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Jains and Food


Brad S
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How does the religious sect of Jain compare in regards to food and the way food is precieved to buddist and Hindus?

Does agriculture enter the lives of the Jains?

If so how?

Turnip Greens are Better than Nothing. Ask the people who have tried both.

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How does the religious sect of Jain compare in regards to food and the way food is precieved to buddist and Hindus?

Does agriculture enter the lives of the Jains?

If so how?

Mostly merchant, and business folks. Most Jain food I have eaten was devoid of onions and Of!course no meat, no potatoes etc. Food eaten before sundown etc.

anil

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Jainism

It is based upon 9 fundamentals. And certainly many rituals that come together to form the Jain philosophy.

Nav Tattvas (9 Fundamentals)

1. Jeeva (soul)

2. Ajeeva (non-living)

3. Paap (bad deeds)

4. Punya (result of good deeds)

5. Asraava (flowing of karma)

6. Samvaar (holding off karma)

7. Bandha (bondage to karma)

8. Nirjara (eradication of karmas)

9. Moksha (liberation)

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Jeeva: All living beings are called Jeeva. The consciousness of these Jeeva is called atma or soul. The soul and the body though are two unique entities. The body can reproduce but the soul cannot. The soul is described as indestructible, invisible and without a form. The body only houses the soul. Jeevas can be those living beings with just one sense or even those with 5 senses. Jain saints (Tirthankaras) have shared that the soul has infinite knowledge and the power to perceive anything whatsoever. The only reason the soul in the human form cannot express itself is due to the great influx of karmic ties in the human mind. At the death of one body, the soul is believed to leave that one form and move onto another new one.

Ajeeva: Anything bereft of a soul is described as Ajeeva. Things without consciousness are called Ajeeva.

Example: Medium of motion, medium of rest, space, matter and time. These are five categories of non-living, Ajeeva.

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Paap: When we indulge in bad activities, we create bad karma. This is called Paap. Violence, disrespect for elders, parents and teachers. Anger, greed, deceit and arrogance are other Paaps. When Paap accumulates it makes us unhappy and miserable and leads to great suffering.

Punya: When we indulge in those activities that are wholesome and kind, we create positive and good Karma. These good deeds are called Punya. Offering food and shelter to the poor. Charity and absence of greed lead to a maturation of this good karma and thus to a happy and prosperous life.

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I thought of Jainism during the kosher bulls in Holland thread. I know almost nothing about the religion and find it hard to get reliable information. Madhur Jaffrey says (in a photo caption) that the Jains are complete vegetarians. The Orthodox Jains don't eat root vegetables so as not to harm insects when digging root vegetables up. They also don't eat tomatoes because the color reminds them of blood. Julie Sahni says they refrain from eating certain vegetables and fruits during the rainy season because they contain worms and insects (again, eating would harm the bugs). They don't practice agriculture for the same reason. Although she says that all the recipes in her Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking derive from either Hindu (particularly the Brahmin caste) and Jain repertoires, the only recipe in the book that is indexed as being a Jain specialty is "Coriander-Scented Millet and Mung Bean Pilaf," but she includes a tomato in the recipe as well as 2 onions.

I was once ordered (for pseudo-medical reasons) not to eat any onions, garlic, leeks, scallions or shallots. It made cooking very difficult and I lasted for about 2 weeks.

Does anyone have any more information? I looked in Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophies of India and he has a lot of information, all very dense and rather goofily edited and annotated by Joseph Campbell. I did find this quote: "Every thought and act, according to the pessimistic philosophy of the Jainas, entails an accumulation of fresh karmic substance. To go on living means to go on being active -- in speech, in body, or in mind; it means to go on doing something every day. And this results in the storing up involuntarily of the "seeds" of future action, which grow and ripen into the "fruits" of our coming sufferings, joys, situations, and existences. ... The process of life itself consumes the karmic substance, burning it up like fuel, but at the same time attracts fresh material to the burning center of vital operations. ... New seeds of future fruits pour in. Two contradictory yet exactly complementary processes are kept, in this way, in operation. The seeds, the karmic materials, are being exhausted rapidly all the time through the unconscious as well as the conscious actions of the psychosomatic system, and yet through these identical actions the karmic storage bins are being continually restocked. Hence, the conflagration that is one's life goes crackling on."

