, and is everlasting and eternal. Six fundamental entities (known as Dravya) constitute the universe. Although all six entities are eternal, they continuously undergo countless changes (known as Paryäy). In these transformations nothing is lost or destroyed. Lord Mahavir explained these phenomena in his Three Pronouncements known as Tripadi and proclaimed that Existence or Reality (also known as Sat) is a combination of appearance (Utpäda), disappearance (Vyaya), and persistence (Dhrauvya).

While Jainism does not believe in the concept of God as a creator, protector, and destroyer of the universe, the philosophical concepts of Utpäda, Vyaya, and Dhrauvya are consistent with the Trinity concepts of those religions believing in God. This indicates that Jainism is not an atheistic religion, rather it emphasizes freedom of the soul from karma and the potential to gain liberation through self-effort and not the "grace" of a Supreme Being.

The Six Universal Substances or Entities (Dravyas) are as follows:

The soul is the only living substance, which is consciousness and possesses knowledge. Similar to energy, the soul is invisible. An infinite number of souls exist in the universe. In its pure form (a soul without attached karma particles), each soul possesses infinite knowledge, infinite vision, perfect conduct, unobstructed bliss, and unlimited energy. In its impure form (a soul with attached karma particles) each soul possesses limited knowledge, vision, conduct, energy, and bliss.

Matter is a nonliving substance, and possesses the characteristics such as touch, taste, smell, and color. Karma is considered matter in Jainism. Extremely minute particles constitute karma. These particles cannot be seen even by any microscopic equipment (similar to electrons). The entire universe is filled with such particles.

The medium of motion helps the soul and matter to migrate from one place to another in the universe. The medium of rest helps them to rest. The space is divided into two parts. The space that provides the room to all substances is called Lokäkäsh, and the remaining limitless space is called Alokäkäsh, which is empty or void.

Time measures the changes in soul and matter. The wheel of time incessantly rolls on in a circular fashion. In the first half circle it revolves from the descending to the ascending stage (Utsarpini – progressive half cycle) where human prosperity, happiness, and life span increases. In the second half circle it proceeds from the ascending stage to the descending stage (Avasarpini – regressive half cycle) where prosperity, happiness, and life span decreases. Each half circle is further sub-divided into six zones known as six eras or Äras.

Time measures the changes in soul and matter. The wheel of time incessantly rolls on in a circular fashion. In the first half circle it revolves from the descending to the ascending stage (Utsarpini – progressive half cycle) where human prosperity, happiness, and life span increases. In the second half circle it proceeds from the ascending stage to the descending stage (Avasarpini – regressive half cycle) where prosperity, happiness, and life span decreases. Each half circle is further sub-divided into six zones known as six eras or Äras.

4.2 Theory of Karma (Seven or Nine Tattvas)

The doctrine of karma occupies a significant position in Jain philosophy. It provides a rational explanation to the apparently inexplicable phenomena of birth and death, happiness and misery, inequalities in mental and physical attainments, and the existence of different species of living beings. It explains that the principle governing the successions of life is karma. The karma that bind our soul are due not only to the actions of our body, mind, and speech but more importantly, to the intentions behind them. Jainism strives for the realization of the highest perfection of the soul, which in its original purity is free from all pain, suffering, and the bondage of the cycle of birth and death.

The seven or nine tattvas or fundamentals are the single most important subject of Jain philosophy. They deal with the theory of karma, which provides the basis for the path of liberation. Without proper knowledge of these tattvas, one cannot progress spiritually.

The Seven or Nine Tattvas (Fundamentals) are as follows:

*Some scriptures define Punya (virtue) and Päpa (sin) as separate tattvas while others include them in Äsrava. In reality Punya and Päpa are the result of Asrava. Hence truly there exist only seven tattvas.

Jiva and Ajiva (Soul and Non-living substances)

The first two tattvas Jiva and Ajiva comprise the physical reality of the universe. Jiva tattva refers to the soul. However in this section Ajiva tattva refers to karma or karmic matter only. The remaining five tattvas explain the relationship between the soul and the karma.

