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Question: What is the relationship between Hindu and Jain Religions?


Answer: Hindu and Jain, both religions are independent. It is a wrong belief that the Jain religion is derived from the Vedic religion. Because of the thousands of years of common history and parallel culture of Hindus and Jains, there are many similarities. Both religions preach that  non-violence constitutes the supreme religion. Hindus and Jains are not distinguishable when it comes to their attitude towards the life. It should be also noted that there are some distinct differences between these two religions. The concept of “non-violence” is much more detailed in Jainism. We, Jains do not believe that the universe was created. We believe that the universe is self-regulated. No one decides for us what we should get. We believe that we are the master of our own destiny. There is no divine power who decides for us. We believe all living beings are equal and all human beings are capable of achieving the liberation regardless of their race, cast, sex or color. We do not believe that the souls who have gone to Moksha come back to earth (take a rebirth) to save the world.


Question:  Why there is more history available of Rushabhdev, Shantinath, Mallinath, Neminath, Parasnath, and Lord Mahavir Swami?


Answer: We have more information on the lives of Rushabhdev, Shantinath, Mallinath, Neminath, Parasnath, and Mahavir Swami because there have been many extraordinary, impressive, unique and message-oriented incidents in the lives of these Tirthankars as compared to others. Rushabhdev introduced the necessary things to ease the transition from primitive life to an organized one. For example he introduced, arts of men and women, languages, tools, business and farming, governing body to handle state affairs, etc. Also there were extraordinary events in his and his children’s lives. In case of Shantinäth, there was an event of the previous life of Shantinäth that he was willing to give his own flesh to save a bird. That event emphasized the importance of non-violence. Mallinäth was a woman, and there is a event in her life that  she defused the war and convinced marriage-seeking princes, who wanted to marry her,  to initiate as monks. There is a very famous event in the life of Neminäth, the chapter of Nem and Rajul. Lord Mahavir had several extraordinary and exceptional events in his life; encounter with Sangamdev, facing chandkausik,  association and encounter with  Goshalak, recorded discussion with his to-be eleven disciples, case of Chandanbäla, etc. There are no significant events in the lives of other Tirthankars like these six Tirthankaras.



Question:  If Sidhdhas are also liberated souls, then what is the difference between Sidhdhas and Tirthankars?


Answer: There are eight major types of Karmas: 1) Knowledge-Obscuring, Jnänvarniya Karma, 2) Perception-Obscuring, Darshanvarniya Karma, 3) Vigor-Obstructing, Antaray Karma, 4) Deluding, Mohniya Karma, 5) Situation-Conferrling, Vedniya Karma, 6) Body-Making, Nam Karma, 7) Status-determining, Gotra Karma and 8) Age span-Determining, Ayushya Karma. The first four are the destructive (ghäti) Karmas. They defile the real nature of the soul. The last four Karmas are non-destructive (aghäti) Karmas.  When the first four Karmas are eradicated, the person becomes keveli and achieves perfect knowledge, perfect perception and perfect conduct. But there are two types of kevelis: 1. Ordinary and 2. Tirthankar. Ordinary kevalis do not show the path of purification to others, while Tirthankar kevalis preach the path of the purification (liberation - Moksha) to all living beings. Tirthankar means who leads us across the ocean of suffering. Tirthankar is not the founder of the religion, he/she is the propagator of truth, and path of liberation which has been preached by other Tirthankars.  When a kevali, whether he/she is an ordinary or Tirthankar keveli,  achieves Nirvän, he/she  eradicates the remaining four (aghäti) Karmas and becomes a Sidhdha. For example, Bhagavän Mahavir became a Sidddha after his Nirvän.  Since he was a Tirthankar kevali we still call him a Tirthankar.


Question: Why do I have to pray everyday? Why do we worship Tirthankar's idol?  Why do I have to worship Idol with sandal wood paste, flowers etc.?  Why people take fruits, sweets etc. to the temple?


