Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: October 22, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412956260 | Print ISBN: 9781412916523 | Online ISBN: 9781412956260| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
George D. Randels Jr.
Jainism is an ancient religion that originated in India. The Jains, primarily concentrated in India, numbered approximately 3.2 million in the latest census, but Jains also live in other parts of Asia, East Africa, Europe, and North America. Jains believe that their religion is eternal, although the earliest historical record of Jain activity dates from about 850 BCE. There are two main sects of Jainism, the Digambara and the Shvetambara . Digambara means “sky clad,” and its male ascetics renounce all clothing. Shvetambara means “white clad,” and its male and female ascetics wear white robes, which are a sign of purity. Along with Buddhism, Jainism is considered to be one the great non-Vedic heterodoxies, in that it rejects many of the precepts from the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas. Jainism does share, however, several doctrines with the other two traditions—for example, reincarnation, karma, and liberation. Etymologically, the religion's name derives ...