Äsrava (Cause of the influx of karma)

A person's ignorance or wrong belief (Mithyatva), vowlessness (Avirati), spiritual-laziness (Pramäda), and passions (Kashäya) like anger, ego, deceit and greed, and activities of body, speech, and mind (Yoga) are the primary causes of the influx of karma. Collectively, these causes are called Äsrava.

Bandha (Bondage of karma)

Bandha is the attachment of karmic matter (karma pudgal) to the soul. The soul has had this karmic matter bondage from eternity. This karmic body is known as the karmana body or causal body or karma.

Karmic matter is a particular type of matter which is attracted to the soul because of soul's delusion or ignorance, vowlessness, spiritual-laziness, passions, activities of body, mind, and speech.

The soul, which is covered by karmic matter, continues acquiring new karma from the universe and exhausting old karma into the universe through the above-mentioned actions (Äsrava) at every moment.

Because of this continual process of acquiring and exhausting karma particles, the soul has to pass through the cycles of births and deaths, and experiencing pleasure and pain. Therefore, under normal circumstances the soul cannot attain freedom from karma, and hence liberation.

When karma attaches to the soul, its bondage to the soul is explained in the following four forms:

Prakriti Bandha (Type of karma):

When karmic matter attaches to the soul, it obscures soul's essential nature of perfect knowledge, perfect vision, perfect conduct, unobstructed bliss, unlimited energy, eternal existence, equality and formlessness. The different types of karma obscure different quality or attributes of soul. This is known as Prakriti bandha.

Ghäti karma and Aghäti karma:

Prakriti bandha is classified into eight categories, according to the particular attribute of the soul that it obscures. These eight categories of karma are grouped into two major groups, known as Ghäti karma, which subdues the qualities of the soul, and Aghäti karma, which relates to physical body of the living beings and does not defile the qualities of the soul.

Ghäti karma:

Aghäti karma:

When a person destroys all of his Ghäti karmas, he attains Keval-jnäna (absolute knowledge). At that time he/she is known as Arihant or Sämanya (simple) Kevali. However, he/she continues to live his/her human life until all his/her Äghäti karmas are destroyed. He/she attains liberation or Nirvän only after äall the Äghäti karmas are destroyed.

Arihants establish the religious order of Sädhu (monks), Sädhvi (nuns), Shrävaka, (male laypersons), and Shrävikä (female laypersons). These Arihants are called Tirthankaras and the religious order is known as four fold Jain order or Sangh. Sämanya Kevalis do not establish the religious order but remain as a part of the existing order. At the end of that life,ä both Tirthankaras and simple Kevalis attain Nirvän and become Siddhas.

All Siddhas are unique individuals, they all possess infinite knowledge, infinite vision, perfect conduct, unobstructed bliss, and unlimited energy, and no physical body. Hence from the qualities and attributes points of view all Siddhas are the same.

Sthiti Bandha (Duration of attachment of karma):

When karmic matter attaches to the soul it remains attached for certain duration before it produces the result. The duration of the attachment is determined according to the intensity or dullness of the soul's passions or actions when the karma is being attached to the soul. After producing the result, karma will separate from the soul.

Anubhava Bandha or Rasa Bandha (Intensity of attachment of karma):

What fruits the karmic matter will produce are determined at the time of attachment by varying degrees of soul's passions.

Pradesa Bandha (Quantity of karma):

The intensity or dullness of the soul's action determines the quantum of karmic matter that is drawn towards the soul for attachment.

Punya (Virtue) and Päp (Sin)

The influx of karmic matter due to good activities of the mind, body, and speech with the potential of producing pleasant sensations is called Punya or virtue. Activities such as offering food, drink, shelter, purifying thought, physical and mental happiness result in producing Punya karma.

The influx of karmic matter due to evil activities of the mind, body, and speech with the potential of producing unpleasant sensations is called Paapa or sin. Activities such as violence, untruth, theft, unchastity, attachment to objects, anger, conceit, deceit, lust result in producing Päpa karma.

Both Punya and Päpa karma are manifested in the future in ways that the soul perceives as pleasure or pain (reward or punishment).

