Jainism’s first and most fundamental truth is to reduce harm to living things at all costs. This compassionate tenet is a core part of the texts and teachings of the ancient Indian religion, which has roots as far back as the first century BCE and is still an integral part of the culture today. Jainism’s spiritual goal is to attain the liberation of the soul; although living with nonviolence is the primary path to attain it, Jains also have a strong environmental ethic, demonstrated through practicing vegetarianism and taking great care of the world around them.
At the heart of Jainism are its core principles, known as the “three jewels,” or “ratnatraya”: right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct. Right belief emphasizes not simply believing what you’re told, but avoiding preconceptions in order to see clearly. Right knowledge encourages an understanding of the universe and studying to attain enlightenment. Right conduct emphasizes understanding and practicing Jainism’s ethical rules of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, and detachment from material possessions.
Jainism has had many supreme leaders — known as tirthankaras — throughout its history. Some of the prominent tirthankaras include Parshvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara, and Mahavira, the most recent and 24th tirthankara of Jainism. Other monks, such as Kundakunda, also had a profound impact on the religion. Mahavira, who lived in the sixth century BCE, is considered to have reformed the tradition of Jainism into how it is practiced today. Many great scholars have also studied the tirthankaras’ revered work and contributed their own wisdom to the teachings of Jainism.
These quotes, taken from ancient Jain texts and more contemporary scholars, provide insights into Jainism’s fundamentals, and offer a comforting read through its peaceful nature.
Nonviolence is the greatest religion.Mahavira, 24th tirthankara
Compassion to others is compassion to one's own self.Sivarya, Jain monk
The most important principle of environment is that you are not the only element.Mahavira
The universe is not for man alone, but is a theater of evolution for all living beings. Live and let live is its guiding principle.Virchand Gandhi, Jain scholar
Don’t accumulate if you do not need.Mahavira
Souls render service to one another.Umaswati, Jain scholar
I am neither anger, nor pride, nor deceit, nor greed.Kundakunda, Jain monk
Do unto others as you would like to be done by.Mahavira
This is my country, that is your country; these are the conceptions of narrow souls — to the liberal-minded the whole world is a family.Virchand Gandhi
A living body is not merely an integration of limbs and flesh but it is the abode of the soul which potentially has perfect perception, perfect knowledge, perfect power, and perfect bliss.Mahavira
Right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct together constitute the path to liberation.Umaswati
Anger begets more anger, and forgiveness and love lead to more forgiveness and love.Mahavira
The self that has developed equanimity, if endowed with pure activities, attains heavenly happiness.Kundakunda
Nonviolence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself.Mahavira
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