Meaning of Alphabets - A to Z




A is for Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence.
When there are no stop lights, a policeman tells us when to stop. He does this by holding up his hand, this tells us to stop. In the same way the hand in the picture tells us to stop and think about what we are going to do, talk to other people, or think. We can hurt someone by any of these actions. We need to stop and think before doing anything. This way, we will be able to observe the principles of Ahimsa better. We get either good or bad karmas* by the things we do, the words we say, and the way we think. The wheel in the hand tells us that if we don't watch all of these things, then our soul** will never be free from this cycle of life and death.

So Ahimsa reminds us to stop and think before we do anything, and to be sure that what we do, say, or think doesn't get us in trouble.

* look under K
** your true inner self; the part of you that never dies


B is for Bowing down Bowing down means paying respect. 

We bow down to Siddha* and Arihant Bhagwans. We also bow down to Acharyas, **Upadhyayas**, and all Monks and Nuns***. By bowing down, we show our respect to them and we admire their success. We also bow down to our parents, grandpar­ents, and our teachers because we want to show our respect for them. And thank them for what they have done for us. In this picture, a man is bowing down. When we bow down, our ego disappears and we become more humble. When we are humble, we don't get angry or jealous, but we become calm.

So remember, respect others by Bowing down.

* look under I
** look under N
*** look under S


C is for Charity Charity means sharing and caring.

Charity is when we give something to others without expecting anything in return. In the picture, the boy is happily giving food to the Monk*. When we offer charity or after we do charity, we should stay happy and should not regret what we did. When we give with happiness and don't feel bad, we get good karmas**. When we give and then feel that we shouldn't have given, we get bad karmas. So, remember to give Charity and enjoy doing it.

 * look under S
** look under K


D is for Donation Donation means share what you have with less fortunate* people.

 We get wealth in return for all the good things we did. When we have wealth we shouldn't forget that there are a lot of people who are not as lucky as we are and they sometimes don't have what they need. So we should use some of our wealth to help these people. We can give money, clothes, vegetarian food, books, and things like that. We should also use our wealth to help people learn more about religion. In this picture, the King is giving jewels and money. We should be proud because we are rich, but instead we should feel happy that we can help others.

So remember that we should share our wealth with others by giving Donation.

* lucky 


 E is for Evening prayer

Prayer means to remember those who are virtuous* and remind ourselves to be like them. Prayer can be done in the morning and in the evening. The most important prayer in Jainism is the Navkar Mantra**. In the picture, the boy is doing prayer in the eve­ning. We should say the Navkar Mantra at least five times in the morning and five times in the evening before going to bed. Another prayer we do in the evening is called Pratikraman. We say this prayer to remember all the bad things we've done during day and apologize for them and promise ourselves to be more careful.

Prayers purify our soul, and we should always do them in the morning and the Eve­ning.

* those who freed themselves from the birth and death cycle
** look under N


F is for Forgiveness

Forgiveness means pardoning someone who may have done something bad to you. In Jainism, just as Ahimsa* is the main goal, forgiveness is the main action. We will find a lot of people who have done, said, or thought something bad about us. But no matter how they hurt us, we should forgive them. We should always think that may be we did something bad to them first, and now they're getting back at us. No matter what, we should stay calm and not get angry, and we shouldn't try to get even. In the picture, Lord Mahavira** is forgiving Chandkaushik, the snake, even though he bit Mahavira. This shows that if Mahavira can forgive, we, his followers, should also forgive those who hurt us. Forgiving helps our soul whereas anger will only pull us down. Just as Ahimsa is part of our life, forgiveness should also be part of our actions.

 * look under A
** look under M


G is for Gautamswami

Gautamswami was Lord Mahavir's* first disciple. Gautamswami was the most well-known Brahmin** during the time of Lord Mahavira. He was also very egoistic. He thought that no one was smarter than him. He thought he knew everything. One day, he saw some angels coming into the town. He told everyone, "See how great I am. Even heavenly angels come to see me." But the angels didn't come to him. They went passed him without stopping. Gautam was surprised and asked someone where they went. The town's people said that the angels went to pay their respect to Lord Mahavira, who had come to town. They said that Lord Mahavira knew everything and that everyone was going there to pay respect. Gautamswami became mad and shouted, "He is nothing compared to what I am! No one is smarter than me in this world! I will go to him and show you."

