Understanding Jainism (Understanding Faith) (Paperback)
Jainism is Buddhism’s often overlooked cousin. As the only surviving examples of ancient India’s non-Vedic religious traditions, the two religions are often grouped together as ‘heterodoxies’, but this is to ignore deep differences between Jain and Buddhist beliefs and practices. Unlike Buddhism, Jainism has hardly spread beyond the Indian subcontinent but Jainism survives in India where it is a prominent element in the mix of Indian religions today.
As an introduction to Jainism as a religious tradition and way of life, this book pays due attention to Jainism’s history and doctrinal basics. However the author emphasises the ways in which formal Jain teachings are manifested in the practices of both laity and the monastic elite; explores the distinctive Jain systems of cosmographic and biological knowledge and describes how Jainism is woven into the social identities of Jain communities in modern India.
Trained as a social anthropologist, Lawrence A. Babb is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Amherst College. He is the author of several books dealing with religion and society in India.
'Understanding Jainism fulfils its aims well. The list of further reading points the student to a wide range of resources, and the glossary gives succinct definitions of key terms. Babb writes fluently, his explanations are clear, his language accessible. This is an excellent starting point for those with little or no knowledge of Jainism. This is a worthwhile addition to the shelves of any theological library and for any individual who wishes to begin to understand Jainism better.'Interreligious Insight'This short monograph is in the Dunedin ‘Understanding Faith’ series edited by Frank Whaling, and it provides a fresh, well-structured, clearly written account of Jainism that is appropriate for undergraduate students and interested general readers alike. Babb cleverly weaves together methodological and interpretive issues with the history of the Jains and a sketch of the religion as it is practised in the twenty-first century… To sum up, Babb has written an intelligent book that is a pleasure to read, and deserves a wide readership.'Journal for the Academic Study of Religion‘Babb's Understanding Jainism reads like having coffee with a senior scholar deeply knowledgeable about the tradition sharing his first-hand experiences and relating his own individual ways of explaining its finer points… As a textbook, Babb's book may challenge early career undergraduates, but it will delight readers with more ability… Babb's focus on the social realities in which Jainism exists allows us to see Jainism, and Jains, as the complex actors and agents they are, and allows students to move away from questions of how properly "Jain" or not living Jains are, based on how strictly they follow the tenets of the tradition.’Religious Studies Review 44(4)- -