Tag Archives: enlightenment

Jains: achieving liberation through harmlessness

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Jainism, is an ancient Indian religion that centers on the idea of liberation through harmlessness. The aim of Jainism is to liberate the soul by avoiding bad karma. Jains are also highly concerned with the well being of all things living and non-living. The 2001 Census of India found that India has the largest population of Jains at 4.2 million. Jainism has two major sects: Digambara, “the sky clad,” and Svetambara, “the white clad.” Jainism has been declining since the growth of Hinduism in India

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Jains do not believe in any type of God or spiritual being. Jains believe that every animal, plant and person contains a soul and that all souls are equal. For this reason, Jains are also strict vegetarians.

The Jains call the soul the jiva and they believe everything has a soul. Jiva means a conscious, living soul. Ajiva refers to the soul of non-living objects. They believe that the soul lasts forever and that souls are responsible for actions. Jains believe that every soul is individual in itself and that there are an infinite number of souls in the world. Souls don’t have bodies and they are infinite, meaning that they have infinite knowledge, infinite power, and infinite bliss. They are perfect beings.

mahaviraMahavira reformed and popularized Jainism. He was born in Vardhamana in 599 B.C.E. and was the son of King Siddhartha. After living as a prince for 30 years he decided to leave his royal palace to live as a sahana. Sahanas live an ascetic life and they reject worldly pleasures and comforts. Mahavira lived ascetically for 12 years and engaged in fasting and meditation until he finally reached enlightenment. The Agamas are the texts of Mahavira’s teachings.

Jains believe in the idea of reincarnation in the afterlife. The central concept in Jainism is to reach ultimate liberation and escape the cycle of rebirth. The Jain soul can only become liberated when it is detached from bad karma. Jains want their souls to live in bliss which is only possible if the bad karma ismed_gallery_2395_1452_159998 removed. Karma determines the quality of life. Jains have a different view on karma than most other religions. Jains believe that karma is like a physical substance that can actually build up on the soul. We attract karma through our bad actions. An accumulation can cause us to have bad thoughts, emotions, and vices. The goal of the Jain life it to “chip away” at this karma that has built up until the soul is liberated.

Three guiding principals called the “three jewels” rule the Jain life. The “three jewels” are: right belief, right knowledge and right conduct. Jains also have the Five Great Vows, sometimes called the mahavratas. The Five Great Vows are: non-violence, non-attachment to possessions, not lying, not stealing and sexual restraint. The most important of these is the principle of non-violence called ahism because of their belief that everything has an individual soul.

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For Jains, nothing is every created or destroyed. Everything changes forms, but exists forever. Jains believe that history is cyclical.

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Buddhism: following in the enlightened footsteps of Siddhartha Gautama

What do Tiger Woods, Orlando Bloom and Steve Jobs all have in common? They’re all Buddhists!

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Buddhism focuses on spiritual development and is absent of worship to any God or deity. The goal of this religion is to reach nirvana by following a similar life path as Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, in his journey towards enlightenment in the 6th century BC. Nirvana is translated as “extinguish and is understood to mean a passing into another kind of existence.  The path to enlightenment is reached through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhism is over 2,500 years old and there are 376 million followers worldwide.

Buddhism focuses on the idea that nothing is permanent and that everything in life is always changing. Life is endless and always subject to the three states called tilakhana. These states are impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. The three states are the sign of our existence which is endless. Buddhists believe that the major form of suffering in life is believing that a good thing can last. Nothing stays in a state of good or bad forever.

tumblr_ljebfrHAkg1qahnmzo1_500The Buddha was Siddhartha Gaurtama, a member of the royal family. Gaurtama lived a rich and privileged life and rarely left his enclosed area. When he did one day he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse and understood the suffering of the world He decided to become a monk and adopted extreme asceticism. After years of understanding that asceticism was not the answer, Gaurtama began following the idea of the “Middle Way”; living a life that is absent of both luxury and poverty. Gaurtama was enlightened and is now known as the Buddha which is translated to the “awakened one.”

The two largest schools of Buddhism are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Although there are a number of different Buddhist schools they all seek englightenment.

Most of the Buddha’s teachings are translated into The Four Noble Truths which are central to Buddhism. These are the truths the Buddha understood on his path to enlightenment through meditation:

  1. Dukkha: the truth is sufferingbuddhism
  2. Samudaya: the truth of the origin
  3. Nirodha: the truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. Magga: the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

Buddhism asks us to understand that suffering is a part of life and that the origin of that suffering is truth. In the third Noble Truth, the Buddha promists a cure for the suffering and the fourth Noble Truth is what fixes truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is a guideline of how to live ethically and free of suffering in pursuit of truth. Through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path Buddhists achieve a higher level of existence and can reach Nirvana. The eight parts of the Path are not steps that go in order, but instead principles that work together.

  1. right viewtumblr_m4jfup1pDQ1r0kx5qo1_1280
  2. right intention
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration

Another central concept in Buddhism is karma. The idea behind karma is that what we have done in our past lives can affect our current life in either a positive or negative manner. Buddhism usually explains this idea in relation to good and bad seeds. Good seeds lead good fruit while bad seeds yield bad fruit. Karma decides where the person is born in their next life. A life of good karma can lead to being born among the heavenly while bad karma can lead to rebirth as an animal or in hell. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to get out of the rebirth cycle. It is through our own actions that we determine which way we move in our next life. Motives should be based on: compassion, kindness, sympathy, mindfulness and wisdom.

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Worship takes place at a Buddhist temple although you do not have to go to the temple to worship. Many Buddhists have a room at their home that is dedicated to worship. Temples are designed to symbolize the five elements: fire, air, earth, water and wisdom. Usually worshipers sit barefoot on the floor facing an image of the Buddha.

Meditation is another central aspect of Buddhism. It is a mental and physical course of action that helps a person to separate their thoughts and feelings. Meditation is good therapy for mental and physical health. Meditation is the idea of simply being and not thing.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”

– The Buddha

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