Jain Diversity

There is diversity within the tradition as there are different sects and sub-sects – Shvetambara, Digambara, Terapanth, which respect one another even though they are different. It was around the 4th century CE that the two major divisions developed within Jainism. The Shvetambara or white robed ascetics live mostly in the northern India, whereas the Digambara or sky-clad ascetics are to be found in the south although today, Jains of both sects are spread out all over India. There is a lot of similarity between the values and scriptures although there are differences in the practices and rituals.

Today, community groups are drawn on cultural and religious lines and there are many mixed groups, especially in the West where such sectarian boundaries are seen to be irrelevant when the community itself is so small. Even differences between faiths are not seen as a threat but as an opportunity to learn and grow through difference. For example, many Jain homes would have Christmas trees during Christmas. The smallness of the numbers in Britain has not in any way dented the resourcefulness of the community – in fact, quite the contrary.

There are beautiful temples and community centre all over India and numbering in the tens of thousands in total. Here in the UK, the first major temple was build in the city of Leicester and the second one in London at Potters Bar, close to the M25. Each of them are built with elaborate stone and marble sculptures and are open for school visits. There are only 35,000 Jains in the United Kingdom, but Jains have temples and community centres in many major cities in the UK run and funded by the community.

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