i maed theng
In the century before the Fall, many millennia-old religions encountered challenges brought on by the emergence of transhuman technologies. From the seemingly trivial (is vat-grown pork haram?) to the inextricable (is the soul of an uploaded mind the same as the original person's?), complex philosophical questions forced countless faiths to adapt to a frightening new world. Some were unable to weather this Darwinian storm, and faded away until the Fall marked their definite terminus. Others, however, flourished in their new environment.
Jainism belongs in the latter category. Once members of the most insignificant of the Dharmic religions, Jains now rival both Buddhists and Hindus in cultural influence as well as sheer numbers. The majority of them do not have an Indian heritage and were not born into the faith. Instead, they are converts both human and non-human who found the teachings of the Jinas in accordance with transhumanist values and the needs of contemporary life.
Called techno-Jainism or neo-Jainism by those who care to name such things, this modern form of Jainism disregards the metaphysical and cosmological doctrines of the ancient Jain texts, which are merely considered pre-scientific attempts at explaining the inexplicable. Most neo-Jains are agnostic with regards to belief in the soul and reincarnation, and even those who do profess faith in life after death see no problem with indefinite lifespans. Simply put, neo-Jains believe salvation is available in this life, provided you have the will and fortitude to let go of your human passions and desires.
Neo-Jainism is a practical memeplex that focuses on ethical living and self-control in accordance with five major vows:
Ahimsa: The vow of non-violence. The most well-known and arguably the most challenging of the vows, ahimsa means living in a way that causes no harm to any living creature. Neo-Jains include AGIs and even several forms of AI considered sub-sapient by most transhumans in their definition of life. Due to this vow, neo-Jains sleeve almost exclusively into synthmorphs or live purely as infomorphs, in order to minimize their reliance on organic food and drink. Many prefer to live on solar power alone, finding it the energy source least likely to cause harm to others. Another quirk common to those dedicated to ahimsa is a preference for floating morphs, so that they may avoid crushing small animals by mistake when walking.
Satya: The vow of truthfulness. Neo-Jains are unwilling to lie, unless telling the truth would harm a living creature. They also avoid gossip, slander, rumors, identity falsification, etc. Since both the truth and the harm speech can bring are hard to keep track of in the AF world, many neo-Jains employ dedicated AIs who sift through immense amounts of data before recommending the right words to choose in a given situation. No matter how fast the hardware, this takes some time. For this reason, neo-Jains have a reputation for being polite but laconic and slow to respond.
Asteya: The vow of non-stealing. Seems straightforward enough, although what counts as “stealing” notably differs from society to society in 10 AF. Neo-Jains disagree on whether using software and other forms of information without the explicit consent of the creator constitutes a breach of asteya or not. Most err on the side of caution and either pay for their programs or use open source software.
Brahmcharya: The vow of chastity. Once considered a major challenge and temptation for Jain ascetics, today chastity in both mind and body is trivially easy to achieve via simple psychosurgery. Virtually all neo-Jains lack any kind of sexuality, and extend brahmcharya to cover a prohibition on all forms of pointless bodily pleasure. This is another reason for favoring synthmorphs.
Aparigraha: The vow of non-possessiveness. This vow is the most loosely defined one, and one that leaves a lot of the interpretation in the hands of the individual. Broadly speaking, it means that Jains should avoid undue attachment to material things, to people and even to their own emotions. In practice this means limiting one's possessions to necessary things, and to avoid both greed and jealousy. One would think that this would make neo-Jains ideally suited for the new economy, but most dislike having a high rep score as much as they dislike having a large bank account. It unfairly elevates them above others, and gives them freedoms and privileges that should belong to all, they argue. This of course endears neo-Jains to the egalitarian anarchists of the AA, who promptly ping the rep for the former. More than one commentator has remarked on the Life of Brian-esque comedy of the situation.
Apart from anarchist habs, neo-Jains fit well into the cultures of the Morningstar Constellation, the Titanian Commonwealth and other places where pan-sapient rights and morphological freedom are respected. The Planetary Consortium has a somewhat ambivalent view of neo-Jainism. While adherents tend to be peaceful, honest citizens and loyal, hardworking employees, they are awful consumers. In addition, while they are not given to rabble-rousing demagogy, neo-Jains are adamant in their support of rights for AGIs and uplifts, which bothers some hypercorps more than others.
The Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, despite its many Indian roots, tends to discriminate against neo-Jains, more as a result of their preference for synthmorphs than due to any religious bigotry. The scum, famous for their laissez-faire attitude toward every perversion imaginable, want absolutely nothing to do with a bunch of (ugh) ascetics. The feeling is generally mutual, and a current trend among rebellious scum youths is to embrace neo-Jainism as a way to scandalize their elders.
Two groups that under no circumstances tolerate neo-Jains in their midst are the Jovians and the Ultimates. The Jovian Republic, as a militaristic, bioconservative society, treats pacifistic synthmorphs about as well as can be expected. As for the Ultimates; while they do appreciate the ascetic tradition in Jainism, they see ahimsa as nothing short of evolutionary heresy.
A disproportionate amount of uplifts adopt neo-Jainism as their creed of choice, perhaps due to Jainism's historical and current commitment to animal rights. Several neo-chimps, who are prone to bouts of aggression, have taken the vow of non-violence and have formed a loose mercurial/Jainist network called Gentle Hands.
AGIs generally see little point in the vows since they lack most of the passions and desires Jains seek to eliminate. They are however mostly sympathetic to Jain goals, and many see ahimsa as both a good moral system and a good way to reduce human fear of AGIs.
The most common symbol of neo-Jainism is the swastika. These days it has largely shed the negative connotations it once had, and it's not uncommon to see both serious neo-Jains and trend-conscious socialites decorate their morphs with more or less tasteful swastikas.
As mentioned, neo-Jains prefer to either live as infomorphs or to sleeve into synthmorphs, particularly ones capable of flight. They favor cheap but durable models, unless their profession requires a more high-end morph. Swarmanoids are especially popular, but arachnoids, dragonflies, flexbots, kites, savants, spheres and takkos are also common.
Interestingly, and disturbingly to some, neo-Jainism is an increasingly popular memeplex among exhumans and singularity seekers throughout the system. They view it as a suitably post-human system of ethics, one focused on shedding human weaknesses as well as karma and embracing a superior way of life. Instead of "the Singularity", these posthumanists speak of "Mokṣa", a state of supreme bliss and peace in which the mind is liberated from the limitations of the flesh. One who achieves nirvāṇa is called a "Siddha" and is equivalent to a God, possessing omniscience and true immortality.
There are madmen who whisper that the TITANs themselves were Siddhas, and that the Fall was merely their attempt to emancipate humanity from its mortal bonds...
President of PETE: People for the Ethical Treatment of Exhumans.