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Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma (जैन धर्म), is one of the oldest religions in the world. It is a religion and philosophy originating in ancient India. The Jains follow the teachings of the 24 Jinas (conquerors) who are also known as Tirthankars. The 24th Tirthankar, Lord Mahavira lived in ca. 6th century BC. One of the main characteristics of Jain belief is the emphasis on the immediate consequences of one's behavior.
Jains are a small but influential religious minority with at least 4.2 million practitioners in modern India and more in growing immigrant communities in the United States, Western Europe, Africa, the Far East and elsewhere. Jains continue to sustain the ancient Shraman (श्रमण) or ascetic tradition.
Jains have significantly influenced the religious, ethical, political and economic spheres in India for over two millennia. Jainism stresses spiritual independence and equality of all life with particular emphasis on non-violence. Self-control (व्रत, vratae) is vital for attaining omniscience (kevala jnana) and eventually moksha, or realization of the soul's true nature.
Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship. The Jain community is the most literate religious community in India, and the Jain libraries are India's oldest.
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