Most people living in the West know practically nothing about most eastern religions. One in particular that has remained rather obscure is Jainism. More likely than not, this is because outside of about 2,500 of these practitioners who are living in Canada and Michigan, the other approximately 4 million followers of this religion reside in India. Another good reason is that true practitioners live simple, pure existences focused on the obtainment of perception, ability, knowledge, and truth, so global information about their belief system is limited to those outside of their faith.
The four life-stages of a Jain are not uncommon. The first one is called Brahacharya-ashrama. This is the life of a student, which includes the learning frenzy people go through while growing up and going to school. The second is Gruhasth-ashrama, the stage of family life. Family is as much a duty as it is a loving affair, since Jain believers are completely devoted to their spouses and children, family harmony, and following the righteous path through life.
Once the children are raised, the Jain commits to Vanaprasth-ashrama, which includes family and social services. The pressures of supporting a family are not as great since the children are grown and helping contribute to the household, so the parents have more time to dedicate to helping others in the community.
These first three stages are much like any true devotee of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. The fourth stage, Sanyast-ashrama, requires a total dedication though. Once all life’s duties of acquiring as much knowledge as possible, raising a conscientious family to carry on, and giving years of service to the community are accomplished, the practitioner lives the life of a simple monk in a period of total renunciation. This allows time for self-reflection, self-purification, and self-mastery that can lead to enlightenment.
The beauty of the Jain core principles is that they are what sustain the practitioners on a daily basis. These principles are much like other laws taught in the five major religions in the world today, but unlike many religions that lay out rules to follow, these principles are made into a complete awareness by reciting and attempting to consciously practice them between waking and slumber. These core principles are:
- Cause no harm to living beings. This means no violent thoughts, words, or deeds are to be produced to achieve complete control over one’s being. It also encompasses not harming and protecting human life, animal life, and plant life that share our environment equally.
- Only speak the truth. Of course, to speak the truth one must also be thinking the truth. This is communicating without fabrication, exaggeration, flattery, idle gossip, or carelessly supposing something is true based on one’s biased opinion.
- Never take anything not freely given. If it is not yours, do not touch it, offer it, or mentally covet it.
- Control the mind and senses from indulgences. Never abuse substances of pleasure, such as alcohol, recreational drugs, or force oneself on another in sexual misconduct. Always remain committed and monogamous to one’s spouse.
- Remain unattached to people or things. Do not chase fame or accumulate an abundance of useless material things. Practice detachment from the social realm, so others cannot be a negative influence and cause one to fall into incorrect faith, thoughts, or actions.
Obviously, the result of living such a pious life is a complete sense of accomplishment, learning to be satisfied and happy without complications, and having utter self-control in any situation. That certainly will produce harmony in one’s environment and a healthy life balance for oneself.