Jains aspire to be spiritual winners or victors. In other words, to achieve spiritual liberation through their own efforts. Indeed, the term Jain derives from a word in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit that means ‘victor’.
Jains do not believe in a single creator God or creative spirit.
Instead, Jains worship 24 enlightened ones – or tirthankaras – who lived in the past and show the way to spiritual liberation.
Jains believe that every living being comprises a permanent soul, and a temporary body.
Jainism is possibly the world’s oldest religion. It probably dates back to the civilisation that developed around the Indus River around 2,500BCE or even earlier.
Ahimsa (non-violence) is fundamental to Jain life.
The three guiding principles of Jainism are referred to as the three jewels:
- Right belief
- Right knowledge
- Right conduct
Jains believe in reincarnation. Liberation from reincarnation is achieved through purification of the soul.
Worldwide, there are about seven million Jains, 3.2 million in India and several thousand in various parts of Europe. There are around 25,000 and 30,000 Jains in the UK, making it the seventh largest faith in the country. Most Jains live in north London and in Leicester, with smaller communities elsewhere.
Jainism’s monastic tradition is the world’s oldest. There are now about 5,000 Jain monks and nuns.
Jainism is divided into two major sects – Digambaras and Svetambaras. The faith has numerous sub-sects.
Jains typically offer worship (puja) at their home shrines three times a day – before dawn, at sunset, and at night.