Article: Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin

Contributed by Peter Flügel

The Terāpanthins are the monastic members and lay followers of the Terāpantha, a Śvetāmbara Jain order. Associated with Rajasthan since its foundation in the 18th century, the Terāpantha sect is expanding rapidly among Jains inside and outside India.

The Hindi term terāpantha or terahpantha means either ‘your path’ or ‘path of 13’. Terāpanthins follow 13 main elements of Jain thought. They do not worship images but practise asceticism and ‘insight meditation’. The major characteristics of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect are the concentration of power in a single ācārya and a new type of ascetic – the male samaṇas and the female samaṇis. All Jains believe that they should avoid actions that produce bad karma because it blocks liberation of the soul. Terāpanthins also believe that believers seeking liberation should avoid actions that produce good karma too, because both good and bad karma ultimately obstruct salvation.

There is also a different group known as Terāpantha among the Digambara laity.

Origins

Ācārya Bhikṣu (1726–1803) founded the Terāpantha sect of the Śvetāmbara Jains in Rajasthan. Meaning either 'path of the 13' or 'your group', the sect's name also refers to 13 main elements of Jain doctrine. This sect does not worship images

Ācārya Bhikṣu
Image by Pramodjain3 © PD

The Terāpantha was founded by Muni Bhikhan (1726–1803), who was later known as Ācārya Bhikṣu. He was born in the village of Kantaliya near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. His parents belonged to the Osvāl caste, which has always supplied a large number of recruits to the Terāpantha. Many Osvāls follow the tradition of worshipping idols while many others follow the Sthānaka-vāsins as well.

After his wife’s death, Bhikhan entered the monastic order of the Sthānaka-vāsin, who are against worshipping images. But Bhikhan left and formed a new group with 12 other men. Ācārya Bhikṣu’s opponents scorned it as the 'path of the 13 – terah-panth – but he understood it as meaning 'your group' – terā panth. He also interpreted the number 13 as referring to the following principal points of Jain doctrine:

Monastic organisation

The previous head of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect, Ācārya Mahāprajña preaches to followers. Behind him is a background with a picture of the founder of the sect, Ācārya Bhikṣu

Ācārya Mahāprajña with Ācārya Bhikṣu
Image by Terapanth © PD

The Terāpantha monastic order has an important feature which distinguishes it from other Jain monastic orders. Ācārya Bhikṣu set out the maryādā, a code of practice for ascetics, in which there is a single ācārya, who is a teacher-cum-group leader. He holds all the power in the sect and is chosen by his predecessor. Ācārya Bhikṣu established this rule to prevent schisms and the development of loose discipline.

The ācārya is a central autocratic leader who:

  • initiates all monks and nuns
  • chooses his successor, who is given the title of Yuvācārya
  • decides the number and size of the different groups of mendicants by selecting their members during the annual plenary assembly called Maryādā Mahotsava.

The ācārya takes all important decisions even though he is constantly moving around the country.

Ācāryas of the Terāpantha

Name

Dates

Birth

Ācāryaship

Ācārya Bhikṣu

1726

1760–1803

Ācārya Bharimal

1747

1803–1821

Ācārya Jītmal

1803

1821–1881

Ācārya Maghrāj

1810

1881–1892

Ācārya Manaklāl

1855

1892–1897

Ācārya Dalchand

1852

1897–1909

Ācārya Kālugaṇi

1877

1909–1936

Ācārya Tulsi

1914

1936–1997

Ācārya Mahāprajña

1921

1997–2010

Ācārya Mahāśramaṇa

1962

2010 to present

There is also a chief nun – sādhvī-pramukhā – who is the head of the female ascetics but she is subordinate to the ācārya.

Since it was founded, the Terāpantha monastic order has grown more or less regularly, peaking during the 20th century.

Number of Terāpantha ascetics

Date

Monks

Nuns

Total ascetics

18th century – Ācārya Bhikṣu

21

27

48

1955

180

480

660

1975

151

506

657

1981

164

531

695

1999

145

543

688

Samaṇas and samaṇis

Until 1980 mendicants in the Terāpantha order were either monks – sādhus – or nuns – sādhvīs – as in the other Jain monastic orders. In the modernisation process characteristic of his reign, Ācārya Tulsi created a new intermediate category. The males in this new ascetic class are called samaṇas and the females samaṇis. There are many more samaṇis than samaṇas.

