The main teachings in Jainism are
- Ahimsa, the principle of non-injury (often called non-violence) ... non injury extends to thought, word and action. Mahavira taught that all beings desire life. Therefore no one has the right to take away the life of another being. According to Jainism, the killing of animals is a great sin. Jainism goes further and says that there is life in trees, and plants and there is life in air, water, mud, etc., and that all things have the right to exist.
- Sathya - Truth ... to speak the truth requires moral courage. Only those who have conquered greed, fear, anger, jealousy, ego, vulgarity, frivility, etc., can speak the truth when required. Jainism insists that one should not only refrain from falsehood, but should always speak the truth which should be wholesome and pleasant.
- Asteya - non-stealing. The vow of non-stealing insists that one should be honest and should not steal anything or rob others of their wealth, belongings, etc. Further, one should not take anything that does not belong to him. It does not entitle one to take away a thing which may be lying unattended or unclaimed.
- Brahmacharya - celibacy. Total abstinence from sex-indulgence is called brahmacharya or celibacy. Sex is an infatuating force which obscures the path of liberation and sets aside all virtues and reason at the time of indulgence. The vow of controlling sex passion is very difficult to observe, for in its subtle form, sex may occupy the mind. One may physically restrain from sex but think about it. Whenever one thinks about sex, one has engaged in sexual activity.
- Apigraha - non acquisition. Jainism believes that the more a man possesses worldly wealth, the more he may be unhappy and more likely he is to be attached to his possessions and his station in life. Worldly wealth creates attachments, which result in fear, greed, jealousy, ego, hatred and violence. Attachment to worldly objects results in bondage to the cycle of birth-death-rebirth.
- Anekantavada - relativity. This is the theory of relativity, not being absolute in one's points of view, and seeking relativism in all things. It means seeing the truth from many points of view. This has been a most valuable contribution of Jainism to world thought. Just as a coin has two sides, or a prism has many sides, similarly every substance or situation has many aspects which could be seen from more than one point of view. Such a teaching ultimately leads to respect for all, and to non-injury and non-violence in thought, word and action.