About the symbol: The open hand is warning everyone to stop and think before doing anything and consider if what he/she does will harm anything or anyone. The letters in the center is the word Ahimsa meaning nonviolence-do no harm. Each of the 24 lines around the circle represents a Jina. The three white spots are the three jewels of the Jains. The arc in the middle finger is liberation and perfection in the afterlife. The white spot above represents that each Jina is has attained liberation.
Jainism - 420 BCE
The founder of the Jain community was Vardhamana, the last Jina in a series of 24 who lived in East India. He attained enlightenment after 13 years of deprivation and committed the act of salekhana, fasting to death, in 420 BCE.
Each jina is mentioned as a god not to be worshipped but greatly honored. He was known to be imperfect in many areas of the jina's life, but perfect in one. Therefore, he is a god to honored. The jinas serve as models like whom any person can become.
Jainism has many similarities to Hinduism and Buddhism which developed in the same part of the world. They believe in karma and reincarnation as do Hindus but they believe that enlightenment and liberation from this cycle can only be achieved through asceticism. Jains follow the practice of only eating that which will not kill the plant or animal from which it is taken. They also practice ahimsa, non-violence, because any act of violence against a living thing creates negative karma which will adversely affect one's next life.
Jainism is one of the oldest religions of world. It believes in a cyclical nature of universe. and thus a universe without a beginning, without an end and without a creator.
Rishabdev, the first "Tirthankar" (Maker of the ford) of this cycle of time, is mentioned in Rig Veda, the oldest scripture in Hinduism believed to be at least 5000 years old.
The final of the 24 Tirthankars of this time cycle was Lord Mahaveer who lived between 599 and 527 B.C.
Ahimsa (Non-violence) is the underlying philosophy of Jainism. The Ahimsa of Jainism is very comprehensive and is concerned not only with Human beings but also every living being. Whether it is animals, plants, insects or microbes. Detailed description of types of living beings and ways to minimize and avoid violence is given in thousands of centuries old Jain scriptures.
The objective of Jainism is to strive for Moksha or Liberation from the unending cycles of Birth, Death and Re-birth. One who is liberated is called as Siddha. A Siddha is a soul which has achieved it's original state of infinite bliss and power etc. Every Jiva (living being) has the potential of becoming a Siddha and therefore God.
Jainism doesn't believe in God as the creator of this universe. God is a liberated soul (Siddha) who has attained Moksha. A role model as well as a teacher. Every human being and every living being has the potential to attain Moksha and thus become God.
Philosophical principles of Anekantvad (Non-absolutism or multi sidedness) and Syadvad (Relativity of truth) are unique only to the Jain system of thought. Karma theory has its roots in Jainism and is thoroughly described.
Jainism says that the future of a man is in his own hands. All its rituals, religious practices and beliefs are beneficial from a scientific perspective too. Ahimsa and Vegetarianism are preached and practiced very thoroughly by Jainism.