Whereas traditional Jain mendicants are only allowed to go on foot, samaṇas and samaṇis may use transport. This is a very important innovation because it allows them to travel abroad on missionary tours. For many Jains living outside India samaṇas and samaṇis are the only Jain mendicants with whom they can have direct contact.

Number of samaṇas and samaṇis

Year

Samaṇas

Samaṇis

1992

4

51

1996

4

81

1999

4

80

The Terāpanthin monks and nuns wear the usual non-stitched white monastic robes common among Śvetāmbara mendicants. They also permanently cover their mouth with a rectangular mouth-clothmukhavastrikā or muṃhapattī.

The samaṇas and samaṇis, however, wear a different type of stitched outfit and use their mouth-cloths only when speaking. These are not attached to their mouths.

Scriptures and philosophy

Ācārya Mahāprajña, Ācārya Tulsi and followers discuss the Āgamas. Ācārya Tulsi was leader of the sect of Śvetāmbara Terāpanthins until 1997 and was succeeded by Ācārya Mahāprajña until 2010. This sect believes there are 32 sacred texts

Discussing the scriptures
Image by Amitjain80 © CC BY-SA 3.0

The Terāpanthins recognise the authority of 32 of the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures. Influenced by the most recent ācāryas, Tulsi and Mahāprajña, Terāpanthin mendicants have published numerous critical editions, indexes, dictionaries and analyses of these scriptures to a high standard. They have also provided Hindi translations of several texts.

On the other hand, the Terāpanthins are also indebted to early Digambara thinkers such as Kundakunda. Their work promotes absolute renunciation and exposes the difference between the conventional point of view and the religious or absolute point of view. The conventional viewpoint – vyavahāra-naya – sees things from the angle of everyday life while the religious viewpoint – niścaya-naya – focuses on the religious perspective.

Beside that, the Terāpanthin teachers also have to their credit a good number of creative writings where they set out their viewpoints on certain crucial topics. Most of these writings are in Rajasthani and Hindi, their native languages.

For example, Ācārya Bhikṣu's 1787 Poem on CompassionAnukampā rī caupaī – gives the Terāpantha’s specific position on this topic. In his view, because good acts create karma, they also obstruct the liberation of the soul, just as bad acts do. Therefore all acts should be avoided, even acts of compassion. Activities are positive from the social point of view of everyday life, but they create disadvantages from the religious or absolute point of view. For him, pure renunciation of all activity is the highest aim.

Finally, under the influence of Ācārya Tulsī and Ācārya Mahāprajña, increasing numbers of books and pamphlets promoting Terāpanthin ideas in English are being published. This supports the work of the Terāpanthin samaṇas and samaṇis, who undertake missionary tours outside India among the Jain diaspora.

Significant beliefs and practices

The Terāpanthin do not worship images. Formed after a schism within the Sthānaka-vāsin Jains, who are against idol worship, the Terāpanthin sect has rejected image worship from its beginnings.

However, the Terāpanthins worship their living teachers as examples of religious conduct to follow.

Key characteristics of the sect's practices include:

  • 'insight meditation' – prekṣā dhyāna
  • Festival of Restraint – Maryādā Mahotsava
  • modernising outlook, demonstrated in the Aṇuvrat movement, creation of a new mendicant category, stress on female education and the nayā moḍ – 'new turn'.

Insight meditation

Tenth head of the Śvetāmbara sect of Terāpantha, Ācārya Mahāprajña meditates. In 1975 Ācārya Mahāprajña introduced 'insight meditation' – prekṣā dhyāna – which is now one of the principal Terāpanthin ways of worship

Ācārya Mahāprajña meditating
Image by Amitjain80 © CC BY-SA 3.0

Terāpanthins stress fasting, ascetic practices and meditation.

Since 1975, they have placed most emphasis on what they call prekṣā dhyāna – 'insight meditation'. This was introduced by Ācārya Mahāprajña in 1975, after twenty years of experimentation, following the success of the Buddhist meditation known as vipassanā. Insight meditation has become the hallmark of the Terāpanthins. Whether in India or abroad, they conduct classes and produce books to encourage more people to practise it.

