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The Jain religion began in India, but its exact date of origin is unknown. The most revered and influential teacher was Mahavira. It is suggested that he lived in the 5thcentury and was a contemporary of Buddha. Jainism came from the word Jina which means conqueror. In its infant stage of development it split into two sects, Digambara, mostly in the South India, and Shvetambara in North-West India.

Many of the teachings of Jainism are similar to Hinduism with a slight variation. Most of the teachings of Jainism surround the nature of the soul and liberation from bondage. They believe that the soul is trapped in the body by karma (physical matter) and must be liberated. The soul is eternal and reincarnates over and over again into another body. Liberation is the personal responsibility of the individual; no outside help is needed. It takes place by going through all of fourteen stages.


  • Practice strict vegetarian lifestyle. Do not eat food growing under the ground.
  • The world was not created and it will never cease to exist.
  • Non-violence is major part of Jainism, and it is believed that they inspired Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Only those that practice an ascetic lifestyle will be liberated.
There are two groups of believers--lay people and devout Jains known as ascetics. The lay community support and care for the ascetic group because they have taken a vow of renunciation of worldly things. They travel by foot and live a nomadic life. In the monsoon season they stay with the lay community and teach them.

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