Samvara (Stoppage of Karma)

The method that stops fresh karma from attaching to the soul is called Samvara. This process is a reverse process of Äsrava. It can be accomplished by constant practice of:

· Right belief

· Observance of vows

· Awareness (Spiritual-alertness)

· Passionlessness

· Peacefulness of vibratory activities

Jain literature explains 57 practical ways a person can stop the influx of karma.


Nirjara or partial removal of past-accumulated karma is done by performing Tapa or rigorous penance (fasting, avoiding tasty food, etc.) and austerities (repentance, humility, selfless service, religious study, meditation, etc.).

There are twelve types of Tapaä or austerities defined in the Jain scriptures. They are divided into two groups; external Tapaä which disciplines the human body against passions and desires and internal Tapaä which purifies the soul. The internal Tapaä is the true austerity because it exhausts the attached karma before their maturity from the soul.

External Tapa:

Internal Tapa:

Moksha (Liberation)

The removal of all past accumulated karma is called Moksha or liberation. A liberated soul regains totally its original attributes of perfect knowledge, perfect vision, perfect conduct, unlimited energy and unobstructed bliss. It climbs to the top of Lokäkäsh and remains their forever in its blissful and unconditional existence. It never returns again into the cycles of birth, life, and death. This state of the soul is the liberated or perfect state, and this is called "Nirvän."

5. Ethical Codes

The supreme ideals of the Jain religion are nonviolence (Ahimsä), equal kindness, reverence for all forms of life, non-possessiveness, and non-absolutism (Anekäntväd) in speech, thought, and action. Above all it is a religion of love and compassion to all living beings. At the heart of Right Conduct for Jains are the following five great vows:

These vows cannot be fully implemented without the acceptance of a philosophy of non‑absolutism (Anekäntväd) and the theory of relativity (Syädvad). These concepts are fundamental to understanding the true nature of the universe, life, and reality. Monks and nuns practice these five vows with utmost dedication (called Mahävrat), while lay people follow the vows as far as their life styles and personal commitments permit (called Anuvrata).

In Jainism, Ahimsä supersedes all concepts, ideologies, rules, customs and practices, traditional or modern, eastern or western, political or economical, self-centered or social. Ahimsä (non-violence), Anekäntväd (multiplicity of views) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) are the cardinal principles of Jainism. Aparigraha plays significant role in stopping the physical form of violence. And the proper application of Anekäntväd stops the violence of thoughts and speech. Anekäntväd is also called the intelligent expression of the Ahimsä. Non-violence in the center is guarded by truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possessiveness.

5.1 Ahimsä (Compassion / Non‑violence)

The basic tenet of Jainism is "Ahimsä Parmo Dharmah" (Non-violence is the supreme religion). From an ethical point of view Dharma means duty - Compassion is the supreme dutyof an individual. From a religious point of view, Dharma means the true nature of a substance - Compassion is the true nature of a human being. Also the Jain dictum "Parasparopagraho jivänäm" means, "Living beings (Souls) render service to one another".

Ahimsä is a principle that Jains teach and strive to practice not only towards human beings but also towards all nature. The scriptures tell us: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any living being including plant and vegetables." The teaching of Ahimsä refers not only to the avoidance of wars and physical acts of violence but also to the avoidance of violence in the hearts and minds of human beings. Ahimsä also refers to an active concern and compassion for fellow humans and other living beings. Ancient Jain texts explain that the intention to harm and the absence of compassion is what makes actions violent.

Ahimsä also has a deeper meaning in the context of one’s spiritual advancement. Violence imposed upon others in any form by our body, mind, or speech leads to the acquisition of new karma, which hinders the soul’s spiritual progress. In other words, violence towards others is violence to one’s own soul because it impedes one's spiritual progress. The path of non-violence leads one to spiritual progress and liberation from karma.

In a positive sense, ahimsa means caring for and sharing with all living beings as well as tending to, protecting and serving them. It entails universal friendliness (Maitri), universal forgiveness (Kshamä), and universal fearlessness (Abhaya).

5.2 Anekäntaväd (Doctrine of many Viewpoints)

The concept of universal interdependence underpins the Jain theory of knowledge, known as Anekäntaväd or the doctrine of many aspects. In this ever-changing universe an infinite number of viewpoints exist. These viewpoints depend on the time, place, circumstances, and nature of individuals. Anekäntaväd means acceptance of all viewpoints, which are positive in nature. This is known as non-absolutism.

