Jainism is among the Indian religions and traced to have its origins in Indus River valley civilization of 3000 BC. There is no supreme being that controls all things but, there were 24 Tirthankaras that had attained all knowledge and preached it to people. The Jains believe in the cycle of life that upholds reincarnation. They uphold non-violence in thought or action and vegetarianism as their core principles of Jainism. They also believe that all living creatures possess a soul and that all life is sacred (Jain 2009).
Elements of eastern religions
The term eastern religion is synonymous to the religions that begun and popular in Asia, China, India and Japan. The most widely known among them are the religions of India that comprise of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. In almost all the religious practices, the followers recognize the founder of the religion. For example, Buddhism and Jainism was founded by Gautama Buddha and Mahavira respectively. Usually the traditions deny that there is God who created the Universe and controls it. The gods are acknowledged as higher beings subject to evolution and change. The gods are not omniscient and omnipotent unlike their counterparts in the western religion. For example in Jainism there the existence of Jinas who preach the doctrine and are believed to manifest them on earth from time to time, similarly in Buddhism there is a group of beings that are enlightened and are known as the Bodhisattvas (Arvind 2011).
The interactions of the Jain traditions with the modern world
The Jain doctrine of ahimsa has attracted lots of influence in the modern world. Jainism is credited to be the beginning of vegetarianism; the code of ethics of nonviolence significantly influenced Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) to gain the reputation of the world’s peace activist in his lifetime during the twentieth century. There are two ethics that govern the Jain ethics; all life ought to be referenced and that of non – violence. By this, the followers are taught to respect other beings including man and animals in the world and the need of a healthy environment. In the modern world, the same principle is applied although in a different approach where the rule of law respects every individual’s rights and animals also have the right to a decent life that should be respected with no violation. Also, emphases in the modern world are put in the need to maintain a healthy environment in the universe where man lives. Human beings are the rulers of the world in many times animals are considered to be a little lower than human. There is increased interest in many countries due to the constant over exploitation of animals and the pollution of the universe resulting to natural disasters and global warming among other harmful consequences. For this reason, the countries together with the United Nations are formulating constitutions and treaties to protect the physical environment, animals and human beings (Jain 2009).
To the Jains mentioning of animal right is like preaching to the already converted. In Jain tradition, it is believed that all living creatures have a soul and even the life of plants is sacred. The environmental conservation and awareness that is in practice today has been in operation in the tradition over several decades ago This has been possible because the general belief in Jainism is that man is equal to other creatures and should not assume authority over the earth nor its creatures. In the modern world, mankind has been having a desire to make the world a better place to live by advocating for peaceful coexistence with other people. These peaceful interactions with others coincide with the code of ethics of the Jainism church where the concept of nonviolence –Ahisma- is crucial. As a matter of fact, this doctrine can be viewed as a religion of peace, love, and compassion.
Jainism may seem to be on the extreme since it does not have room for some of the practices that are of importance for the advancement of humanity. There is no place for animal experimentation, abortion is not accepted in Jain, and euthanasia is termed as a form of violence and therefore, it is prohibited. Jainism interacts with modern medicine as it insists on vegetarian food as the right diet for the Jain, while in the modern world there are emphases laid on vegetarianism as a means of attaining a healthy lifestyle. Also, organ transplant is allowed as long as the donor as not affected negatively as a result of donating the organ. It is believed that this ancient religion was the first to have described the concepts of atoms non-material continuums and souls.
The Jain tradition is full of practices which can offer significant insights to the medical sciences, ecology and psychology disciplines, it is possible for the Jain beliefs to have the capability of inspiring more scientific discoveries. Today the disruption of the international peace is full of mistrust, terrorism, hatred, fear, anger, and fundamentalism. The world requires a living and rational philosophy that would help us to face these challenges of the present times. Among the known religions and traditional practices, Jainism is best known for the noble and moral values it stands for that offers the way forward to personal satisfaction and global peace (Sethia 2004).
A world governed by Jain philosophy would be free from racial discrimination, over exploitation of natural resources and we could not be facing threats of global warming and the extinction of certain species of animals either in the sea or on land. Life would be in abundance of peace with no security threats of terrorism and invasion by other human enemies.