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The Transformations and Challenges of a Jain Religious Aspirant from Layperson to Ascetic: An Anthropological Study of Shvetambar Terapanthi Female Mumukshus

By Komal Ashok Kumar


This thesis explores the challenges that Shvetambar Terapanthi Jain female mumukshus (religious aspirants) face during their training at the Parmarthik Shikshan Sanstha, an institute unique to this sect dedicated to training young females to become nuns. The educational requirements, secluded social environment, disciplined rules, and monastic hierarchies train aspirants to understand the demands of nunhood. Based on interviews and observations, aspirants express their struggle to balance the personal desire to progress spiritually toward liberation (moksha) that motivated them to renounce with the requirement to raise their juniors as part of the ascetic community, a new kind of familial structure. The disparity in the training of female and male renouncers in the Terapanth reveals problems that remain in the gendered way female renouncers are treated in their training. Renunciation is shown not to be gender neutral, leading to a more nuanced understanding of Jain asceticism in contemporary India

Topics: Ethnographic study, Terapanthi Female Mumukshus, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, New Religious Movements, Other Religion, Rhetoric, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Publisher: FIU Digital Commons
Year: 2016
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