Occasionally, the Professor learns something new. I had heard of Jains, and have even taught about them, but the other night, I learned something new about the Jains.
Jainism: Reverence for All Living Things
Jainism was founded by Nataputra Vardhamana, known as Mahavira, "Great Hero," who became an ascetic, who promoted pacifism and vegetarianism. His followers believe that all living things have an eternal spirit and must be treated with reverence. The central ideas of their faith is Ahisma—nonviolence to all living things, Moksha—liberation from the cycle of death and reincarnation, and The Three Jewels—right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct. There are five basic ethical principles (vows) prescribed. The degree to which these principles must be practiced is different for renunciant and householder. Thus:
1. Non-violence (Ahimsa) - to cause no harm to living beings.Jains mostly became scholars and merchants, but farmers, who periodically had to kill plants and animals, could not fully commit to Jainism, though some followed its tenements. Jains are known to walk with a broom before them, sweeping away all living things, so as not to harm them.
2. Truth (Satya) - to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.
3. Non-stealing (Asteya) - to not take anything that is not willingly given.
4. Celibacy (Brahmacarya) - to not indulge in sensual pleasures.
5. Non-possession (Aparigraha) - to detach from people, places, and material things.
Jain saintsAmong Jains , there are two main sects- Shwethambara and Digambara. Shwethabars worship idols in pre-sainthood form while digambars worship god in the sainthood form.Nude saints are found in digambar jains community only.
Symbol of Great SacrificeSainthood itself, according to principles, is a symbol of sacrifice. Jaina saints follow strict principles.In digambar community, saints are of three categories.
3. NIRGRANTHAKshullakas wear a saffron dhothi and a saffron cloth is put across their bust. Aillaks wear only a piece in the waist just cover their penis, and nirgranthas are fully nude. This is always followed irrespective of seasonal changes. Female saints (nuns) are allowed only for the first stage and they are called Aryikas. Other two stages are not allowed for them.
Principles followed by jaina nude saints are the following:
1. They will not take a bath or brush their teeth. They only wash their hands and feet and face after going for excretion. They just rub their teeth with their finger after eating food. But they are not permitted to use brush and bathe , as we do. The reason is that, by that action, microbes and other small organisms on our body may die. And , a nirgrantha is to see that no creature dies by his behavior.
2. They take food only once a day. That too is a strict practice. They can not use dishes or dining table . They stand , stretch out their palms, and somebody puts food into their open palms. They test by perusing cleanly and, after confirming that no germ, nor any other dust is there in it, they eat it. If any such thing is found, they leave it there and no food will be taken by them till next day.
3. If they hear any cry of an animal or of a person in distress etc., while taking food , they give up their food.
4. The food they take is simple and tasteless. They take rice, chapa made of wheat, some curry (without salt), coconut water. The food is just to get minimum strength required to maintain life activities.
5. They often take 'hunger vow'-i.e., no food for the day. Sometimes, this hunger vow continues for up to eight days. The great nude saint of twentieth century, Acharya Shantisagarji Maharaj, had a total period of twenty-six years of hunger in his life span of seventy years.
6. They should not use vehicles for movement. They have to travel by walking only. And they walk faster than us! As they are not supposed to use vehicles, they cannot be seen in foreign countries. They are seen only in India.
7. They do not use beds, sleeping bags, or bed sheets and rugs. They sleep on wooden planks or wooden cots, just with a mat on it. In sleep also they do not change their side, with the idea that some germ moving there might be get killed.
8. They do not speak at night.
9. They are not expected to involve themselves in any worldly matters.
10. Needless to say- they keep away from sex, not only physically, but also mentally.
11. They keep only the following items with them -a pincha (a bundle of naturally fallen peacock feathers to brush away the dust while sitting), a kamandala (a wooden vessel to clean themselves after going for excretion), and shastras (religious books). They do not keep money or any valuable things.
12. They are not supposed to get angry- even to someone who who is angry with them.
13. They don't even drink water after their regular food, i.e. once a day.
14. They remove their hairs on their face and head only with their hands/ They wont use tools for that.