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Department of the Study of Religions

Introduction to Jainism

Course Code:
158000053
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

This course is aimed at students without previous knowledge of Jainism. It provides:

  • a basic introduction to the social and doctrinal history of Jainism and its influence on other religious and philosophical traditions in India
  • the course gives an overview of the textual and historical sources, and key issues in Jain philosophy, ethics, law and ritual. Important themes are the biography of Mahavira, the debate between the Jains and the Ajivikas, Jain monasticism, the principal schools and sects, the sociology of the Jain lay community, Jain ritual and art, and the political role of multi-perspectivism and non violence in the modern world.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course is aimed at students without knowledge of Jainism. it provides an introduction to Jainism in the widest sense, covering Jain doctrine, the social history of the Jains, contemporary religious practice. At the end of the course a student should be:

  • familiar with the principal issues of Jain research
  • able to identify both the philosophical, ritual and organisational differences between the main Jain sects
  • the role of syncretic imports from other religious and cultural traditions. 
  • the course requires no knowledge of Indian languages.

Method of assessment

2 essays (3,000 words) (30% each), 3-hour exam (40%).

Suggested reading

  • Dundas, P (2000) The Jains, 2nd Revised Edition London: Routledge.
  • Glasenapp, Hv (1999) Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas.
  • Jaini, PS (1979) The Jaina Path of Purification, Berkeley: University of California Press.