The Problem With Jainism (is the way some people follow it)

Ok! So those great 8 days are around the corner – those 8 great days when many Jains decide to fast, almost maniacally, as if they’ve been suddenly possessed by the “Fuck reason” Demon. And it bothers me, not that they do it, but that they act prudish about doing it, and start believing that they’re intrinsically superior to non-Jains and to Jain non-fasters.

But Jainism is all about peace and non-violence, isn’t it? Well, which religion isn’t? All religions are about peace and non-violence. And Jainism is cool if you’re going to choose and pick your concepts and follow them with some measure of individual reasoning. My issue is with those who are born into Jain families (me being one of them), who go on to blindly follow unreasonable (to me) tenets of Jainism, throughout their lives, based on ideas fed into their brains by family members who don’t know the head or tail of why they do the things they do.

Take, for instance, the aforementioned 8 days of severe fasting that come by every year, around August-Septemberish. Jainism gives good, logically sound reasons and pretty satisfactory explanations as to why it ‘suggests’ (not dictates) fasting on those particular days. The typical Jain however, in more cases than not, understands this as “The Great God XYZABC (random guy who apparently attained nirvana) said to forsake all food for these few days, to gain immense blessings in return for your endurance of hunger and weakness. If you cannot stay hungry for 8 days, try 2 maybe, if not 2 whole days, then maybe just one, but one at least – come on can’t you do that much to make God XYZABC and a few others like him (only him, no her here, because come on women can’t attain nirvana, can they?) happy?!”

“And and you must not eat any green vegetables, and no root vegetables either. These you must avoid at all costs. Random men who attained nirvana who we love to treat as Gods, they like it when you suffer. When you suffer you attain enlightenment. How do I know? Oh my mum told me, and her dad told her and his uncle told him and this saint who was on his way to becoming a Great God like God XYZABC, told my uncle, that if he suffers without the desire to prosper, he will prosper.”

You know, there’s got to be a simpler answer. Something that at least attempts to make sense. Something a little palatable. I urge Jains to keep appreciating their religion and following it as they please, but please, at least understand the basic tenets. Those Great Gods you keep worshiping, they don’t want to be worshiped. The things you forsake, understand the reasons for forsaking them.

So, these are some of the reasons behind the things many Jains blindly do, that I researched and found out:

1. Don’t eat root vegetables.

Blind Jain reasoning: Leave them for the underground insects to chomp down. If you eat their food what will they eat?

Aware Jain reasoning: When you pluck a root vegetable, you kill the plant, as opposed to when you eat a non-root wherein you only take the fruit, and the plant still thrives. In line with Jainism’s non-violence tenets.

2. Eat before sunset.

Blind Jain reasoning: Because they said so.

Aware Jain reasoning: Your digestion is stronger between 6:30 and 7:30 pm than it is at 8:30 or 9:00 pm. Also in ancient times when this suggestion to eat early was made, there was no electricity, so it was safer to eat whilst you could still see what you were ingesting, lest you swallow bugs.

There are a few more, but now this rant is getting boring for me to keep up, so I’ll just give it a break.

I respect all religions, and most of all I respect the idea ‘To each his own’. What prompted me to write this rant to begin with, is the tendency that Jains I am acquainted with have, to try and impose their ideas on others, and sometimes the audacity to attempt conversion through persistent nagging, instead of well-reasoned arguments.

So while I doubt any Jain with the tendency to change non-believers’ lifestyles is actually going to chance upon this piece of writing, (I assume that this is unlikely to happen simply because the ones who really need to read this don’t seem to me to be hard-pressed to look for real reasons to justify their actions), if you do, try and look at this blog objectively.

And please please just stop telling others to “Give Jainism a try”. Don’t even imply it. No don’t suggest it either. Just don’t. Not until you’re a 100% sure of why your religion says what it does.

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