In this thesis I examine various statements relating to the Jain lay community in the early Śvetāmbara texts. My approach is deliberately and consistently historical. The earliest extant Śvetāmbara writing presents an almost exclusively negative view of all non-mendicants. In the context of competition with other religious groups to gain the respect and material support of members of the general population, the Śvetāmbara mendicants began to compose positive statements about a lay community. Instead of interpreting the key terms and formulations in these early statements anachronistically on the basis of the later and systematized account of lay Jain religiosity, I attempt to trace how the idea of lay Jainism and its distinctive practices gradually came into being. The more familiar account that is often taken as the basis for understanding earlier sources in fact emerges as the end product of this long history.
This historical reconstruction poses numerous challenges. There is little reliable historical scholarship to draw from in carrying out this investigation. In the absence of a widely accepted account of the formation of the Śvetāmbara canon, the dates of the canonical sources that I examine remain uncertain. I argue that by focusing on key passages relating to the Jain lay community it is possible to establish a relative chronology for the composition of some of these passages and for the compilation of some of the texts in which they appear. We can thus observe development in the strategies employed by the mendicants as part of their effort to establish and maintain relations with a community of householders who respected and regularly supported them. What I offer here is a preliminary but important step toward writing a critical and comprehensive history of lay Jainism. More broadly, scholars of monastic religious traditions may be interested in this account of how one group of ascetics in ancient India garnered lay support and developed a role for non-monastic members of the community.
|School Location:||United States -- Connecticut|
|Source:||DAI-A 76/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religious history, Comparative|
|Keywords:||Ascetic, Jain Canon, Jainism, Laity, Lay community, Monastic|
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