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Engaged Jain traditions and social nonviolence: ethnographic case studies of lay animal activists and service-oriented nuns (1).

Riding on the back of Akash's motorcycle, I wind my way through Ahmedabad via its old city's narrow passageways. (2) Designed for walking, rather than modern transportation, they are barely wide enough for two wheelers to pass each other without scraping. When we reach our destination, I don't hesitate to leave the almost unbearable heat and enter this fan-cooled hub of animal activism. I step past a street cow who is drinking water from a tank placed in front of the building for thirsty animals. Inside, I have to bend my neck slightly so as not to hit the low ceiling of the clearly aged apartment. I am led into a small room and offered a seat opposite Akash's father. After introductions, the father points to a large poster of a woman that takes up most of one wall. This is Akash's mother. The father, in halting English, tells me "1993, butchers cut in eighteen pieces," before looking to his son for elaboration.

So, Akash explains the tragic story to which his father was referring. His mother, a prominent Jain animal welfare activist, had devoted her life to saving cows and other animals from slaughter. As a result of this work, she found herself in many physical confrontations and dangerous situations when the criminals smuggling and mistreating animals were cornered, and yet she did not let this deter her from her life's mission. She was authorized by the Chief Minister of Gujarat to carry any weapon she wished to protect herself, and she chose to carry a whip. Despite this measure, at the age of 33, she was brutally murdered during a raid and her body dismembered as a warning to other animal activists. Still contemplating this horrific story, I do not immediately notice a new man who has entered the room--a plainclothes policeman, I later discover. I turn around and realize he is canying a large metal object. It takes a moment to register: the metal object is a sub-machine gun. Nineteen years after his mother's death, Akash tells me, they know full well what the dangers are in animal protection and what is necessary for their safety.

In Akash's family, the central Jam concept of ahimsa (non-violence) is not limited to the orthodox interpretation that one must prevent personal violence in an effort to withdraw from the world. It also means helping those in need and preventing others from causing violence, even if they are blameless in the situation and even if it means sacrificing their human lives. In reality, Akash's family has centered their lives upon these latter social interpretations, not the former personal one. The emphasis on these socially engaged interpretations of ahimsa is not unique to his family, either. I would later encounter many other Jams who felt the concept compelled them to take an active role in uplifting and protecting life around them. These socially engaged Jams are the focus of this essay. I attempt to expand what I see as narrow scholarly definitions of ahimsa that dwell exclusively upon the orthodox, renunciatory interpretation at the expense of more worldly formulations. I seek to address this issue by highlighting the interpretations and actions of both lay individuals and monastics (that is, those who consider themselves initiated monks and nuns) who understand themselves as authentic Jams embodying long and rich traditions of activism.

Jain understandings of ahimsa and relationships with the world

Jainism, an Indian religion with at least 4.2 million followers, has focused on ahimsa to a degree not evident in any other religion. It is unique among world religions in that all of its practicing lay and monastic members maintain a strictly vegetarian diet, which always excludes meat, and traditionally has further avoided eggs, honey, root vegetables, and alcohol. (3) Over the course of its existence, its adherents--lay and monastic--have ceaselessly discussed and debated what this concept means both in theory and practice. The outcomes of these discussions and debates have led to sectarian divides over topics such as whether monastics should wear clothes due to the violence involved in their creation. Indeed, the names of the two primary sects of Jainism, the Svetambara (literally, white-clad), whose monastics wear simple white cloth, and the Digambara (literally, sky-clad), whose monks are nude, reflect this difference of opinion about what constitutes tolerable violence.

