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Jainism (a.k.a. Jain Dharma)

Jainism is an ancient religion with an estimated 4,300,000 followers or Jainas. This religion claims to have had 24 tirthankaras (a.k.a. jinas), who were equivalent to spiritual masters, prophets or teachers in India during the present age (or era of the world) . The names of these tirthankaras were Adinatha, Ajita, Sambhava, Abhinandana, Sumati, Padmaprabha, Suparshva, Chandraprabha, Suvidhi, Shital, Shreyansa, Vasupujya, Vimala, Ananta, Dharma, Shanti, Kunthu, Ara, Malli, Muni Suvrata, Nami, Nemi, Parshva and Mahavira.

Each of these 24 tirthankaras achieved a spiritual state of "jina" or conquered oneself. "Jina" is equivalent to "nirvana", which is the Hindu name for enlightenment. Also, they taught others to do the same.

Mahavira, the most recent tirthankara, was originally Prince Vardhamana and born in in the town of Vyshali, (northeast) India circa 599 B.C.. He followed the teachings of the previous tirthankara, Parshva.

There are many similarities between Jainism and other Asian religions including Hinduism (the other major religion in India), Buddhism and Confucianism. Jainism faded in favor of Hinduism in India during the 19th century. In the 20th century, the Digambara (Jainism) movement was revitalized by Acarya Shantisagar.

The foundation scripture of jainism is titled Tattvartha Sutra (or Book of Realities), that is believed to be written over 18 centuries ago by a monk named Umasvati. There are three guiding principles of Jainism (also, referred to as the "three jewels"): right belief, right knowledge and right conduct.

One of the more notable principles (that is sometimes, referred to as a Golden Rule) of Jainism is "ahimsa" or nonviolence toward all living creatures. Furthermore, nonviolence is to be practiced or done in thought as well as action. Note that Jainas follow a vegetarian diet.

There are two main sects of Jainism. They are the Svetambara (with monks wearing white clothing) and Digambara (with monks wearing no clothing or are nude).


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