Jain Sadhvis

Jain nuns meditating

In the time of Lord Mahavira, Jainism brought an enlightened attitude to Indian religious culture, forming the tradition as a religion of equality. As a religion of spiritual equality, Jainism devote itself to protecting the rights of all living creatures, accepting that women play a part in their paths to liberation. Jainism arose during a time when caste systems and class hatred were prevalent in India- As a result, the religion opposed this inhuman class distinction and glorified the soul that dwelt within each human being, emphasizing equality between men and women. In religious and social functions, women and men enjoy equal rights. Women are considered to be equal partners to men, rather than inferior, submissive beings. Achievements of men and women are also considered to be on equal level. Matters of spiritual enlightenment and moksha are related to the soul- not the physical body. Thus, woman are equally capable of freeing themselves from the bondages of samsara. Jainism asserts that there is no difference between the souls of men and women- it would be illogical for a man to treat a woman as inferior, as Jainism is grounded on the basic concepts of equality and respect.

However, the two orders of Jainism, Digambara and Svetambara, differ over the subject of women’s abilities. Digambaras believe that women do not have the strong body and willpower needed to attain liberation; they can only be liberated if they are reborn in a man’s body. Svetambaras feel that women are capable of the same spiritual achievements as men, and that the nineteenth Tirthankara was a woman.

It is also important to note that, in recent times, Jain nuns have not been able to speak for themselves, as almost all Jain texts are written by monks, and there are more restrictions placed on nuns than monks- A nun is not allowed to be alone, to wander alone, to be without clothing, to be without superior, or to enter the house of a layman alone for food or drink. Generally speaking, Jain nuns are more dependent on their male colleagues and are subordinate to their authority. In modern society, the inferior status of nuns prevails.

The website attached below highlights the life of a Jain nun.


Photo Citation:

Jain Nuns. Photograph. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/Jain_meditation.jpg



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