Why Jains Rock the Finance World

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Sometimes it can be tempting to surrender doing the right thing in order to make a quick buck.  Or even a lot of bucks.  But long-term, honesty and good ethics will get you a lot futher.  Just ask the Jains, who happen to do very well in the fields of real estate and finance.

What is Jainism?

Jainism is an Eastern religion based in India.  While parts of it are similar to Buddhism, it is its own distinct religion, also independent of Hinduism.  The prevailing belief that drives their spiritual path is that all people, animals, and plants have souls, and no one of those souls is greater than the other.  They strive to escape the cycle of reincarnation, and this can only be achieved through ridding themselves of all karma, by doing no harm to any living thing.

Jain Monks and Nuns

Jainism has no clergy, but they do have monks and nuns who live the religion to the letter of the law in order to escape the cycle of reincarnation.  The nature of doing no harm to any living thing in any way means that most of these monks and nuns rely purely on charity to survive.  They can’t kill a plant, so they beg for vegetarian scraps.  Other Jains are happy to provide them, but they must truly be leftovers, and cannot be prepared with the intention of giving them to the monks and nuns.  One sect even forgoes clothing as it is a worldly posession, and provides the opportunity the avoid shame, one of the many earthly emotions that the enlightened must be immune to.

Even the monks and nuns know it is unrealistic to ask everyone to live like this.  That’s not the goal.  The goal is personal enlightenment.  Because without others who were willing to harvest plants for food, no human being would be able to survive.  Including the monks.

Making a Living as a Lay Jain

Jains who are not monks or nuns (or lay jains) do their best to live in accordance with the code, but do not adhere as strictly as the monks and nuns.  They are vegetarians, refusing to harm animals, and in many cases, go out of their way to help harmed animals individually and by establishing organizations to do so on a larger scale.  They must be non-violent unless in self-defense.  They are the epitome of minimalists, owning only what they need and giving away their surpluses.  There are also very strict and unique rules on chastity.

But the reason Jains rock the finance world is because they must always be honest, and never steal, cheat, or avoid taxation.  They also do very well in real estate for these same reasons.  Even a lie through omission is not permissible.  While many others in these fields do and say what they need to in order to get ahead, you know that Jains are trustworthy.  And when we human beings trust someone unequivocally, we are going to give them our business.  Again.  And again.  And again.  And that is why Jains make the ranks of India’s top bankers.  (This concept is very similar to Buddhism’s Right Livelihood, though, again, these are totally separate spiritual philosophies from one another.)

Do you feel that your job ever puts you in a situation where you are pressured to be dishonest, even simply through omission?  Do you think your career would be better helped by a reputation of honesty, even if it meant the loss of a client or income in the short-term?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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17 thoughts on “Why Jains Rock the Finance World

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      The lay Jains have established some measure of moderation within their beliefs. I don’t know if I personally like their rules on chastity or the way certain sects regard women, but I don’t think that honesty and good business ethics can be taken too far.

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      Absolutely, Kassandra. When I post these types of articles, it’s not to proselytize by any means, but rather to take what we can from the knowledge others have gleaned and apply it to our own lives. And I agree; the root motivator is truly noble!

  1. Britnee

    I know my old job made me feel terrible and dishonest. Is how big corporations run sadly. I do love learning about religions. You learn so much from them.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      So true. I often find myself wondering if it’s because we grew up with it so foreign, or because the concepts really are so simple yet rich.

  2. Jason @ Islands of Investing

    Wow, fascinating and eye opening how these people choose to live and what they value.

    What a world it would be if lying was forbidden! (think Jim Carrey in ‘Liar Liar’?) I think there’s definitely a tendency in business to ‘spin’ things in a way that benefits the business. I really try hard just to be helpful with clients in my work – there is pressure in the background to obviously focus on winning business, but I’d much rather be genuinely helpful and forgo some extra income, it’s far more rewarding. Hopefully I can sustain this model at my current employer!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I imagine it’s not just rewarding, but will serve your reputation and therefore opportunities with new clients as your career goes on! I hope your company sees the long term benefits of conducting business in this way and supports your efforts.

  3. Prudence Debtfree

    I work at a high school, and sometimes, I feel I’m supposed to pretend I’m happy about a new approach to things like assessment and evaluation – even if I’m not. Recently, we had a terrible philosophy that we were supposed to adopt – one that completely enabled students. I did not pretend to like it, and in the end, that approach was abandoned. I’m glad I didn’t express an opinion that wasn’t mine in the name of sucking up or climbing the ladder. I think that being authentic allows me to enjoy my job.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I imagine it also lets you be a huge advocate for your students! Good for sticking to your guns! Gotta ask, has your state adopted common core and what do you think about it?

        1. femmefrugality Post author

          And now I remember that. Ha! Sorry! Seems to be the got topic in American education right now, but obviously wouldn’t apply.

  4. Steve

    Learned something new about Jains! As to what you asked at the end: you should never compromise your inner moral compass for outer superficial needs 🙂

  5. Pingback: How to Make Money In the Divorce Market - Femme Frugality

  6. I am a Jain.

    I am a “lay Jain” as you put it. Thanks for writing this article. Google showed me your article when I was searching for “Jainism on Money”.

    We (lay Jains) eat completely vegetarian food and also do not eat vegetables/fruits grown under the ground, such as Potatoes, Garlic, Ginger, etc. because these vegetables/fruits contain a comparatively high number of micro-organisms living on them.

    We do not eat after sunset as micro-organisms grow at a very rapid rate in the environment after sunset. And we boil the water before drinking so any organisms in the water are killed, and they do not multiply and die in the stomach.

    So the main motto (punch line) is “Non-violence”.

    But very few Lay Jains follow these practices strictly.

    You’ve nicely covered the topic of truthfulness and honesty.

    Thank you so much.


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