While most Jams believe that their religion is eternal and has always existed, historians trace it to the foundational leaders Parsvanatha (9th or 8th century BCE) and Mahavira (6th century BCE). (4) These early leaders, called tirthankaras, preached the core values of aparigraha (non-attachment), asteya (non-stealing), satya (truth), and, most importantly, ahimsa. As enlightened beings, they also revealed the cosmological and ontological conditions of the universe. Essentially, each life (from bacteria to humans, and hell beings to deities) has a soul which is stuck in samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth). This cycle typically is neither reassuring nor desirable; instead, it is characterized by suffering and himsa (violence). Everywhere, life is being destroyed or subjected to other dire circumstances. One need only consider the billions of animals annually consumed as food or the many millions of malnourished and starving Indian poor to get a sense of the situations to which this worldview is referring. According to these orthodox teachings, each soul should strive to achieve liberation (moksh) from samsara, which is partially accomplished through one's karma (results of actions, either positive or negative). (5)

In many cases, ahimsa is understood as a strategy to mitigate personal violence and therefore limit the intake of negative karma particles that ensnare the individual in samsara. It is this sort of renunciatory interpretation of ahimsa that James Laidlaw memorably described as an "ethic of quarantine." (6) In Laidlaw's view, Jams who lead their lives in such a manner are using non-violence as a rationale for quarantining themselves apart from the violent world around them; interpreted in this way, ahimsa is more of a withdrawal than a motivation to create a less violent world through actions. However, at no point in the history of Jain traditions have adherents presented a unified view of ahimsa. Contemporary Jams are no different: while most will readily espouse orthodox views which privilege ascetic lives and practices as the pinnacle of non-violence and tie ahimsa to renunciation, many will simultaneously describe ahimsa in terms of social actions and worldly involvement. This concomitant emphasis on social engagement is a striking juxtaposition with the withdrawal implicit in the former view.

My argument regarding ahimsa is two-fold. First, I contend that many contemporary lay Jams emphasize ahimsa's social dimensions, rather than its ascetic qualities. As my ethnographic fieldwork demonstrates, there are individuals, like Akash's mother, who actively seek to prevent others from committing violent acts and strive to create a more equitable world in the name of ahimsa. Importantly, I use stories and historical actions of both lay and monastic Jams to counter the notion of many scholars that social ahimsa is of recent and diasporic origin. Second, I show that this sort of social ahimsa is not restricted to the Jain laity by examining a radical sect of nuns who are part of a new movement called Veerayatan and rely on these narratives and historical examples to craft a wholly new understanding of ahimsa. Their articulation of social ahimsa has no direct precedent in lay or monastic communities. In my discussion of this emerging movement, I point to its current significance and contemplate the place that it and similar theologies might occupy in Jainism's future. These two arguments will be brought into dialogue with current scholarly views on Jain ahimsa to critique the narrowness of many definitions in current use.

Context and background

Because they are traditionally a merchant community, Jams can be found in high concentrations in centers of commerce in India and around the world. The largest populations of Jams exist in the arid northwestern Indian states of Gujarat and its two neighbors, Maharashtra and Rajas-than. (7) In particular, Gujarat has been and remains the epicenter of Jain cultural activity. The prominence of Gujarat can be seen by glancing at almost any Jain charitable institution's board of trustees. Quite often, many of those listed are employed and live in Maharashtra or Delhi, but choose to devote their energies to Gujarati projects and causes. For these reasons., I selected Gujarat as the primary site for my ethnographic research, but I also spent time in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, interacting with the many Jams who spend their working lives there, while focusing their religious and social efforts on Gujarat (see Figure 1 for a map of field sites).

The fieldwork for this research was undertaken over a two-month period between April and June of 2012. (8) Before this period, I was put in touch with many lay Jam leaders in Gujarat and Mumbai through my connections with Jain communities in the United States (9) and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, both of which I had worked with previously. These lay leaders assisted me both by serving as and directing me to other relevant participants. In this way, I used the process of chain-referral (10) through which initial participants recommend later ones based upon my criteria. Initially, the most important criterion was for a participant to be involved with animal welfare activities in some capacity. However, after learning of the nuns of Veerayatan, this expectation was later loosened to include those who were involved with general social welfare activities, as well.