 When Gautam came to Lord Mahavira and saw his nice personality, Gautam felt something different that he never felt before. Then, Lord Mahavira told him what was going through his mind. Gautam couldn't take anymore. He knew that Mahavira was more powerful than he was. He lost his ego. Gautam bowed down to him and became his first student.

 We owe a lot to Gautamswami. Even though he knew almost all the answers to all the questions in the world, he still asked Lord Mahavira questions so that other people could learn about them. They are a part of our Agams Sootras, the original books. If people like Gautamswami can give up their ego, so can we.

* look under M
** a very wise person who wanders a lot


 H is for Help

 Help means aiding somebody when he is in trouble. We should be helpful to anyone who needs support. We shouldn't leave anyone out. Even though Jainism says that you should help those who are good. It also says that, out of thoughtfulness, you should help everyone. We don't just help people, but we should also help animals, birds, etc. We can help in many different ways like giving money, clothes, food, medicine, and books, etc. We can also help by making a per­son feel better if they are sad. If someone comes for help and we have only a little, we should still give some of that. In the picture, a house holder is helping a sick monk*.

We must make it a habit to help others.

* look under S


I is for Immortal

Immortal means no death. All souls are immortal. But, while karmas* are still attached to the souls, the souls occupy various types of bodies, like the humans, the animals, the birds, the plants, etc. The body and the soul are different things. When all the attached karmas are de­stroyed the soul is liberated from the body permanently and reaches to the top of uni­verse, called Siddh Shila and stays there forever. These souls then are called Siddhas. Our goal should be to liberate our immortal soul from the jail of body.

* look under K


J is for Jai-Jinendra

Jai-Jinendra means "Praise to the Jinas*." Just like we say, "Hi!!" or , "Hello!!" or, "Namaste", when we meet others, we should also greet them by saying, "Jai-Jinendra". This helps us in a lot of ways. We are honoring the virtuous**. It also tells others that you are Jain. It reminds us of where we came from and of our goals of being one of these Jinas. In the picture, the boy is saying, "Jai-Jinendra", to his parents. 

Every morning and before you go to bed, you should say, "Jai-Jinendra", with respect to your parents, sisters, brothers, and grandparents. You should say, "Jai-Jinendra", with respect to your guests. You should also say, "Jai-Jinendra", to your teachers, other students at Jain Pathshala***, and other Jains who you may see at the Jain Cen­ter or any other place.

Remember always greet others by saying "Jai-Jinendra".

* someone who does not have any anger, ego, deceit and greed
** those who have freed themselves from the cycle of birth and death
*** look under P


K is for Karma

Karma is the end result of what we do. Every moment, we are doing something physically, verbally or mentally. We should remember that while we do things, we always get karmas. There are two kinds of karmas: good and bad. When we do good things, like helping or sharing, we get good karmas. But when we do something bad, like getting mad, screaming, or cheat­ing, we get bad karmas.

In the picture, the person is paying respect to the monk, and the students are paying respect to the teacher, so they are getting good karmas. In the bottom picture the man is shooting a lion, and is getting bad karmas. Both of the karmas give results. If you get bad karmas, then you will have to suffer. Your life could be sad and very hard. But if you get good karmas, your life will be comfortable and happy. 

Be sure to do good things that will help your soul. Be careful of what you do and how you do it, because you are always gathering Karmas.


L is for Leshya (Aura)

Leshya is what you think. There were six friends going to a big city. On the way, they got lost in the forest. They were hungry and thirsty, but they couldn't find anything. Then one of them no­ticed a fruit tree. They ran to it.

The first friend wanted to chop down the whole tree and get the fruit. The second friend thought that they should just chop off a big branch. The third friend said that they only needed to chop off a small branch. The fourth one thought that they didn't need to chop off a branch, they should just get big bunch of fruit. The fifth friend asked why they should waste any fruit. He wanted to pick what they needed so there would be no waste. The sixth one asked why they should climb the tree, when there were many good fruits on the ground.

