Belief and Religious Practice
Belief, for Jains, is a very important part of life, in fact the core of life. However, it is not a form of fundamentalist belief or a belief in one truth and one God or the set written scriptures of God. Instead it is a faith in oneself and one’s own powers and potential to live truthfully and ethically and overcome hardships and suffering. Prayer and worship is aimed at building this inner strength as opposed to seeking salvation and emancipation from an external being. Belief drives everyday action and provides strength at times of despair and pain.
Gods or Tirthankaras are role models and teachers of ethical living. They have lived a life which has helped them attain liberation and left a light of wisdom for all of us to follow. This wisdom is the Jain philosophy and its virtues. It is believed that right knowledge is the best gift one could have as it shows the path to eternal happiness and enlightenment.
The benefits of right belief on individuals and communities are significant especially in a time of unprecedented global change and transformation. They provide inner strength and stability and a framework for negotiating and adapting to worldly living.
For Jains living outside India, belief is critical to their adaption and assimilation. Community is seen as a natural extension of the individual and one of the most important acts is to build a temple and community centre where faith is sustained and nourished through collective action and worship. It is remarkable how active the Jains are in this sphere even though they are so far away from their homeland.