UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Jain values, worship and the Tirthankara image Leavitt, Roy L.


The main purpose of the thesis is to examine Jain worship and the role of the Jains1 Tirthankara images in worship. The thesis argues that the worshipper emulates the Tirthankara image which embodies Jain values and that these values define and, in part, dictate proper behavior. In becoming like the image, the worshipper's actions express the common concerns of the Jains and follow a pattern that is prized because it is believed to be especially Jain. The basic orientation or line of thought is that culture is a system of symbols. These symbols are implicit agreements among the community's members, agreements which entail values and which permit the Jains to meaningfully interpret their experiences and guide their actions. The thesis traces the connections between Jain doctrine and ethical beliefs, and their practical manifestations in ritual, social action and institutions, artistic symbolism and the experiences and sentiments of the Jains. The thesis goes on to argue that the worship of the Tirthankara image expresses those more firmly entrenched values of Jainism which, during worship, are grounded in the metaphysical. When publicly recognized in the ritual context, these values permit the Jains to recognize their cultural unity and to identify themselves with the Tirthankara image, a constant reminder of the ideal person and the ideal society. By becoming like the image, the worshipper not only has an opportunity to reflect on his progress toward liberation but to reflect upon his position within his community and devise a strategy to maintain or improve his social prestige. In the final section, the thesis addresses the artistic symbolism of the image. This section argues that the image represents in aggregate those ideal qualities—achieved only through proper action—which are essential before attaining liberation and which are used to determine one's ritual prestige. The image symbolizes the proper behavior with which every Jain ought to comply in the ritual and social contexts. This section maintains that the image expresses a cultural idiom used to interpret one's past, present and future experiences and actions, as well as the nature of those social relationships seen as fundamental in each Jain's struggle for spiritual and social prestige.

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