Project Conversion

Project Conversion


My First Day as a Jain Monk

posted by abowen

According to legend, after Siddhartha Gautama (Lord Buddha) abandoned palace life in search of truth, he spent six years learning from many teachers and practicing harsh asceticism. In fact, his path of asceticism was so intense, that after years of practice, it nearly killed him by starvation. Once he broke his ascetic vows and took a small morsel of food, he concluded thus regarding a life of excess, extreme asceticism, and the Middle Path:

The loose string, which is like a life of indulgence, produces a poor sound when struck. The overly tight string, which is like a life of extreme asceticism, similarly produces a poor sound when struck and is moreover, likely to break at any moment. Only the middle string which is neither too loose nor too tight, and is like the Middle Path, produces a pleasant and harmonious sound when stuck.

Modern scholarship suggests that Lord Buddha was actually a Jain Sadhu (monk) before his Enlightenment. In describing his Middle Path, he literally called them “high strung.”

For the month of November, I will follow the Jain ascetic path that nearly killed the Buddha.

Of course, I live with my wife and two children, so I cannot go nearly as far as the Buddha and current Jain Sadhus and Sadvis (female monks) go, but I will go as far as I can.

Jain monks

So what is the Jain religion?

The Jain path is one of self cultivation. Devotees seek moksha (liberation from birth and death) and a state of supreme, divine consciousness. This state is reached by following the path of the Jinas (“conquerors” who have overcome all attachments and aversions). A “Triple Gem” philosophy guides this path for both Jain laity and monks alike:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Knowledge
  3. Right Conduct

Jains do no rely on, pray to, or believe in a central creator god. Many devotees instead offer prayers and meditations to the 24 Tirthankaras (one who achieved moksha and later becomes a historical teacher and role-model for others). Lord Mahavira was the last Tirthankara of this age (taught around the 500′s B.C.) and thus introduced the latest dispensation of the Jain way to humanity.

These Tirthankaras should not be viewed as gods, and the prayers and meditations given from devotees are not performed as a dialog between the two. Devotees instead are focusing on the qualities of these spiritual leaders, attempting to emulate the Tirthankaras and thus achieve moksha and become jina themselves. I should note that every lay Jain’s goal is to become an ascetic in either this life or the next so that they can reach the state of siddha (“one who has accomplished”).

As an honorary Jain Sadhu this month, I have taken the Mahavrata (Five Vows) that lead toward liberation. Jain laity follow these vows as well, but aren’t as strict with the last two.

  1. Ahimsa (non-injury/violence): Ahimsa is the focal point of the entire Jain way of life. Because Jains believe that every living being has an eternal soul (even bacteria), we should not harm anything. This includes harmful thoughts.
  2. Satya (Always tell the truth): One must be trustworthy and truthful at all times. Because all of these principles revolve around ahimsa however, if telling the truth leads to violence or injury, one is permitted to remain silent.
  3. Asteya (no stealing): A Jain never takes what is not given to them. Not even a blade of grass or a flower is plucked without it being offered from its owner.
  4. Brahmachara (Celibacy): While Jain laity are permitted to have monogamous marriages, Jain monks are not allowed a spouse or even to touch the opposite sex. As an ascetic this month, I will practice celibacy.
  5. Aparigraha (non-possession): Complete renunciation of ownership and attachment for monks and limited for the laity. Monks only carry their robes (for some sects) and perhaps a bowl and whisk (to sweep away insects). I will use as little as possible in my household, including the computer.

Because monks own only their robes (in some cases), I will only wear robes this month. Here is what I’ll look like:

Jain Andrew with walking staff, whisk, and mask (to prevent inhaling insects).

The walking staff guides my path, the whisk removes any creatures along the way so that I do not cause harm, and the mask prevents accidental inhalation. I will also walk barefoot and avoid all motorized transportation. I will also sleep on the floor, often changing rooms on different days so as to not attach myself to one particular spot. I can only eat once a day and only out of what I can fit within my cupped hand. My wife must offer the food to me, or I simply do not eat.

This month is also unique because I am limited in my computer usage. Some posts may be hand-written by me and then scanned for the page by my wife. She will also update many of the statuses on the Facebook page, and may even write a few posts herself. I will spend a majority of my day in meditation and study of the Jain path.

In many ways this will be my most difficult month. I will draw from many experiences this year to get me through the next 30 days. I would appreciate your prayers and meditations for this month.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(26)
post a comment
abowen

posted November 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm


Tyrus,

You are right, I do have a wonderful support system of family and friends. Thank you for giving me a listen in your class!



report abuse
 

abowen

posted November 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm


Michelle,

Thank you for the well-wishes!



report abuse
 

abowen

posted November 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm


Cameron,

I appreciate you having me in your class. Thank you!



report abuse
 

abowen

posted November 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm


Colin,

All in a day’s work, bro.



report abuse
 

abowen

posted November 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm


ssk,

The only way to go ; )



report abuse
 

ssk

posted November 3, 2011 at 7:48 pm


Hard core bro!



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another Blog To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Project Conversion. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Religion 101 Happy Reading!

posted 2:34:58pm Aug. 02, 2012 | read full post »

Is God an Immersionist?
In the world of faith, folks often point out the obvious fact that God does not belong to a particular creed, religion, race, or school of philosophy. This sentiment establishes the divine as one which transcends divisive terms of affiliation. But I am here to announce that a brief exploration of

posted 7:00:59am Jul. 12, 2012 | read full post »

Immersion in Relationships: Five Ways to Bring your Relationships to Life
I did something last night with my wife that we haven't done in a very long time... Okay, not from that far back, but it certainly feels that way. Last night, we had a date night. N

posted 10:58:33am Jul. 10, 2012 | read full post »

The Path of Immersion: An Introduction and How Entering the Path Leads to a Deeper Sense of Self
Today marks my official declaration of fidelity and discipleship to the Path of Immersion. Along with that declaration, I also invite you to join me in whatever capacity feels the most suitable. The Path of Immersion is not one which demands conversion, evangelism, worship, or exclusivity. Along th

posted 6:00:19am Jul. 09, 2012 | read full post »

Farewell, Project Conversion: The End of an Adventure
When I converted to Christianity at the age of 15, I assumed the faith with a passionate resolve. Despite the positive instruction from my pastor and others, I (for reasons I cannot explain) transformed into a fiery evangelist, launching Christianity at friends and strangers like salvos of religious

posted 12:49:25pm Jul. 05, 2012 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.