Religiously Exhausted – I am going to do 2 more posts on religion and the environmental movement in part because I am exhausted mentally. Learning a whole new religion everyday is extremely grueling. Also I am running out of religions. I mean at one level there are 4,200 seperate religions in the world. Out of what is left on the list Shinto, Cao Dai, and Tenrikyo are Japanese and Vietnamese indigenous religions that share much with the other indigenous religions. Some even lump them in with Taoism or Buddhism. I actually treated one as a premier religion under the banner of Chinese Tradional Religion simply because of the shear number of people that practice it so please see either the post on Indigenous Religions, African Traditional Religions or the Chinese Tradional Religion to get the general drift.
Also on the list are Neo-paganism, Rastifarianism and Scientology. All I can say about that is NO WAY. I will not write a post about people who are “trying to be pagans”. Heh you either are or you ain’t. A religion based on smoking weed? I don’t need an excuse for that. A religion based on a missing science fiction writer. WOW.
Then there is Zoroastrianism, along with Buddhism and the Indigenous religions it is one of the oldest practised religions in the world. But it is dieing. And there is nothing pretty about that. One of the first monetheistic religions in the world it could have contributed to some of the foundations of Jewish thought as well. But in the last decade or so it has dropped from 2.6 million adherents to 200,000. Not good. So why a post on Jainism which isn’t in much better shape? Because I always wanted to talk about naked priests. And why finish with Unitarianism? Because my web mistress and Diva goes to that church and she is worth it!
I had never heard of Jainism before the early 1990’s. I was working on a Homeless Project at Tulane University and one of the students that was a Tracker on the Project said that there was an Jainism Exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He was going to play some weird African musical instrument on Sunday afternoon. Would I come? I was a member of the museum anyway so I said I would go. I was really impressed. They had a complete Alter that filled one whole room. It was some of the best carved wood and ivory that I had ever seen before or since. The music was exotic. But the blessed thing was the film they had to accompany the exhibit. It was about a naked Priest that wandered from village to village in India begging for food.
But first the obligatory pretty picture:
The Jain Faith in History
The Jain religion originated more than twenty-five hundred years ago in India. It developed a path of renunciation and purification designed to liberate one from the shackles of karma, allowing one to enter into a state of eternal liberation from rebirth, or kevala, which is roughly equivalent to the Buddhist concept of nirvana. The primary method of attaining this ultimate state requires a careful observance of nonviolent behavior. Jainism emphasizes nonviolence, or ahimsa, as the only true path that leads to liberation and prescribes following scrupulous rules for the protection of life in all forms.1The origins of Jainism are somewhat difficult to trace. The tradition holds that twenty-four great teachers, or Tirthankaras, established the foundations of the Jain faith. The most recent of these teachers, Vardhamana Mahavira (also known as the Jina) most probably lived during the time of the Buddha. Recent scholarship suggests that the Buddha lived in the fourth century BCE. However, the traditional stories of Mahavira indicate that he was born into a family that followed the religious teachings of Parsvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankara, who possibly taught during the eighth century BCE. Because virtually no archaeological ruins can be found in India for the period from 1500 to 300 BCE, exact dates cannot be determined. However, the first excavations of northern India during the Hellenistic era (ca. 300 BCE) include statues of Jain images. Furthermore, the earliest Buddhist texts discuss Jainism in some detail, suggesting that it was a well-established tradition even before the time of the Buddha.
Jainism and Environmentalism
The common concerns between Jainism and environmentalism can be found in a mutual sensitivity toward living things, a recognition of the inter-connectedness of life-forms, and support of programs that educate others to respect and protect living systems. For the Jains, this approach is anchored in a cosmology that views the world in terms of a cosmic woman whose body contains countless life souls (jiva) that reincarnate repeatedly until the rare attainment of spiritual liberation (kevala). The primary means to attain freedom requires the active nonharming of living beings, which disperses the karmas that keep one bound. Jains adhere to the vows of nonviolence to purify their karma and advance toward the higher states of spiritual attainment (gunasthana). For Jain laypeople, this generally means keeping to a vegetarian diet and pursuing livelihoods deemed to inflict a minimum of harm. For Jain monks and nuns, this means the need to avoid doing harm to all forms of life, including bugs and microorganisms (nigoda).
Harvard listed no Jain Environmental groups or sites, but referred people to the also normally reliable Alliance of Religion and Conservation. I could find only one group their:
Young Jains is a UK-based organization for the young and not so young that encourages the discussion and exploration of Jain philosophy, spirituality and its practical importance to life, in an open and friendly environment.
This site also is for Young Jains but it seems to be based in the US:
And that is about it for the web at least. But what about the naked priests you say? Their monks or priests are so afraid of hurting living beings that they cover their mouths for fear of killing microbes..
But no force on earth, police or otherwise, can triumph over the unquestionable purity of a great Jain sage, and the day we were taken to see His Holiness, by Mr. Ratanchand Hirachand, a wealthy Jain shipping merchant, Shri Nemi Sagarji Maharaj was, as usual, completely naked.
So I am really sorry to say that I could only find one image of one of the naked priests. Which is too bad because the movie ended showing this cute little old skinny priest from the rear walking down a dirt road with 2 deveotees in front of him sweeping bugs out of the road with tree branches so he would not step on them and kill them. What a sweet devout man.
This is the only picture i could find of a naked priest and it is too small to really see but he is standing by the river chanting until someone comes up and feeds him. Oh they don’t wear clothes because they can not be sure that something was not harmed to make them. Some priests get around this by making their own simple clothes like a wrap around blanket. But if you are desiress of simplicity or no good at spinning and weaving well there you go.
Found a lot of these though:
Please Harm No One Today