“There is no quality of soul more subtle than non-violence and no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life.”
Jains believe that the only way to save one’s own soul is to protect every other soul and so follow the path of Ahimsa (non-violence) that plays the biggest part in their lives, especially in the regulation of their diet. For them Ahimsa is more than just non-violence or an attitude but rather a way of life that now, in modern terms, includes positive elements of working for justice, peace, liberation and freedom as long as their actions do not involve violence.
To Jains, every life or soul is sacred, regardless of faith, caste, race or even species. Their faith enforces that they not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being. For this reason alone, Jain monks wear a cloth muslin cloth over their mouth in case they should accidentally swallow an insect.
Jains are vegetarians and do not use cloth whose production hurts animals or humans. In fact, they take care to preserve life in everything they do. They do not hold jobs that cause harm such as cutting trees, silk or leather trade, selling weapons or pesticides, anything involving fermentation, etc.
‘Ahimsa paramo dharmah’ (Non-violence is the supreme religion)
Jains believe that violence in thought and speech is as bad as physical violence, so they try to control things like anger, greed, pride and jealousy. Getting others to do harm, or allowing others to do harm, is as bad as doing harm yourself. It is simply not enough to control harm but rather working positively to promote tolerance, forgiveness, compassion and to help those who are less fortunate. Charity is a very important component in a Jain’s life.
It is believed that all living creatures depend on each other. One text says “All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence.”