Mahavira, who was thirty years older than Buddha, revived and expounded the religious,
philosophical and ethical teachings of previous tirthankaras. Over a period of nearly
a century after Mahavira's liberation, Jainism produced a series of omniscients.
These were followed in succession, for more than two centuries, by scriptural omniscients
and later by prominent ascetic scholars. These knowledgeable ascetics evolved Jainism
into a complete religious system, with its own philosophy, ethics, rituals and mythology.
They produced 45 scriptures, known as agams, and vast sacred literature, covering
all aspects of human life and the situation of other living beings in the universe.
Mahavira was very practical in his approach. He divided society into male ascetics
and female ascetics, who can follow his teachings rigorously, and laymen and laywomen
who can pursue the path of his teachings to the best of their abilities in the light
of their worldly duties. Jainism does not demand unquestioning faith from its followers,
but encourages understanding before acceptance. The fourfold order developed into
a highly organised society of monastic orders and laypeople.
Jains have created beautiful temples, upashrayas (places of meditation), and preserved
most of their sacred literature. They have established institutions of education,
social welfare and animal welfare. 'Live and help to live' is their motto and their
way of life is based on the teachings of Mahavira.
Jainism believes in the equality of all souls and reverence for life in its totality.
It accords significance to the minutest living organisms. Animal welfare, vegetarianism
and care of the environment are very much at the heart of Jain beliefs. Relative
pluralism has made Jains tolerant towards other faiths. Jainism does not believe
in active conversion, but accepts a person, irrespective of caste, creed, colour
or gender, as Jain, who follows the Jain way of life.
We believe in re-birth till the soul has karmic bondage, but once soul is liberated
by shedding all karma, there is no rebirth. Such liberated souls live in total bliss
in Siddhasila at the tope of occupied Universe.
There are about 30,000 Jains in the Europe, 50,000 in USA, and 12 million in the
whole world (As many Jains are included as Hindus, Indian census figures are unreliable).
Most of them live in India. There are more than 10,000 Jain monks and nuns in India,
but as they have taken the complete vow of non-violence and travel on feet.