In order to direct my research away from established tropes and definitions of Jain communities, I utilized ethnographic methods to highlight lay and monastic activist Jams' interpretations--often quoted directly--and observed actions, which I believe some scholars and orthodox Jams tend to marginalize. This choice allowed me to participate with, observe, and interview those whom I wished to research, each technique providing the content and context upon which this essay relies. Nearly all interviews were conducted in English, with few translated exceptions. Quotations used in this paper are taken from formal (with recording device) and informal (without recording device) interviews, in addition to two-months' worth of conversations." (11) Because of situational limitations and my desire to avoid barriers between myself and participants, I chose informal interviews and conversations as my predominant forms of communication. Significantly, due to cultural norms which leave animal and social activism as almost entirely male-dominated fields, my research was unable to involve anywhere near equal numbers of male and female participants. It is my hope that this disparity is partially rectified by my case study of the Veerayatan nuns.

Jain traditions of ahimsa

The diverse practices called ahimsa are united not by an argument or as means to any particular desired outcome, but by an esthetic sensibility. Each of them makes sense as a way of avoiding contact, especially bodily contact, with life-forms, and as people learn these practices, and they become second nature, the sensibility they develop is actually horror of this omnipresent fertility and fecundity. It is an ethic of quarantine. One cannot stop the constant cycle of death and rebirth. All one can do is temporarily keep it at bay.... These practices, which are central pillars of non-violence in Jainism, function neither to minimize deaths, nor, in the normal sense, to save life. (12)

James Laidlaw, Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jams

The definition of ahimsa in the epigraph above is perhaps the most prominent in all recent scholarly literature about Jainism. Here, Laidlaw quite clearly identifies a renunciatory force behind ahimsa and Jainism; this emphasis is further underscored by the phrase "ethic of quarantine."

He is not alone in this view, as others have frequently promoted this and similar definitions. Recently, Andrea Jain and Jeffrey Kripal have made a similar argument, wherein they assert that "Jain ideology is not, precisely, unethical. Rather, it is non-ethical, in that the practices it requires of the adept are meant to remove him from structures that render social ethics of any sort possible." (13)

The view that within dominant orthodox Jain traditions non-violence is oriented toward withdrawal is well established, and with good reason. Much of the content of the earliest surviving Jain texts dwells upon this relationship. The 5th or 4th century BCE Acaranga Sutra, for example, which claims to be comprised of Mahavira's teachings, states that "knowing the misery of the world, rejecting the connection with the world, the heroes go on the great journey, they rise gradually; they do not desire life." (14) Today, this renunciatory view is most strictly maintained by the Terapanthis, a Svetambara reform subsect established in the 18th century. Terapanthis make the controversial argument that helping others through social actions is pointless. According to this view, the world is forever playing out the consequences of karma and the violence and suffering it entails. Terapanthis argue that interfering in this process would displace, rather than dispel, these consequences. As a result of this doctrine, many Terapanthis only donate their funds and energy to the official Terapanthi organization, instead of charitable causes with social missions. (15)

I argue that this Terapanthi view is one pole of a continuum of diverse views on non-violence and that prominent definitions of ahimsa like Laidlaw's are too narrow and restrictive. My participants represent another pole. Their social actions included managing panjrapoles (animal homes), organizing emergency ambulances for animals in need, patrolling highways for illegal shipments of animals, raiding illegal slaughter operations, and running animal law clinics, to name only a few lay examples. And, contrary to arguments made by Laidlaw and Jain and Kripal, most of my participants described ahimsa as the basis for their social actions and these actions as a critical step in their spiritual progression. (16) For these Jams, renouncing was considered beyond the horizon, many uncountable years or even lifetimes away, and most participants were unwilling to spend much time speculating on when or if this would ever occur. In the interim period, these Jams were concerned with worldly and engaged activities. The sort of engaged Jainism my participants believed their tradition calls for is not a contemporary phenomenon, but rather one with a long and rich history. The traditions surrounding pan-jrapoles show this history well.

