Like some of the other world religions,jainism is a religion of self-help.
There are no Gods or God who will help humans on the road to liberation. They believe that life is a series of births, deaths, and rebirths until the soul has shed all karma and can achieve liberation. The three most central guides for the individual to attain this goal are:Right Belief, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct. The physical actions of a lifetime do not take precedence over the mental or contemplative acts of the individual. Both physical and mental/spiritual acts are needed to break the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Therefore, deed and thought are weighed equally in Jainism.
There are nine fundamental philosophies in the Jain tradition, they are called the Nav Tattvas (nine fundamentals) and they are:
- Jiva (soul). All living beings are called Jiva. The soul is described as a sort of eternal energy which is indestructible, invisible, and shapeless. The body is merely a home for the soul.
- Anjiva (non-living matter). Anything that does not have a soul or consciousness. Anjiva is divided into five categories:
- Dharmastikay (medium of motion)
- Adarmastikay(medium of rest)
- Pudgalastikay (matter)
- Akashatikay (space)
- Kala (time)
- Punya (results of good deeds). Punya is acquired by the undertaking of wholesome activities. Charitable acts and propagating religion are among the activities which can help to attain Punya. When Punya matures it brings forth comfort and happiness.
- Pap (results of bad deeds). Bad activities lead to Pap, or bad karma. Cruelty, violence and anger are among the things that can bring Pap. When Pap matures it brings suffering, misery and unhappiness.
- Asrava (influx of karma). Asrava is caused by wrong belief, passions and negligence among other things. These karma “particles” attach themselves to the soul.
- Samvar (stoppage of karmas). This is achieved by observing carefulness, control, mental reflection, suffering, and through the ten-fold yati-dharma(monkshood).
- Bandh (bondage of karmas). This occurs when we react to any situation with a sense of attachment or aversion.
- Nirjara (eradication of karma). Nirjara is the process by which we shed karmas. It can occur through passive or active efforts. Passive efforts mean simply waiting for karmas to mature and give their results in time. Actively matured karma can be achieved by performing penance, regretting, asking for forgiveness and meditation (to name a few).
- Moska (liberation). if we rid ourselves of all karmas, we attain liberation.
The individual Jain is also called adhere to the 5 tenants of the Mahavratas (5 great vows), which are:
- Non-Violence (non-injury to life)
- No Lying
- No Stealing
- Non-Attachment to possessions
- Sexual Restraint (Celibacy is the ideal)
All Jains must strive to attain the first three vows, while members of the monastic community adhere to all five.
Within Jainist society there are four groups, they are:
- Sadhus (Monks)
- Sadhvis (Nuns)
- Shravaks (Male householders)
- Shravikas (Female householders)
Jains are recommended to pass through four stages during their lifetime, which are:
- Brahmacharya-ashrama: The life of the student
- Gruhasth-ashrama: Family life
- Vanaprasth-ashrama: Family and social service
- Sanyas-ashrama: life as a monk or nun (a period of renunciation).