Lord Mahavira & the Jain Religion

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  • 0:08 Jainism
  • 1:07 Moksha
  • 2:13 Mahavira
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explain the history and the beliefs of Jainism. In doing this, it will highlight the life of Lord Mahavira as well as define the terms 'moksha' and 'Tirthankara.'

Jainism

When we westerners think of religion, we tend to think of people going to church on Sundays, Mass on Saturday nights, or celebration of the Sabbath. However, not all religions have such easily nailed down characteristics nor do they fit neatly into our Western paradigm. An excellent example of one such faith is Jainism, a religion focused on the goals of true perception, true knowledge, and true conduct. In other words, it's a religion based on striving for correct thoughts and behaviors. In today's lesson, we'll discuss this religion and one of its most important teachers, Lord Mahavira.

For starters, Jainism is a syncretistic religion. This simply means it is a combination of other religions. More specifically, it is considered a combination of Buddhism and Hinduism. When studying religion, most scholars assert that almost all Jains, or believers in Jainism, live in India. This makes rather good sense, as both Hinduism and Buddhism originated in India, as well.

Moksha

As we already mentioned, Jainism is very focused on behavior and thought. However, rather than thinking that these things will get you into heaven, Jains strive for moksha, or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Of course, like many ancient religions, the exact way to attain this is rather hazy. According to many who follow Jainism, the way to moksha is through never harming a living thing, speaking only the truth, staying away from any sort of sensual pleasure, never stealing, and keeping life free from material possessions. As we said in the beginning of the lesson, these behaviors are summed up as true perception, true knowledge, and true conduct.

As well as having a rather nebulous faith system, the history of Jainism is also very unclear. It doesn't even have a single founder. Like we said, it's believed to have originated in India just like the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. It's also rather unclear when it began, with many of its followers claiming it has no beginning. This is similar to their belief that the universe also had no beginning and will have no end.

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