Riches And Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jains (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

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9780198280422: Riches And Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jains (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)
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How can one live by impossible ideals and values? The Jains of India are a flourishing and prosperous community, but their religion is focused on the teaching and example of ascetic renouncers, whose austere regime is actually dedicated to ending worldly life and often culminates in a fast to death. This book draws upon a detailed study of an urban Jain community in Jaipur, north-west India, to offer the fullest account yet given of Jain religious belief and practice. It shows how renunciation and asceticism play a central part in the life of a thriving business community, and how world-renunciation combines for Jain families with the pursuit of worldly happiness. The book is in five parts. Part I introduces the vivid mythology and doctrine of Jainism, and the traditions of Jain renouncers. Part II discusses the relations of Jains with other groups in Indian society, the politics of leadership on Jain communities, and the history, character, and composition of the Jain community in Jaipur. Part III contains detailed analyses of lay ascetic practices such as fasting and confession, traditions of imagery and iconography, and key religious ideas, such as the paradoxical doctrine of 'non-violence' (ahimsa). These are shown to turn on complex conceptions of the body and contrasting moral topographies of self. Part IV concerns relations between lay Jains and renouncers, and draws on recent writing on exchange and value to analyse the pivotal place of alms-giving in the Jain religion. Part V describes some of the closest connections between riches and renunciation, and shows how the pan-Indian festival of Diwali is adapted to distinctively Jain values and concerns.

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Through a carefully articulated set of arguments and vivid descriptions of fasts, feasts and festivities, Laidlaw ... describes the mythology and doctrine of Jainism, the relations of Jains with other groups in Indian society ... The book is rich in detail and full of information about the Jaina way of life ... an excellent piece of research which contributes substantially to the understanding of Jaina ethics and way of life ... it will certainly be of great import to cultural anthropologists. (Contemporary South Asia)

Through a carefully articulated set of arguments and vivid descriptions of fasts, feasts and festivities, Laidlaw ... describes the mythology and doctrine of Jainism, the relations of Jains with other groups in Indian society ... The book is rich in details and full of information about the Jaina way of life ... an excellent piece of research which contributes substantially to the understanding of Jaina ethics and way of life ... it will certainly be of great import to cultural anthropologists. (Contemporary South Asia)

Laidlaw's details and careful argumentation override the occasional heavy-handed appeals to theoretical models, ultimately leaving the reader satiated and unquestionably better informed about Jain belief and practice. This book would be appropriate for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and a must for anyone seriously interested in Indian religions, the urban middle-class, or social ethics. (Religious Studies Review)

James Laidlaw's Riches and Renunciation is the most substantial book in this flurry of scholarship ... Laidlaw in good post-structuralist fashion is content to let the contradictions and tensions exist side by side in a web of relationships. (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies)

About the Author:

James Laidlaw is co-author of The Archetypal Actions of Ritual (C.P., 1994)

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9780198280316: Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy and Society Among the Jains (Oxford Studies in Social & Cultural Anthropology)

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Publisher: Clarendon Press, 1995
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