Answer: We pray/worship to pay our respects to the Tirthankars because They have  attained liberation and have laid down the path of liberation. We want to get inspiration to become like them. By praying them, we receive the spiritual incentive to follow the right path of purification. We do not pray/worship for any favors or material benefits from the Tirthankars or from monks and nuns.


There are eight things involved in worshipping (puja) the Tirthankaras: 1. Jal Puja: (Water) 2. Chandan Puja: (Sandal-wood) 3. Pushpa Puja: (Flower) 4. Dhup Puja: (Incense) 5. Dipak Puja: (Candle) 6. Akshat Puja: (Rice) 7. Naivedya Puja: (Sweet food) 8. Fal Puja: (Fruit). Symbolically each item represents a specific religious virtue which one should reflect (contemplate) in his/her mind while performing puja.


Question:  Why do we need a worshipping place? Can't we do same thing in our own home?


Answer: The worshipping place provides the necessary environment for spiritual up-liftment just as the school provides for education. One who is spiritually advanced, can continue the spiritual activity at any place. But for most of the Sansäris (house-holders) we need to depend upon outside sources such as temple to make initial progress in the spiritual direction. It is also acceptable that one can practice his/her religion from home as long as he/she achieves the similar or better results. For most people, the combination of both is recommended.


Question-22: Define the dreams according to Jain religion?


Answer-22:  According to Jainism the dreams are not only thoughts, images and emotions during the sleep; the dreams could be indicative of our past experiences as well as what will happen in future. Per Jainism, we get dreams due to: 1) experiences in this life, 2) what we heard, 3) experiences of our previous life, 4)  gas, cough or acidity problems, 5) own-nature of our soul, 6) worries, 7) contact with heavenly beings,  8) religious experiences or acts, and 9) activation of good or bad Karma. First six types of dreams may not be fruitful, but the last three dreams can be fruitful. Per Jainism, we should not go back to sleep if we see the best dream.


Question-23:  What is the significance of the 14 dreams, which mother Trishala had? and why no less or more?


Answer-23: There is a book on dreams in Jainism that explains significance of dreams, types of dreams and results of dreams. In that book, it is stated that all Tirthankars’ mothers get the same 14 dreams at the time of conception. .


Queen Trishala, the mother of Lord Mahavir at midnight saw fourteen beautiful and wholesome dreams after conception.  They were:  1. Elephant 2. Bull 3. Lion 4. Goddess Laxmi 5. Garland of Flowers 6. Full Moon 7. Sun 8. Large Flag 9. Silver Urn  10. Lotus-Lake  11. Milky-Sea  12. Celestial Air-plane  13. Heap of Gems  14. Smokeless Fire.


1. Elephant: She saw a big, tall, and impetuous elephant.  It had two pairs of tusks. The color of the elephant was white and its whiteness was superior  to the color of marble. This dream indicates that her son will guide the spiritual chariot, and save human beings from misery, greed, and attraction of life.


2. Bull: The color of the bull was also white, but it was brighter than white lotuses. It glowed with beauty and radiated  light all around.  It was noble, grand, and had a majestic hump.  It had fine, bright, and soft hair on its body.  Its horns were superb and sharply-pointed. This dream indicates that her son will be a spiritual teacher of great ascetics, kings, and other great personalities.


3. Lion: Its claws were beautiful and well-poised.  The lion had a large well-rounded head and extremely sharp teeth.  Its lips were perfect, its color was red, and its eyes were sharp and glowing. Its tail was impressively long and well-shaped.  Queen Trishala saw  this lion descending towards her and entering her mouth.  This dream indicates that her son will be as powerful and strong as   a lion. He will be fearless, mighty, and capable of ruling over the world.


4. Goddess Laxmi: The fourth dream Queen Trishala saw was of the Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, prosperity and power.  She was seated at the top of mountain Himalaya.  Her feet had a sheen of golden turtle.  She had a delicate and soft fingers.  Her black hairs were tiny, soft, and delicate.  She wore rows of pearls interlaced with emeralds and a garland of gold.  A pair of earring hung over her shoulders with dazzling beauty.  She held a pair of bright lotuses.  This dream indicates that her son will attain great wealth, power, prosperity. 