Insight meditation aims to purify the practitioner’s mental state, which, according to Mahaprajna 2003:

  • involves 'careful concentration on subtle consciousness by mental insight', starting with perception of the body
  • produces 'spiritual vigilance, or awakening of the consciousness and constant alertness'
  • results in 'total relaxation of the body with self-awareness', which, together with awareness of one’s breathing, enables the meditator to channel and concentrate mental functioning
  • produces perception of body, psychic centres and psychic colours, of the present moment and of thoughts, which leads to self-discipline, which brings willpower.

Maryādā Mahotsava

A group of Jain nuns walks barefoot up a hill. Dressed in white robes with their heads covered, they all wear cloths fixed over their mouths, attached by strings over the ears. This identifies them as either Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin or Terā-panthin nuns.

Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin or Terā-panthin nuns
Image by arjunstc – Arjun © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

All monks and nuns in the Terāpanthin order attend the annual Festival of Restraint. Lay Terāpanthin communities send representatives to the festival, which lasts three or four days in January or February. Recently, it has become a large occasion, with some 50,000 pilgrims attending.

Instituted by Ācārya Jītmal – Jayācārya – in 1864 to mark Ācārya Bhikṣu’s completion of the rules governing monastic behaviour, the festival is when Terāpanthin mendicants recite an oath of loyalty to the ācārya. He chooses the members of groups of ascetics for the following year and decides where they will travel and spend the rainy season.

Modernising Jainism

Ācārya Tulsi was the head monk of the Śvetāmbara Terāpantha sect for 57 years. He was innovative, establishing the AĀuvrat Movement in 1949 and new types of mendicant in 1980. The samaṇas and samaṇīs can travel outside India, helping the Jain diaspora.

Ācārya Tulsi
Image by Pramodjain3 © CC BY-SA 3.0

In post-Independence India, Ācārya Tulsi insisted not only on the religious values of detachment and asceticism, but also that social values such as education and morality should be encouraged among the Jain laity.

In 1949 Ācārya Tulsi created the Aṇuvrat movement to develop non-violence and morality among lay followers. The movement is based on the aṇuvrat, meaning 'minor vows'. The term 'minor vows' describes the vows of lay Jains while Jain ascetics take the mahā-vrata or 'great vows'. Membership of the Aṇuvrat movement is open to all people, including non-Jains, and provides rules of ethics that guide everyday life. The rules emphasise self-restraint, tolerance, peace, friendship and unity. This shows Ācārya Tulsi’s drive to create a new Jain way of life and to extend traditional Jain values into wider society.

Female education is another area where Ācārya Tulsi’s contribution has been highly significant. The nuns, especially the samaṇis, are encouraged to study the scriptures and follow university courses. Several have gained PhDs in India and have written scholarly books.

In 1960 an initiative called nayā moḍ – 'new turn' – sought to stamp out ‘outdated’ social customs among the Terāpanth laity, such as dowries, ritual wailing and female purdah. Nowadays female education is encouraged and marriage across caste barriers permitted while dowries have been abolished.

Location

The main centres of Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin activity are in Rajasthan. This connection dates back to the birth of Ācārya Bhikṣu near Udaipur in the 18th century. It was reinforced by Ācārya Tulsi’s also being born in Rajasthan. His birthplace, Ladnun, is today the main centre of the Terāpantha.

Ladnun is also the seat of the Jain Vishva Bharati University, which is now the physical heart of the Terāpanthin movement. Founded in 1970, it combines spiritual and moral education in the Jain tradition with academic studies.

The activities of samaṇas and samaṇis among Jains outside India mean that the Terāpanthins are the fastest-growing Jain sect, although this increase is chiefly among the Jain diaspora. Today, lay followers of the Terāpanthins number between approximately 250,000 and 300,000.

