Jainism and Sikhism: a Comparison Essay
Both Jainism and Sikhism have arisen as alternatives to Hinduism within India. As Molloy highlights, they both share a belief in karma with Hinduism, but both reject the polytheistic and ritualistic elements of Hinduism.
Despite these similarities, Jainism and Sikhism are different in their emphasis. The founder of Jainism was named Mahavira. He was the twenty fourth, in a succession of saints, called tirthankaras. Mahavira was born into an aristocratic family, and much of his life is shrouded in legend, but all version of his life story agree, that at the age of 30 he embraced the wandering life of an aesthetic holy man. His is said to have endured much pain, and sacrifice at his own hands, and at the hands of others.
During this time, he cultivated one of his central teachings of nonviolence to all living things. After twelve years of meditation and extreme sacrifice it is said that Mahavira had a spiritual awakening. He no longer felt the chains of suffering and pain, which are a part of this world. This experience lead to Mahavira being called jina or conqueror, and is the origins of the name of the religion Jainism (Molloy, p192-193, 2010).
One central belief of Jainism, which stands in contrast to both Hinduism and Sikhism, is the dismissal of belief in a creator God. According to Jainism, the universe is eternal and composed of two components.
One of these is Jiva or “soul”, “spirit”, or “life”, and ajiva “nonsoul” or “nonlife”. This dualistic expression of reality continues to the Jainism belief that the universe goes through cycles, and in the belief that human beings are composed of opposing forces one material and the other spiritual (Molloy, p194, 2010).
A second teaching Ahimsa translated into English as “gentleness” or “harmlessness” is an observed reverence for all life, and another central tenet of Jainism. As part of this ethical code Jains are strict vegetarians with some going as far as the rejecting the use of animal products..