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Jainism: India’s one of the Oldest Religion believes in Spiritually Freeing the Soul

Recently, Jainism and its practice of "rite to final passage" has drawn a lot of questions from the law

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Pavapuri Lal Mandir of Pune. Image Source:Wikimedia Commons.

Nov 25, 2016: In California, on June 9, a law lets patients suffering from terminal illnesses to end their lives with help from a physician. This incident let to several debates as to whether human life should be prolonged against the desire to die peacefully as well as with dignity.

Jainism is one of the most ancient religions of India and it teaches a way of life, unique in its own manner. Jainism gives importance to the lives of all beings-living and non-living. Apart from India there is prevalence of Jain faith in other parts of the world as well. It is believed that it was a religious reformer named Mahavira who brought the concept of Jainism amidst common men and women. Mahavira, like Buddha, was born in a royal family, as well. But after the passage of his parents, he left the life of the royal household and embraced the life of an aesthetic.

A statue of Mahavira. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons.
A statue of Mahavira. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

Jainism is rooted in the concepts of certain values:

  • Ahimsa or non-violence
  • non-attachment to worldly possessions
  • Truthfulness
  • Abstaining from stealing
  • Chastity or celibacy

The last vow was added by Mahavira himself and these principles are called mahavirbratas after him. Mahavira gave Jainism its present structure and today there exists so many followers of this religion.

Jain Tirthankar Statues. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons.
Jain Tirthankar Statues. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

Jainism believes that the soul is immortal and ever-lasting. It cannot be destroyed but it can be transformed from one body to another, one state to another, like energy. Therefore, their life is not built around the worldly pleasures; instead, it is based upon their acceptance of the eternal and inevitable truth of life-death. They do not assume death to be a morose welfare, yet, it is supposed to be the departure of the soul from one body to another. They are firm believers in karma. According to Jainism, there is no particular God or Creator; the actions of men truly define what their fate is going to be.

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A Jain Sthanakvasi Monk. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons.
A Jain Sthanakvasi Monk. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, the Jain concept of fasting unto death was greatly debated upon. It has been officially recorded that over 200 Jains, fast unto death every year when their urge to live is gone. Not only in India, but it is a widely followed ritual among Jains all over the world.  This according to them is their “rite to final passage”. This concept of entitlement to a peaceful departure from the living state of the body is distinctly different from the concept of “right”.

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They do the needful to free the soul who has become tired of that particular life, in that, they see no sin. However, the legal system in India has viewed this as a violation of the law against suicide when a young lawyer called Nikhil Soni filed a case against this ritual or practice of the Jains in 2006. The verdict came out last year, in the favour of Soni. Soon after the verdict came out, the Supreme Court withdrew its verdict and has yet not decided whether to criminalise the practice of “rite to final passage” or not.

Debate still continues on whether “rite to final passage” should be granted by the law or should it be considered as a punishable offence. No matter what the verdict is, it is true that a religion is as unique as its beliefs. Scrapping away their practices, which inflict no harm upon innocents, is probably infringing upon their freedom of religion.

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‘Religion’ in India- Types and its Connection to Country’s Civilization

The Ancient religions of India are Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

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Religion
Ancient Religions of India.

India’s economic and political strata in today’s world have reached a great level, but that is still not what the country is known for. The country is known for its diversity and religions because the term ‘religion’ in India is not just a system of belief and worship, but a way of life too. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of its culture. For the citizens of this country, religion pervades through all the activities of life- from cooking chores to working and politics. The religion we follow plays an important role in our upbringing as well. Our conditioning is done based on the principles of our religion. India is a home to many religions- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and others.

How old is the Indian civilization?

The Indian civilization is around 4000 years old, with the existing Indian religions growing in that period. The antiquity of the religions in India begins from the Harappan culture. It’s a secular country which respects all kinds of religion and culture, but during the ancient times, when the Human civilization was developing, there were three main religions native to India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The predominant religion during this period was Hinduism, which is said have originated in the Northern India.

Religion wise Indian Population:

  • HINDUISM – about 82%
  • ISLAM – about 12%
  • CHRISTIANITY – about 2.5%
  • SIKHISM – about 2%
  • BUDDHISM – about 0.7%
  • JAINISM – about 0.5%
  • ZOROASTRIANISM – about 0.01%
  • JUDAISM – about 0.0005%   (stated by adaniel.tripod)

Hinduism

Religion
Brahma                                                                                                                                                          Pixabay

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its followers worship several deities. Unlike the other religions, this religion does not have one teacher. Its followers, the ‘Hindus’ believe in a supreme divine spirit called ‘Parama Brahma’. The concept of Parama Brahma states that Brahma is omnipresent.

Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is a single family. They also believe in Sarva dharma Sama Bhava, which means all religions are equal. The practice follows the ideas of mercy, charity, compassion, benevolence, non-violence and mercy. It believes the concept of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion.

