The two had much in common: both were kshatriyas of royal descent
and went through prolonged and rigorous discipline after renouncing the worldly
life ; both rejected caste barriers and questioned the sacredness of the Vedas.
Jainism (pronounced also called 'Jain Dharma') is an ancient dharmic religion from
India that prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this
world. Jains believe that every soul is divine and has the potential to achieve
Any soul which has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved
the state of Supreme Being is called jina. Jainism is the path to achieve this state
and is often referred to as Jain Dharma or the religion of Nirgantha. Jainism was
by a lineage of 24 enlightened ascetics called tirthankaras culminating
with Parsva (9th century BCE) and Mahavira (6th century BCE). Jains have sustained
the ancient Shraman or ascetic religion and have significantly influenced other religious, ethical, political and economic spheres in India.
Jainism, the path of the Jinas, or
victors. This tradition is traced to Var-dhamana Mahavira (The Great Hero; ca. 599-527
B.C.), the twenty-fourth and last of the Tirthankaras (Sanskrit for fordmakers).
According to legend, Mahavira was born to a ruling family in the town of Vaishali,
located in the modern state of Bihar. At the age of thirty, he renounced his wealthy
life and devoted himself to fasting and self-mortification in order to purify his
consciousness and discover the meaning of existence. He never again dwelt in a house,
owned property, or wore clothing of any sort. Following the example of the teacher
Parshvanatha (ninth century B.C.), he attained enlightenment and spent the rest
of his life meditating and teaching a dedicated group of disciples who formed a
monastic order following rules he laid down. His life's work complete, he entered
a final fast and deliberately died of starvation.