Christianity vs. Jainism
On Wednesday 11 Feb, the Jain Society at Warwick University hosted a discussion about ‘Christianity and Jainism-similarities and differences’. The event was organized around the fundamental Jain belief of ‘anekantavada’-that the truth may be seen in different ways from different viewpoints. Previous inter-faith events this year include a discussion on family values with the Hindu society and Sikh society at Warwick.
“Comprehend one philosophical view through comprehensive study of another one.”
Jainism, Acarangasutra 5.113
The discussion was initiated by Brad Snyder, one of three representatives of an organization called AGAPE from the United States. He put forward the Christian belief that Christ is unique. His discourse provided a much deeper understanding of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. The Christian belief is when man was created by God, we were given the freedom of choice. But mankind rebelled by choosing themselves over God. God’s love for man is so great that he pursued us with his love and paid for our sins through the death of Jesus Christ. This puts man in a position where he has to respond and make a decision who Jesus Christ is-‘either he is who he says he is, the Son of God or a lunatic’.
In response to this, Paras Shah, the president of the Jain Society at Warwick provided his interpretation of Jainism, outlining the 5 vows and highlighting the importance of Lord Mahavir, as the last Tirthankar who gave clarity to the religion of Jainism.
Indrajit Shah found common paths in the two religions through the moral guidance they provide relating ahimsa in Jainism to the quote from the bible of “turn thy cheek”. This refers to when someone hurts you, then do not respond violently.
The two religions were put before the audience and it was their turn to question and to put forward their own views. There were over 20 people present at the event, not only Christians and Jains, but also Muslim, Hindu and Jewish believers.
To give you a feel of the discussion, here are a few of the questions brought up:
-If Jainism is an atheistic religion, then what do Jains aspire to?
-If Jesus is the son of God, then does Jainism accept this, if there is no God?
-What is the concept of God in Jainism
-If there is a God, then why is there so much suffering in the world?
-What is the Christian belief in Heaven and Hell and are there different levels of Heaven and Hell
-If one must believe in Christ to go to heaven, then what happens to animals, plants and people who do not know about Christianity?
We debated and discussed extensively on these and other questions, with relationships from all the religions being brought in. As Jainism is not as well known a religion as Christianity, members of the Jain society also provided further understanding of the karma theory and the meaning of liberation. The main similarities found between the two religions, and also between Hinduism was the belief in non-violence. Hindus believe that all our souls are part of a universal soul, and by harming another person, you are harming yourself.
The issue which kept arising was that to be a Christian you have to believe in Christ, and to go to heaven you have to believe in Christ as the Son of God. There is a major difference between Christianity and Jainism in this aspect, because with the Christian belief, there is not much space for anekantavada. However, Brad did say that he believes there is an absolute truth, but that he also believes in everyone’s right to believe what they want.
Another fundamental belief that came to the forefront was that in Jainism you are responsible for your destiny and that is possible to reach a perfect state through your own actions, because of karma. To be liberated we must not have any karma The Christian belief is that man has a sinful nature and it is not possible to be perfect, which is why Jesus Christ died for the sins of man, so that a man or a woman can go to heaven, even after committing sins during his or her life.
The discussion was not only an eye opener to those who did not know about Jainism or Christianity but also tremendously thought provoking and probing. Even after the formal seated part of the discussion was over the audience and speakers were still questioning each other to further their knowledge about the meaning of their religions.
To find out more about the work of Brad, Christy and Jeff from AGAPE in the UK you can visit the website: http://www.agape-liverpool.org.uk.
Jain Society, Warwick