This leads to the doctrine of Syädväd or relativity, which states that expression of truth is relative to different viewpoints (Nayas). What is true from one point of view is open to question from another. Absolute truth cannot be grasped from any particular viewpoint. Absolute truth is the total sum of individual (partial) truths from many different viewpoints, even if they seem to contradict each other.

Because it is rooted in the doctrines of Anekäntaväd and Syädväd, Jainism does not look upon the universe from an anthropocentric, ethnocentric or egocentric viewpoint. It takes into account the positive viewpoints of other human beings, other communities, and other nations.

A deeper understanding of Anekäntaväd and Syädväd provides great insight into the problems of human interactions that cause conflict, grief, envy, and hatred. Similarly it is highly applicable in understanding social problems and national strife. More importantly these doctrines also provide ways of resolving global differences and conflicts.

To be Anekäntvädi: 1) Do not insist on your own approach, 2) Accept partial truth as expressed by others, 3) Accept the truth even if it is expressed by adversaries, 4) Accept that the truth can consist of seemingly opposing views, 5) Develop a strong urge to seek truth, 6) Believe in possibilities and 7) Exercise equanimity towards all.

5.3 Aparigraha (Non Possessions and Non‑acquisitiveness)

Jain ascetics have no possessions. Similarly, Jainism advocates that lay followers should minimize their desires for accumulation of possessions and enjoyment for personal ends. Generously giving charitable donations and one's own time for community projects are a part of a Jain householder's obligations. This sense of social obligation cultivated from religious teachings has led Jains to establish and maintain innumerable schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, relief and rehabilitation camps for the handicapped, old, sick and disadvantaged as well as hospitals for ailing birds and animals.

Wants should be reduced, desires curbed and consumption levels kept within reasonable limits. Using any resource beyond one's needs and misuse of any part of nature is considered a form of theft. The Jain faith goes one radical step further and declares unequivocally that waste and creating pollution are acts of violence.

5.4 Relevance to Modern Times

The principles of Jainism if properly understood in their right perspective and faithfully adhered to, have great relevance for modern times. They establish universal friendship and peace through nonviolence and true social equity based on non-acquisitiveness. They reconcile diverse religious faiths, political parties, and communal and racial factions through the philosophies of non-absolutism and relativism. They promote ecological conservation through the values of self-restraint, an austere life-style, non-possessiveness, and kindness towards all beings. These principles can bring contentment, inner happiness and joy in the present life through spiritual development based on freedom from passions.

Non-violence (Ahimsä) which strengthens autonomy of life everywhere, non-absolutism (Anekäntväd) which strengthens autonomy of thoughts & speech and non-possessiveness (Aparigraha) which strengthens autonomy of interdependence are the three realistic principles which strengthen our belief that every living being has a

right of self-existence. These principles translate into three practices: 1) you’ll not kill, 2) you will not trample others thoughts and 3) you will not trample nature. If everyone adopts these three ideas then there will be: 1) no acts of war, 2) no economic exploitation and 3) no environmental& ecological destruction.

This elevates the soul to a higher spiritual level, ultimately achieving perfect enlightenment, reaching its final destination of eternal bliss, and ending all cycles of birth and death.

5.5 The Holy Death (Sanllekhanä)

Sanllekhanä is a death while in ultra-pure meditation. It is a well-ordered voluntarily chosen death which is not inspired by any passion and is the result of conscientious gradual withdrawal from the taking of food in such a manner as would never disrupt one's inner peace and dispassionate mindfulness. So there is a fundamental difference between suicide and Sanllekhanä. Suicide is the result of the outburst of passions, whereas Sanllekhanä is the result of dispassionateness. It is recommended only when the body is completely disabled by extreme old age or by incurable diseases and the man becomes conscious of the impending unavoidable death and of the necessity of concentrating on the pure qualities of the soul. In the aspirant, there is no dissatisfaction, no sorrow, no fear, no dejection, no sinfulness; the mind is cool, calm and composed; the heart is filled with the feeling of universal love and compassion. It is also called the death with equanimity. Sanllekhanä is thus a spiritual process of emaciating one's passions and body by internal and external austerities. It involves giving up love, enmity, attachment to possessions etc., and with pure mind; forgiving one's kinsmen and others, and asking for forgiveness. Casting aside grief, fear, anguish, wickedness etc., with all sincerity and zeal, one should allay the innermost passions by scriptural words.

