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Present Lord: Simandhara Svami and the Akram Vijnan Movement

Flügel, Peter (2005) 'Present Lord: Simandhara Svami and the Akram Vijnan Movement.' In: King, Anna S. and Brockington, John, (eds.), The Intimate Other: Love Divine in the Indic Religions. New Delhi: Orient Longman, pp. 194-243.

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Abstract

Most textbooks present Jainism as a religion which survives in a pristine state virtually unchanged from the time of its last prophet, Mahavira, some 2500 years ago. Walther Schubring, for instance, wrote in his classical work The Doctrine Of The Jainas: Described After The Old Sources that the "teaching proper" of Jainism, which propagates monastic asceticism as the principal means of salvation, was "scarcely affected" by exterior changes: "The new formations which developed to remain", he writes, "are nearly exclusively concerned with formalities." This view was reiterated by Robert Williams, in his book Jaina Yoga, which describes the textual prescriptions for the traditional rituals of lay Jainism, though he emphasized that the "changelessness of Jainism is no more than a myth": "Admittedly there have been no spectacular changes in basic assumptions such as there were, for example, in Mahayana Buddhism. At most there have been variations in emphasis. Had Jainism, as at one time must have seemed possible, become a majority religion in southern India something akin to a Digambara Mahayana might, with continuing favourable circumstances, have emerged. But all that can be detected today are the traces of aborted developments." In his influential work The Jaina Path of Purification, P. S. Jaini detailed examples of the continual 'erosive' influence of Hindu devotionalism on almost every aspect of popular Jainism from the 5th century onwards, but restated Williams' view: "No movement towards a more catholic viewpoint or liberalized discipline, no "Jaina Mahayana," was ever allowed to develop among either the Digambaras or the Shvetambaras." In this chapter I will present at least one case not only of a doctrine or isolated features but of a new syncretistic religious movement which, I would argue, can legitimately be called 'Jaina Mahayana', i.e. a primarily devotional form of Jainism, visibly different from the ascetic path outlined in the canonical and classical Jain scriptures, which congenially combines Kundakunda's 'Digambara Mahayana' soteriology (which is in many ways closer to Shankara's Advaita Vedanta), Samkhya ontology and classical Jain cosmology with a ritual idiom that is largely derived from popular Vaishnava devotionalism and Tantric miracle cults.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: Akram Vijñān Mārg, Modern Religious Reform Movement, Jaina-Hindu Syncretism, Jaina Mahāyāna, Sīmandhara Svāmī, Dādā Bhagavān, Ambalāl Mūljībhāī Paṭel, Kanubhāī Paṭel, Nīrubahen Amīn, Kundakuṇḍa, Śrīmad Rājacandra, Kānjī Svāmī, W. Schubring, R. Williams, P.S. Jaini, W. Johnson
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions > Centre of Jaina Studies
ISBN: 8125028013
Copyright Statement: Publishers contacted two years ago without receiving response. Permission of editors.
Depositing User: Peter Flugel
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2009 13:14
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/7438

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