Jain animal homes are found in the historical record possibly as early as the 3rd century BCE, and it is likely that undocumented versions existed for some time before. (17) More than 2200 years after their initial iterations, panjrapoles still flourish in Jain communities: 284 were counted in a 2005 study of Gujarat. (18) These homes typically range in capacity from less than 100 animals to more than 5000 and take in a great variety of species. In contrast to the Terapanthi position, which is focused solely on reducing personal himsa, the mission of panjrapole managers is to mitigate others' himsa by doing their best to protect and improve the lives of animals who may otherwise be abandoned or sold for slaughter. Furthermore, a corollary tradition has become a central fixture of the eight-day Jain holiday Paryushan. During this annual period, Jams formally petition government to ban slaughter of animals on religious grounds. One of my participants, a lawyer who often takes on animal welfare cases pro bono, had been involved with this process in the 1990s, and he described it as such: There are certain duties which are imposed upon the Jams during Paryushan. Amari Pravatin 'compassion for life' is one of them. Because of that duty, the pins every year request the local authority to let there be no killing of any animal - even legally, also ... And even at the time of Akbar, these slaughterhouses used to be closed because of Paryushan. So, the closing of slaughterhouses for eight days is nothing new. It is a tradition of India.

Indeed, petitioning the government to ban slaughter of animals has been a longstanding tradition both in Jam myth and history. One early example of this tradition is found in the stories surrounding the famed 12th-century Jain sacilui (monk) Hemchandra. According to a version of this story recounted by a participant. Hemchandra influenced King Kumarpal of Gujarat to ban slaughter within his territories and to take strict action against those who did not follow his prohibition. A similar story is often told about the 16th-century Muslim Emperor Akbar who is said to have banned slaughter during Paryushan at the behest of the Jain sadhu Hirvijaysuriji. (19) Significantly, the example of Akbar's alleged animal protection was recently cited as precedent by the Indian Supreme Court in a controversial case concerning the ban on animal slaughter during Paryushan in Gujarat. (20) These traditional stories reveal two salient assumptions held by their perpetuators: ahimsa can be used as justification for preventing violence perpetrated by others, and monastics can take on socially engaged roles to curb this violence.

Beyond these stories, many of my participants pointed to contemporary examples of engaged monastics, as well. One Jain businessman told me of a monk who recently undertook a fast declaring that he would not stop unless his demand that the government ban animal slaughter in Pal-itana, one of Jainism's most sacred pilgrimage destinations, was met. This monk was not unique in adopting such an activist-type role. A different participant described others like this monk and argued for a more nuanced understanding of monastics than one which merely relegates them to the sidelines: So, one cannot say that the sadhus are only passive; they are active, but they have a certain way of life. They are out of the normal day-to-day work of human beings ... It is not correct to say that these sadhus will keep quiet if something is going wrong. I tell you, just before few years, an acharya [leader of a monastic order], he even went to the court to stop this slaughterhouse [outside of Ahmedabad]. See, normally, one has to understand it is a question of one method of working or organizing. Sacihus, normally, they do not come in front, because it is not their duty. Normally, they do not know the requirements of our laws or rules or other things, so they will give this job to the person who is really capable to handle these things ... but in case of emergency, if they feel that this is not working and he himself is really capable to take care [of the situation], they also come in front. There are many such incidents, not one. (21)

Despite the number of times my participants referenced them and the high esteem my interlocutors held them in, it must be noted that these activist monastics are the exception and not the rule. It is unclear how involved monastics other than those referenced by my participants are in social issues, but it is evident that the majority do not participate in direct actions like those described above and some explicitly seek total detachment from these issues. That said, many of my participants saw even these non-activist monastics as engaged rather than withdrawn. In one discussion, I clumsily asked if monastics were "only teaching" about, rather than serving in the name of ahimsa, and received the following instructive reply: "They are doing service. 'Only teaching' means what? You say 'only.' I do not say this 'only.' Teaching is the main thing. It is the way to bring the whole society up. What is guru? What is scholar? Why this teaching? It is bringing society up to modern knowledge."