The sacred writings of Hinduism include the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads.

Also Read: The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Jainism

Religion
Lord Mahavira                                                                                                                                                   Pixabay

According to tradition, the founder of Jainism was first Tirthankara Adinatha. However, the religion was widely propagated by the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira. He was born in Vaishali, Bihar, who belonged to the clan ‘Licchavi’. Mahavira was moved by the sufferings of people, and therefore, left his home at the age of 30 to seek the truth. He supported the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, and added his own beliefs to the teachings.
He believed in the ideology of leading a good life and not doing any wrong. He did not encourage the practice of needing the help of God for everything.
Doctrines of Jainism:
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)

Buddhism

Religion
Lord Buddha                                                                                                                                                    Pixabay

Buddhism is a religion which consists of different kinds of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddha’s name was Siddhartha. He was the son of the Shakya clan’s leader. It is believed that Siddhartha made three observations, which changed his life:  a feeble old man; a person suffering from disease; and a dead body being taken for cremation. This propelled him in finding the true meaning of life. He left his home at an early age and attained ‘enlightenment’ in Bodhgaya.
He also prescribed the four noble truths and eight fold path.
Four noble truths are:
  • Dukkha (truth of suffering)
  • Samudāya (truth of the suffering’s origin)
  • Nirodha (the truth of suffering’s cessation.)
  • Magga (Direction to eight-fold path)

The eight fold path are- Right aims, Right beliefs, Right conduct, Right speech, Right effort, Right occupation, Right meditation and Right thinking.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at twitter @ImMeghaacharya.

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What is the relation between Religion and Drug use?

Is there a connection between religion and drugs? Do some religions advocate drug use? 11 religions and their views on drugs will surprise you.

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Relationship between Religion and Drug use
Relationship between Religion and Drug use. Pixabay
  • Buddhists are meant to refrain from any quantity of fermented or distilled beverages
  • The goal of Jainism is to escape the cycle of reincarnation
  • Ayahuasca is used by South American tribes as part of a powerful religious experience

August 12, 2017: Throughout the history, Religion and Drug use have been seen as intertwined but the nature of this relationship has changed over time, from one place to another, one religion to another and with changing times. It’s true that Alcohol and other drugs have played some crucial part in the religious rituals of numerous groups. Some religions have specific laws, others have interpretations from religious texts, while some religions have no official message about the use of narcotics.  In this article, we will explore the relationship between religion and drug use as per different religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism and many others.

Buddhism

Buddhism is not in favor of drug use.  Though it offers suggestions on how one should try to lead their life. Buddhism make a valid point that alcohol and drugs should be avoided.

According to the fifth precept of the Pancasila, Buddhists are meant to refrain from any quantity of “fermented or distilled beverages” which would prevent mindfulness or cause heedlessness. The Pali Tipitaka (Buddhist scriptures) says, “I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.”

The Dalai Lama has stated, “drug use hurts the mind’s ability to be introspective, which leads to unintended and unguided consequences”.

Jainism

Followers of Jainism are instructed to abstain from anything intoxicating, unless for a medical purpose. The pollution of the mind should be avoided so as to avoid disrupting the state of the Supreme Being called Jina (Conqueror).

Jainism has a strict diet that is vegetarian and also excludes some vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrot, and radish, basically all root vegetables. Unlike some other religions, Jainism does not allow alcohol use as the process of alcohol formation involves fermentation, which includes microorganisms, thus it is not considered vegetarian. This is because they follow the principle of non-violence. The goal of Jainism is to escape the cycle of reincarnation. The spiritual effect, or Karma, of violent actions, stop them from attaining this. Mahavira, also known as Vardhamana, was the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara (who achieved salvation) of Jainism, said, “Kill not, cause no pain. Nonviolence is the greatest religion.”

Hinduism

Hinduism has one of the most intertwined connections with narcotics use in its origin. Arthashaastra of Kautilya (an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit) states, ‘The mind of a drunken person becomes confused, then the confused mind commits sins…a wise person should never even try wine and other intoxicants.’

While there are some Hindus who still use marijuana or psychedelics most of the Hindus dissuade their use. Soma, a drink with psychedelic properties, is directly mentioned in the Vedas (the first Hindu texts). Some images of the god Shiva depict him with a marijuana pipe. While there is no direct religious text denying them, leaders declare it hurts the ability to achieve spiritual harmony. Again, the goals of spiritual harmony and drug use are seen as contradictory. Laws of Manu an ancient Hindu text states that ‘He must not get willfully addicted to any… substances of self-gratification; he must try to overcome such dependence through will power.’