Images

  • Ācārya Bhikṣu Ācārya Bhikṣu (1726–1803) founded the Terāpantha sect of the Śvetāmbara Jains in Rajasthan, western India. Meaning either 'path of the 13' or 'your group', the sect's name also refers to 13 major elements of Jain doctrine. This sect does not worship images, instead focusing on mental worship, especially 'insight meditation' – prekṣā dhyāna.. Image by Pramodjain3 © PD
  • Ācārya Mahāprajña with Ācārya Bhikṣu The previous head of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect, Ācārya Mahāprajña preaches to followers. Behind him is a background with a picture of the founder of the sect, Ācārya Bhikṣu.. Image by Terapanth © PD
  • Discussing the scriptures Ācārya Mahāprajña, Ācārya Tulsi and followers discuss editions of the holy scriptures, the Āgamas. Ācārya Tulsi was leader of the sect of Śvetāmbara Terāpanthins until 1997 and was succeeded by Ācārya Mahāprajña until 2010. The Śvetāmbara Terāpanthins believe that 32 texts make up the canon and actively spread the scriptures. Examples include allowing nuns to read them and publishing critical editions.. Image by Amitjain80 © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Ācārya Mahāprajña meditating Tenth head of the Śvetāmbara sect of Terāpantha, Ācārya Mahāprajña meditates. In 1975 Ācārya Mahāprajña introduced 'insight meditation' – prekṣā dhyāna – which is now one of the principal Terāpanthin ways of worship. Intended to purify the practitioner’s mental state, it is also practised by people who are not members of this sect or religion. . Image by Amitjain80 © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin or Terā-panthin nuns A group of Jain nuns walks barefoot up a hill. Dressed in white robes with their heads covered, they all wear cloths fixed over their mouths, attached by strings over the ears. This identifies them as members of either of the Śvetāmbara sects of Sthānaka-vāsin or Terā-panthin.. Image by arjunstc – Arjun © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Ācārya Tulsi Ācārya Tulsi was the head monk – ācārya – of the Śvetāmbara Terāpantha sect for 57 years. His main innovations were founding the Aṇuvrat Movement in 1949 and establishing new types of mendicant in 1980. The samaṇas and samaṇīs may take transport, thus helping to spread Jain teachings outside India.. Image by Pramodjain3 © CC BY-SA 3.0

Further Reading

‘Observations sur la secte jaina des Terāpanthin’
Nalini Balbir
Bulletin d’Études Indiennes
volume 1
Association Française pour les Études Indiennes; 1983

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

‘Jain Monastic Life: A Quantitative Study of the Terāpanth Śvetāmbara Mendicant Order’
Peter Flügel
Jaina Studies: Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies
edited by Peter Flügel
volume 4
Centre of Jaina Studies, SOAS; 2009

Full details

‘Demographic Trends in Jaina Monasticism’
Peter Flügel
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Disputes and Dialogues
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 1
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2006

Full details

‘The Codes of Conduct of the Terāpanth Samaṇ Order’
Peter Flügel
South Asia Research
volume 23: 1
SAGE Publications; 2003

Full details

‘Spiritual Accounting: The Role of the Kalyāṇaka Patra in the Religious Economy of the Terāpanth Śvetāmbara Jain Ascetics’
Peter Flügel
Jainism and Early Buddhism in the Indian Cultural Context: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini
edited by Olle Qvarnström
Asian Humanities Press; Fremont, California, USA; 2003

Full details

‘Terapanth Svetambara Jain Tradition’
Peter Flügel
Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices
edited by J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann
volume 4
ABC-Clio Ltd; Santa Barbara, California USA; 2002

Full details

‘The Ritual Circle of the Terāpanth Śvetāmbara Jains’
Peter Flügel
Bulletin d’Études Indiennes
volume 13
Association Française pour les Études Indiennes; 1996

Full details

Preksha Dhyana: Basic Principles
Ācārya Mahāprajña
translated by Muni Mahendra Kumar and Jethalal S. Zaveri
edited by Muni Mahendra Kumar
Jain Vishwa Bharati; Ladnun, Rajasthan, India; 2003

Full details

‘Une secte religieuse dans l’Inde contemporaine’
Louis Renou
and Marie-Simone Renou
Études
École Française d’Extrême-Orient; Paris, France; 1951

Full details

Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of a Jain Ascetic Community
Anne Vallely
University of Toronto Press; Toronto, Canada; 2002

Full details

Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details

Glossary

Ācārya

Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.

Ascetic

Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.

Asceticism

The practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition. Asceticism involves self-denial – for example refusing tasty food or warm clothes – and sometimes self-mortification, such as wearing hair-shirts or whipping oneself.

