An Introduction to Jainism

Thursday, November 7, 7:45-9:00 pm
DRBU University Building, 2nd Floor Lounge [Map]
Free and open to the public

Of the religious traditions with origins on the Indian subcontinent, Jainism is the least known in the West.  Jains comprise less than one percent of India’s population, but the Jain community has exerted a powerful influence on Indian culture for more than 2,500 years since the time of Vardhamāna Mahāvīra, who was a contemporary of Gautama the Buddha.  Nonviolence (ahiṃsā) is at the core of the teachings and profoundly informs Jain ethics and practices to this day.

In this lecture, the basic beliefs of Jainism will be discussed, including the concept of the 24 Jinas or “Spiritual Victors” in our cycle of time, Mahāvīra’s teachings regarding the nature of reality, and the emergence of the four main sectarian traditions: Śvetāmbara, Digambara, Sthānakavāsī, and Terāpanthī.  There will also be a discussion of the significance of the five great vows of renunciation (mahāvratas) and the role of friendliness and compassion in supporting these vows, as well as the interactions between the mendicant and lay communities.

Dr. Kristi Wiley has been a lecturer in Sanskrit and South Asian Religions in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her area of specialty is Jainism.