History. Historians agree that the Jainism is a pre-historical religion. Recent archeological discoveries of substantiate the Jain religion’s existence for approximately five thousand years. The Jain religion is believed to have been in existence since the laws of nature have been in existence. Jains believe that the Jain religion has been in existence since the beginningless beginning (no beginning) and will have no end.

Practices and Beliefs. There is no supreme God in Jainism. Rather there are enlightened teachers, or Jinas. The word Jina literally means "the Victor" or "the Liberator". One who has freed himself/herself from the bondage of Karma by conquering räga (attachment - deceit and greed) & dvesha (aversion - anger and ego). The followers of Jina are called Jains. Today, there are about 6 million Jains in the world. Jains are also called shramanas (self-reliant) or nirganthas (who does not have attachments, aversions, desires and passions).

The ultimate goal of Jainism is to rid of all karmas and attain the salvation (liberation - moksha). Therefore, the path of liberating the soul from attachment and aversion constitutes the philosophy of Jainism. Jains are unable to accept the concept of faith in "divine grace". When a living being eradicates all his/her karmas, he/she attains perfect knowledge, perfect perception, infinite amount of energy and permanent bliss. He/she becomes omniscient and omnipotent. Every living being has a potential to become God per the Jain religion. Jains rely a great deal on their own initiatives and efforts, for both - our worldly requirements and our salvation.

Jainism grew out of the teachings of a series of historical teachers who became "enlightened" and hence liberated beings, the most recent being Mahavira (c. 599-527 BC), the 24th Jina, a near contemporary of the Buddha Sakyamuni. The existence of the preceding 22 Jinas remains beyond historical verification but is embedded in the Jain pantheon, together forming the 24 Jinas of this particular age. At the heart of Jain teachings is the committment to non-violence (ahminsa) to all living creatures, including insect and plant life. A natural consequence of this philosophy is strict vegetarianism and a tendancy to go into occupations which do not interfere with nature, such as trade, commerce and banking. Non-violence in the center is guarded by truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy (or faithfulness to own spouse) and non-possessiveness.

Per Jain beliefs, for living beings, his/her karma plays an important role. Karma is matter that our soul attracts based on our thought, speech and/or action. Bad karma pollutes the inherent qualities of the soul. The bondage and deliverance of each individual belong to himself or herself. The experience of happiness or sorrow belongs to each individual and the experience is his/her own. According to his/her past karma, his/her present fate is decided, and his/her future will be decided based on his/her presented the balance of past karma.

Jain Calendar and Festivals. The Jain calendar does not follow the western Gregorian calendar. By going to the following URL you can review how the Jain calendar translates into the Gregorian calendar, and learn about the various holidays and festivals of Jainism: http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/calendar.html
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