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The basic foundation of the science of Jain food is non-violence. First of all we should take only such food which is fully non-injurious. If living is not possible by taking fully non-injurious food or we may not be able to adopt it, then we should take such food which involves least possible injury. The question of killing five-sensed beings for food does not arise at all; we should avoid even injury to all mobile-beings also. It is necessary to avoid destruction of even one-sensed beings as far as possible. Jain-food-conduct has been determined keeping all these things in view.
First of all the use of cereals like wheat, rice etc., pulses like gram etc. and oil-seeds etc. has been advised, because these are fully non-injurious food. Amongst the one-sensed beings, particularly bodies of Jivas having vegetative-body only are being used in food. Cereals, oil-seeds and pulses are produced only when their plants get dried of their own after their age ends. If green plants are cut, then the cereals too will not be produced in right state. Their drying in the standing form in the fields is necessary. Therefore, cereals, pulses and oil-seeds are fully non-injurious food.
Although wheat etc. are fully inanimate even then they grow on being sown, but rice is better than these; because if the husk is removed it will not grow even after sowing also. This is the reason it is used in the worship of God also. Non-germinated cereals, rice, pulses and oil-seeds, devoid of ants and worms, is the best vegetarian-food. These include dry-fruits also. After these, in sequence, the fruits which become ripe on the branches of trees or those fallen from trees of their own after becoming ripe, are to be considered, because in taking them also as food no anguish is caused to any creatures or insects.
Here one question is possible and it is that fruits are as harmless as are wheat etc. why then their order comes after cereals ?
The reason is that ripen fruits are wet being juicy. Therefore, there remains the possibility of fast germination of mobile-beings in them. This is the reason why these are not accepted as harmless as are cereals. After these, in sequence, vegetables are considered, because vegetables are definitely in green form only. These are plucked from trees and plants in living (sa-chet) state only. Being crooke (appratishthit) vegetables, these may not contain living-beings, but by plucking these that tree or plant is definitely anguished.
The roots of trees or plants which are known as tuber-roots (vegetables grown underground) are totally forbidden as uneatables, because the up-rooting of the roots definitely results in the destruction of plants and trees. Vegetables growing underground are the depository of countless very small creatures. Due to this reason also these are uneatables.
In Jain-conduct, uneatables are stated to be of five kinds :-
Articles involving injury or death of mobile-beings
Articles involving death or injury to many creatures
Articles not worthy of use and
Those articles which involve destruction of mobile-beings, such meat, etc. are uneatables of the first kind. Articles which involve destruction of many one-sensed beings, such tuber-rooted vegetables are uneatables of the second kind. Those articles which intoxicate the users such wine, etc. are uneatables of the third kind. Articles whose use is censurable in society and which are unworthy of use by good people, for example, salvia, stool, urine, etc. are uneatables of the fourth type. Articles causing harm to the health are uneatables of the fifth category, for example, sugar, etc., sweet articles for people suffering from the diabetes.
The reality of Jain-food becomes very clear by the above categorisation of uneatables and this too becomes well known that the basis of Jain-food is non-injury.
Here a possible question to be raised is about the relationship between deprecable uneatables and injury - non-injury, because in the case of a sugar patient, such sweet articles too are uneatables in which not the least injury is involved.
The answer is that the use of such articles which are harmful for health is not possible in the absence of intense passion. It is very well known to all that in Jain scriptures passionate disposition is termed as dispositional injury. Therefore, in the uneatables of the depreciable type physical injury may not even be involved, but assuredly dispositional injury is there. From one angle it involves even physical injury because though it may not involve destruction of material vitalities of other creature, but being harmful to health, ones own material vitalities are invariably destroyed. Causing of agony too is partial destruction.