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Article: Śvetāmbara Stānaka-vāsīn

Contributed by Peter Flügel

Significant beliefs and practices

Doctrinally, only Dharmasiṃha’s Āṭha Koṭi tradition in Gujarat differs significantly from the other four schools, which disagree only on minor points of philosophy and ritual.

A common religious activity for the Sthānaka-vāsin laity is dayā dharma. This is compassionate help – dāna – for animals and human beings. Establishing, funding and working in shelters for animals and people accumulates merit and advances the active Jain along the path of salvation.

There are three doctrinal characteristics shared by all the Sthānaka-vāsin traditions.

Rejection of image-worship

A Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monk meditates. Meditation – dhyāna – is very important for all Jains but is one of the main methods of worship for members of the Sthānaka-vāsin sect. They reject the worship of images in favour of mental worship – bhava-pūjā

Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monk meditating
Image by Shree Diwakar Prakashan © public domain

The laity generally rejects material forms of worship such as performing rituals and praying to idols. Instead they worship mentally, through meditation – dhyāna – and study – svādhyāya. Practising the austerities – tapas – of fasting and asceticism is also a focus of religious practice.

As with the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect, which was formed after an 18th-century schism within the Sthānaka-vāsin, the Sthānaka-vāsin laity focuses worship on individual ascetics, as symbols of the ideal life.

Nowadays, an elaborate infrastructure of halls – sthānakas – which double as monasteries for visiting mendicants, exists for communal performance of these practices.

Strict ascetic conduct

Some Sthānaka-vāsin sects are known for following strict rules of behaviour in accordance with the prescriptions in the 32 accepted Jain scriptures. The monks and nuns are not allowed to wash their clothes, to use flushing toilets or electricity, to publish books and so on.

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