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Asraava: This is the flowing of karma to the soul. It is caused by our mistaken beliefs. It is also the result of breaking vows, not following basic rituals, being overtly passionate, negligence and mental or physical abuse.

Samvaar: This is the act by which the influence of bad Karmic principles is stopped. It can be achieved by being careful of what one speaks and does. By showing self control, by practicing monk-hood and being reflective about ones actions. It can also be achieved by suffering.

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Bandha: This is the marriage of Karma to the soul. This happens when we get attached to those things that are not correct. It also happens when we react in aversion to things not in our control.

Nirjara: This is the act whereby humans can shed their weight of Karma. This can be achieved by a passive or active manner. It is considered more apt to be active in reaching this goal. It can be actively achieved by performing penance, by regretting what one did wrong, by asking for forgiveness from others and by performing meditation.

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I thought of Jainism during the kosher bulls in Holland thread.  I know almost nothing about the religion and find it hard to get reliable information.  Madhur Jaffrey says (in a photo caption) that the Jains are complete vegetarians.  The Orthodox Jains don't eat root vegetables so as not to harm insects when digging root vegetables up.  They also don't eat tomatoes because the color reminds them of blood.  Julie Sahni says they refrain from eating certain vegetables and fruits during the rainy season because they contain worms and insects (again, eating would harm the bugs). They don't practice agriculture for the same reason.  Although she says that all the recipes in her Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking derive from either Hindu (particularly the Brahmin caste) and Jain repertoires, the only recipe in the book that is indexed as being a Jain specialty is "Coriander-Scented Millet and Mung Bean Pilaf," but she includes a tomato in the recipe as well as 2 onions.

Madhur was more succinct with her simple description. I just glanced again through the recipes Julie has in her book, they are from being Jain in their repertoire. They represent the largely vegetarian India.

Jains eat only vegetables and grains. They traditionally do not eat any root vegetables as Madhur rightly says. Some Jains do believe that it is even more risky to eat such vegetables in the rainy months for insects are more easily found in the soil in that period. But these are Jains that have broken tradition and started eating root vegetables.

I find food cooked in Jain homes amazing in its simplicity. As they follow many rituals and rules, their options are far limited and yet, they have created many dishes that are just as complex as any other Indian dish.

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Although she says that all the recipes in her Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking derive from either Hindu (particularly the Brahmin caste) and Jain repertoires, the only recipe in the book that is indexed as being a Jain specialty is "Coriander-Scented Millet and Mung Bean Pilaf," but she includes a tomato in the recipe as well as 2 onions.

Tomatoes and onions are a no go for most Jains. I would think onions even more so than tomatoes. But maybe Julie has been eating in more liberal Jain homes than I have been able to get invited to.

Tomatoes are considered by many Indians to be flesh like in texture and color. And this has made them suspect in the eyes of many Indians. Across religious and social divide.

In fact I know more Jains that eat tomatoes than I know Jains that eat onions.

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Does anyone have any more information?  I looked in Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophies of India and he has a lot of information, all very dense and rather goofily edited and annotated by Joseph Campbell. I did find this quote:  "Every thought and act, according to the pessimistic philosophy of the Jainas, entails an accumulation of fresh karmic substance.  To go on living means to go on being active -- in speech, in body, or in mind; it means to go on doing something every day.  And this results in the storing up involuntarily of the "seeds" of future action, which grow and ripen into the "fruits" of our coming sufferings, joys, situations, and existences. ... The process of life itself consumes the karmic substance, burning it up like fuel, but at the same time attracts fresh material to the burning center of vital operations. ... New seeds of future fruits pour in.  Two contradictory yet exactly complementary processes are kept, in this way, in operation.  The seeds, the karmic materials, are being exhausted rapidly all the time through the unconscious as well as the conscious actions of the psychosomatic system, and yet through these identical actions the karmic storage bins are being continually restocked.  Hence, the conflagration that is one's life goes crackling on."