See how differently the six friends thought? The first one wanted to destroy the whole tree while the sixth one didn't want to hurt the tree at all. You can see how different­ly people can think. The way the sixth man thought was the best way to think and the way the first man thought was the worst way. There are six leshyas that described the way the people in the story thought. The first leshya is the worst one. It's called the Black (Krishna) leshya. The second one is called the Blue (Neel) leshya and the third leshya is called the Brown (Kapot) leshya. The fourth one is called the Red (Tejo) leshya and the fifth leshya is called the Yellow (Padma) leshya. Last, the sixth leshya, the best one, is called the White (Shukla) leshya.

We should always think like the sixth man did. We should learn to be loke the white Leshya and be happy by keeping our needs as small as they can be and should not be wasteful. Our body is always surronded by invisible aura reflecting our inner thoughts.


 M is for Mahavira

Mahavira was our last and 24th Tirthankar*. Lord Mahavira was born in 599 B.C. in Kshatriyakund. His father was King Siddhartha and his mother was Queen Trishala**. Soon the people in King Siddhartha's kingdom began noticing that business and farming were starting to get better. They told the King and Queen. The King thought that the reason was be­cause of the baby the Queen was going to have. When the baby was born, they named him "Vardhaman" which means prosperous.

As he grew, Prince Vardhaman showed bravery while he was playing with his friends. One time a snake came to where they were playing, everyone got scared except Prince Vardhaman who was still calm. He gently caught the snake, and took it away. Another time, they were playing hide-and-go-seek. Whoever was caught would have to give a piggy ride to the winner. A strange boy came there and asked if he could play with them. Soon, Prince Vardhaman caught him, and the boy gave the Prince a piggy ride. Suddenly the child started to grow taller and taller and he began to look scary. The rest of the kids got scared and ran away. Some of them climbed up a tree, and some of them ran to tell their parents. While all of this was going on, Prince Vardhaman was enjoying the ride. When he realized that the child wasn't a child anymore, but a big monster, the Prince hit the monster's head with fist. The monster couldn't take the pain and gave up. He asked the Prince for forgiveness*** and the Prince forgave him. The Monster named Prince Vardhaman "Mahavira, meaning strong one" from that time on.

Two years after his parents died, Mahavira became a monk. ****He went through a lot of pain and performed a lot of meditation***** before he finally became a Kevali (a person with infinite knowledge) and the 24th Tirthankar. He re-formed the Jain Sangh into Monks (sadhus), nuns (sadhvis), household men (house holders), and household women (shravikas). For thirty years he showed people the path to freedom, and finally his soul freed on the last day of the month of Aso.

We should try to be like Mahavira.

* one who establishes the Jain Sangh
** look under Q
*** look under F
**** look under S
***** deep prayer


N is for Navkar Mantra

 Navkar Mantra is the most important prayer in Jainism. 

When we say the Navkar Mantra, we are paying our respect to the Arihant Bhagwans, the Siddha Bhagwans, the Acharyas, the Upadhyayas, the Monks, and the Nuns*. Persons like us, who are spiritualy uplifted, can become Arihant Bhagwans in their last life after they have destroyed the four ghati (heavy) karmas which affect the con­dition of the soul. They have infinite knowledge and don't have any attachment to anything. They don't hate anything either. They will get rid of the other four karmas called aghati (lighter) karmas before they die. Then they will become Siddha Bhagwans. They are first in the Navkar Mantra, even though their souls aren't free because they show us the path to freedom. Since they are our teachers, we pay re­spect to them first. Those souls who don't have any karmas and don't have to go through the cycle of birth and death anymore are called Siddha Bhagwans. Next we pay respect to Acharyas. They are the heads of all monks and live a very pure and perfect life. Then we pay respect to Upadhyayas. They have learned the sacred scriptures and are now teaching them to the monks, nuns and all of us. Lastly, we pay respect to all the monks and nuns who have accepted to live under strict code of conduct and trying to uplift their souls.

We should always recite the Navkar Mantra to pay homage to these great souls.

