Jains Are The OG Vegans, All About The Spiritual Origins Of Vegan Living That Indian Jains Practise

Discover how Jainism's principles of ahimsa intersect with modern veganism.

by Mallika Khurana
Jains Are The OG Vegans, All About The Spiritual Origins Of Vegan Living That Indian Jains Practise

We have all thought of turning vegan at least once in our lifetimes. Especially with Veganuary going on, our focus has particularly shifted towards leading a cruelty-free life. On that note, did it ever strike you that Jainism is the original vegan lifestyle? Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that emphasises non-violence (ahimsa), compassion, and the pursuit of spiritual liberation. The followers of this religion strive to minimise harm and violence to any form of life, which is why their diet is primarily plant-based.

Jainism’s Sacred Vegan Diet And Ethical Philosophy

jain vegan food
Photo Credits: Canva

Founded in the 6th century BCE by Lord Mahavira, Jainism preaches the concept of karma. Its principle of ahimsa extends beyond humans to all living beings. Jain monks and nuns, known as Sadhus and Sadhvis, adhere to extremely strict diets, following rules that avoid harm to living organisms, including microorganisms. They follow a diet called a “sattvic” diet, which excludes root vegetables like potatoes, onions, and garlic, as uprooting these plants can harm numerous microorganisms in the soil.

The Jain diet primarily consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, and dairy products obtained without harm to animals. However, some Jains even refrain from dairy as they believe it involves harm to animals in the form of exploitation. In the old days, when people could get milk from dairy farms themselves, they could make sure that it was produced the right way and the cow’s cub got his share as well. But now, consuming dairy is unethical in many religious households since they cannot be sure of the conditions under which the milk was made available for them. 

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Principles Leading The Way To A Cruelty-Free World

Photo Credits: Canva

Comparing Jainism’s dietary principles with modern veganism, both share the fundamental belief of minimising harm to animals. In their essence, Jain dietary rules extend to the avoidance of certain root vegetables and strict avoidance of harm to microorganisms, which is beyond the scope of typical veganism. However, vegans generally abstain from consuming any animal products or by-products. Both of these philosophies advocate for non-violence towards animals.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that extends beyond diet, encompassing the avoidance of all forms of animal exploitation in clothing, cosmetics, entertainment, and other aspects of life. Jainism, while focused on non-violence, has a broader spiritual and philosophical framework that includes principles beyond just diet.

Jainism indeed emphasises a plant-based diet rooted in principles of non-violence and compassion towards all living beings. It certainly aligns with many aspects of modern veganism. 

Cover Image Courtesy: Canva

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