Jainism as a religious tradition was established in India at about the same time as Buddhism. Mahavira, one of the jinas (conquerors) preached the Jain philosophy around the same time that Buddhism began.
Like Buddhism, Jainism rose against the corruption in the interpretation of Hinduism prevalent at the time. The underlying philosophy of Jainism is that the renunciation of worldly desires and self-conquest leads to perfect wisdom.
This faith believes in total abstinence and asceticism as practiced by the Jinas and the Tirthankars (“crossing-makers”). The “crossing refers to the passage from the material to the spiritual realm, from bondage to freedom. Followers of this faith accept the popular gods of Hinduism but they are placed lower than the jinas.
The focus of this religion has been the purification of the soul by means of right conduct, right faith, and the right knowledge. This faith also enunciates complete non-violence and the Jain monks can be seen with their nose and mouth covered by a cloth mask to ensure that they do not kill any germs or insects while breathing.
Today Jainism has more than 3 million adherents in India and finds wide acceptance because of its philosophy of sympathy for all ‘living beings.