Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women
Is a total renunciation of clothing a prerequisite to attaining salvation? In Gender and Salvation, P. S. Jaini brings to light heretofore untranslated texts centering on a centuries-old debate between the two principal Jaina sects, the Digambaras and the Svetambaras. At the core of the debate is the question: should gender-based differences of biology and life experience condition or limit an individual's ability to accomplish the ultimate religious goal?
For the Digambaras, the example of total nudity set by Mahavira (599-527 B.C.), the central spiritual figure of Jainism, mandates an identical practice for all who aspire to the highest levels of religious attainment. For the Svetambaras, the renunciation necessary occurs purely on an internal level and is neither affected nor confirmed by the absence of clothes. Both sects agree, however, that nudity is not permitted for women under any circumstances. The Digambaras, therefore, believe that a woman cannot attain salvation, while the Svetambaras believe they can. Through their analysis of this dilemma, the Jaina thinkers whose texts are translated here demonstrate a level of insight into the material and spiritual constraints on women that transcends the particular question of salvation and relates directly to current debates on the effects of gender in our own society.
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abode absence acarya accept admit anuvratas argument Arhat attain moksa attain nirvana attainment of moksa biological gender birth Brahmanical Buddhist called cause Chapter claim commentary conduct debate Digambara Digambara monk doctrine endowed example female body female libido fourteen gunasthanas ganadharas Gunaratna hence hermaphrodite himsa household human India inferior Intro ityadi Jaina Jaina mendicant Jaina sects Jaini Jina jinakalpa karma karmic kevalajnana Kevalin Kundakunda libido Mahavlra mahavratas male Meghavijaya mendicant order mendicant restraint mendicant vows moksa for women monks Moreover naked nudity nuns Omniscient Opponent parigraha passage passions perfection person possessions possible Prabhacandra Prakrit primary meaning rebirth reborn reference renounce renunciation reverentially greeted right view rule Sakatayana samhanana scriptures secondary meaning seventh hell sexual desire Siddha Siddhahood soul spiritual liberation stage status sthavirakalpa strl strlmoksa strlnam Svetambara synonym tasam texts Three Jewels Tlrthankara tradition veda verse wear clothes whisk broom word woman wrong views Yapanlya