The Problem and Solution of Living
Jains agree with the Hindu idea that you must learn how to shake off the repetition of reincarnation: You are born, live your life, die, and then are born again. But how does one get away from this endless wheel of life (samsara)? Jainism provided a different answer than Buddhism and, later, Sikhism. Jainism says if people are stuck in the wheel of birth and rebirth, it is because of the karma they possess as a result of their past actions.
Karma in an individual is not only created by actions so good they were saintly or so bad they were monstrous. Mahavira taught that karma was a result of even seemingly trivial actions or even inaction. The ideal existence was to live detached from life, thereby freeing oneself, as far as one could, from karma.
Despite rebelling against Hinduism, Jainism, like Hinduism, embraces the law of karma. The Jains also accept the omnipresence of the soul. Soul inhabits even the lowest forms of life, no matter how weighed down by karma. As such, the soul can descend from the weight of karma and can rise from the release of karma. Salvation can only come about through individual effort. One who follows the example of Mahavira and performs good works will achieve final liberation. In order to achieve liberation, Jain monks typically take five vows.