According to this logic, there is a division of labor when it comes to social ahimsa, not an inherent restriction on monastic service. Monastics, as learned individuals committed to spiritual progress, function as the teachers and guides. Lay people, as individuals well-versed in the world with many social ties, function as the physical, on-the-ground activists. In this framework, both roles are enacting social ahimsa and serving others. And, yet, this argument that monastics can actively serve through their role as teachers has not been satisfactory for all who wish to see Jainism in less orthodox and solely renunciatory ways.

The first female leader of a monastic order in the history of Jainism is one of these unsatisfied individuals. In 1973, then-sadhvi (22) Chandanaji founded Veerayatan, a movement whose mission is to "empower people through seva (service), shiksha (education) and sadhana (inner develop-ment)." (23) From its inception up to the present, Acharya Chandanaji and her radical ideas about nearly all aspects of Jainism--especially, the roles of monastics and women--have been the driving forces behind this increasingly popular movement. She promotes a vision of Jainism in which women can lead, monastics can renounce and serve, and this-worldly goals can take priority over seeking liberation from the cycle of rebirth through moksh.

Veerayatan: activist monastics

Sadhvi Shilapiji, like the other nuns of Veerayatan, interprets Jain doctrine in ways quite dissimilar to many orthodox Jams. This was apparent from the moment I first saw her: dressed in the typical plain white cloth of monastics, but presiding over an office equipped with electric lights and fans, she sat behind a desk outfitted with a Mac and iPhone. Sitting behind this desk, she sketched her biography for me. She attended King's College London after her diksha (monastic initiation) in the early 1990s and obtained a graduate degree in comparative Indian religion. Since then, she has frequently traveled the world, preaching within diaspora communities and giving lectures on Jainism at academic institutions like Harvard and Oxford. Today, she maintains these activities while also managing her order's sizable mission in Kutch, which began to offer free grade school through university education and routine health clinics in the immediate aftermath of a devastating 2001 Gujarat earthquake that killed nearly 20,000 people and wreaked havoc on Kutch's infrastructure.

Crucial to her ability to carry out these roles, she--unlike the vast majority of Jain monastics--does not understand her vows as prohibiting her from using transportation or electricity. Her order has reinterpreted these orthodox prohibitions so as to allow for their service activities. In defense of their interpretation, they argue that Mahavira traveled by boat many times in order to accomplish his own goals, (24) and moreover, they question why electricity is used for many aspects of a contemporary monastic's life such as food, clothing, and books, but not others. Following this line of thinking, Sadhvi Shilapiji told me that "in the case of modern sadhus and sanvis, they live in house, they take medicine for themselves. So, himsa is involved. So, my question is, if you can do himsa for yourself, why can't you do himsa for others' sake?"

This formal extension of ahimsa from personal to social provides the basis for Veerayatan's movement, and as such those involved have prepared quite clear definitions of the concept. Sadhvi Shilapiji provided the following explanation of ahimsa: We have two definitions of ahimsa. One is no himsa - no violence. The second part of this, the positive connotation, is love people, support people. That is the complete definition of ahimsa. We cannot consider ahimsa only a negation, because ahimsa has a positive definition also. If you say just don't kill, don't kill, don't kill, then there is an absence of doing something. If I don't hate you, then what do I do? I must love you, because you cannot have a devoid state of your feelings. You have to have some feelings. Mahavira did not do that [be devoid of feelings]; [Mahaviral the propagator of ahimsa, the preceptor of ahivsa did not do that. He loved people unconditionally. He supported everyone ... So, a negative is don't kill, don't hurt anyone, but positive is emphatically love people. (25)

This dual definition explicitly contradicts the orthodox interpretations of ahimsa which have been privileged by Laidlaw's "ethic of quarantine" and other scholars' similar formulations. For Sadhvi Shilapiji, the other monastics in her order, and those who follow them, ahimsa has a social and positive dimension of at least equal importance to the personal and negative one. Taking this conception of ahimsa even further, Acharya Chandanaji fervently disagrees with orthodox arguments that monastics should strive to cease all karmic intake, both positive and negative, in order to reach moksh.

