What are the beliefs of Jainism


The Jainism (Phonetic transcription: [dʒaɪ̯ˈnɪsmʊs][1]) or Jainism[2], also Jinism ([dʒiˈnɪsmʊs]) or Dschinismus (Sanskrit जैन, m., Jaina, "follower of Jina"), is a religion native to India, which was founded around the 6th / 5th centuries. Century BC Was created. A historically tangible founder is Mahavira (around 599-527 BC). Jainism had about 4.4 million believers in 2001/2002, about 4.2 million of them in India.[3]


Sanctuaries and temples

Marble ornament in the main temple in Ranakpur
Interior view of a Jain temple in Sarnath
Richly decorated parapet in a Jain temple in Jaisalmer

The mountain Parasnath is said to be named after Parshvanata, on which, according to legend, he reached his nirvana. With its 24 temples, which symbolize the 24 Tirthankaras, the mountain is an important place of pilgrimage.

Other well known Jain sanctuaries are

But there are also one or more Jain temples in almost every major city in India.

History of religion

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Jainism, like Buddhism, has its roots in Brahmanism, the predecessor religion of Hinduism. According to the tradition of the community, the first tirthankara was Rishabha or Adinath (around 1500 BC), an ascetic in the city of Pithunda, which Mahapadma Nanda later destroyed. From the mythological chain of the 24 Jain prophets, the last two, Parshvanata and Mahavira, can perhaps even be historically proven.

Parshvanata or Parsnath, the 23rd Tirthankara (around 870 BC) was the son of a king of Benares. He canceled wealth, became an ascetic and received absolute knowledge. He founded eight churches, which may have resulted in Mahavira, and is believed to have died at the age of 100.

Vardhamana Mahavira, son of King Siddhartha, was born in Kundalpur in the Kingdom of Vaishali (today Bihar). Some sources date his birth to 599 BC. BC, i.e. before Buddha (approx. 560 BC), others assume that Mahavira was younger than Buddha and 539 or 549 BC. Was born. Mahavira's mother Trishala the messianic mission of Mahavira had been foretold in the dream - a clear parallel to the dream of Maya, the mother of Buddha. Similar to Buddha, Mahavira left his family and kingdom at the age of 28 to 30, left everything behind and became an ascetic. For twelve years he lived in seclusion in forest and mountain regions and led a life in a monastic existence until he returned to society to preach his teachings.

In contrast to Buddhism, Jainism is not directed as a reaction against the nobility of Brahmanic society, but sees itself embedded in traditional philosophical convictions. Mahavira was on the one hand the founder of a new, independent teaching, on the other hand he was looking for reforms of the existing system. Hinduism saw no competition in the new teaching because of its rigor.

The first king of the Maurya Empire in the 4th century BC Chr., Chandragupta Maurya, is said to have left his throne in old age and become a Jain ascetic. After this time, Jainism spread to southern India, where a large part of the community emigrated to. Many Indian kings converted to and supported Jainism. Jainism also flourished in the east of India in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, the sphere of influence of Mahavira. In western India he established himself in Gujarat under the rule of Kumarpal.

The Islamic invasion in the 13th century hindered the spread of Jainism, but did not lead to its disappearance, as a high level of self-discipline and monastic commitment ensured resistance. An adjustment to Hinduism in the Middle Ages was the adoption of caste rules in a weakened form.


The swastika, one of the most widely used symbols in Jainism

Jainism assumes that there are two opposing principles in the world: the spiritual and the unspiritual.[4] The spiritual is based on an infinite number of individual souls (Jiva). The unspiritual encompasses the five categories: movement, rest, space, matter and time. Everything material is animated, not only people and animals, but also plants and water.

The original purity and omniscience of the soul (Jiva) is however tarnished by subtle substances that invade as a result of karma. The Jiva can be categorized according to the respective degree of purity through color, olfactory, haptic and taste gradations. B. the possible color spectrum of the Jiva ranges from black, dark blue to dove gray, fire red, yellow to white. A yellow spiritual monad attests to the wearer balanced traits. Any karmic act, whether intentional or not, forces one to remain in the cycle of rebirths (samsara) until all karma has been erased.[5]

A purification of the soul is achieved in Jainism through a moral way of life and strict asceticism. If a soul is freed from all impurities, it rises to the highest heaven in order to remain there in calm bliss. However, not all souls reach this stage. The abhavya jivas (“Incapable souls”) can never be released from samsara due to their natural disposition.