I tried to describe point by point the 9 most crucial principles of Jain philosophy. I believe that the writer you mention was referring to those.

What questions do you have Toby? If I do not know the answer, I will find them for you through my many Jain friends.

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I was once ordered (for pseudo-medical reasons) not to eat any onions, garlic, leeks, scallions or shallots.  It made cooking very difficult and I lasted for about 2 weeks.

Toby,

Next time use Asafoetida. It is brilliant when used in situations like you faced. It gives you the flavor of onion, garlic, scallions and shallots without ever having to use them.

It is used in Indian cooking just for filling in for these ingredients.

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Merriam-Webster's definition of Jainism:

Main Entry: Jain·ism

Pronunciation: 'jI-"ni-z&m

Function: noun

Date: 1858

: a religion of India originating in the 6th century B.C. and teaching liberation of the soul by right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct

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My best friend growing up was Jain. In fact since my mother was the best pastry chef anyone knew in our circle in Delhi, it was embarassing for me that she could not bake anything without eggs. Her cakes had eggs and other stuff that may not have been Kosher to Jains.

So, as a young pre-teen and also as a teenager, I took it upon myself to learn more about baking cakes and pastry without eggs and making them for the birthdays in this friends household.

The stuff I made was by no means very good... but it was better than what was available in the market then. Today things have changed.. and now there are many options for Jains.

While we discuss Jain food habits... does anyone have a really good eggless cake recipe??

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Now that I am more focussed about thinking about Jain food.. I realize that Jains are peculiar vegetarians. And I use the word peculiar not to make fun, but to highlight that they are vegetarian and yet have their own unique vegetarian habits.

They do not eat any of the root vegetables. But this can be found to vary from one Jain home to another. In other words, the strictness with which they follow these rules can bend somewhat. I have a very few Jain friends who actually are not averse to eating onions. But garlic? Never!

Jains have their own substitutes for most things that other vegetarians have. I have often found many Jains using raw banana as a easy substitute for potatoes. Asafetida works well for getting the savory flavor of onions and garlic.

Many Jain chefs use very finely chopped cabbage leaves as a substitute for the onion texture in certain sauces. They will also add coconut to the onion to give the sauce some sweetness and creamy quality.

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Julie Sahni says they refrain from eating certain vegetables and fruits during the rainy season because they contain worms and insects (again, eating would harm the bugs). They don't practice agriculture for the same reason.

She maybe making reference to Chaturmash (4 month period) usually begining in July and ending in November. During this period, even the most liberated of Jains, the lest conforming ones will practice the old rituals.

In this time, every Jain will abstain from eating several root vegetables and also some leafy greens.

These four months and sometimes even 5, are months of abstinence.

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This is very interesting Suvir, thanks for the information.

I distantly remember being taught that Jains would only eat foods that had already dropped from the tree ( I suppose to avoid harming the tree by plucking things from it).

Is this at all correct? Does anyone still live like this, or has it become too difficult?

How sad; a house full of condiments and no food.

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Speaking of Chaturmash, the first two months of this period are most strictly observed. These are the monsoon months. Plants and insects are all proliferating at a heightened pace in this period. It is for this reason that many times one could find insects in vegetables. Even microscopic organisms that thrive on plants are more prevalent in this period. For all these reasons, Jain sustain themselves on grains and pulses. This is also the period that many will also use dehydrated vegetables for their curries.

The monks amongst the Jain preach complete penance, abstinence and ahimsa (non-violence) in this time.

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This is very interesting Suvir, thanks for the information.

I distantly remember being taught that Jains would only eat foods that had already dropped from the tree ( I suppose to avoid harming the tree by plucking things from it).

Is this at all correct? Does anyone still live like this, or has it become too difficult?

While that was true for Jains in the old days... today, they buy produce from vendors just like their Non-Jain neighbors. I am sure in villages and in smaller towns and perhaps to some extent even in the bigger cities, there must be those that still practice that stuff.

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