When I met with Acharya Chandanaji in the Mumbai apartment she shares with other nuns, we discussed a common dynamic which occurs between lay and monastic _Tains. According to orthodox Jain theory, the lay person gives up food cooked or clothing made for his or her own use to a monastic who is in need, thereby saving the monastic from assuming the negative karma associated with these acts. In more modern times, many new examples of this dynamic exist, especially involving laity turning on lights, fans, or microphones for monastics, and most recently holding cell phones to monastics' ears. (26) Acharya Chandanaji prefers a decidedly different model. Instead of relying upon the laity to perform necessary violent tasks for her so that she can focus on reaching moksh, she would like to perform necessary violent tasks for the laity in order to further their spiritual development. She informed me that she "would like to say to people, 'you are doing so many karmas, so please take all of your bad karmas from inside and give them to me, and you live with good life and good karmas, and bad karmas can be on me because I have a lot of time [as a monastic] to remove the bad karma.' This is religion, no?"

The role reversal she imagines is predicated on her order's unique understanding of moksh. Simply put, liberation from the cycle of rebirth--the usual desired outcome for Jams--is not a pressing concern of those in Veerayatan. When asked if she is trying to reach moksh, Acharya Chan-danaji joked that "If there is moksh, I think I will go first (due to my service] because that is what Mahavira has done."She then went on to muse: Maybe, Imokshl is a state of being. Nobody has seen moksh; nobody came from mash to here; we have never seen that moksh. I always say, 'Why are you crazy for mash? Stop it. Be here with the divine power here on earth. And if there is [mash', then it will automatically happen. We should not be crazy about it. If you live with bliss and calmness and if there is moksh, that will come automatically.'

Since reaching moksh is not a top priority, she is willing to engage in social ahimsa in an effort to uplift others. What is, perhaps, most important about this belief is not that social ahimsa is placed as a priority over personal ahimsa: this can be seen in many of my lay examples above, such as Akash's mother; for her, it is likely that moksh was considered far off, a possibility of some distant rebirth, and therefore not her chief concern. What is most important, however, is that Veerayatan monastics freely admit that moksh is not at all their priority. This admission and basis behind their theological claims has provoked a range of reactions. Some Jain communities are wholly critical of Veerayatan as corruptors of "true" religion, others are ambivalent and see Veerayatan's movement as praiseworthy but not authoritative, and still others, particularly in the diaspora and Indian urban areas, are enthusiastic supporters of Veerayatan.

Possible Jain futures

In my 2010 ethnographic study of North Carolina diaspora Jams, participants emphasized that ethical practices serve as the core of their religion. They described daily duties related to non-violence, non-attachment, and non-one-sidedness as central, while orthodox practices and theology were largely sidelined or reinterpreted. I argued in a previous essay that this worldly shift was induced primarily by the lack of traditional Jain religious authorities in the diaspora and the introduction of greater western influence vis-a-vis contemporary environmental and animal rights move-ments. (27) My findings confirmed what other scholars encountered in different transnational Jain communities. Anne Vallely, for example, reports similar tendencies from elsewhere in the North American diaspora. She observes that "the compatibility between Jainism and environmentalism is largely a new, diaspora development and actually reflects a shift in ethical orientation away from a traditional orthodox liberation-centric ethos to a sociocentric or 'ecological' one. This shift away from the ascetic ideal must be viewed as part of the larger theme of immigration and adaptation to a new cultural setting." (28)

