Jainism (also known as Jaina dharma) is a religion originating in India that emphasizes non-violence towards all living things and equality among all life. Self-control and non-violence are taught as the means to obtain liberation from the world's suffering. Jainism comes from the Sanskrit word jin that means "to conquer" with the idea that adherents must defeat pleasures or temptations through self-control.
Jainism was developed in the sixth century by Mahavira, who opposed the idea of a single God who was to be worshiped. In fact, Mahavira was opposed to the idea of any gods existing. However, later followers made a deity of him and he was called the twenty-fourth Tirthankara, the last of the savior beings. Jainist writings note Mahavira as a being who descended from the sky, lived without sin, and freed himself from earthly pleasures through his intense meditation.
The main teachings of Jainism include the Five Great Vows. Each is focused on some form of self-denial, including renouncing 1) the killing of living things, 2) lying, 3) greed, 4) sexual pleasures, and 5) earthly attachments. Men were to avoid women since they were believed to be the cause of much evil.
In addition, Jainism teaches the doctrine of anekantavada, a word that refers to the idea that each person perceives truth and reality differently and no single view is complete. This doctrine is commonly communicated through the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each blind man touches a part of the elephant and makes a decision about what the animal is based on his perspective. No single blind man could determine the true reality on his own and each had his own perspective. The idea is thus promoted that no one human can know absolute truth.
The vast majority of the more than four million estimated adherents of Jainism live in India. Populations of Jainism adherents also live in the surrounding nations as well as the United States, Canada, Japan, and Belgium.
Jainism clearly conflicts with biblical Christianity. First, Jainism promotes a god other than the true Triune God of Scripture. Second, absolute truth is rejected in Jainism, though Scripture claims that God is true and His words are truth. Third, Jainism includes the beliefs in reincarnation and the eternal existence of souls. This is in obvious contrast with the biblical belief that all people are made in the image of God and live once and then forever in either eternity with God or apart from Him (Hebrews 9:27). Like Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism also believes in karma, the idea that what you do will be returned to you, either good or bad. The Bible teaches to do to others as you would have them do to you, yet makes no promise of an equal return for deeds in this life.
Further, the idea in Jainism of no sexual relations would have devastating consequences if applied to all. The reproduction of children within the context of godly families is of great importance in Christianity. While sexual immorality is condemned, sexual relations within marriage are considered important and beneficial. The view of women as the source of much evil in Jainism is also concerning. Biblically, both men and women have sinned (Romans 3:23); both are also created in God's image (Genesis 1:27).
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