Jainism constitutes one of India’s three classical religions, the others being Buddhism and Hinduism. Though older than Buddhism by a generation, Jainism has much in common with it. Both arose and were first spread in northeastern India. Both aim to lead their followers away from the painful cycle of endless rebirths (samsara) and toward the liberation from all suffering (nirvana). Both also rejected many of the practices and ideas of early Hinduism, particularly the religion’s ritual sacrifice of animals, preaching instead a doctrine of non-violence. Today the commitment to an ethic that regards all life—animal and human—as inviolate continues to be the heart of Jain practice and belief.
The exhibition Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection is centered on images of the founding figures of Jainism, the Jinas, also known as the “Conquerors” or Tirthankaras. These important religious figures, despite their having achieved liberation from the world in which we live, are believed to be accessible to humans as objects of devotion. Thus many Jains worship images of the Jinas and believe that they can be found in different sacred spaces throughout the universe. In addition to fine examples of painting and sculpture depicting the Jinas, Victorious Ones will also present these spaces that the Jinas sanctify, including painted maps of the Jain universe, depictions of famous pilgrimage sites, beautiful domestic shrines, and ritual diagrams (yantras) that were made of both durable and ephemeral materials.
Jain Programs and Events
The Image of the Jina
Curator Phyllis Granoff discusses images of the Jinas and how medieval Jain monks viewed these founding figures.
Dr. Granoff will be participating in a symposium on Jain art this Fall at Yale University. Please visit here for more details.
Ecologist, author, and filmmaker Michael Tobias introduces his film Ahimsa: Nonviolence and moderates a post-screening discussion.
Karma Theory According to Jain Scriptures
An open discussion with two nuns from the Jain Vishwa Bharati of New Jersey Center.