Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Christ and Jain

Jain has always fascinated me, no doubt in large part because of the peculiar intensity with which its practitioners pursue its principles. Islam, for example, has won my admiration for the popular level of its devotion. While in Christianity, we must constantly hear sermons about the value of daily prayer, the Muslim knows instinctively to pray no less than five times a day. Jain takes this kind of meticulous devotion to another level, with serious practitioners being so committed to total non-violence that they wear masks to keep from inhaling tiny organisms and sweep the ground in front of them wherever they go in order to brush aside unsuspecting insects. Even the Jain laity take strict vows of vegetarianism as part of a broader programme of non-violence. It is precisely this mixture of definite belief and assiduous application that has made Jain one of the smallest and yet one of the most influential world religions, relative to its size.

It is this fascination with Jain which recently led me to undertake studies in a reader of world religions and to listen to a series of lectures on Eastern religions by Stephen Prothero (who, unfortunately, elected to skip Jain altogether). Over the coming weeks, I would like to share some of the insights into Jain that these very cursory studies have brought, particularly those musings which may help challenge and deepen Christian faith and which might enlighten the curious outsider looking at Jain.

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