6. Jain Scriptures

Lord Mahavir's preachings were orally compiled into many texts (number of scriptures) by his disciples. These scriptures are known as Jain Ägam or Ägam Sutras. The Ägam Sutras teach great reverence for all forms of life, strict codes of vegetarianism, asceticism, compassion, nonviolence, and opposition to war. The scriptures were not documented in any form but were memorized by ascetics and passed on by oral tradition to future generations of ascetics. These Sutras are divided into two major groups:

Ang Ägam Sutras

Ang Ägam Sutras contain direct preaching of Lord Mahavir. They were compiled by immediate disciples of Lord Mahavir (known as Ganadhars) immediately after Lord Mahavir's Nirvän (death). They consist of 12 texts. The twelfth text is called Drstiwäd, which includes 14 Purvas. No dispute exists among various Jain traditions with regards to the names and the contents of Ang Ägam Sutras.

Angbähya Ägam Sutras

Angbahya Sutras were compiled by Shrut Kevali monks who possessed the total knowledge of 12 Ang Ägams. They were compiled within 160 years after Lord Mahavir’s Nirvän. They provide further explanation of Ang Ägams.

Following is the summary of Angbähya Ägam Sutras which were accepted as scriptures by various Jain traditions:

· 14 texts according to the Digambar tradition

· 34 texts according to the Shwetämbar Murtipujak tradition

· 21 texts according to the Sthänakväsi and Teräpanthi traditions

In the course of time, many of the Ägam Sutras were not remembered, some were modified, and new Sutras were added. About one thousand years after Lord Mahavir’s Nirvän the memorized Ägam Sutras were recorded on leafy papers (Tadpatris). At that time Drstiwäd, the twelfth Ang Ägam text was lost as no monk had memory of this Ägam.

Shwetämbar Jains have accepted the recorded Ägam Sutras (11 Ang Ägams and all Angbäyha Sutras) as an authentic version of Lord Mahavir's teachings, while Digambar Jains have not. They concluded that one thousand years later, no monks remembered the true original Ägam Sutras (which include all Ang Ägams and Digambar Angbäyha Ägam Sutras). In the absence of authentic Ägam Sutras, Digambars follow Shatkhand Ägam and Kasay Pahud as their main texts and four Anuyogs (which include about 20 texts) written by great ascetics from 100 BC to 1000 AD as their basis to follow and practice the Jain religion.

7. Followers and Major Traditions

Mahavir attracted people from all walks of life: rich and poor, kings and commoners, men and women, princes and priests, touchables and untouchables. Mahavir proclaimed that in matters of spiritual advancement, both men and women are equal. Many women followed Mahavir's path and renounced the world in search of ultimate truth and happiness. The most significant contribution of Jainism in the social field was the establishment of social equality among the four classes (Brähman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra) including untouchables prevalent in the society.

Mahavir organized his followers, into a four-fold order, namely monks (Sädhu), nuns (Sädhvi), laymen (Shrävak), and laywomen (Shrävikä). This order is known as Jain Chatuvidha Sangh. A few centuries after Mahavir's Nirvän, two major traditions, Digambar and Shwetämbar were established. In the Digambar tradition monks wear no clothes, while the Shwetämbar monks wear white clothes. The fundamental views on ethics and philosophy are identical in both traditions.

Each major tradition has several sub-traditions including those who include worshipping the image symbols of Tirthankars (Murtipujak - Temple), while other traditions do not include worshipping Tirthankar idols. However all sub-traditions include Svädhyäya and Dhyän. Later on some have introduced more rituals in similar fashions as Hindus worship their deities but without compromising the principles of Jainism.

