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Life of Jain Monks and Nuns

Jain monks and nuns lead austere lives.

Jainism, more than any other religion in the world, teaches reverence for all living things, plants, animals, insects…It believes all human beings have a soul or jiva and can attain liberation through subjugating their passions and freeing themselves from all attachment to their own bodies and every material possession. Jainism teaches asceticism of the highest order. Which is why monks following the Digambara (sky clad) sect of Jainism do not wear any clothes, whereas the Shwetambaras (white clad) wear minimal, unstitched white clothes. Since women cannot remain naked in the public, Digambara Jains believe that women have to be reborn as men first before they can achieve total salvation. So women renunciates in both the sects wear white clothes that covers their bodies completely, unlike the monks who wear two pieces of clothes to start with, then downsize it to one, finally giving up all clothing.

Monolithic Image of Jain prophet Gomateshwara Bahubali at Shravanabelagola, India; Source

Sky clad monks at Kundalpur; Source: IndiaMike.com

Shwetambara nuns and monks collect their food in bowls (’Gochari‘) by going from house to house, usually twice a day.  Digambara ascetics visit only one house (generlly they get invited) and that too only once a day. They do not use a receptacle and eat while standing. These nuns abstain from meat and vegetables that grow under ground (with the exception of ground nuts, as these carry a shell). They examine each morsel for any possible tiny insect(s) lodged in them, and if found impure, they go hungry with no further exchange of words.

Jain monks receiving alms; Source: Jainism – A pictorial guide to the religion of non violence by Kurt Titze

Their practice of ahimsa is symbolized by the small broom they carry everywhere and use it to brush off the ground before they sit so as to avoid inadvertently killing any insect that might be there.

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  1. Authoress Terry E. Lyle

    On August 6, 2010 at 7:15 pm


    What an interesting insight into this culture, thanks for this delightful article.

  2. Anamika S

    On August 6, 2010 at 9:42 pm


    Interesting!

  3. gracealone

    On August 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm


    Religion is man made thoughts and man thinks that he has come into this world to die and not to live. Sanyasis live this sacrificial life and sacrifice always results in death and not salvation.

    There are enumerous religions, thoughts and customs in all the religions of India and other countries and all of them teach us to sacrifice the life as if we have taken birth here not to live but to die.

    I had also tried to become a nun once upon a time, hence I know the mentality of these people very well. It starts with the journey of achieving peace when we are troubled with the world and the worldly tricks played by human.

    Sometimes, circumstances make us feel that this life will be of no use anymore. When my father, tortured me I had a hope to get married and live the life, however, I got the same husband as my father is and that resulted in divorce. At that time, I felt that I should also live the life like a nun because nothing works in this life.

    Tried a lot to wear white clothes, tried a lot to stop watching movies, thinking about men, thinking about human being and thought of diverting the mind to God only, however, I found that it was not GOD, it was foolishness which is taking us away from God.

    Finally, I came to know that we live by God’s Grace alone and we are here to live forever. If we die here then there won’t be any life anywhere.

    The whole world is in our heart and there is the actual heaven.

  4. Melody SJAL

    On August 6, 2010 at 10:27 pm


    Very interesting indeed.

  5. CHAN LEE PENG

    On August 6, 2010 at 11:09 pm


    This is something new for me. I didn’t know that this religion exists. Very interesting read too. :-)

  6. C LEBLANC

    On August 6, 2010 at 11:37 pm


    While this is very interesting. I believe in God and Christianity.

  7. LOVELYHONEY

    On August 7, 2010 at 12:24 am


    though theyall are naked still they conceal all of it
    hence my poetry does reveal this

    ur secrets of good health u share
    so do i wish to

    we charge to discharge and discharge to recharge
    hence my sermon
    any one who benefits and adds on a smile
    likes it
    likes this
    My sermon for the day

    You do steel all hearts
    and also steal smiles,

    hope this you have heard

    today I shall compose
    no poem

    but this one maybe,

    I’m only going to comment
    on everyone,

    hope you shall too
    spare a day,
    for poets like me
    Who onTriond’s
    their poetry display

  8. Ranjan Mathews

    On August 7, 2010 at 1:03 am


    Jain monks and nuns are austere, but not their followers. Those in the business community have conspicuous spending lifestyles. If their very society does not reflect their teachings, what is the use of such sacrifice?

  9. carissimi

    On August 7, 2010 at 2:21 am


    very interesting

  10. Christine Ramsay

    On August 7, 2010 at 2:23 am


    What a very interesting and informative piece. I hadn’t heard of this religion before.

    Christine

  11. justmyname

    On August 7, 2010 at 2:26 am


    Wow, great budha statue

  12. giftarist

    On August 7, 2010 at 6:47 am


    A great share, friend. Really interesting culture.

  13. Anj M

    On August 7, 2010 at 10:42 am


    Very nice article :)

  14. JASON EAVES

    On August 7, 2010 at 11:27 am


    well said article =0)

  15. Sourav

    On August 7, 2010 at 11:37 am


    Strange things happen in religions. Not going against any particular religion but these religious rituals really doesn’t mean anything logically. Anyways… it’s an very good and informative article. I’ve learned few things about Jainism today.

  16. Great Idea

    On August 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm


    Now that we’ve covered those aspects of Life of Jain Monks and Nuns, let’s turn to some of the other factors that need to be considered.

  17. Tulan

    On August 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm


    It sounds like a hard thankless life.

  18. RS Lannan

    On August 7, 2010 at 10:47 pm


    well written introduction and peak into the lives of this little-known sect (to most of the world)

  19. Bharath

    On August 8, 2010 at 11:20 am


    Well Presented Aricle

  20. goodfella27

    On August 11, 2010 at 11:03 am


    As a student of Indian history, I have come to understand that Jainism was in fact one of the rebellious daughters of Hinduism, the other being Buddhism. I use the word rebellious because these two religions opposed the rigid make-up of the caste system prevalent in Hindu society during the Later Vedic Age. One of the main reasons for the origin of these two religions was mass opposition to rigid religious practices practiced by the ‘upper-class’ Brahmin Hindus. These practices would include strict vegetarianism, sacrifices, etc. Therefore, it is surprising to read in your article what modern day Jainism has evolved into – a severely austere practice, in which its main proponents give up even the basic luxuries of life.

    Also, I completely agree with Mr. Ranjan Matthews’ comment.

    All in all, very good insight, interesting article. :)

  21. Franklin Beaumont

    On August 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm


    An interesting article, and a fascinating lifestyle.

  22. RAJEEV BHARGAVA

    On November 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm


    a very well researched and informative article focusing on the life of Jain Monks. i enjoyed reading it.

  23. Guy Hogan

    On November 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm


    I’m glad I don’t believe in any religion.

  24. sloanie

    On November 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm


    I’ve learnt a lot from this excellent article. I didn’t know any thing about this religion. Thank you for the read.

  25. Mr.Reggie

    On November 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm


    Excellent Write!!!

  26. albert1jemi

    On November 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm


    great share

  27. papaleng

    On November 21, 2010 at 4:28 am


    first time to hear about these Jain monks and nuns, thanks for educating us.

  28. Kaye TM

    On November 21, 2010 at 9:02 am


    very interesting and entertaining read, thanks! =p

  29. dilwale

    On November 23, 2010 at 3:39 am


    i do not like naked jain muni’s … women are all around them,, they should feel embarrased and shamefull, living naked in front of a girl or women or a child..

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