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

Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jains

byJames Laidlaw

Paperback | April 30, 1999

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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 todeath. 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 howworld-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, andcomposition 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 complexconceptions 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 connectionsbetween riches and renunciation, and shows how the pan-Indian festival of Diwali is adapted to distinctively Jain values and concerns.

About The Author

James Laidlaw is co-author of The Archetypal Actions of Ritual (CP, 1994)
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Details & Specs

Title:Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the JainsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:446 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 1.02 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198280424

ISBN - 13:9780198280422

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`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