The three universal basic ethical principles, also significantly as the Little Vows (Anuvratas) called the lay follower of Jainism, are Ahimsa (non-violence towards all immanently animated forms of existence), Aparigraha (independence from unnecessary possessions) and Satya (truthfulness).[6]

Jain nuns and monks take the following five Great Vows at their ordination (Mahavratas) on yourself:

  1. Ahimsa (draining of killing and injuring living beings),
  2. Satya (renouncing untruthful speech),
  3. Asteya (do not attack someone else's property),
  4. Brahma (not entering into unchaste relationships),
  5. Aparigraha (possess only essential goods).[6][7]

Because of the ideal of non-harming living beings, Jainas eat in such a way that no animals have to suffer or die for it, and plants are only harmed to the inevitable extent. They usually have a (lacto-) vegetarian diet, some also vegan. The Indian city of Palitana has been declared a vegetarian city, as many Jainas live there.[8] Jainas do not wear clothing made in whole or in part from materials derived from animals, such as: B. Belt or shoes. Many also run barefoot so that they don't kick anything dead. Some, especially monks, use a soft broom that looks more like a feather duster to constantly sweep the areas in front of and around them to remove possible insects such as B. Free ants so that they cannot accidentally crush them. They also often wear a cloth over their mouths to prevent an insect from flying into their mouth and dying.[9][10]

Due to these principles, followers of Jainism do not practice every profession, which is why they often work in, for example, commerce and banking (e.g. Anshu Jain), i. H. work in the cities. Because of the strict lifestyle, the Jain community was never very large. Because of the non-violence requirement, lay people could neither work in agriculture (living creatures could be injured when plowing), nor were they allowed to devote themselves to the craft of war.

This ethical rigorism, which at the same time bears a strong soteriological character - even without a Christian redeemer figure - sometimes leads in extreme cases in older Jain monks, who have been purified by tapas exercises (mortification and meditative practices), so far that they get through Samlekhama (Starvation fasting and physical passivity) completely relinquish the world, as this is the only way to protect the Jiva from renewed karmic impurities (whether positive or negative).[11]


According to their religious conception, the Jainas form two sects, the Digambaras, "air-clad people" in the southern regions of the Indian subcontinent, whose monks traditionally live in complete nudity according to the images of their founder Mahavira, and the Shvetambaras, the "white clad" mostly in the northern Indian states .[12]

The differences that can be seen are mainly in the doctrinal understanding of tradition, which results from the respective interpretation, interpretation and the authority of the literature. For the most part, only the Shvetambaras sect take the position that the canon, i. H. the sutras and agamas, should be placed within the scope of a sacred corpus of scriptures.[13]

Chronological order

According to some followers of Jainism, the origins go to the non-Aryan period, the so-called Dravidian period in the 3rd or 4th millennium BC. BC back. Mahavira was therefore only the last of a long line of Jaina teachers. As in Hinduism, the followers of Jainism estimate their own religion to be much older than religious scholars and Indologists.

The heterodox religion (because it does not recognize the Vedas) was always opposed by the Brahmins, but after a heyday in the Middle Ages it was able to hold up to this day.