5. Garland of Flowers: The fifth dream Queen Trishala saw was of a celestial garland of flowers descending from the sky.  It smelled of mixed fragrances of different flowers.  The whole universe was filled with fragrance. The flowers were white and woven into the garland.  They bloomed during all different seasons.  A swarm of bees flocked to it and they made a humming sound around the region.  This dream indicates that the fragrance of her son's preaching will spread over the entire universe. 


6. Full Moon: The sixth dream queen Trishala saw was of a full moon.  It presented an auspicious sight.  The moon was at its full glory.  It awoke the lilies to bloom fully.  It was bright like a well polished mirror.  The moon radiated whiteness like a swan.  It inspired the oceans to surge skyward.  The beautiful moon looked like a radiant beauty-mark in the sky.  This dream indicates that her son will have a great physical structure, and be pleasing to all living beings of the universe. 


7. Sun: The seventh dream Queen Trishala saw was of a huge disc of sun. The sun was shining, and destroying darkness.  It was red like the flame of the forest.  Lotuses bloomed at its touch.  The sun is the lamp of the sky and the lord of planets.  The sun rose and and put to end the evil activities of the creatures who thrive at night.  This dream indicates that the teaching of her son will destroy anger, greed, ego, lust, pride, etc.  from the life of the people. 


8. Large Flag: The eighth dream Queen Trishala saw was of a very large flag flutterling from a golden staff.  The flag fluttered softly in the gentle breeze.  It attracted the eyes of all.  Peacock feathers decorated its crown.  A radiant white lion was on it.  This dream indicates that her son will be great, noble, and well respected leader of the family. 


9. Silver Urn: The ninth dream Queen Trishala saw was of a silver urn (Kälsh) full of crystal-clear water.  It was a magnificent, beautiful, and bright pot.  It shone like gold and was a joy to behold.  It was garlanded with strings of lotuses and other flowers.  The pot was holy and untouched by anything sinful.  This dream indicates that her son will be perfect in all virtues. 


10. Lotus-Lake: The tenth dream Queen Trishala saw was of a lotus lake (padma-sagar).  Thousands of lotuses were floating on the lake which opened at the touch of the sun's rays.  The lotuses imparted a sweet fragrance.  There were swarms of fish in the lake.  Its water glowed like flames of fire.  The lily-leaves were floating on the water.  This dream indicates that her son will help to liberate the human beings who are tangled in the cycle of birth, death, and misery. 


11. Milky-sea: The eleventh dream Queen Trishala saw was of a milky sea.  Its water swelled out in all directions, rising to great heights with turbulent motions.  Winds blew and created waves.  A great commotion was created in the sea by huge sea animals.  Great rivers fell into the sea, producing huge whirlpools.  This dream indicates that her son will navigate through the ocean of birth, death, and misery leading to Moksha or liberation. 


12. Celestial air-plane:  The twelfth dream Queen Trishala saw was of a celestial airplane. The airplane had eight thousands magnificent gold pillars studded with gems.  The plane was framed with sheets of gold and garlands of pearls.  It was decorated with rows of murals depicting bulls, horses, men, crocodiles, birds, children, deers, elephants, wild animals, and lotus flowers.  The plane resounded with celestial music.  It was saturated with an intoxicating aroma of incense fumes.  It was illuminated with a bright silvery light.  This dream indicates that all gods and goddesses in heaven will respect and salute his spiritual teaching and will obey him. 


13. Heap of Gems:  The thirteenth dream Queen Trishala saw was of a great heap of gems, as high as Mount Meru. There were gems and precious stones of all types and kinds. These gems were heaped over the earth and they illuminated the entire sky.  This dream indicates that her son will have infinite virtues and wisdom. 


