Making a Mantra: Tantric Ritual and Renunciation on the Jain Path to Liberation (Class 200: New Studies in Religion) (Paperback)

Making a Mantra: Tantric Ritual and Renunciation on the Jain Path to Liberation (Class 200: New Studies in Religion) By Ellen Gough Cover Image

Making a Mantra: Tantric Ritual and Renunciation on the Jain Path to Liberation (Class 200: New Studies in Religion) (Paperback)


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Jainism originated in India and shares some features with Buddhism and Hinduism, but it is a distinct tradition with its own key texts, art, rituals, beliefs, and history. One important way it has often been distinguished from Buddhism and Hinduism is through the highly contested category of Tantra: Jainism, unlike the others, does not contain a tantric path to liberation. But in Making a Mantra, historian of religions Ellen Gough refines and challenges our understanding of Tantra by looking at the development over two millennia of a Jain incantation, or mantra, that evolved from an auspicious invocation in a second-century text into a key component of mendicant initiations and meditations that continue to this day.

Typically, Jainism is characterized as a celibate, ascetic path to liberation in which one destroys karma through austerities, while the tantric path to liberation is characterized as embracing the pleasures of the material world, requiring the ritual use of mantras to destroy karma. Gough, however, argues that asceticism and Tantra should not be viewed in opposition to one another. She does so by showing that Jains perform “tantric” rituals of initiation and meditation on mantras and maṇḍalas. Jainism includes kinds of tantric practices, Gough provocatively argues, because tantric practices are a logical extension of the ascetic path to liberation.
Ellen Gough is assistant professor of religion at Emory University.
Product Details ISBN: 9780226767062
ISBN-10: 022676706X
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: October 11th, 2021
Pages: 296
Series: Class 200: New Studies in Religion
“The book is good to think with . . . . The historical reality is often more complex than our scholarly categorizations allow for, and Making a Mantra makes an excellent case for critically engaging with them anew, by bringing the ascetic perspective into the heart of tantric studies and granting Jainism a place in it.”
— Indo-Iranian Journal

“Her use of both textual and anthropologi­cal methodologies that connect the past and present is a welcome reprieve from the text-heavy focus of so many projects on tantra . . . . Gough makes a strong argument for studying the past and present together without making the mistake of assuming what happens today is what has always occurred.”
— Material Religion

"[Gough] works to reorient decades of scholarship on Jainism that has intentionally painted the tradition as persistent and consistent over time. Instead, Gough both recognizes and prioritizes the dynamic, changing nature of Jainism from its inception to the current day, specifically with regard to one facet of broader Indian religiosity, namely, tantra. . . .  An impressive, detailed, and forward-thinking piece of scholarship. It will become required reading for scholars of both Jainism and tantra, and rightly so."
— History of Religions

“In this pioneering study, Gough traces the long biography of a key Jain mantra from ancient times up to the present. By showing how medieval Jains came to ‘tantricize’ the mantra, she makes important contributions to the study of Tantra, Jainism, and, more broadly, our understanding of the history of religion in India. This is a work of wide and confident scholarship, conveyed in an accessible and compelling manner.”
— Richard Davis, Bard College

“In Making a Manta, Gough combines fine-grained textual study with ethnographic fieldwork to persuasively demonstrate that a full and adequate understanding of Jain ritual and doctrine must take serious account of the role of mantras and maṇḍalas throughout the tradition. This book marks a watershed moment in the study of both Tantra and Jainism—it is required reading for all students of Indian religions.”
— John E. Cort, Denison University