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New approaches to Jainism

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KHK research project on Jainism attracts international interest. Since spring 2016, expert of Southern Asian religions, Dr. Patrick Krüger, has been researching on ‘The Visualization of the Dharma – New Perspectives of the Origin and the Meaning of the Jina Image and the Beginning of Jain Image Worshipping’. With this project, he ventures into uncharted terrain.

Jainism as Ascetic Religion

As a religion, Jainism originated in India in 600 BC. Jainas believe in a two-divided world of the spiritual and nonspiritual. Believers aim to purify their own souls by principles such as non-violence or asceticism. Only pure souls which have won over their inner enemies could have the power to become God. Self-control is seen as the key to liberate the soul. With about 4.5 million believers, this religion obtains only little interest within the European research area and even beyond. 

Given the Jaina principles of ascetic life, it is absolutely astonishing, that this religion has developed its own images and visual culture at all. For comparison only, Calvinism as another ascetic religious tradition prohibits all images and other material representations of the supernatural world.

New Perspectives on Old Traditions

The early Jainism is almost entirely discovered only by the hand of scriptures. In his research, however, Patrick Krüger focuses on Jaina images. How were these images of the supernatural (jina) created? Were they influenced or even adopted by other religious traditions, such as Buddhism? And which effect have these images on Jainism as religion then and now? 

His fresh research focus stirs interest not only within the international Jaina community but also beyond: Reports in an US magazine for Indian expats, in an Indian research journal or requests from renowned museums show that researching Jainism is far from being insignificant and needs more attention within academies.