Also Read: Are you addicted to Drugs? Well, it may cause Tooth Decay and periodontal Disease

Islam

Islam is one religion which has a strong stance against the use of any substance, with direct quotations in the Quran about it. “Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer.” Therefore, many Muslims are taught to be completely substance free. Under Islam, it is considered to be haram (unlawful). Quran states, ‘concerning wine and gambling…as per them is a great sin…the sin is greater than the profit.’ Though some Muslims argue the Quran only bans alcohol and if the Quran does not explicitly deny something, it is permissible.

Interestingly some extremist Islamic groups like ISIS give their fighters amphetamines and justify it by saying that it is being used for a higher authority and has medicinal purposes.

Sikhism

Sikh doctrine is one of the few religions to specifically mention drug use. It is not vague about the prohibition of drugs, Bhagat Kabir said, “Those mortals who consume marijuana, fish, and wine – no matter what pilgrimages, fasts, and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell.”

As per Sikhism use of alcohol, wine and other recreational drugs used with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational or religious experience are condemned by the Sikh Gurus. Recreational drugs like LSD, PCP, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy as well as inhalants like shoe glue, gases, aerosols, shoe glue, solvents etc are abhorred in Sikh religion.

The reason given is that the intoxicants affect your ability to focus on God all the time. Gurbani talks in the Guru Granth Sahib that “Those who do not use intoxicants are true; they dwell in the Court of the Lord.” There is an exception though, the Nihang of Punjab, a Sikh military order, used marijuana in meditation. But, this was banned in 2001 by the ruling body of Sikh clergy. The leader of the Nihang at the time refused to follow the ruling and was excommunicated. Its use for meditation is still continued by some Nihang.

Catholicism

There is no official doctrine on drugs in Catholicism. The Bible does not directly state not to smoke marijuana. Though, the Catholic Church has strongly been against the use of drugs and also for the nonprescription use of it. Pope Francis, the current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, said, “Every addicted person brings with them a distinct personal history, which should be listened to, understood, loved, and, where possible, cured and purified. We cannot fall into the injustice of classifying them as if they were objects or broken junk.”

Pope Francis has called drugs “evil” and does not support their legalization. His approach, matching his more liberal style, has been to focus on saying “yes” to spirituality.

There are several lines of Scripture recommending a sober mindset in general. New American Bible states, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Though it’s confusing, how can the Catholic Church say no to drugs while allowing alcohol in their ceremonies? The answer is moderation. The Catholic Church argues consumption of alcohol can be moderated, while most narcotics cannot, which is the reason they allow the use of alcohol versus other substances. This does not mean it is encouraged. As most priests encourage sobriety.

Also Read: Formulate a National Action Plan to Combat Drug Abuse among Children, says Supreme Court

Christianity

Christianity has the same view as that of Catholicism: No substance use, although alcohol is okay in moderation. However, there are Bible passages indicating total non-use of it: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”

Shamanism

The variation between different belief systems means there are different variations on the use of drugs according to different religions. Some religious practices directly involve the use of psychotropic drugs. The Native American Church uses Peyote (small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids) to have spiritual visions and as a part of their religious ceremonies. They are legally allowed to use drugs this as its part of their religion. Other groups appreciate the influence of alcohol as a part of the natural world.

Ayahuasca (one of the most powerful hallucinogens on the planet) is used by South American tribes as part of a powerful religious experience. This has gained them popularity globally, with thousands of tourists venturing to partake in the drug and the unique ritual.

Shinto

Shinto has an intimate connection with alcohol; it’s an ethnic religion of Japan. There is no mention of narcotics in the religious texts, so it’s left to their personal choice. Sake- the liquor of the gods is consumed at special occasions such as births or weddings. There is even holy sake called Omiki and practitioners drink this when visiting a shrine.

Given the high alcoholism rate in Japan and few seeking treatment, it is unclear if this practice should continue or not. It may be linked to cultural practices that go way beyond the religion. There is some historical evidence that marijuana was used for religious ceremonies, but it was not consumed. There are no moral absolutes in Shinto. The main ethical code is to follow Kami (spirits/deities). But even the Kami makes mistakes and are contradictory at times.

Shinto does try to eliminate impurities. This is called Tsumi and stands for pollution or sin. While there is no specific mentioning of narcotics, it can be argued they are Tsumi. This would require a cleansing ceremony, potentially using alcohol. But, it’s uncertain how many Shinto followers abstain from drug use.

Judaism

In Judaism, the body belongs to God; therefore, the body must be treated with respect and dignity. While alcohol can be consumed at festivals and ceremonies, like the Sabbath, it must be done in moderation. All other substances are banned in this religion.

Baha’i Faith

The Baha’i Faith explicitly prohibits drug use, Kitáb-i-Aqdas or Aqdas (central book of the Baha’i Faith) states, “Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you.”

