Just inside the entrance to Jain Center in Buena Park, a spider edges down a silky strand of web attached to one of the cubbyholes where visitors place their shoes before entering the temple. Of all the places in the world to weave a web, this spider has chosen well.
Adherents of the Jain religion revere even the tiniest of lives, down to the most microscopic of beings. It is a reverence that requires strict vegetarianism, says Jain Assn. leader Dr. Manibhai Mehta. And vegetarianism is an essential part of his religion's theology of ahimsa, the rejection of violence to living beings either through thoughts, words or actions.
"I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car that says: Be kind to animals, do not eat them," said Mehta, a 59-year-old Cypress urologist and president of the Federation of Jain Assns. in North America, an organization of about 90,000 members and 52 centers in the United States and Canada. The Buena Park temple, the only one in Southern California, has a membership of about 700 families, he said.