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Jain Studies : Home

A guide to beginning research in Jain Studies

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This guide was created by Rebecca Stover GA for HPNL Fall 2021

Jainism: An Introduction

"Jainism is a South Asian religious tradition which takes its name from those (Sanskrit, Jaina; English, "Jain") who follow the teachings and example of authoritative teachers called Jina (conqueror). These teachers are also called "makers of the ford" (Sanskrit, tīrthaṃkara), signifying their construction of a community of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen that provides the means to cross the ocean of rebirth. Jain tradition holds that twenty-four Jinas appear in succession throughout regular temporal movements in the course of eternity and communicate the unchanging doctrine of correct knowledge (samyagjñāna), correct faith (samyagdarśana), and correct behavior (samyagcāritra).

As a soteriology, Jainism teaches that enlightenment in the form of omniscience and subsequent freedom from rebirth can be attained by progressive renunciatory withdrawal—manifesting itself most markedly as nonviolence (ahiṃsā)—from physical and sensory interaction with the surrounding world, which is constituted at all levels by embodied life monads.

According to the census of 1991, there are about 3.35 million Jains living in India, while an estimated 100,000 are domiciled abroad, largely in Africa, Britain, and North America."

Dundas, Paul. "Jainism." In Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed., edited by Lindsay Jones, 4764-4772. Vol. 7. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. Gale eBooks (accessed November 1, 2021). 

Jainism emerged  in the same context and at roughly the same time as Buddhism. However, Jainism is the only Śramaṇa (anti-Brahmanical, renunciate) movement to survive in India-- others died out completely (Ajivikism) or survived in other countries but not in India (Buddhism)*

It is divided into two main sub-traditions the Svetambara (white or cotton clad) and Digambara (sky-clad)--who have different views on gender, ascetic practices, and canonical texts. 

*the presence of Buddhism in India is somewhat debatable. But it is generally agreed that Buddhism had greatly declined in India by the 14th century. Currently there is a Buddhist population in India, however is largely composed of pilgrims, Tibetan refugees, and Marathi Buddhists (largely Hindu converts who follow the teaching of Ambedkar--developed in the 20th century) 



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