14. Smokeless Fire: The fourteenth dream queen Trishala saw was of a smokeless fire. The fire burned with great intensity and emitted a radiant glow. Great quantities of pure ghee was being poured on the fire.  It burned with numerous flames. This dream indicates that the wisdom of her son will excel the wisdom of all other great people.  


Question: When and under what circumstances different branches of Jain religion started? What are the different sects in Jainism? Why they can't Unite?


Answer: About 170 years after Mahavir's Nirvän, Acharya Bhadrabahu Swami became the head of the Jain order. That time. Chandra Gupta Maurya was the king in Magadha. During that time a famine occurred for twelve years. (This is a historical fact). Acharya Bhadrabhahu had predicted that long famine and realized that it will be very difficult for monks to strictly follow religion (Five Mahavrats, no clothes, beg food in hands, etc.). Therefore he, along with twelve thousands of his disciples, migrated to south and settled there so that they can follow the strict religious rules. The remaining monks were led by Acharya Sthulibhadra and he relaxed some of the rules for the monks for survival during this famine. That was the primary cause of the separation of Digambar and Shwetambar sects. However, the real separation occurred during the time of Acharya Vajrasen (six hundred years after Mahavir's Nirvän). It is a fact that Mahavir did not wear  clothes after renunciation. However, his disciples were of both types (clad as well as unclad). The disciples of Parshwanath (23rd Tirthankar) wore white clothes.


Shwetambar Jains are also divided into two major subsects: Shwetambar Murti Pujak (Idol worshiper) and Shwetambar Sthanakwasi (Non-idol worshiper). There is an offshoot among Sthanakwasis which is known as Terapanthi. Digambar Jains are divided into three major subsects: Bisa Panth that accepts Bhattarak's authority, Terah Panth which does not accept such authority, and Taran Panth- Non-Murti pujak sect .


The essential philosophy of all Jain sects is similar. The similarities exist in many areas: 1. Concept of God 2. Every soul has the potential for becoming God or Siddha. 3. Metaphysics, 4. The universe composed of six substances, 5. Philosophy of Karma, 6. The seven/nine fundamentals (tattvas) 7. Right perception (Samyag Darshan), Right Knowledge (Samyag Jnan) and Right Conduct (Samyak Charitra) as the path of liberation. 10. five vows, 11.Five meticulosities (Samities), 12 Control over mental, verbal and physical activities (Three Gupties), 13 Multiplicity of view points (Anekantwad/Syadwad), 14) Five types of Knowledge (Jnan), 15 Fourteen Stages of elevation (Gunasthanak), 16 Twelve reflections (Bhavanas), 17 Four types of Meditations (Dhyan), 18 Six types of Leshyas (psychic coloration), 19 Emergence of 24 Tirthankars in each half time cycle,  20 Namaskar Maha Mantra and 21 Authority of Tattvartha Sutra are recognized by all the Jain sects.


