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Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D. Answers:
Jainism is one of the most ancient religions in the world. Jains follow the teachings of a succession of 24 prophets known as Tirthankaras, the last of whom is Tirthankar Mahavir. Prayers are often addressed to the Tirthankaras.
Jains believe in a multi-layered universe which contains a series of heavens and hells, the greatest of which is the “Supreme Abode” wherein reside the liberated souls. Everyone is bound within the universe by one’s karma — the accumulated evil deeds that one has done. Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, there is no “good karma” in Jainism. The goal for the individual soul is to attain moksha, liberation from an endless cycle of lives through reincarnation. This can only be achieved through aestheticism.
Three general principles (ratnas) which define Jain life are right faith, right knowledge and right action.
Five principles of conduct include:
1) Ahimsa – non-violence in all parts of a person and to all living things so as to avoid negative karma.
2) Satya – speaking truth, avoiding falsehood;
3) Asteya – prohibition against stealing;
4) Brahma-charya – “conduct of the soul” which involves monogamous fidelity to one’s spouse;
5) Aparigraha – fostering a healthy sense of detachment from material things, people and places.
For more information, go to: http://www.jainism.org/