“Jai Jinendra,”I greeted my mom and rushed down the driveway to walk to school with my classmate. He soon asked me what I just said to my mom. “Jai Jinendra is a common greeting used by Jains, which means to have faith and honor to the supreme god,” I replied. Then, he was curious to know more about my religion. So, I explained how Jainism is all about non-violence, multiplicity of viewpoints, and non-possessiveness. While walking, I preferred to stay on the pathway instead of the quick grass shortcut. I explained to my friend that I try not to walk on grass. This way, I will reduce the number of 1 and 2 sensed living beings on the ground.
One day during lunch, my school friend Greyson asked me, “Why do you only eat vegetarian food?” I described how Jainism supports ‘Live and Let Live’. I justified that the process of meat products involves cruelty to animals. This is the reason I chose not to eat meat. Now, more of my classmates were interested to know about my religion, so I gave them a further explanation;
“Jainism is a very peaceful religion and people who follow this religion are called Jains. Our ultimate goal is to attain Moksha (liberation). There are 5 principals Jains follow to achieve their goal, which are Non-Violence, Truth, Non-Stealing, Non-Attachment, and Celibacy.” I talked on and answered some questions, but my friends were insisting to learn more! I was happy that they were interested, but I could only explain more later and in our day to day activities.
There were a few incidents that happened in school where I got an opportunity to share Jainism concepts and aspects with my friends. (1) There was a time when a large bug entered our classroom, so a group of kids decided to step on it and continue our class. Instead, one of my Persian classmates took a stand to not hurt the bug, picked it up and safely put it outside. We realized that his actions showed Ahimsa (one of the most important principle of Jainism). (2) One day, my teacher gave us a pop quiz, and my friend, Gavin, desired to get a full score. When the results came out, he admitted that he chose the wrong path and looked on someone’s paper. Now we realized that his action showed Truthfulness. It’s better to admit your mistake rather than hiding it. Even though he did the wrong thing, it was right to be truthful.” (3) During one assignment, I did not have sharpened pencils, so I asked Safi (my friend) for a loaner. He quickly gave me his favorite pencil. We understood how he did not become greedy and attached to his belongings That was a perfect example to showcase non-attachment!
After these incidents, my friends were impressed with the religion, so I shared some more in-depth concepts. I told them how Jains pray to Tirthankars. They created Jain religion and are liberated souls. Jains desire to be like our 24 Tirthankars. I further explained about Karmas, which are the consequences of your actions. I said “Think that you are stepping on a book and disrespecting literature (knowledge), this action is attracting Knowledge Obstructing Karma to our soul. Like this, different sins will cause many karmas to bond to your soul. We believe that the consequences of those actions can occur during our current life, or in one of our future births.” This is how I explained concept of reincarnation to my friends.
At last, I hear a question, “Are there any reasons Jains fast before sunrise and after sundown?” I answered by telling the scientific reasons of doing this activity. “It is scientifically proven that if we do Choviar (fasting after sundown) and Navkarshi(fasting before sunrise), we will be more hungry in the morning to eat a full breakfast. Scientists like this idea because breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day.” All my friends were very impressed. They now know how peaceful Jainism is and they will never forget my effective words. Coming down to the end of the year, lots of my friends are talking to me about their interests in Jainism. I thought: “How could I explain Jainism to someone differently?” I know there are many answers to that question, but for now, I’m happy that I still motivated a group of people to follow Jainism!