Jainism – a way of life




JAINS believe in total Ahimsā and therefore what they do and how they behave very much depends on the principle of Ahimsā. Jains would not or should not do anything, which involves unnecessary violence. They would carefully choose their diet to cause minimum harm to any living species. Vegetarianism is at the heart of Jain philosophy.

Any person, born into a Jain family and eating meat is not a true Jain but a person who is not born into a Jain family but is a vegetarian is a ‘Jain’.

There was a time when even doctors thought meat eating was healthy and made man strong. But this is not the case now and medical science has accepted this fact. Flesh eating is harmful for the heart, as it tends to clog the blood vessels with cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are very low in vegetarian food (except where excessive butter or oil is used) but it is high in eggs and animal foods. Other diseases like cancer; blood pressure and diseases of the liver, lungs and kidney are found more in the cases of meat eating people. Animals, fish and birds, like us human beings suffer from various ailments and it is likely that quite a few animals are slaughtered and eaten who had some kind of disease. This type of contaminated meat harms the person who eats it. Infected eggs and meat cause a large proportion of health problems in the western world. Some sort of harmful ingredients in infected meat causes major proportion of all food poisoning. As soon as the sick animal dies, bacteria in the dead body rapidly multiply. Eating such meat is giving way to incurable diseases. Gopināth Aggarwāl in his book ‘Vegetarian or Non Vegetarian, Choose Yourself’ says:

‘One who eats meat to-day gets ultimately eaten by that meat one day’

Let us now see some of the nutritional aspects of vegetarian diet. We need proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in our daily food. An average person needs about 2500 to 3000 calories per day, about 50 to 60 gms of protein and about 15 gms of fat.

PROTEIN: – Nuts and cereals contain a high amount of protein. Pulses contain an average of 15 gms of protein.

FAT:- Oil and butter have a high fat content while leafy green vegetables have a very low fat content.

CARBOHYDRATES:- We need a good amount of carbohydrates too. Wheat, bajra, maize and barley come top on the content-list of carbohydrates (about 65-70 per 100 gms) Fruits have a medium level and yoghurt comes at the bottom of the list with only 1.2 value in every 100 grammes of yoghurt.

FIBRE:- As regards fibre in our daily diet, leafy vegetables and brown rice (unpolished ) are quite good. Rice has a good amount of mineral value as well.

The meal that consists of wheat (or bajra or maize), rice, pulses and green vegetables would be a proper meal. Cereal with a complementary intake of nuts (provided you have no nut allergy) would be considered good for breakfast. Fruit and milk or yoghurt would provide other vitamins and minerals not found in the above products. To avoid diseases like blood pressure and heart problems one must take less oily foods and salt in the daily diet. The sugar content should also be limited in one’s diet to avoid the problems of diabetes. Jains have laid down very strict rules about eating. Jains are not allowed to eat root vegetables as violence is involved in the plucking of vegetables out of the ground. Living beings under the earth are likely to die during this process. Another reason for not eating root vegetables lies in the fact that most of these, like onion and garlic, make a man aggressive by nature.

It is important to note that Jainism has forbidden mixing many food-items to avoid chemical reactions taking place. Certain reactions produce a poisonous compound. The body would be slow or would fail to get rid of this poison. The poisonous compound could cause skin disease. To give one example: Raw milk or curd should not be mixed with lentils. This is called dwidal in Jain terminology and is forbidden. Though garlic and onions have to be avoided it must also be noted that these taken with milk (immediately before or after) would surely cause a reaction and may result in skin or digestive troubles. Green vegetables are allowed but on certain days like second, fifth, eighth, eleventh and fourteenth days of each half of every month, even green vegetables should be avoided.

The reasons given are:-

1, One must avoid these on certain days because such practices help to form a habit leading to gradual progress on the path of spirituality. One should also get accustomed to much simpler, drier food.

2, On these days, it is said that due to the lunar movements, the fluid level in our body increases. To compensate for this, one should avoid green vegetables, which have a lot of natural water in them.

3, It is also said that the process of karma-bondage is stronger and quicker during these days.

Eating at night- Eating after sunset is not allowed because many minute living beings can get killed while eating. When darkness spreads after sunset the number of insects in the air increase. Most of these are invisible to the naked eye. These are consumed accidentally when we eat at night. Some of the insects could even be harmful. It is also true that our digestive system slows down at night and has a lesser capacity to digest the food.

Alcohol- is not permitted for the simple reason that fermentation is violence in a minute sense and alcohol causes intoxication which in turn damages the brain’s important functions.

Boiled Water- Jains are advised to drink boiled water only. During fasting a condition laid down is that one has to drink boiled water. Fasting and drinking boiled water does make sense. Water taken from a river or well is usually polluted water. Our industries and sewage plants pollute the land and water. Many people in western countries also drink water after boiling it first. Jainism says that when you boil water you kill all bacteria or minute, invisible beings in the water. Jainism accepts that this is violence. Unboiled water is the abode of minute beings and countless numbers are continuously born and die every second. This process of multiplication of bacteria does not exist in boiled water because boiled water becomes ‘dead’ and remains dead for a whole day. Therefore it is less violent to have the water boiled in advance. Few would argue against the point that drinking boiled water is a much healthier and wiser thing to do.

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