Brill's Encyclopedia of Jainism Online

Get access Subject: Asian Studies

Edited by: John E. Cort, Denison University, Paul Dundas, University of Edinburgh, Knut A. Jacobsen, University of Bergen, Kristi L. Wiley, University of California, Berkeley

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Jainism Online makes available up-to-date research on main aspects of the Jain traditions in original essays written by some of the world’s foremost scholars on Jainism. The encyclopedia is thematic and seeks to present a balanced and impartial view of Jainism with a focus on both historical and contemporary traditions and institutions. The articles address topics such as the human condition, pantheons, historical perspectives, regional cultures, renunciation, lay society, ritual, devotion, visual and material culture, time and space, literature, and philosophy and logic.

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(3,129 words)

Author(s): Babb, Lawrence A.
Our starting point must be the ancient Brahmanical system of hereditary classes known as varṇas. While it is not quite the same thing as caste, as will be seen, some initial knowledge of the varṇa system is crucial to a full understanding of caste in India, be it among Jains, Hindus, Sikhs, or others. The Jains accept the system in part but reject its Brahmanical justifications, and to understand the Jain view, we must know something of what they are rejecting.The earliest reference to the var a system is found in a late hymn of the Ṛgveda (10.90), and it is fully described and sanctioned in the dha…
Date: 2019-04-15