Living Jainism book cover

Living Jainism: An Ethical Science (with Kanti V. Mardia) (Mantra Books, 2013)

Living Jainism is the third of Aidan Rankin’s studies of Jainism as a philosophy which has universal significance despite its distinctively Indian character. It is written in collaboration with Professor Kanti Mardia of the University of Leeds. Kanti is Senior Research Professor in Statistics. He was educated in both India and the United Kingdom and has lectured extensively in both countries. Living Jainism takes as its inspiration Kanti’s earlier book The Scientific Foundations of Jainism, building on the themes of this earlier study and adding new approaches. Aidan brings to the book the perspectives of the social sciences, whereas Kanti’s perspectives are drawn from the disciplines of Mathematics and Physics, as well as his experience as a practising Jain and President of the Yorkshire Jain Foundation.

From the standpoint of Jainism, the ‘hard’ (physical) and ‘soft’ (social) sciences are not separate but points on a continuum. Neither would be complete without the other. Jainism is a culture and a sensibility or way of looking at the world as much as it is a philosophy or faith tradition. Hence the concept of ‘Jainness’, rather than Jainism, is introduced in this book. The values of Jainness can be shared by anyone, whatever their cultural background, for Jains do not seek to convert others but exercise subtle influence.

For the lay man or woman, Jain values are founded on tolerance, freedom of conscience and inquiry, meditation and the non-violent pursuit of truth. The pursuit of truth by this method resembles the process of rational scientific inquiry. While ‘objective’ truth is held to exist (unlike postmodernism or cultural relativism, for example), our understanding of it increases continuously through experiment, intuition or insight. Equally, it is possible for our understanding to decrease, through fanaticism, fundamentalism or cleaving to fixed ideas. The spiritual quest mirrors the processes undertaken by the researcher in a laboratory and the spiritual seeker, like the scientist, has to be ‘his or her own guru’.

Jainism – or Jainness – is a Dharma, which means that it is seen by its adherents as a cosmic law or universal order as well as an ethical teaching. This is why, in Western terms, it can be viewed as an ‘ethical science’, blurring or even abolishing the differences between human-centred ‘morality’ and physical ‘laws’. The practitioner of meditation aims to bring him or herself into alignment with the Dharma, which means balancing pure reason with a social conscience extending beyond the human community. In Jainism, there is “such a thing as society”, but it encompasses animals and the rest of the natural world as well as humans.

A motto for Jains is Parosparopagraho Jivanam: ‘All life is bound together or interconnected’, an insight that anticipated the modern (and mainly Western) green movement by two millennia. Each individual life form contains jiva, the life essence or unit of life and is connected by this shared quality. In the same way as species adapt and evolve, each individual jiva can take many lifetimes to reach Moksha (liberation or enlightenment) and break out of the cycle of samsara: birth, death and rebirth. Samsara is a concept shared by most Buddhists and Hindus, but the Jain idea of karma differs from that of the other great Indic religions. Karma is viewed as a form of subtle matter (karmic particles or ‘karmons’, as Kanti describes them). Karmic particles adhere to the jiva as a result of material attachment – or attachment to ideological dogmas. Reduction of karmic influence is achieved through acquiring knowledge, but also through understanding, compassion and the pursuit of non-violence in thought and action.

The Jain view of karma is interpreted literally or viewed as a poetic intuition, but it points towards a more balanced and ethical way of living. Jain ethics emphasise careful action, restraint and responsibility towards fellow humans and the environment. Environmental or ‘green’ consciousness, like Jainness, combines scientific and ethical understanding.

 

Praise for Living Jainism

‘Essential reading for anyone interested in the philosophy of Jainism for our time.’

David Lorimer, Scientific and Medical Network

 

‘Exquisite scholarship … I cannot recommend this book more highly.’

Rev. Lynne Sedgmore, CBE, Interfaith Minister

 

‘An outstanding book from two very talented scholars of Jain philosophy and wisdom.’

Dr Atul K. Shah, CEO, Diverse Ethics