© 2008 Clove Garden
Jainism has contributed a great deal to both culture and religion in
India and from there to the rest of the world. This is because of the
great antiquity of the religion, because Jains have generally been the most
highly educated people in India, and due to the recognized integrity of
the religion. Jains are so respected that some non-Jain temples in India
are administered by Jains.
While the earliest Jain "teacher" reliably dated lived around 600 BCE,
he is listed as the 23rd stretching back perhaps to well over 3000 years BCE
(there are long gaps between them). In the Buddha's day, his followers
recognized Jainism as already a very ancient religion and Jainism most
certainly contributed a great deal to Buddhist thought.
There are two major sects of Jainism and several minor ones but the
differences are not great. Monks of the Digambar persuasion wear no
clothes because clothes are posessions and increase desire for material things.
Monks of the Svetambar persuasion wear white robes (nuns of both sects wear
white robes). Other disagreements among the sects are even more minor and
not over doctrine but conduct. Temples in the United States welcome all
- Responsibility: Every human is responsible for his/her own
actions. Karma is fully implemented.
- Compassion: All conscious (five-sensed) living beings have
eternal souls and all souls are equal because all are capable of achieving
Moksha (Nirvana, transcendance from the cycle of birth and death). All
should be regarded as having near equal worth, though human life is
considered the highest form.
- God: The universe is eternal and governed
by natural laws. There is no supreme being or creator god. There is only
the pure soul of each living being: Consciousness, Knowledge, Perception and
- Rationality: Great emphasis is placed on rational
perception, rational knowledge and rational conduct.
- Detachment: Attachment to material things and worldly life
gathers karma and interferes with achieving moksha (liberation), trapping
one in the cycle of birth, death and suffering.
- Nonviolence: Jains generally choose professions that respect
life and ethical conduct. Doctors, yes; soldiers, no. Monks and nuns
walk barefoot and sweep the ground as they go to avoid stepping on
insects. In times past Jains wore face masks to prevent accidentally
breathing in no-see-ems and monks and nuns often still do.
In general Jains are pretty strict about adherence, but some of the rules
regarding plants (one sensed beings) and no overnight storage are not tightly
adhered to by laity today. Monks and nuns are expected to follow all
strictures with great accuracy. This section is an overview of important
points but for more detail (and more rules) refer to Jain Web sites
- Night Meals are forbidden because of the many creatures that
come out at night and which may be accidentally killed due to
poor lighting or attraction to fire.
- Freshness: Food must be prepared fresh daily. Keeping
cooked food overnight is forbidden. Ground spices have an expiry of
3 days during rain, 5 days in summer and 7 days in winter.
- Vegetarianism: Traditionally Jains have been lacto-vegetarians,
but modern dairy farming methods, particularly what happens to the male
calves (the veal market) has caused many to pursue a vegan diet eating
no animal products.
- Water is filtered through three layers of cotton cloth before
use for cooking or drinking. Water should boiled and cooled before
drinking to avoid illness caused by micro-organisms. Illness is thought
to engender intolerance.
- Root Vegetables: (potatoes, carrots, turnips) are forbidden
because uprooting a plant kills it (non-violence) and because many tiny
creatures may inhabit roots.
- Beansprouts are prohibited because they are living and eating
them kills the whole plant.
- Cereal Grains are permitted.
- Fruits: Most are permitted but fruits that bleed milky sap when
cut, Jackfruit, for instance, are forbidden. Many Jains avoid fruits that
have a red meat-like appearance (tomatoes, watermelon).
- Vegetable Greens are considered marginal because plucking them
involves pain to the plant. Most Jains consider greens acceptable but
cabbages and other greens where the whole top is cut and the plant
thus killed are forbidden.
- Mushrooms, Fungus and Yeasts are forbidden because they are
parasites, grow in non-hygienic environments and may harbor other life
- Honey is forbidden as the excrement of bees (actually they
barf it up).
- Eggs are forbidden as progeny of five-sensed beings.
- Cheese and Yogurt are permissible (for non vegan Jains) but must
be freshly prepared on the day they are eaten and no animal rennet may
be used to make them. Vegetable and Microbial rennet is acceptable but in
strict practice only acid coagulated fresh cheese will fit the same day
rule. The previous day's yogurt may not be use as a starter the next
- Vinegar is forbidden, it's a product of fermentation
(yeast to alcohol then bacterial to vinegar).
- Alcohol is forbidden because it may destroy the power of
discrimination, create delusions and result in ill health. Also alcoholic
beverages are considered non-vegetarian because of FDA allowed additives,
some of which are of animal origin.
- Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Chives and Leeks full under the
category of "roots" the pulling of which kills the whole plant so
they are forbidden.
- Silver Foils common in India as decoration on sweets are banned
because the foils are pounded out between layers of bull intestine and
are therefor not vegetarian.
This list does not include all sources used to prepare this page but it
but those listed are particularly informative.