See also


  • Ludwig Alsdorf: The Āryā Stanzas of the Uttarajjhāyā. Contributions to the Text History and Interpretation of a Canonical Jaina Text (= Treatises of the humanities and social sciences class of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz. Born in 1966, No. 2).
  • T. T. Anuruddha (= Rudolf Petri): Basics of Jainism, religion of non-violence. Bodhisattva Csoma Inst. For Buddhology, Vũng Tâu 1972, DNB 800900294.
  • Knut Aukland: The Scientization and Academization of Jainism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 84 (1), 2016, ISSN 0002-7189, pp. 192-233.
  • Franz Bätz: Holy mountains, temple cities and ascetics. Jainism - a living culture of India. Weishaupt, Wolfsberg 1997, ISBN 3-7059-0049-8.
  • Wolfgang Bohn: The religion of Jina and its relationship to Buddhism. Oskar-Schloss Verlag, Munich 1921 Internet Archive
  • Paul Dundas: The Jains. Routledge, Oxford 2002.
  • Mircea Eliade, Ioan P. Culianu: Handbook of Religions. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1995 (Suhrkamp Taschenbuch 2386), ISBN 3-518-38886-X.
  • Erich Frauwallner: History of Indian Philosophy. Vol. 1. Otto Müller Verlag, Salzburg 1953.
  • Paul Gäbler: Jainism (Jinismus) in: Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon - Kirchlich-theologisches Handwörterbuch, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2nd unaltered edition 1962, volume H-O, column 231.
  • Helmuth von Glasenapp: Jainism. An Indian religion of salvation.Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim 1984 (2nd reprint edition of Berlin 1925 edition), ISBN 3-487-00628-6. (Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, 26)
  • Phyllis Granoff (Ed.): Victorious Ones. Jain Images of Perfection. Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad 2009, ISBN 978-81-89995-29-4. (Catalog for the exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, September 18, 2009 to February 15, 2010).
  • Natalʹja R. Guseva: Jainism. Sindhu Publ., Bombay, 1971.
  • Julia A. B. Hegewald: Jaina Temple Architecture in India. The Development of a Distinct Language in Space and Ritual. G + H Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-940939-09-8.
  • Gabriele Rosalie Helmer: Stories from Jainism. AVM, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-89975-369-1.
  • Mirjam Iseli: My Jainism, your Jainism? Our Jainism! Tendencies of a universal Jainism in Switzerland. Journal for Young Religious Studies, 2015, E-ISSN 1862-5886.
  • Adelheid Mette: The Jaina doctrine of salvation: legends, parables, stories.Verlag der Weltreligionen, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-458-70023-4.
  • Vilas Adinath Sangave: Le Jaïnisme. Maisnie, Tredaniel 1999, ISBN 2-84445-078-4.
  • Walther Schubring: Words of Mahavira. Critical translation from the Jain canon. Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1926. (Ed. Religious History Commission at the Society of Science in Göttingen, Sources of Religious History Group 7, Volume 14)
  • N. Shanta: La Voie jaina. Œil, 1990, ISBN 2-86839-026-9.
  • Nicole Tiffen: Le Jaïnisme en Inde. Weber, Geneva 1990, ISBN 7-04-744063-1.
  • Kristi L. Wiley: The A to Z of Jainism. Orient Paperbacks, New Delhi 2014, ISBN 978-81-7094-690-8.
  • Heinrich Zimmer: Philosophy and Religion of India. Suhrkamp, ​​[Frankfurt am Main?] 1973, ISBN 3-518-27626-3.
  • Robert J. Zydenbos: Jainism Today and Its Future. Manya, Munich 2006, OCLC166020383. (English)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ DUDEN online [1]
  2. ↑ Alternative spelling not recommended by DUDEN www.duden.de.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica-Online: Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2002
    2001 census, data from Census Data 2001 >> India at a glance >> Religious Composition, website of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, Republic of India on the 2001 Census.
  4. Jainism. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  5. ↑ Heinrich Zimmer: Jainism. In: Philosophy and Religion of India. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1973, pp. 212-213.
  6. abMircea Eliade, Ioan P. Culianu: Jainism. In: Handbook of Religions. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1995, p. 330.
  7. ↑ Adelheid Mette: Jain monks and nuns: Niggantha, Nigganthi. In: The Jainean doctrine of salvation: legends, parables, stories. Verlag der Weltreligionen, Berlin 2010, p. 212.
  8. ↑ Place of pilgrimage for the Jains: Palitana - the city of vegetarians (Memento from September 14, 2015 in Internet Archive), daily News
  9. ^ Gábor Halász: India: the city of vegetarians. In: World mirror.Das Erste, September 18, 2015, accessed October 24, 2020.
  10. ↑ Michael Obert: The air-clad. In: The evangelical magazine.chrismon, January 15, 2013, accessed October 24, 2020.
  11. ↑ Mircea Eliade, Ioan P. Culianu: Jainism. 1995, p. 331.
  12. ↑ Adelheid Mette: Jain monks and nuns. 2010, p. 222 f.
  13. ↑ Adelheid Mette: Jain monks and nuns. 2010, p. 216.