Jainism began in the 6th century as a reformation movement within Hinduism. It is based on the teachings of its founder, Mahavira. Believing that a life of self-denial was the way to achieve “enlightenment,” Mahavira wandered naked and mute through India for 12 years, enduring hardship and abuse. After this, he took on disciples, preaching his newfound belief. Mahavira was vehemently opposed to the idea of acknowledging or worshipping a supreme being. Although Mahavira denied that any God or gods existed to be worshipped, he, like other religious leaders, was deified by his later followers. He was named the 24th Tirthankara, the last and greatest of the savior beings. According to Jain writings, Mahavira descended from heaven, committed no sin himself, and through meditation, freed himself from all earthly desires.
Jainism is a religion of extreme legalism, for one attains his own salvation only through the path of asceticism (rigid self-denial). There is no freedom in this religion, only rules, primarily the Five Great Vows, which mandate the renunciation of (1) killing living things, (2) lying, (3) greed, (4) sexual pleasure and (5) worldly attachments. Women are to be avoided entirely because they are thought to be the cause of all kinds of evil.
Finally, while avoiding greed, lying and worldly attachments is commendable, avoiding sexual pleasure, if taken to its extreme, would be the end of mankind. In addition, one of the tenets of Jainism is ahimsa, the forbidding of taking life in any form, unfortunately, that leaves out hamburgers and other delicacies.
Unfortunately, the failure of Jainism to advance much beyond certain areas of India speaks to the fact that it does not meet the universal human need.
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