Jainism: a BBC guide

From the Bullet-Point Guide to Jainism by BBC

History: since 850 bc. in sixth century BC mahavira teaches. 68

Beliefs: no personal god; reincarnation until perfection; karma. 68

Ethics: right believe; absolute non-violence; renunciation to bodily needs. 69

Structure: monks & laymen; the oldest monastic tradition in world. 69

Demographics. 69

Jainism is an ancient philosophy and ethical teaching that originated in India.

QQ. History: since 850 bc. in sixth century BC (like budah) mahavira teaches

  1. Jains believe their faith has always existed. The earliest “historical” Jain activity dates from 850 BCE. The actual date is disputed, but is no earlier than 850 BCE.
  2. The reformers of Jainism are called ” tirthankaras “. Tirthankaras are great omniscient teachers. The word Tirthankara, means “ford-maker”. The first tirthankara was Adinath or Rushabhanath.
  3. The last tirthankara was Vardhamana Nataputta, called Mahavira, who is sometimes (wrongly) referred to as the “founder” of Jainism. Mahavira was a contemporary of Buddha.

Beliefs: no personal god; reincarnation until perfection; karma

  1. The Universe: Jains believe that the universe and everything in it is eternal and had no beginning.
  2. God: Jains do not believe in a single creator God or creative spirit.
  3. The Soul: Jains believe that every living being consists of a permanent soul, and a temporary body.
  4. Spiritual Guides: Jains refer collectively to their spiritual guides as the Jinas. Jinas means ‘victors’, as they are thought to have conquered themselves, their faults and their desires.
  5. Reincarnation: Jains believe in reincarnation. Reincarnation is the perpetual recycling of one’s eternal Jiva (soul) through countless incarnations. Liberation from reincarnation is achieved through purification of the soul.
  6. Liberation: Jains rely on their own personal efforts towards liberation, they don’t rely upon God or gods.
  7. Karma: Jains (like Hindus and Buddhists) believe in the law of Karma, because of Karma all one’s thoughts and actions have consequences both in this life and in the next. Good actions lead to positive results (being reborn in heavenly or human realms). Bad actions lead to bad consequences (being reborn in animal or hell realms).

Ethics: right believe; absolute non-violence; renunciation to bodily needs

  1. The three guiding principles of Jainism (called the three jewels) are: right belief; right knowledge; right conduct
  2. Non-violence: Jainism teaches the absolute centrality of ahimsa or non-violence in one’s everyday life.
  3. Renunciation: Jainism stresses the importance of renunciation: Renunciation is the abandonment of all material and bodily wants and needs. Material and bodily needs are renounced because they are seen as obstacles on the path to ultimate liberation.

Structure: monks & laymen; the oldest monastic tradition in world

  1. Jainism is divided into two major sects: Digambaras and Svetambaras, and many sub-sects.
  2. Most Jain traditions are divided into four different groups: monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.
  3. Jainism has the oldest established monastic tradition in the world. There are now about 5,000 Jain monks and nuns.


There are fewer than 7 million Jains, and the figure may be much smaller.

India: The Census of India says there are 3.2 million Jains in India.

Jains make up 0.4% of India’s population according to the Census of India. Most Indian Jains live in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka.

UK: Somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 Jains live in the UK. Jainism has the 7th largest membership of religions in the UK. Most UK Jains live in Leicester or London. There are also communities in Coventry, Luton, Manchester and Northampton. The only fully consecrated Jain temple in the UK is in Leicester, England

USA: Somewhere between 25,000 and 75,000 Jains live in the USA