* look under S


 O is for Om

Om is used during meditation.* Om is a holy word used in the beginning of many prayers. Om is also used to set a tune for meditation. We also think that Om is like the Navkar Mantra**.

By paying attention to one word, Om, we are paying respect to Arihants, Siddhas, Acharyas, Upadhyayas, and Monks and Nuns.

* deep prayer
** look under N


P is for Pathshala

Pathshala is the place where we learn about our religion.

We need a place to go to learn about our religion. A pathshala is that place. Almost all Jain centers in North America have pathshalas. A pathshala is held at least once a month.

Children should go to the pathshala so they can learn more about religion, since there are no other places to learn religion. Parents should make sure that their children get a chance to go there. 

So remember to go to your pathshala to learn more about religion.


Q is for Queen Trishala

Queen Trishala had fourteen or sixteen dreams after Lord Mahavir's* soul entered her womb.

Queen Trishala had fourteen (some believe sixteen) dreams * when she was pregnant. All the dreams symbolized good qualities of her child. Queen Trishala was very happy to have such a wonderful child. That child was Lord Mahavira**. He showed us the path to freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

Queen Trishala was a very good woman. 

* refer to book on sixteen dreams
** look under M


R is for Rosary

Rosary is used for meditation*. Usually, we say the Navakar Mantra** in the morning and in the evening. Some peo­ple say it three to five times, and some people say it one hundred and eight times. It would be hard to count one hundred and eight times and meditate at the same time. This is why we use a rosary (mala). One hundred and eight beads in the rosary repre­sent total of one hundred and eight attributes of Arihants (12), Siddhas (8), Acharyas (36), Upadhyayas (25), and Monks and Nuns (27). Some canons indicate that 108 beads in rosary represent gradual removal of 108 types of passions (kashayas). So in a way we are reminding ourselves that when would we get these one hundred and eight attributes ourselves.

To say the Navkar Mantra we should sit in the same quiet place everyday. We should forget everything else and concentrate on the five great souls in the Navakar Mantra. It can destroy our karmas*** and bring good thoughts into our minds.

This can be done by using a Rosary.

* to pray deeply
** look under N
*** look under K


S is for Sadhu

Sadhu (monk) and Sadhvi (nun) are religious leaders, who have given up routine life and have taken the five great vows* to purify their soul from karmas.

The sadhu and sadhvi are person like us but they have voluntarily left the worldly life and have accepted five great vows as a code of conduct to uplift the soul. The sadhu and sadhvi stay in upashraya. They do not cook for themselves and do not eat any food that is cooked for them. They take only accepted food from various houses. They give up attachment for their parents and relatives. The monks and nuns keep a few clothes and a few bowls to collect food, rajohan, muhapati, morpichhi, and kamandal, etc., but they do not keep money, jewelry, or own things like house or car. They do not keep anything more than what they need. They walk bare foot so that they can watch for bugs or insects. The monks do not touch or sit with ladies or girls and nuns do not touch or sit with man or boys. They do not stay in one place for more than a few days at a time, except in rainy season. Svetambar monks and nuns wear white clothes while Digambar monks do not wear any clothes. Digambar nuns wear white clothes.

They observe total Ahimsa, non-violence. They tell the truth, observe the celibacy, and do not believe in possessions. They follow strict code of conduct, study scripture, perform meditation, and austerity to free their souls from the cycle of birth and death. They go through a austerities to get rid of their karmas. They teach people about reli­gion. Upadhyayas are the monks who teach normal monks and nuns about the scrip­tures. Acharyas are the heads of all the monks and nuns and look after the Jain Sangh, that is made up of monks, nuns, male and female house holders.

We should always respect the Sadhus and Sadhvis because of all the strict discipline they follow and for all that they teach us.

* look under V
** your inner self; the part of you that never dies
*** harshness


T is for Temple

Temple is the place for prayer. Temples are the places where Jains have the idols of Jina Bhagwans. They go there and worship the statues. All Jains don't worship statues. The main reason we wor­ship is so we can pay respect to the souls that have reached salvation. This also re­minds us that we should be like them. Just praying and not taking any actions to free our soul won't work. We need to learn to discipline ourselves. So that we can control our desires and karmas.