Alcohol is also prohibited. Baha’i scholars state this comes from purity of the soul. They believe the spiritual effect on an individual is far graver than the legal consequences or health effects of drug abuse. The sale and trafficking of such substances is also forbidden

Other religions like Rastafarianism (Africa-centered religion) which allow the use of marijuana for worship and as a part of religious rituals, Wicca  (contemporary Pagan new religious movement) there is no official rule condoning or denying drugs and Taoism (Chinese religion)  doesn’t condone drug use.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
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Jain Humanitarian Organization ‘Veerayatan’ in USA takes Unique Projects to Spread Message of Peace

Jain humanitarian organization- Veerayatan spreads the message in U.S. about Palitana Project and Nepal Project

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Feet prayer by Jains
A Jain Humanitarian Organization in US takes Unique Projects to Spread Message of Peace. Wikimedia
  • The organization, Veerayatan is made up of two words, ‘Veer’ for Lord Mahavir and ‘aayatan’ which means holy place
  • Palitana will be a university with a four-year program of studies, will include a study of Jainism and also science education, a modern curriculum with a spiritual base

New Jersey (U.S.A), July 28, 2017: There is an Indian humanitarian organization by the name Veerayatan, it draws inspiration from the Jain faith and is implementing some unique projects like a university for women aspiring into monkhood, with four years of study and a concerted effort to help Nepal to build a better life for its citizens.

The organization, Veerayatan is made up of two words, ‘Veer’ for Lord Mahavir and ‘aayatan’ which means a holy place. According to its website, it was founded in 1973, by Acharya Shri Chandana ji, and was inspired by the teachings of Tirthankar Mahavir and Rashtrasant Amar Muniji Maharaj. It describes itself as “a non-profit, non-governmental, socio-religious organization,” on its Facebook page.

5,000 Jains in Hyderabad gather to Chant ‘Navkar Manthra’

According to a TOI  report, Acharya Shri Chandanaji said, “the projects had been well received by the approximately 5,000 attendees,” at the JAINA Convention held in Edison, New Jersey, United States, from June 30 to July 4. Veerayatan was recognized as the Best Institution of the Year, by JAINA. It may be noted that Chandana was the first ever female Jain sadhvi  to have received the title of Acharya.

Acharya Shri Chandana Ji’s message at the Convention was that actions should replace talk about compassion and non-violence. “For thousands of years we have spoken on non-violence and compassion, but what is necessary is that- where we live and are surrounded by people who need food, whose eyes are filled with tears.  We should do something about that,” she said.

She added that one does not have to search for God. God will come to those who will do these acts. “Our organization is just a drop in the ocean in what should be a worldwide effort,” she said, noting, “JAINA Convention very patiently listened and our message was well received.”

On the ‘Nepal Project,’ Acharya Chandanaji said that They had been working in that country for the last 2 years and wants people from surrounding countries in the South Asian Subcontinent, the U.S., and around the world, to step forward and the Nepalese will achieve a better life and good governance. She found the people of Nepal, hardworking and gentle, who need and deserve help from people skilled in various areas of endeavor, and shared this message at the JAINA Convention.

“Our vision is that surrounding nations (and others) can help Nepal in the effort for development – both spiritually and to establish a good government,” Acharya Chandanaji said.

A Sadhvi being carried in Jain culture
A Sadhvi being carried in Jain culture. Wikimedia

The organization’s ‘Palitana Project ‘ named after the place where Veerayatan was first formed, seeks to create a center for Jain studies for sadhvis and those wanting to become one. This Project is led by Jainesh Mehta, a Texas-based longstanding IT software professional in the oil industry, and philanthropist whose Mehta Family Foundation is known for its charitable efforts. Mehta said that the vision is for Palitana to be a university with a four-year program of studies, will include a study of Jainism and also science education, a modern curriculum with a spiritual base. It is a place where education and worship go together. The campus would also offer- one day, one week, one month or other duration of courses to those needing them, he added.

Peace and Non-Violence: Inculcation of Jain Philosophies in the Youth for a Better Tomorrow

Last year alone, around 1,000 girls and women took Deeksha in Palitana, a vow by which worldly life is given up for an ascetic life. For this transformation, they have to give up their households to live in poverty but they don’t get an opportunity to have an education. “This project helps them live their life but also get this education. It is a one-of-a-kind campus being built,” to help fill the gap, Mehta indicated.

According to its website, Veerayatan stands on the three pillars-  Seva (service to humanity), Shiksha (education for all), and Sadhana (self-development) to inspire and empower lives.

Its various activities include Seva Mandirs, which include medical camps, eye surgeries, and post-surgery care for the most underserved populace; schools, colleges, hostels, and vocational training; rehabilitation and emergency relief programs in the wake of natural calamities; Brahmi Kala Mandir, an art gallery comprising inventive media to better understand life, culture, and religion; guest houses and libraries; and prayer halls, spiritual retreats, and inspirational programs for all age groups.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.