Vallely's and my own analyses of the fieldwork we carried out in our respective diaspora contexts coincided. However, my view became more nuanced during my subsequent fieldwork in India. Now, while I am convinced of "sociocentric" Jainism's current vigor and that this is especially the case in the diaspora, it seems clear that these interpretations are not wholly or even mostly new or confined to the diaspora. Indeed, I have argued in this paper that traditions of engaged Jainism and social ahimsa have long existed in India. Charitable actions have dominated the lives of countless Indian Jams who have for generations constructed animal homes, human hospitals, and other such services designed to remedy systemic social problems of which they shared no apparent personal responsibility and attendant karmic guilt. For those involved, these activities are not seen as misguided actions or unrelated to their religious practices. Instead, these charitable actions are seen frequently as essential to an individual's spiritual progression, and activists are promoted in many Jain communities as models of piety who receive great karmic merit.

In addition, I have attempted to show that these traditions have not been the sole province of lay Jams. During my fieldwork. I encountered many traditional stories of activist monastics from Mahavira to present. Regardless of their historicity or universal acceptance, these stories have provided support to those who wish to understand their religion in socially engaged ways and have often been drawn upon for this purpose. In more recent times, a small but not insignificant number of monastics have taken the concept of social ahimsa to heart and involved themselves in worldly issues as diverse as the existence of slaughterhouses and the use of sex education in public schools. (29) Other monastics have dramatically reinterpreted orthodox doctrine and utilized the strands of activist monasticism mentioned here to create monastic orders radically new and, increasingly, popular, such as the nuns of Veerayatan presented in this paper's case study.

Veerayatan's importance extends beyond their interpretations of doctrine. This organization is carving out a role for itself that transcends national borders, one which provides a bridge between previously separated Indian and diaspora Jain communities. Already, I believe there has been and will continue to be significant cross-pollination between these communities. Given our rapidly globalizing world, disparate traditions will increasingly find it difficult to avoid mingling of ideas. Whether Veerayatan's growth and influence will continue is impossible to know, but it seems quite likely that it or similar movements will be followed by a sizeable share of the Jain population in the future. In any case, I contend that scholars cannot maintain that socially engaged Jainism is primarily the product of the diaspora and western influence in the face of the Indian traditions highlighted in this paper.

This paper has focused on movements, historical and emerging, which have been underrepresented by the scholarly literature. By no means it is trying to diminish the importance or dominance of other traditions which have flourished within the religious category of Jainism. These other traditions have exerted great influence over the course of Jain history and will surely continue to do so. It is my intention, rather, to draw scholarly attention to their classifications of socially engaged Jams and definitions of central concepts such as ahimsa. Whether radical reinterpretations are utilized, western influence is present, or orthodox authorities seek their delegitimization, these underrepresented traditions should be treated as authentic and we as scholars must strive to be inclusive and careful in our characterizations of a diverse and ancient religion that has experienced and will continue to experience remarkable change.

Works Cited Bernard, Harvey R. Research Methods in Anthropology. Lanham: Altamira Press, 2011.

Evans, Brett, 2012 "Jainism's Intersection with Contemporary Ethical Movements: An Ethnographic Examination of a Diaspora Jain Community."Journal of Undergraduate Ethnography 2, pp. 21-32.

Jacobi, Hermann. Jaina Sutras Translated from the Prakrit. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884.

Jain, Andrea R., and Jeffrey J. Kripal, 2009" Quietism and Karma: Non-Action as Non-Ethics in Jain Asceticism."Common Knowledge 15, 197-207.

Kapadia, Nimish, and Pankaj Ruch. Inside Jiv-Daya. Anand: Sarvan Dharma Jiv-Daya San-gha, 2010.

Laidlaw, James. Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the _lair's. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Lodrick, Deryck. Sacred Cows, Sacred Places: Origins and Survivals of Animal Homes in India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

Long. Jeffrey. Jainism: An Introduction. New York: LB. Tanis, 2009.

Office of the Registrar General 8t Census Commissioner. Census and You - Religion. 2001. http://censusindia.govin/Census_And_Youireligion.aspx (accessed 10 14, 2012).

