Main doctrines of the Jainism

Doctrines of Jainism:

There are three main doctrines of the Jainism.  These are

(i)        Non-violence (Ahimsa)

(ii)       Non-absolutism (Anekatavaad)

(iii)      Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha)

Now in detail:


Non-violence (ahimsa)

Main article: Ahimsa in Jainism

The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes Jain nonviolence. The word in the middle is “ahiṃsā”. The wheel represents the dharmachakra, which stands for the resolve to halt the saṃsāra through relentless pursuit of truth and nonviolence.

The principle of ahiṃsā is the most fundamental and well known aspect of Jainism. In Jainism, killing any living being out of passions is hiṃsā (injury) and abstaining from such act is Ahiṃsā (noninjury or nonviolence). The everyday implementation of ahiṃsā is more comprehensive than in other religions and is the hallmark for Jain identity. Non-violence is practiced first and foremost during interactions with other human beings, and Jains believe in avoiding harm to others through actions, speech and thoughts.

In addition to other humans, Jains extend the practice of nonviolence towards all living beings. As this ideal cannot be completely implemented in practice, Jains recognize a hierarchy of life, which gives more protection to humans followed by animals followed by insects followed by plants. For this reason, Jain vegetarianism is a hallmark of Jain practice, with the majority of Jains practicing lacto vegetarianism. If there is violence against animals during the production of dairy products, veganism is encouraged.

After humans and animals, insects are the next living being offered protection in Jain practice with avoidance of intentional harm to insects emphasized. For example, insects in the home are often escorted out instead of killed. Intentional harm and the absence of compassion make an action more violent according to Jainism.

After nonviolence towards humans, animals and insects, Jains make efforts not to injure plants any more than necessary. Although they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival. Strict Jains, including monastics, do not eat root vegetables such as potatoes, onions and garlic because tiny organisms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because a bulb or tuber’s ability to sprout is seen as characteristic of a living being.

Jainism has a very elaborate framework on types of life and includes life-forms that may be invisible. Per Jainism, the intent and emotions behind the violence are more important than the action itself. For example, if a person kills another living being out of carelessness and then regrets it later, the bondage of karma (karma bandhan) is less compared to when a person kills the same living being with anger, revenge, etc. A soldier acting in self defense is a different type of violence versus someone killing another person out of hatred or revenge. Violence or war in self-defense may be justified, but this must only be used as a last resort after peaceful measures have been thoroughly exhausted.

Mahatma Gandhi notably practiced and preached ahimsa.


Main article: Anekantavada

The second main principle of Jainism is anekantavada (non-absolutism). For Jains, non-absolutism means maintaining open-mindedness. This includes the recognition of all perspectives and a humble respect for differences in beliefs. Jainism encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. The principle of anekāntavāda influenced Mahatma Gandhi to adopt principles of religious tolerance and ahiṃsā.

Anekāntavāda emphasizes the principles of pluralism (multiplicity of viewpoints) and the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, no single one of which is complete.

Jains illustrate this theory through the parable of the blind men and an elephant. In this story, each blind man feels a different part of an elephant: its trunk, leg, ear, and so on. All of them claim to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant but, due to their limited perspectives, can only partly succeed. The concept of anēkāntavāda extends to and is further explained by Syādvāda (below).


Main article: Aparigraha

The third main principle in Jainism is aparigraha or non-grasping and includes non-materialism. Jainism emphasizes taking no more than is necessary. While ownership of objects is allowed, non-attachment to possessions is taught. Followers should minimize the tendency to hoard unnecessary material possessions and limit attachment to current possessions. Further, wealth and possessions should be shared and donated whenever possible. Jainism believes that unchecked attachment to possessions can lead to direct harm to oneself and others.


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