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Jainism

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Jainism is a religion founded a few decades before the Buddha’s enlightenment by the sage called Mahāvīra, ‘Great Hero,’ by the Jains themselves and Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta by the Buddhists (D.I,57). Although Mahāvīra and the Buddha often talked to or debated with each other’s disciples, they never met directly. Jainism and Buddhism have much in common and it is clear that the Buddha was influenced to some degree by this gentle, ascetic faith. However, Mahāvīra taught that any act, intentional or not, creates kamma, whereas the Buddha taught that only intentional actions have a kammic effect. From this difference between the two religions many others follow. The Buddha was also critical of the self-mortification practised by Jain ascetics. Despite disagreements with Buddhism over these and other philosophical questions, Jainism like Buddhism, has always been a tolerant faith. A popular Jain work, the Nāladiyā, says: ‘Cows are of different shapes and colours but the milk they give is always white. Religious sects are many and various but they all teach the life of virtue.’ For several centuries the two religions vied with each other for supremacy but eventually Buddhism won and Jainism ever after remained a minority religion. Today there are about 3 million Jains in India, mainly in the western state of Gujarat. There are also now small but vibrant communities of Jains in the UK. See Nudity and Sects.

The Jains, Paul Dundas, 2002.

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