8. Spiritual Practices and Religious Holidays

Spiritual practices and religious holidays are observed by celebrating the lives of Tirthankar (Jins), performing penances, reciting sacred texts, attending religious discourses, studying scriptures, taking certain vows to control senses, giving alms, and realizing other acts of compassion.

Annual holidays are observed based on the lunar calendar (354 days in a year). The most important religious holidays are:

· Mahavir Jayanti (Janma Kalyänak): the birthday celebration of Lord Mahavir in March-April.

· Paryushan: An annual eight-day celebration by the Shwetämbar tradition in August-September.

· Das Lakshan: An annual ten-day celebration by Digambar tradition in August-September.

Both Paryushan and Das Lakshan celebrations conclude with a period of self-reflection, granting forgiveness to others, and requesting forgiveness from others for any pain that may have been caused intentionally or unintentionally.

Jainism advocates the performance of six essential daily observances by its followers:

Six essential Observances of Shwetämbar-Tradition

Six essential Observances of Digambar-Tradition

Furthermore, some Jains observe certain practices that involve special rituals, dietary restrictions, and fasting to develop self-control and detachment from worldly matters.

9. Jain Temples

More than 80% of Jains from both the Shwetämbar and Digambar traditions believe in worshiping Tirthankar images in temples. Primarily two types of Tirthankar images exist in the Jain temples. The meditative image (in which the eyes are depicted as semi-closed) is adopted by the Digambar tradition and the preaching image (in which the eyes are depicted as open) is adopted by the Shwetämbar tradition. Shwetämbars also decorate the Tirthankar images luxuriously. This symbolizes Tirthankars were kings possessed such royal wealth, yet did not find happiness in such material possessions. They renounced all their wealth for the benefit of society, and took vows of complete non-possession. Both Digambar and Shwetämbar Jain temples are famous for their unique intricate art and elaborate architecture.

10. Jain Symbols

The comprehensive Jain symbol consists of a crescent of the moon, three dots, the Swastika or Om, the palm of a hand with the wheel (Chakra) inset, and an outline figure encompassing all symbols. Each individual symbol is also separately used in Jainism.

The three dots represent the Jain path of liberation (Jain trinity): Right Faith (Samyak Darshan), Right Knowledge (Samyak Jnäna), and Right Conduct (Samyak Chäritra), which together lead to liberation. These dots also represent the three worlds: the lower region including hells, the upper region including heavens, and the middle region which includes earth. All worldly (non‑liberated) souls take birth, live, die, and suffer (pains or pleasures) in these three worlds.

The crescent of the moon represents the region known as Moksha. This region is beyond the three worlds and it is the permanent place where the liberated souls reside.

The Swastika is a sacred symbol in Jainism. The four sides of Swastika symbolize the four forms of existence of the worldly (non-liberated) souls. The four forms are; heavenly beings, human, Tiryanch (which includes animals, birds, and plants), and hellish beings. It reminds us that worldly souls undergo a continuous cycle of birth, suffering, and death in these four forms. Hence one should follow the true religion and be liberated from suffering.

The Sanskrit word Om is made up of five sounds and letters; a, a, ä, u, and m:

· The first letter "a" represents Arihants (human beings who have eradicated all four Ghäti Karma. It includes Tirthankars who have established religious order)

· The second "a" represents A-shareeri (A-shareeri means without physical body, liberated soul or Siddha or perfected being)

· The third letters "ä" represents Ächärya (Ascetic who is the head of congregation)

· The fourth letter "u" represents Upädhyäy (Ascetic teacher)

· The fifth letter "m" represents Muni (Sädhu/Sädhvi or monks/nuns who are initiated (who have taken Dikshä) by taking five Mahävrat (great vows)).

Hence the Om represents the salutation to the five revered personalities in the Jain religion. Om is a short form of the Namokar Mahämantra.

The palm of the hand signifies the assurance; 'do not be afraid', indicating that human beings suffering due to karmic bondage do not need to be disheartened. Another meaining is “stop and think before you act to assure that all possible violence is avoided.”

The wheel of dharma (Chakra) with 24 spokes represents the religion preached by the 24 Tirthankars consisting of nonviolence (Ahimsä), compassion, Anekäntvaad, Aparigraha and other virtues, and equality of all the souls.

