SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Non-Violence in Jain Scriptures, Philosophy and Law

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the Jain ethics of non-violence, ahiṃsā, in Jaina scriptures, philosophy and law. In cultural history, the Jain scriptures are unique in their exclusive focus on the religious significance of strictly non-violent practice, in mind, speech and action. Jain literature offers a millennia old tradition of philosophical and legal reflection on solutions for practical dilemmas faced by individuals or groups intent on the implementation of non-violent principles in everyday life.

Based on key texts in translation, selected from the canonical and post-canonical Jaina literature, and illustrated by ethnographic examples, the course discusses the distinct contribution of Jain literature to the philosophy of consciousness and applied ethics (asceticism, vegetarianism, discourse ethics, philosophical pluralism, conflict resolution, and legal philosophy and procedure).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course students should be familiar with the most important sources and developmental stages of the Jaina philosophy of non-violence, the principal issues structuring ethical and legal debates within the Jaina tradition, and their practical implications for contemporary discourse and practice of non-violence as a way of life.


2 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar each week.

Method of assessment

Coursework: two 3,000 word essays (100%) each essay worth 50%.

Suggested reading

  • Alsdorf, Ludwig. The History of Vegetarianism and Cow-Veneration in India. London: Routledge, 2010.
  • Kapadia, H R (2000) A History of the Canonical Literature of the Jainas, Ahmedabad: SCERC. 
  • Schubring, W (2000) The Doctrine of the Jainas Described After the Old Sources, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas. 
  • Winternitz, M (1988) Buddhist Literature and Jaina Literature, (A History of Indian Literature Vol. 2) Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules