Jayen Tolia – Class B (Winner 1st Place – Group B)

How Jainism Plays a Role in My Daily Life


Jainism has a huge effect on my life.  It is a part of my daily routine: how I eat, sleep, play, learn and how I interact with others.  What is Jainism?  It is a religion of non-violence.  Jains do not eat meat, seafood, or sometimes even dairy.  They also do not hunt or kill for fun, and are honest.  Basically Jainism means not fighting and killing, and always telling the truth.  The main or central principle of Jainism is non-violence, also known as Ahimsa.  All of our gods have purified their souls by practicing Jainism. 


I can fit Jainism into my daily routine by not eating meat, praying before I go to bed, and not stepping on bugs when I am outside.  There are many other ways Jainism fits into and affects my life.


I walk home from the bus stop with my friends.  When I get home, I eat a snack of apple slices and peanut butter, then I do my homework until dinner is ready.  I sometimes eat Chinese or Mexican food, but never animal products such as chicken or beef.  However, I do eat veggie burgers and veggie dogs which are hamburgers and hot dogs made with soy instead of meat.


Sometimes on weekends I get up late.  My mom is cooking veggie bacon and veggie sausages for breakfast.  Yum!  It is delicious, probably more delicious than regular bacon or sausage.  See how good meat can be made just by replacing it with a little soy ?


No Jains eat any seafood or meat, but some don’t even consume dairy !  They are called pure vegetarians or vegans.  There are also some Jains who do eat dairy but who don’t eat roots like carrots, potatoes and radishes.  These Jains are strict vegetarians.  


In a Jain holiday called Paryushan, I observe a period of self discipline by avoiding greens for 8 days.  This helps me to achieve the Jain goal of aparigraha or non-attachment.


As a Jain, if I even get into a conflict, I naturally try to resolve it without violence.  This can be done in a number of ways.  For example, if I am fighting about something with my friend, we could physically fight and hurt each other; however, a better way to solve the conflict is to have a conversation where we both respectfully listen to each other’s point of view; and then if we still cannot resolve the conflict, we can agree to disagree.  This is better than both of us sticking stubbornly to our position instead of a compromise which would help both of us.  This is the Jain way of conflict resolution.


Also, as someone who follows the Jain way of life, I try to avoid anything that harms other life.  For example, I try to avoid using any products made from animals.  That includes avoiding eating any meat products.  Also, I try to avoid using leather and silk because these products are made from animals and animals have to be harmed or killed in order to produce these products.  Some other examples of things I avoid that hurt animals include keeping pets, avoiding circuses and avoiding horse riding.  When I was cooking at camp this summer, I was offered a job to help prepare ground beef.  I did not participate because this would be betraying the principles of Jainism.


Another reason we avoid meat, aside from killing animals, there is a lot of cruelty in slaughterhouses, which are necessary to produce meat products.  Strict Jains even avoid dairy products because the cows are often treated cruelly in order to mass produce milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt.


Every night, before I go to bed, I pray to bhagwan or god.  I do this to help me have a sense of peace and calm and I also recite the namokar mantra which helps to enhance Jain principles of nonviolence and equity with all living being in my mind.  It also helps me to reinforce respect for the panch parmesthis.  These are holy beings who have given up their life as a householder in order to become god.  This helps remind me that perfect knowledge (keval gnan) is possible and I should strive for it in my everyday life.


If I have a book that I have read many times, I ask my parents to give it to someone else.  This also is a Jain principle, namely non-possessiveness.  This means Jains should avoid owning or possessing too many things, especially things we do not need, and trying to share them with others who may benefit from them.


Another strong principle of Jainism is Anekantavada, or flexibility of viewpoints.  For example, my class is doing a team project.  Someone wants to build a bridge but I want to build an airplane powered by a rubber band.  According to the principle of Anekantavada, I must look at the project from the other person’s point of view and regard his opinion as equally valid to my own.  This is one of the key principles in Jainism, and helps us to better understand each other and get along better with everyone in the world.

A part of ahimsa (non-violence) is not fighting in wars and killing people.  While this doesn’t affect me now because I am not an adult, it is still an important principle of non-violence.  For example, if I was asked to go and fight in a war and kill people, even to defend my country, I would not do so because it is against the principles of Jainism.  Jains are pacifists, which means they don’t participate in wars.

Another aspect of Jainism which is important to me is avoiding animal cruelty.  This means knowing about how animals are abused to make some products.  For example, eggs could be considered vegetarian because the animals are still unborn, but the chickens are severely abused to collect the eggs.  For this reason we don’t eat eggs as Jains.  Similarly, many products (such as varakh, which uses the intestines of an ox) use animals cruelly, so we don’t use them.  We also don’t use products such as make-up or cologne or perfume which often use animals for testing, which also is very cruel to the animals.

So in summary, Jainism has a profound effect on my life.  It affects the way I plan my day, what I eat, how I behave with others, and the way I approach conflict resolution and argument.  The overall goal is to become a better person with less attachments (karma) by interacting with others in a benevolent way and trying to make the world a better place.  


How does Jainism play a role in YOUR daily life?