In which category does Jainism belong?

JainismYou shouldn't eat animals

"I've been here in Germany since '95 and I worked as a student trainee at Bayer in Leverkusen. And they noticed that I'm a vegetarian and don't eat meat and so on," says Manoj Jain.

He is a vegetarian for religious reasons. He belongs to the religion of Jainism - like a maximum of 200 other people in Germany, experts estimate. Jainism is largely unknown in this country, which is why other people are often amazed at Manoj Jain's religious beliefs, he says. Like his former work colleagues when they learned about the dietary rules that Jain adheres to:

"And that was for them: Are you healthy? How can you live healthy? And I always said to them: My grandma, she was 88 at the time, and she was still alive. I said: My grandma is still healthy and still lives. "

Anupama and Manoj Jain (Deutschlandradio / Christian Röther)

"Live and let live"

Manoj Jain's grandmother also gave up meat. Because that is an important part of Jainism, explains Anupama Jain, who is married to Manoj: "Jainism believes - so the most important path is Ahimsa. That means: Live and let live."

Series "We are the others - small religions in Germany"
Christians, non-religious and non-religious, Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus live in Germany. And "other". This is how smaller religious communities are often referred to in statistics. But who is behind it? We met Druze and Jainas, visited a Taoist center and a Sikh temple, talked to Mandaeans, Yazidis and Baha'i - and after a long search we even found someone who would orient his life towards Shintoism.

Jainism originated in India around 2,500 years ago, around the same time as Buddhism. There are also similarities with Hinduism. A basic principle of Jainism is: One should not harm any living being. That is why some Jainas do not only forego meat and eggs, but also root vegetables. Because if you eat the root, the plant can no longer live on. Manoj Jain says, "We don't follow religion so strictly. That is, we eat root things, but we don't eat meat."

(imago images / robertharding / Tim Graham) How did Jainism come about?
Jainism is from a reform phase of Indian religious history in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. BC emerged. Buddhism also emerged in this phase. The scholar Mahavira is considered to be the founder of Jainism, and according to the current state of research, he should actually have existed. His name means "great hero". Today around 4.5 million Jainas live worldwide, most of them in India. In Germany there should be around 200.

Why do some Jainas wear face masks?
One of the central five vows of Jainism is called Ahimsa. It says that Jainas should not kill or injure living beings. This is why some Jainas wear a face mask to avoid accidentally getting insects in their mouths and thereby harming them.

What is Jainism known for?
The Ahimsa vow also means that Jainism is considered a religion of vegetarianism or veganism. Most Jainas avoid meat and eggs in their diet. But some eat cheese and milk because they assume that cows, sheep and goats will not have to suffer from it. Some Jainas also do not eat root vegetables such as potatoes or carrots because eating the roots will kill the entire plant, which is contrary to the intention of not wanting to kill any living beings.

"There is a large community in Antwerp"

It doesn't seem to be that easy to practice Jainism in Germany anyway - because there are hardly any Jainas here. That is why the Jain family sometimes travels from Cologne to Belgium to meet other Jainas and to celebrate religious festivals, says Manoj: "There is a large community in Antwerp, which also has a Jain temple. But not in Germany, and that's why we're trying for example, to follow this religion at home. Or that we also pass this on to our children. "

The Jains have set up a small shrine at home with photos and figures of saints, they say. They brought three of them to the radio studio for an interview. "These are figures from our Tirthankara," explains Anupama Jain.

Donated by the Tirthankaras

The Tirthankaras are something like the legendary great fathers of Jainism. 24 Tirthankaras is said to have given. The last of them named Mahavira is considered to be the founder of the religion.

Anupama Jain: "At home in the cupboard we have a few characters from the Tirthankara, different ones. And we also have a book called Jinvani. It's like the Bible or the Koran. But we have Jinvani, and there are our prayers that we also read and make puja of it. "

Puja means something like "worship". And the Jain couple have also made their religion their profession, so to speak. With their company, the Jains produce Indian ready meals - vegetarian of course. "It is said: what you eat is what you behave", says Anupama Jain. "That's why they say you should always eat healthy, good food."

Manoj Jain shows a representation of Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, who is said to have founded Jainism (Deutschlandradio / Christian Röther)

Five basic ethical principles

But Jainism cannot be reduced to food. Jainas believe in a cycle of eternal rebirth. And as in Hinduism and Buddhism, the aim of the Jainas is to get out of this cycle - that is, to enter nirvana. To do this, you have to follow a few rules, explains Anupama Jain:

"The five basic ethical principles, if you follow them, you can get nirvana. It's not easy, but that's the way. And these are: Ahimsa, Aparigraha, Satya, Asteya and Brahma."

That means: do not kill or injure living beings, only have what you really need to live, always tell the truth, do not steal and be chaste. "And of that - if we normal people, if we obey three, that's enough for now. And then, the nuns and monks, they follow all five."

"What they have is only heaven"

That is why it is said that nuns and monks have a better chance of entering nirvana than lay people. Jainism is divided into two main currents: the Shvetambaras, the "white-clad" - they are religiously a little less strict - and the Digambaras, which means "those clothed with heaven". Most of them are naked monks.

(RJM, Photo: Patrick Schwarz, rba 2019) The secret of non-violence
The religious principles of the Jainas include absolute non-violence. Little is known about this religion and its followers in Germany. An exhibition in Cologne wants to change that.

Anupama Jain: "That means: What you own is only the sky, and have no possession of any things. Except for a broom that you use to clean the place where you sleep or where you sit, so that there is no living being underneath dies. "

Because of such behavior, Jainism has a reputation for being "the religion is peaceful. You will hardly see a Jain who is aggressive," says Manoj Jain.

Confusion with Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims

Manoj has lived in Germany for 25 years, his wife Anupama for 21 years. Her last name Jain also indicates her religious affiliation. This is the case with many Jainas: many of them are called Jain, but not all. A prominent Jaina is the Briton Anshu Jain, who was CEO of Deutsche Bank until 2015. Nevertheless, Jainism is hardly known in this country, say the Cologne couple: "So here in Germany from India the people - it is seen that there is only Hinduism. Or Sikhs, or just Muslims," ​​says Anupama Jain.

Several million Jainas also live in India. Worldwide it should be between five and eight million. Even so, it is a lesser known religion. But that is gradually changing, Anupama and Manoj Jain tell:

"Our son graduated from high school last summer. And during this high school graduation ball the teacher came and told us and congratulated us that your son is the first here in North Rhine-Westphalia who has religion as Jainism on his certificate. And graduated from high school Has."

Support in kindergarten

When the Jain's two sons were young and went to kindergarten, it was even more difficult, the parents say. Because their sons should of course not eat meat in kindergarten either:

"Our two sons went to the Catholic kindergarten. And right at the beginning it was difficult because vegan or vegetarian diets weren't so well known here either. One of the teachers told us that when other children eat, why is your child not allowed to eat?" "It was difficult to explain that to her. But it has slowly been accepted, and they really helped us to do it."