The outline figure looks like a person standing with their feet apart and arms resting on both hips. This represents the Jain description of the shape of the universe. The text underneath the symbol, “Parasparopagraho Jivänäm" translates as "Living beings (souls) render services to one another".

The overall symbol depicts the belief that living beings of all the three worlds (heaven, hell, and earth) suffer from the miseries of transmigratory existence. They can follow the path of true religion, which is Right Faith, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct as expounded by the Tirthankars. This will bring auspiciousness to themselves, minimize suffering to others, and help them to obtain perfection, after which they will live forever as perfected beings.

The main Jain symbol was adopted by Jain communities at large during 2500th Nirvän year (1974) celebration of Lord Mahavir. The JAINA symbol replaces swastika with OM because Swastika is not viewed as a pious religious symbol by the western world.

11. Greetings

The usual greeting is Jai Jinendra meaning Honor to the Supreme Jin. Michchhä Mi Dukkadam is a request for forgiveness usually spoken after performing the annual forgiveness and repentance day (Samavantsari Pratikraman) ritual. It should also be spoken (forgiveness should be asked) as soon as one realizes his/her own mistake.

12. Jain Prayer

The sacred prayer is the Namaskär, Navkär or Namokär Mahämantra in which homage is paid to the five worshipful personalities: Arihanta (enlightened human beings), Siddha (liberated souls), Ächarya (head of Jain congregation), Upädhyäya (ascetic teachers), and all Sädhu (all ascetics).

Namo Arihantänam

Namo Siddhänam

Namo Äyariyänam

Namo Uvajjhäyänam

Namo Loe Savva Sähunam

Eso Panch Namukkäro

Savva Päva Panäsano

Mangalänam cha Savvesim

Padhamam Havai Mangalam

Namo Arihantänam

I bow to all Arihants (Tirthankars) who have reached enlightenment by eradicating all four Ghäti Karma, who have attained infinite knowledge, infinite vision, perfect conduct, unobstructed bliss, and unlimited energy and have shown the path of Moksha (everlasting happiness) which brings an end to the cycle of life, death and suffering.

Namo Siddhänam

I bow to all Siddhas or liberated souls who have attained the state of perfection and immortality by liberating themselves of all karma.

Namo Äyariyänam

I bow to all Ächäryas, who are the heads of Jain congregations, and who preach the principles of religion and show the path of liberation, which is the unity of Right Faith, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct.

Namo Uvajjhäyänam

I bow to all Upädhyäyas who are the ascetic teachers. They study and teach or explain the Jain scriptures and show us the importance of the spiritual life over the worldly material life.

Namo Loe Savva Sähunam

I bow to all ascetics (Sädhus and Sädhvis) who strictly follow the five great vows of conduct and inspire us to live a simple life.

Eso Panch Namukkäro

To these five types of great souls I offer my praise.

Savva Päva Panäsano

Such praise will help diminish my negative vibrations and sins.

Mangalänam cha Savvesim

Padhamam Havai Mangalam

Offering this praise is the foremost amongst all of the auspicious benedictions.

13. Universal Forgiveness and Friendship Sutras

Jains recite the following Sutras for confession of their sins, requesting forgiveness from others, and desiring peace over entire universe to all living beings.

Khämemi Savve Jive Sutra

Khämemi Savve Jive, Savve Jivä Khamantu Me,

Mitti Me Savve Bhuyesu, Veram Majham Na Kenai.

I ask forgiveness of all living beings,

May all living beings grant me forgiveness.

My friendship is with all living beings,

I have no enmity with anyone.

Jam Jam Manen Baddham Sutra:

Jam Jam Manen Baddham,

Jam Jam Väyen Bhäsiyam Pävam,

Jam Jam Käyen Kayam,

Michä Mi Dukkadam Tass.

Whatever wrong I have done by thought,

Whatever wrong I have done by word,

Whatever wrong I have done by deed,

I ask for forgiveness.

Khamiya Khamä Via Sutra:

Khamiya Khamä Via, Mai Khamia Savvah Jiva Nikäya

Siddha Säkha Äloyenah, Mujjah Vaira Na Bhäva

I forgive all Souls, may they forgive me. Let the perfect souls witness that I truly bear no animosity toward any living being.