We should be silent in the temple. We should keep it very clean. The temple is the best place to go to worship.



U is for Upashraya

Upashraya is a place where monks* and nuns* stay.

An upashraya is a very simple place with a big hall and a few rooms. It does not have air conditioner or any fans but has many windows. An Upashraya does not have any furniture except a few wooden paats for sadhus to sit and sleep. The place where the sadhus and the nuns stay is called an upashraya. Usually monks or nuns do not stay more than a few days at one place except during rainy season. Then they don't travel and stay in these places for four months. The monks and nuns do not stay together in the same upashraya at the same time. But same upashraya can be used by either sadhus or sadhvis at different times.

An upashraya is also used by householders (house holders and shravikas) to study or perform samayika and other religious activities.

The monks or nuns deliver their religious lectures in upashraya.

* look under S


V is for Vow

Vow means a promise. To take a vow means to make a promise to yourself to do certain things in certain ways. The vows help us discipline ourselves. The vows are very important to help reduce bad karmas and accumulate good karmas. There are various types of vows like chovihar, ektana, upvas, samayik etc. The different vows can be for different times, for example a samayika is for 48 minutes while a chovihar is from sunset to sunrise next day. The monks* and nuns* take five great vows, not to 1) do any violence (himsa), 2) lie, 3) steal, 4) be unchaste, and 5) be possessive for the rest of life. Same way some house holders and shravikas take 12 minor vows for a few years to rest of life.

The vows once taken should be followed very carefully.

* look under S


 W is for Worship

Worship means to pray. We should always look up to those who have done better than us. Jains worship Siddha Bhagwans* who have freed themselves from the cycles of birth and death. When we worship, we have to remind ourselves that Siddha Bhagwans are great and that we want to be like them. This doesn't happen right away, but while we worship, we can make some rules for ourselves or we may take some vows. This helps us to be like Siddha Bhagwans.  

The worship is done by prayers, meditation, fasting etc. The worship can be done in the temple, upashraya, Jain centers, or even at home.We should worship with our full heart and mind and not just for show.

* look under I


X is for Xylography.

Xylography means art of making engravings on woods. Xylography is the art of carvings on the woods. This art has been speciality in the state of Gujarat in India. There are wood carvings of Jina idols, auspecious symboles (eight), security deities (yakshas), etc. in the door and window frames and domes and arches of houses of Jains. The house temples and other temples are found with exquisite wood carvings since fourteenth century. The circular carvings above any hall represents the endless world. The Jinas remind us to move above this cyclic world of miseries.

Xylography art is seen in the temples.


Y is for Yoga.

Yoga is what you do. In Jainism, we believe that we do yoga in three different ways. We perform yoga, by physical, verbal or mental means. That means that we're doing yoga all the time. Whenever we do something, we get karma*. So in Jainism, when we are doing yoga, we are actually getting karma. We should control our yoga. We can do this by medi­tating or paying attention to what we do. It is easy to control physical yoga, but it is harder to control verbal yoga and mental yoga is the most difficult to control. So be careful when you want to do something, and be sure you are not doing, saying or thinking anything bad.

In Jainism, yoga and meditation are two different things.

*look under K


Z for Zebra

Zebra is a five sensed living being. This universe consists of two different kinds of things: living and non living. A liv­ing things have a soul* in them. They can learn, breathe, and get hurt, and so on. Things that are not living don't have souls. They can't learn, breathe, get hurt, and so on.

Living beings are grouped in two ways: whether they can move or not or by the num­ber of senses they have. They can have up to five senses. These five senses are touch, taste, smell, seeing, and hearing. Some things can have less than five senses. The zebra, in the picture, has five senses, just like us. All humans have five senses. Some people may not have all five senses fully developed when they are born. For example, a person may be blind or deaf. Still, this doesn't mean that a person has only four senses. It's just that one sense isn't working.

Higher the number of senses a living being has, the better it is. Humans are the best out of all the living beings, since we can control what we do and can experience hardship to get rid of karmas**. That's why if you want to be free you should be a human.

Zebra represent living beings.

* your inner self; the part of you that never dies
** look under K



Mail to : Ahimsa Foundation