Definition and Examples in Religions

Tirthankara on the HazaraRama Temple
Tirthankara (Jain who has passed all the reincarnations and made a path for others). CC soham_pablo Flickr.com

Jainism is a non-theistic religion that developed from Hinduism in the Indian sub-continent at about the same time as Buddhism. Jainism comes from a Sanskrit verb ji, 'to conquer'. Jains practice asceticism, as did the man counted as Jainism's founder, Mahavira, a possible contemporary of the Buddha. Asceticism is necessary for release of the soul and enlightenment, which means freedom from the continual transmigrations of the soul at the death of the body. Karma binds the soul to the body.

Mahavira is thought to have deliberately fasted to death, following the ascetic practice of salekhana. Asceticism by means of the three jewels (right faith, knowledge, and conduct) can release the soul or at least elevate it to a higher home in the next reincarnation. Sin, on the other hand, leads to a lower home for the soul in the next reincarnation.

There are many other components of Jainism including the practice of not killing anything, even to eat. Jainism has 2 main sects: the Shvetambara ('White-robed') and the Digambara ('Sky-clad'). The Skyclad are naked.

The last or 24th of the perfect beings, according to Jainism, who are known as Tirthankaras, was Mahavira (Vardhamana).