The following, however, are the major differences. 1 Agams: Digambar Jains believe that all the original Ägams (Äng and Purva Ägams) have been lost. Most of them might have been lost during the twelve years of famine that occurred during the time of the Chandra Gupta Maurya (300 B.C.). They recognize other books written by great Acharyas like Kundkunacharya. Shwetambar Jains believe that 600 years after Lord Mahavir's Nirvan all Purva Ägams were lost or not remembered by monks and hence were not saved. Only Ang and Non-Ang Ägams could be preserved. 2 Life after kevaljnan: Digambars believe that after attaining Kevaljnan, Tirthankars and other Kevaljnanis do not eat or drink; while Shwetambars believe that they continue to eat and drink like other human beings and continue to lead the renunciate life for the remaining period of their life. 3 Sex of Tirthankars: Digambars believe that all the Tirthankars are necessarily male and there is no exception. Shwetambars believe that generally they are male but in the present series of 24 Tirthankars, the nineteenth Tirthankar, Mallinath was a female and that was an exception to the rule. 4 Sex of other Kevalis: Digambars believe that only males can attain liberation. A female has to be reborn as a male in order to attain liberation. Shwetambars believe that both males and females can attain liberation. 5. Clothes and Food: Digambar monks do not wear any clothes. They beg for food in their hands and eat only once a day. Shwetambar monks and nuns wear white clothes and they beg food in pots generally once a day. They bring the food to Upashraya or other place of their residence and ask their Guru for permission to eat their meal. They do not eat food in the presence of laymen. 6. Mahavir's conception: Shwetambars believe that Mahavir's fetus was transferred from mother Devananda (Bhraman family) to mother Trishala (Kshatriya family), while Digambars believe that he was conceived by mother Trishala and the question of fetus transfer does not arise. 7 Marital status of Mahavir: Digambars believe that Mahavir was not married, while Shwetambars believe that Mahavir was married with Yashoda and they had a daughter named Priyadarshan. 8. Tirthankara's Murti (Idol): The Tirthankar's idol can have ornaments and decorations, and their eyes look toward the worshiper in Shwetambar Murti Pujak sect. Digambar idols do not have ornaments and their eyes are turned downward in meditating position. 9. Pratikraman, Samayik, and Puja rituals are different.


It can be seen that all Jain sects have remarkable similarity in their philosophy despite minor areas of disagreements. Recently, there have been several collaborative works by all major sects. Jains from different sects outside India seem to have more unity and harmony..




Questions on Vegiterian food habits:

Question: How does the theory of "First Chicken or Egg" fit in the Jain religion?


Answer We do not believe in any theory like “First Chicken or Egg.” If we were created then we can be destroyed. But our soul is immortal. Therefore, we could not have been created.  We Jains believe that our souls were in existence since the time without beginning and will be in existence forever (has no end). There was no creation of the souls and will have no destruction of the souls. We move from one body to another until we achieve the liberation. After the liberation, we still exist forever in the pure soul form.


Question: Science has proved that there is a life in the plant. Then,  how can we eat vegetables and fruits?


Answer: Jainism has said that there is a life in the plant much before the science has proved it. It is true that vegetables and fruits, both have lives. The ideal situation for a Jain would be to eat the ripe fruit that has just fallen off a tree. Vegetables and fruits are one-sensed living beings. One-sensed living beings have only “touch” sense. Their development of consciousness (knowledge) is significantly less than the higher (two, three, four and five)-sensed living beings like us, animals, birds, etc. For example, the level of knowledge of one-sensed living beings is only a small fraction of one letter. It is impossible to live a life with absolute non-violence. We need to eat to survive and  we need to earn to live as a “house-holder”.  But the basis of Jainism is “non-violence”. Therefore, we must minimize the act of non-violence. Eating vegetables constitutes minimum act of violence because: 1) Animals have more life-force, called Prän and more knowledge (purer -much more developed- consciousness) than the vegetables. Therefore, killing animals constitutes the higher form of violence. 2) Many other living organisms reside in an animal body and They get multiplied in a dead body. 3) Vegetables have less living cells and more water content. 4)  We do not kill the plant for vegetables. We take leaves, vegetables and fruits off the plants. By removing vegetables and fruits from a tree, we sometimes lengthen the life span of the tree. 5) Eating vegetables is healthier. 6) The anatomy (teeth, digestive system, tongue,  etc.) of human beings is for eating vegetarian food.



Question:  Jains believe in the non-violence. Then, a) How can we take milk, butter, cheese etc.?         b) What about the business of grocery, manufacturing plant etc.?