Vallely, Anne, 2002, "From Liberation to Ecology: Ethical Discources among Orthodox and Diaspora jins."In Christopher Key Chapple, ed., Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 193-216.

Veerayatan. Dreams. n.d.


(1.) This article was first written and accepted for publication in the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa and will be published in the Fall of 2014 (Volume 38 Issue 2). It is prepublished here with permission.

(2.) When not referring to public figures, as in the case of Akash. I have used pseudonyms to protect identities.

(3.) Jams believe that more bacteria, which are considered to have souls, exist on root vegetables than those which grow above ground. Alcohol, as a fermented beverage, is also seen as involving more bacteria than other drinks. For these and other reasons, these items have been traditionally avoided so as not to perpetrate unnecessary additional violence.

(4.) Long (2009), p.30.

(5.) Throughout this paper, I use the vernacular transliteration mash rather than the Sanskritic form molcsha, as this more accurately reflects my participants' usage.

(6.) Laidlaw (1995), p. 159.

(7.) "Census and You - Religion," Office of the Registrar General & Census, accessed October 14, 2012,

(8.) This research would not have been possible without the generous funding and guidance provided by Elon University through its Elon College Fellows and Lumen Scholars programs. Many thanks are owed to the University and to all those who helped to make this project a reality, most of all to my dedicated mentor Dr. Amy Allocco. (9.) My related essay, "Jainism's Intersection with Contemporary Ethical Movements: An Ethnographic Examination of a Diaspora Jain Community," which is based on research with a North Carolina. Jain community, appears in the Journal of Undergraduate Ethnography (Volume 2 Issue 2). pp. 21-32.

(10.) Bernard (2011), p. 147.

(11.) In order to provide anonymity. most participants' names have not been used in this paper. However, the Veerayatan nuns' names are used, as they are public figures.

(12.) Laidlaw (1995), p. 159.

(13.) Jain and Kripal (2009), p. 200.

(14.) Jacobi (1884), p. 34.

(15.) Laidlaw (1995), p. 165.

(16.) Laidlaw has argued that "even those Jain traditions which sanction and practice charitable giving to the poor, and maintain animal refuges ... all see these expressions of non-violence as unambiguously lower and cruder forms of the virtue" (Laidlaw, Riches and Renunciation. 162). Jain and Kripal have argued that "while the lay Jain may be free to participate in compassionate actions, these are not understood, even by the laity, to contribute to spiritual development. Asceticism alone leads to progress toward moksha" (Jain and Kripal, "Quietism and Karma," 205).

(17.) Lodrick (1981), pp. 57-59.

(18.) Kapadia and Buch (2010).

(19.) A representative example of this story can be found here:

(20.) Closure of Slaughter House During Paryushan. Indian Supreme Court Civil Appeal 5469 (2005).

(21.) Interview, May 13, 2012, Vadodara. India.

(22.) Sadhvi (nun, or female ascetic) is the feminine form of sadhu.

(23.) Veerayatan, Dreams (n.d.), 2.

(24.) One such story is recounted on page 365 of Sramana Bliagavan Mahavira: His Life and Teaching Volume I Part LI.

(25.) Interview, May 24, 2012, Jakhania,

(26.) These sorts of "workarounds" are not unique to Jain traditions. Judaism, for example, has traditions of non-Jews who assist observant Jews on the Sabbath. Unlike in Jainism. however, the non-Jews are not assumed to be burdening themselves with an equivalent of karmic guilt from these actions (Rabbi Dr. Geoffrey Claussen. email message to author, December 12, 2012). For similar phenomenon, see "Making Kosher a Little More Convenient" here:

(27.) Evans (2012).

(28.) Vallely (2002), p. 193.

(29.) For an interview with a monastic involved with both causes mentioned here, see http://www.jainsamaj.orgimagazinesiahimsatimesshow.php?id=107
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Author:Evans, Brett
Publication:Cross Currents
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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