Shivmastu Sarva Jagatah Sutra:

Shivmastu Sarva Jagatah,

Par‑hit‑niratä bhavantu bhutaganäha,

Doshäha Prayantu Näsham,

Sarvatra Sukhi bhavatu lokah.

May the whole Cosmos be blessed,

May all beings engage in each other's well-being,

May all weaknesses, sicknesses and faults diminish and vanish,

May everyone everywhere be happy (healthy, prosperous, blissful, and peaceful).

Upsargah Kshayam Yanti Sutra:

Upsargäh Kshayam yänti,

Chhidhyante Vighna‑vallayah,

Manah prasanna tämeti,

Pujya mähne jineshware.

All problems get resolved,

All obstacles get removed,

The mind (heart) becomes full of joy,

Who has got in touch with inner higher self.

14. Life of Lord Mahavir

Lord Mahavir was a prince whose childhood name was Vardhaman. As the son of a king, he had many worldly pleasures, comforts, and services at his command. However at the age of thirty he left his family and the royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, and became a monk in search of a solution to eliminate pain, sorrow, and suffering from life of all beings.

Lord Mahavir spent majority of the following twelve and one half years in deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires, feelings, and attachments, and to eradicate all four Ghati Karma. He carefully avoided harming other living beings including animals, birds, insects, and plants. He also went without food for long periods of time. He remained calm and peaceful against all unbearable hardships. During this period, his spiritual powers developed fully and he realized perfect perception, perfect knowledge, perfect conduct, unlimited energy, and unobstructed bliss. This realization is known as Keval-jnän or the perfect enlightenment.

Lord Mahavir spent the next thirty years traveling barefoot throughout India preaching the eternal truth he had realized. The ultimate objective of his teaching is how one can attain total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, and achieve the permanent blissful state of one's self. This is also known as liberation, Nirvän, absolute freedom, or Moksha.

At the age of 72 (in 527 BC), Lord Mahavir attained Nirvän and his purified soul left his body and achieved complete liberation. He became a Siddha, a pure consciousness, a liberated soul, living forever in a state of complete bliss. On the evening of his Nirvän, people spiritually celebrated the Festival of Lights (Dipävali) in his honor. This is the last day of the Jain calendar year.

15. Significant points from the Teachings of Lord Mahavir

Lord Mahavir made religion simple and natural, free from elaborate rituals. His teachings reflect the internal beauty and harmony of the soul.

Lord Mahavir taught the idea of supremacy of human life and stressed the importance of a positive attitude towards life.

Lord Mahavir's message of nonviolence (Ahimsä), truth (Satya), non‑stealing (Achaurya), celibacy (Brahma‑charya), and non‑possession (Aparigraha) is full of universal compassion.

Lord Mahavir said that, "A living body is not merely an integration of limbs and flesh but it is the abode of the soul which potentially has infinite perception (Anant‑darshana), infinite knowledge (Anant‑jnäna), infinite power (Anant‑virya), and infinite bliss (Anant‑sukha). Mahavir's message reflects freedom and spiritual joy of the living being.

Lord Mahavir emphasized that all-living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, form, and how spiritually developed or undeveloped, are equal and we should love and respect them. In this way, he preached the universal love.

Lord Mahavir taught that the true nature of reality is timeless, with no beginning or end and rejected the concept of God as a creator, a protector, and a destroyer of the universe. He also taught that worshiping heavenly gods and goddesses, as a means of material gain and personal benefits is contrary to the path of liberation.

One time Lord Mahavir was asked what is the religion from a realistic point of view. Lord Mahavir said, “ the realistic religion consists of four parts: 1) equality of all living ones, 2) every living soul has right to put self-effort to improve itself and should not to be stripped of that right, 3) no one should rule over other living beings, and 4) all situations should be viewed with equanimity - without like or dislike." If one adopts only one of these four, other three will automatically be adopted.

16. Jain Websites

There are many Jain websites. Here is the list of some:

Based on the original work (in draft format) compiled by Pravin Shah and other members of JAINA Education Board