Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to follow lives of harmlessness and renunciation. It was formulated by the Mahavira (great soul) Vardhamana in the 6th century BCE, based on the teaching of a 9th century sage, and it is believed that there were 22 earlier ‘gate-openers’ (Tirthankars) in remote ages whose doctrine was the same.The disciples of this teaching are known as Jains and follow the spiritual path and examples set by those previous human beings who were conquerors of their own inner enemies such are anger, pride, deceit, greed, attachment and hatred. Jains believe that, besides human beings, animals and plants as well have living souls. Each of these souls is considered of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.
Jains are strict vegetarians and live in a way that minimises their use of the world's resources. They believe in reincarnation and seek to attain ultimate liberation - which means escaping the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth so that the immortal soul lives for ever in a state of bliss. Jains are divided into two major sects: the Digambara (meaning "sky clad") and the Svetambara (meaning "white clad"); the names refer to whether the monks go naked or wear a simple robe. Nuns in both sects wear white. Monks and nuns travel by foot only and are not allowed to use any transport for fear of causing pollution and violence, with the exception of a few permitted to teach abroad. Jainism has no priests. Key festivals include the founder’s birthday (Mahavir Jayanti) and a time of fasting and confession (Paryushana – parva)There are about 15,000 Jains in Britain. The main centre of worship in the West Midlands is Birmingham’s Jain Ashram on Hamstead Hill. There are smaller organisations in Hall Green and Coventry.The Jain symbol features a wheel on the palm of a hand and represents the teaching of harmlessness.
More information on the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/jainism/
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