Belief for Jains is a normal part of life – it is not something reserved for the time of prayer or the visit to the temple. It is rarely expressed or experienced as miracles, but it is the giver of inner strength and the triumph of hope over adversity. Belief is seen as the line which continues from past lives to the current life and helps us move beyond death to future lives or liberation. It is the thread that weaves the soul in its journey through the Universe.
Much of Jain belief is based on respect for enlightened souls, wherever they may live. The most sacred Jain prayer, the Navkar Mantra is a salutation to all such souls of whatever faith they may belong. It is a universal prayer. Belief fills everyday life with a sense of purpose and helps us to be contented and thankful. Belief helps us put the material world in its place and prevents it from overwhelming our lives.
A distinctive belief of Jainism is that the whole of nature is included in the cycle of liberation – men, gods, animals, insects, plants and all living beings. Consequently, life and its direction are ruled by karma – deeds, and these decide the condition of the next life. Liberation arises when all karmas are destroyed and the soul becomes pure and free.
Ethical conduct is an expression of belief – with values like service, respect, simplicity, selflessness and forgiveness its guiding lights. The word Jain derives from the root Jina which means conqueror of the inner vices. A true Jain is one who has reached the inner purity of the soul and is not tainted by greed, violence or vices of any kind.