Answer: a) The question implies that if we cannot eat meat of cow, how can we consume cow’s milk. When we eat cow’s meat, we kill the cow. When we use cow’s milk, we do not kill the cow. But we must make sure the cow’s milk is extracted without causing pain to it and the milk was in excess (we did not deprive the cow’s off-springs). If we do not remove the excess milk from cow, we may be doing more harm to it than help. When we use the butter and cheese, we should make sure that they (specially the cheese) do not contain any animal ingredients. Jainism considers that the use of milk and milk products  is not conducive to spiritual advancement. There are people in US who are called vegans. Vegans do not eat dairy products.


b) We should choose a profession or a business that has minimum amount of violence. The Jain Ägams recommend staying away from the trades that involve sufferings and killing of animals, affect our environment and ecology, and pollute or dry-up our natural resources. Trades that involve weapons and explosives, fire, cutting of trees, fermented products like liquor, animal parts like ivory, leather and fur; lard, meat and honey; poisonous and toxic substances, animal testing & use and prostitution need to be avoided. Moreover, we should not buy stocks or otherwise invest in such businesses.


Question:  Jains believe in not killing anyone. a) Suppose you are in a desert and dying of hunger and there you see a dead animal, can you eat that meat to survive? b) You go to a grocery store and are passing by meat section. You know that meat is already there. If you don’t buy it,  someone else will buy and eat or it will decay. What's wrong in buying readily available meat, when you yourself haven't killed?.


Answer: a) Dead bodies of animals contain lot of living organisms and that keeps on multiplying as time passes. Most organisms have the same color as of the meat. Therefore, eating meat of naturally dead animal does involve a high level of violence. Secondly, there is the risk of dying by eating the dead animal because it may contain deadly decease or our digestive system may not adjust to that meat-eating. It is of course hard to court death in absence of innocent food. There are, however, examples of Jain monks who died due to  severe draught rather than eating meat or even drinking sentient water. As Jains believe that there is life after death, we should not worry about dying. One may argue that the human life is very difficult to attain. This is true. But the act of bad Karma (päp) like eating meat may lead to hell in the next life. Meat eating only when there is no other alternative is not acceptable to Jainism. If we practice the minor vows for house-holders, then we will not be traveling to an unknown area. We will be limiting our travels to the familiar areas. We will also be limiting our activities to the essential needs. By resorting to such precepts, one can avert such hypothetical situation. Jainism is more about prevention of wrong situations.

b) This is fallacious since purchasing creates demand and encourages others to kill. Thus it is equivalent to oneself committing the deed. The 'neat' packaging of meat hides the pain that occurred before. It is unfortunate that packaging keeps scenes of slaughterhouses off the minds of the consumers. Mahavir Bhagwan said, "It is Himsä (violence) - whether a man kills living beings himsellf/herself, or causes others to kill them, or gives consent to others to kill.”


Question:  I go to my friend's place, can I eat from the dish containing meat on one side?


Answer: The issue is not whether you eat from the dish containing meat on one side. The real issue is how to avoid such a situation. You should let your friend know that you are a vegetarian and you do not eat meat. In all probabilities your friend will understand and respect your belief and will not put you in a tough situation by serving you a dish that contains meat. If he/she does, then he/she may not be your friend.





(In alphabetical order)


1.        "Dravya Sangraha"  by Nemichandra Siddhantideva (1125), originally edited in English by Sarat Chandra Ghosal (1917), Republished by Shri Chandrapraph Digambar Maindir Trust, Bombay (1986).

2.        "Essential of Jainism", edited by Dr. Prem Suman Jain, Jain Center of Greater Boston, Wellesley, Mass., USA (1984).

3.        "The Jaina Path of Purification" by P. S. Jaini, published by University of California, Berkeley, USA (1978).

4.         “Ahimsä Beyond Vegetarianism” by Youths of Jain Center of Southern California,

5.         “Guidance for Jainism by Bhdrabahu Vijay,

6.         “Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian, Choose Yourself”  by Gopi Nath Aggarwal,

7.         “Vegetarianism: Answers to the most commonly asked questions” by The North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS),

8.        Electronic material from Dr. Prem Gada and Pravin Shah,

9.        Lectures by Dhirubhai D. Pandit, 1994-95

10.     Various issues of Jain Study Circular and Jaina Digest,

11.     Many other Jain books.