My personal discovery of Jainism came while teaching world religions at Oakton College in suburban Chicago. This non-theistic (no “god” per se) religion arose in India around 500 BCE, based on the insights of the spiritual teacher Mahavira. While I am not a Jain, the teachings have a positive impact on my life.
The symbol shown above presents the main tenets of Jainism. The word in the center, ahimsa, literally means “stop”, referring to cycles of reincarnation as represented by the wheel. The answer to how this cycle of birth and death may be stopped or transcended comes in the practice of ahimsa, which can provide the basis for a renewal of the world, through the healing of a single life.
The Jain teaching of ahimsa asserts that by doing no harm to any living thing, we heal ourselves and create healing energy that moves beyond us. We are counseled to also avoid angry thoughts and actions. According to Gandhi, a Hindu who valued Jain teachings, ahimsa additionally precludes evil thoughts and hatred, and unkind behavior such as harsh words, dishonesty, and lying, all of which he saw as manifestations of violence.
No violence, no harm, no unkindness. What a world we could create while seeking to renew and free ourselves!
A few years ago I was invited to teach a series of classes on religious traditions at a synagogue in suburban Minneapolis. For those unable to attend, a friend recorded a video of each session and posted them to YouTube. Amazingly, the video on Jainism has received more than 15,000 views.
Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPoJPd9z6mo&t=594s