Jainism Overview

March 17, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

Fast Facts on Jainism
Adherents 4 million
Beliefs The universe is eternal; many gods exist. Gods, humans and all living things are classified in a complex hierarchy.
Practices Monasticism under the Five Great Vows (Non-Violence, Truth, Celibacy, Non-Stealing, Non-Possessiveness); worship at temples and at home. Meditation and mantras.
Texts The teachings of Mahavira in various collections.
Symbols Jain Prateek Chihna

Jainism is an Indian religion that emphasizes complete non-violence and asceticism. Followers of Jainism are called Jains, and there are about 4 million worldwide.

Jainism emerged in 6th-century BCE India, the same time Buddhism was developing. The faith is named for the jinas, spiritual conquerors who have achieved liberation and perfection. Included among these are the 24 spiritual leaders called "ford-makers" or tirthankaras. The last of the tirthankaras was Mahavira (599-527 BCE), a contemporary of the Buddha who is generally considered the founder of Jainism.

Jinas are believed to reside in the top level of heaven, above the realm of the gods. Accordingly, liberated souls are revered more than the gods. Jainism incorporates the traditional Hindu concepts of karma and reincarnation, but rejects the Veda scriptures, castes and the idea of a creator god.

The goal of life in Jainism is to reach liberation by a life of purification, discipline, and nonviolence as taught by the tirthankaras. Jain rituals center around sacred images and mantras.


  • BBC Religion & Ethics: Jainism
    Basic information on history, beliefs, etc., plus illustrated feature articles.
  • Institute of Jainology
    "Our mission is to propogate Jain philosophy and its values through art, culture, and education."
  • Jainnet
    "A non-commerical collaborative effort to be the comprehesive resource for Jainism."
  • Jain Spirit Online
    "Sharing Jain values globally."
  • Jain World
    "This web site combines the aspirations of JAINS around the globe and is being positioned to link various aspects of our lives like - religious, social, philosophical, cultural etc. cutting across all barriers."
  • Religious Movements Homepage: Jainism
    An excellent resource from the University of Virginia.

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