Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


First of all, this does not count as Day 1. This is an introduction. 

It's a new month and due to a last minute change, July will officially be my Jainism month. I was originally going to do Mormonism, but I wanted a take a break from the Christian backbone and bringing the Jains into my life does just that. 

I always have a hard time introducing new religions. There are scores of books and information dedicated to simply introducing religions, so my mini-intro never really gives that much solid info on each one, so I think I'll add a link on the sidebar that should cover it. If this project ever makes it onto paper, then perhaps I'll have to rework the background, but for now, let's just copy and paste from BBC.

Jainism at a glance

Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live lives of harmlessness and renunciation.
The essence of Jainism is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself.
  • Jains believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Each of these souls is considered of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.
  • Jains are strict vegetarians and live in a way that minimises their use of the world's resources.
  • Jains believe in reincarnation and seek to attain ultimate liberation - which means escaping the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth so that the immortal soul lives for ever in a state of bliss.
  • Liberation is achieved by eliminating all karma from the soul.
  • Jainism is a religion of self-help.
  • There are no gods or spiritual beings that will help human beings.
  • The three guiding principles of Jainism, the 'three jewels', are right belief, right knowledge and right conduct.
  • The supreme principle of Jain living is non violence (ahimsa).
  • This is one of the 5 mahavratas (the 5 great vows). The other mahavratas are non-attachment to possessions, not lying, not stealing, and sexual restraint (with celibacy as the ideal).
  • Mahavira is regarded as the man who gave Jainism its present-day form.
  • The texts containing the teachings of Mahavira are called theAgamas.
  • Jains are divided into two major sects; the Digambara (meaning "sky clad") sect and the Svetambara (meaning "white clad") sect.
  • Jainism has no priests. Its professional religious people aremonks and nuns, who lead strict and ascetic lives.
Most Jains live in India, and according to the 2001 Census of India there are around 4.2 million living there. However, the Oxford Handbook of Global Religions, published in 2006, suggests that census figures may provide lower than the true number of followers as many Jains identify themselves as Hindu. The Handbook also states that there are around 25,000 Jains in Britain.

Alright, so now you've got a little bit of a back ground, let me tell you what I'll be up to this month. As it mentioned above, there are five vows which every Jain must live by. 

Unlike my Buddhist month, I am going to live officially as a lay Jain.

Vows taken by lay Jains

Jain scripture expects lay Jains to follow the following twelve vows.

The five Anuvratas

The Anuvratas are known as the Lesser or Limited Vows:
  • Non-violence - Ahimsa:

    • Jains must do their best to avoid any intentional hurt to living things. In daily life harm can be minimized by filtering drinking water, not eating at night, and so on. Intentional hurt includes cases of avoidable negligence.
    • Jains must be vegetarians.
    • Jains may use violence in self-defence.
    • If a Jain's work unavoidably causes harm (e.g. farming) they should try to minimize the harm and maintain complete detachment.
  • Truthfulness - Satya:

    • Jains must always be truthful.
    • Jains must always conduct business honestly.
    • Dishonesty by not doing something is as bad as being actively dishonest.
  • Non-stealing - Achaurya or Asteya

    • Jains must not steal
    • Jains must not cheat
    • Jains must not avoid paying tax
  • Chastity - Bramacharya

    • Jains must have sex only with the person they are married to.
    • Jains must avoid sexual indulgence even with that person.
    • Jains must give up sex, if possible, after the marriage has yielded a son.
  • Non-possession - Aparigraha

    • Jains must only possess what they need.
    • Jains must use surplus possessions to benefit others.
    • Jains must live simply.
    • Jains must not use too many resources.

The three Gunavratas

The Gunavratas are known as the Subsidiary Vows:
  • Limited area of activity - Dik vrata

    • By this vow a lay Jain restricts the extent to which they travel, so as to reduce the area in which they may do harm.
  • Limited use of resources - Bhoga-Upbhoga vrata

    • Jains should limit their use of things like food and clothing according to what they need.
  • Avoidance of pointless sins - Anartha-danda vrata

    • Thinking or speaking badly of other people.
    • Being inconsiderate (and not just to people).
    • Being self-indulgent.
    • Reading, watching or listening to immoral material.

The four Siksavratas

The Siksavratas are known as the Vows of Instruction or Discipline:
  • Meditation vow - Samayik vrata

    • Jains should carry out sitting meditation in one place for 48 minutes each day.
  • Limited duration of activity vow - Desavakasika

    • Jains should restrict certain activities to specific times.
  • Limited ascetic's life vow - Pausadha vrata

    • Jains should regularly adopt the life of a monk for a day.
  • Limited charity vow - Siksavratas
    • Jains should give to monks, nuns and the poor.

It's always hard for me to start on new religions, so I'm going to spend most of the day studying, preparing texts and meditating. I'll obviously adhere to the vows as much as I can today, but I have yet to formulate exactly how my days are likely to go. 

The core concept of this religion seems to be that of non-violence, asceticism, and spiritual liberation with an ultimate goal of freedom from the karmic cycle which will lead to enlightenment. I'm liking what I'm learning so far, but it looks like this one will take a lot of personal sacrifice. 

It's easy to copy and paste rules and make the claim that I'm going to follow them, however, it's really hard to simply alter my life just like that. I've devised a plan of attack to assist me. 

First of all, since eating is huge part of life and I should technically only eat when its offered to me, I have decided to reduce my foot intake as well as my resource consumption by not carrying any money. I work close enough to my house if an emergency were to happen, so that won't be a problem. As for meals, my wife and I are going to work out an offering system so it doesn't turn into a master-slave relationship. I'm not into that. 

I've also decided to shave my head this weekend. I'm doing so because if I were to keep my hair, I know that I would be distracted by it and this month places such a huge emphasis on detachment, that I think it's time that I move beyond my fear of haircuts and my absurd attachment to it. 

So rather than rambling on and on about my plans for this month, let me just say that after work, I plan on going home, riding my bike with the dog for about an hour and meditating for an hour or so. I have a lot of reading to do and have to memorize my new mantra.

Namo ArihantânamI bow to the Arihantâs (Prophets).
Namo SiddhânamI bow to the Siddhâs (Liberated Souls).
Namo ÂyariyânamI bow to the Âchâryas (Preceptors or Spiritual Leaders).
Namo UvajjhâyanamI bow to the Upadhyâya (Teachers).
Namo Loe Savva SahûnamI bow to all the Sadhûs (Saints).
Eso Panch Namokkaro, Savva Pâvappanâsano
Mangalanam Cha Savvesim, Padhamam Havai Mangalam
This fivefold bow (mantra) destroys all sins and obstaclesand of all auspicious mantras, is the first and foremost one.

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