ABC’s of Jainism!
Imagine you’re at school, and on your way to eat lunch. You enter the cafeteria, get your lunch, and sit down with your friends at the table. As you reach to get your lunch out, one of your friends asks you,”So I know you’re a vegetarian and you don’t want to hurt animals, but what’s your whole religion really about?” I start to answer, Jainism is a religion whose basic principles are Ahimsa which is non-violence, Anekantavada, meaning multiplicity of views, and Aparigraha which is non-attachment. Our goal as Jains is to attain Moksha, or liberation to be free from the continuous cycle of birth and death. We have idols, known as Tirthankars, who have complete knowledge and have attained Moksha. We want to be like them, and these 3 A’s of Jainism will lead us to attain this goal.
Ahimsa is the first thing I would tell my friend about Jainism. Ahimsa means non violence, which is not harming any living beings through thoughts, words, or actions. In the JAB Manual, it states “Jains believe that all life forms have a soul, and all souls are…equal and should be treated with respect,” which is why we follow nonviolence and are vegetarians. Also, scientifically, many people are noticing that being a vegetarian and vegan has many healthy advantages and provides a healthier lifestyle. Ahimsa is especially important in this day and age because violence has caused many problems and conflicts among communities and individuals. We see a lot of hate and anger which is taken out through violent acts, such as gun violence and terror attacks. If everyone were to follow this Jain principle of Ahimsa, it would prevent these actions and there would be more peace. I then tell my friend about how I practice Ahimsa in simple ways everyday such as avoiding walking on grass, and watching out for tiny insects in my surroundings. We should adopt Ahimsa not only by how we act, but also with how we think and speak, it will help us all be more caring and compassionate. “So that’s why we’re vegetarians, but there’s a lot more to Jainism,” I finish explaining to my friend.
The next thing I would discuss is Anekantavada, which means understanding and accepting others’ perspectives besides your own, because there is not always a right or wrong opinion. It is important for everyone to consider various views and follow Anekantavada so that we can respect each other and avoid conflict. If Anekantavada was more implemented, everyone would be more understanding, politics would be calmer, and more opinions would be heard. Anekantavada should be applied in everyday life as well, I tell my friend. For example, if we were all debating about a topic, we should listen to each other’s thoughts and opinions with a open mind. And as the JAB Manual summarizes, “Accepting partial truth in each one-sided view can lead to a life of partnership and participation, life of friendliness and harmony.”
The final thing I would describe to my friend is the last A, Aparigraha, which is non attachment or non possessiveness. This means not having too much attachment to worldly items and relationships because attachment is an obstacle that prevents us from reaching our goal, Moksha. Aparigraha is crucial because attachment can lead to greed, which causes anger, fights, and arguments. Anger and greed are two of the four Kashayas (passions), which Jains work to avoid. I follow Aparigraha in day to day life by reducing my wants and limiting my needs. For example, I use the same lunchbox and backpack for a year or two, and I use clothes for longer, then donate the ones that don’t fit me. This shows Aparigraha because I am not attached to the items I own and am willing to give them away to people in need. Aparigraha teaches us ‘sharing is caring’ and limiting your wants can lead to practicing non-attachment. “Wow, I’ve always known about ‘sharing is caring,’ but now I know why another reason it’s important,” my friend says.
“Jainism is not only a religion, but a way of life that promotes equality and compassion towards all living beings,” I summarized to my friend. So to conclude, I would explain Jainism to someone through the 3 A’s and how to apply them to make you a better person. Jains try to follow these principles everyday to practice peace and tranquility in the world!
The JAB Manual