Jains believe that everything, living and nonliving, has a soul: people, animals, plants, insects, and even clay or dirt. They consider all souls equal in value. Because the soul of an insect is as valuable as the soul of a human, they do their best not to hurt or misuse anything.

Jains teach that they can gain freedom from a cycle of rebirth (called “reincarnation”) by following 5 principles, including being truthful, not being violent, and not having many possessions. Part of not being violent is that Jains are vegetarians because they don’t want to kill animals for meat. They must be very careful to live according to all 5 of these rules to build good karma (karma is like keeping track of every good or bad thing that a person does).

Meditation is an important part of Jainism and it is a time when they try to quiet their minds and chant mantras. A mantra is a special set of words that they say. Jains believe that every soul can, eventually, become divine. How long it takes each soul to become divine depends on what each person does during life, each action influences how a soul is reborn in the next life. Because of this, Jains believe that what you do in your life is very important since it determines what kind of life you will have in the future. According to Jainism, souls free from the cycle of reincarnation find freedom in the top level of heaven, above the level of the gods.