Friday, May 30, 2008
An overdue introduction to my trip
WHY I'M IN INDIA:
The short answer: to study Jainism – an ancient religion that was a precursor to Buddhism and arguably pre-Hindu as well. It shares many of the same principles as the aforementioned religio-philosophies – dharma, karma, moksa/nirvana – but as you’ll learn in this blog, has a wealth of unique characteristics that make it distinct. Not the least of which is how understudied it is. That’s why myself, a crew of 13 Ottawa U students and a handful of international scholars are here.
Things that might interest you about Jainism:
- It predates recorded history.
- Its keystone belief is non-violence (aka: ahimsa)…made most popular by Gandhi.
- The highest achievement a Jain son (or daughter depending on which sect you look at) could make would be asceticism. That is, the world-renouncing lifestyle of a knowledge seeking saddhu or satvi (aka: monks and nuns).
- The most honourable death in Jainism is sallekhana (aka: mastering your body by starving yourself to death).
- Jains are huge on animal rights – even bugs/microscopic organisms are to receive our mercy.
- One sect of Jains (The Digambars) even renounce clothing. (As you can see in the pic above)
- Jains don’t believe in a god. They revere 24 idealized “Jinas” or “Tirthankaras”. Enlightened beings who served as teachers to pass along grains of their omniscience. These beings are now beyond our realm and therefore can’t hear our prayers.