Buddhist

A follower of Buddhism. There are two main schools of Buddhism, namely:

  • Theravāda – 'the Teaching of the Elders' in Pali – is older and is found chiefly in Sri Lanka and continental South East Asia
  • Māhayana – 'Great Vehicle' in Sanskrit – is the larger sect and is followed mainly in East Asia and the Himalayan nations.

Both sects are practised in India.

Caste

Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:

  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.

Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

Detachment

Not feeling attached to any things, people or emotions in the world, whether positive or negative. Jains believe that detachment from the world is necessary to progress spiritually towards the ultimate aim of freeing the soul from the cycle of rebirth.

Dhyāna

Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.

Diaspora

From the Greek term meaning 'scattering or dispersal', the word 'diaspora' describes large groups of people with shared roots who live away from their ancestral homes. They have usually moved because they were forced to by other groups, because they have fled war, famine or persecution, or to improve economic opportunies. They usually have strong emotional, religious, linguistic, social and economic ties to their original homeland.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Festival

A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 

Gupti

'Self control'. There are three types of restraint relating to this:

  • mind - manas
  • speech - vacas
  • body - kāya.

The guptis are intended to minimise using the mind, body or speech for spiritually unimportant purposes or even aimlessly.

Hindi

The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Indian Independence

With its independence from the British Empire on 15 August 1947, India became a secular, sovereign state. The date of 15 August is a national holiday in the Republic of India.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jīva

Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Mahā-vrata

The five vows taken by ascetics. Monks and nuns must follow these ‘absolute’ vows of:

  • non-violence – ahiṃsā
  • truth – satya
  • taking only what is given – asteya
  • celibacy – brahmacarya
  • non-attachment or non-possession – aparigraha.

The 24th Jina Mahāvīra added a fifth vow to his predecessor Pārśva's four, making the vow of celibacy not just implicit but a separate vow.

Monastic order

A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.

Monk

A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Muhpattī

Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.

This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.

Muni

Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.

Nun

A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Pilgrimage

A journey to a place of religious significance. Some religions encourage pilgrimage as ways to advance spiritual progress and deepen the faith of those who make the trip – pilgrims.

Pramukhā

Title for a head nun in the Terāpantha sect who commands smaller units of nuns. However, her role is that of a co-ordinator in practical matters and she is not considered the female counterpart of the ācārya or preceptor. He is the decision-making authority and she remains junior to him.

Pūjā

Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Rainy season

The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.

Rajasthan

The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.

Rajasthani

The language spoken in Rajasthan, in north-western India, and surrounding states. It is also spoken in some parts of neighbouring Pakistan. Also the adjective describing people, things or places in or associated with the state of Rajasthan.

Renunciation

Giving up something. A lay person who becomes an ascetic renounces the life of a householder within society, instead choosing the physical hardships of being a monk or nun. The formal renunciation ceremony in Jainism is dīkṣā.

Sādhu

A common term for Jain male mendicants.

Sādhvī

A common term for Jain female mendicants.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

Samaṇi

A special category of nuns in the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect. The nuns are officially free from certain rules restricting their movements and can visit institutions in India or go abroad to pursue academic research or minister to the Jain diaspora.

Samiti

Carefulness, which has five aspects. Ascetics can reduce accidental violence by being careful and observing rules in these five areas:

  • motion – īryā
  • speech – bhāṣā
  • cooking, eating and begging for food – eṣaṇā
  • lifting and placing items, moving things – ādānanikśepaṇa
  • disposing of bodily waste – pariṣṭhāpana.

Schism

A serious split in a philosophical or religious movement or organisation, leading to the establishment of various groups with different beliefs, which may be hostile to each other.

Scripture

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.

Sect

An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.

Sthānaka-vāsin

The Sanskrit phrase meaning ‘hall-dwellers’ is used for a Śvetāmbara movement that opposes the worship of images and the building of temples. The term Sthānaka-vāsī, whose origin remains unclear, came into widespread use in the early 20th century. The movement's roots can be traced to the 15th-century reform movement initiated by Loṅkā Śāh, from which the founders of the Sthānaka-vāsī traditions separated in the 17th century. Sthānaka-vāsīns practise mental worship through meditation. The lay members venerate living ascetics, who are recognisable from the mouth-cloth – muhpattī – they wear constantly.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

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