Similarities Between Theravada Buddhism And Jainism

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Both Theravada Buddhism and Jainism consider karma to influence a never-ending cycle of life and death. All beings are subject to this cycle. However, Jains regard this cycle to be the continuation of the soul throughout life and death, whereas Theravada Buddhists deny even the existence of souls. Following from this belief system, Jains use their version of the soul to equate all nonhuman and human animals. Theravada Buddhists, on the other hand, consider nothing to have a soul, and therefore relate nonhuman and human entities through karma. This paper will discuss how Jains and Theravada Buddhists each relate nonhuman and human animals in terms of karma, the cycle of life and death, and the soul, or absence thereof, and argue that karma …show more content…
In order to understand how Jains and Theravada Buddhists interpret the soul, it is important to reflect on how karma is manifested in each of their respective religions. In the case of Jainism, karma is defined as the only explanation of hardships. The material force drives the cycle of birth and death, following souls from one life to another. An important thing to note about many Jains’ interpretation of karma is its material value. Material practices such as renunciation garner importance simply because they have the ability to eradicate karma. Because of this regard for all life forms, karma does not account for intent. In other words, an act that harbors no malicious object is of the almost the same karmic value as one that is of harmful intent. In Theravada Buddhism, however, this is not the case. Theravada Buddhist karma is synonymous with intent, and accounts for the belief that both thoughts and actions can have motives. It resembles that of the Jains’ in that it drives the cycle of reincarnation. Karma, therefore, remains a prominent motivator in each of these religions—major differences between the two are found only in intent. (Ulrich—lecture, …show more content…
Each animal has a soul, regardless of tier. However, the difference between these tiers and the fifth, or nonhuman and human animals, is breaking the cycle of life and death. In both major sects of Jainism, only beings on tier five, and sometimes only males with five senses, can attain enlightenment. The possession of a soul connects the divide between this grouping of tiers. Because Jains value each of these souls, they stand by a principle of nonviolence, called ahimsa, which integrates even the smallest beings into the moral code each practitioner follows. (Ulrich—lecture, powerpoint) Surprisingly, ahimsa does not include fasting or other forms of self harm in the name of renunciation. This marks one of the most distinguished differences between nonhuman and human animals in Jainism. This is not to say that only humans may practice renunciation; in fact, it is quite the opposite. In one Jain myth, a tiger fasts in order to relieve himself of karma. The difference is that only in humans can this renunciation lead to enlightenment. However, karma is seen to play a part in the lives of each living thing, bridging the gap between nonhuman and human entities. (Ulrich—lecture,

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