The Thai forest tradition is based on a realisation of the importance of meditative practice on the spiritual journey. Indeed, the Thai forest monks are regarded as being amongst the foremost masters in the world. Similarly, Digambara monks are known for their long periods of meditation.
Meditation is amongst the most transferrable practices that have arisen from ancient religions. A simple “personal” practice of ten or fifteen minutes a day can have tremendous effects. Why not consider giving it a go?
At the core of both Jain and Buddhist philosophies is the principle of “nonviolence” or ahimsa. Human beings, both religions contend, are “special” because, unlike other animals and plants, they are conscious. This gives them access to to deeper levels of understanding about the world, alongside conferring greater responsibility.
One interesting practice amongst the “sky clad” monks is that of sweeping their path with a broom so as not to harm any insects in their way. We can practice the principle of ahimsa in our own lives in many ways, including through diet, our interactions with others, our choice of livelihood and the ethical choices we make in relation to what we consume.
By simplifying their outward lives, both forest monks and Jains are better able to focus on their internal development. Though they enact this austerity in distant temples, there is a lesson here for all of us.
Clutter in our lives, whether it’s concrete or in our own minds, can distract us from following through on what’s really important. If you’ve ever tidied up a room, you know the feeling of “mastery” that you experience afterwards. Conversely, you’ll also know the feelings of stress and frustration when you’re overwhelmed by too much “stuff”. Pursue this feeling of control, that’s so conducive to freeing up space in other areas, in whatever way you can in your own life.
Karma plays an important role in both Jain and Buddhist philosophies. Jains argue that souls “accumulate” karma, which is understood almost as a form of matter. Reincarnation is determined by the amount of karma a being accumulates over the course of their lifetime. Release from rebirth, on the other hand, is a result of purging all of one’s karma. You don’t have to agree with this notion to see the validity of living a moral life, of course. Both Buddhists and Jains follow their own versions of the five precepts.
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