Studies & Degrees in Jaina Studies

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Are you a graduate student, perhaps with an undergraduate degree in history, philosophy or world religions and looking for a specialty in which to focus your graduate studies?  Have you considered pursuing a Master’s or Doctorate degree in Jaina Studies?  Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings.  In the present day, there are an estimated eight million followers of the Jaina ways, primarily in India, but also in growing numbers in North America, Western Europe, Australia and the Far East.  To help you become more familiar with Jaina Studies and the graduate degree program that bears its name, below we will provide a brief synopsis of Jainism and introduce you to the curriculum you are likely to encounter while pursuing this degree.
About Jaina Studies and Jainism
Followers of Jainism, a religion that originated in India, believe in non-violence, not only between humans but towards all living things.  They practice a doctrine and philosophy which emphasizes the necessity of moving the soul through self-effort towards a state of divine consciousness and liberation.  According to the Jaina doctrine, any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies, thus achieving the state of Supreme Being, is called a “jina,” which translates to victor or conqueror.  Under the religion, these perfect souls ultimately reach the desired status that all Jainists aspire to, a status called siddha.  Ancient writings also refer to Jainism as shramana dharma (self-reliant) or the path of nirganthas (those without attachments or aversions).
Graduate Programs in Jaina Studies
Jaina Studies is a program that is offered primarily at major Indian universities, but also at a select number of universities in places such as China and Spain.  The course of study is most commonly offered at the graduate level, with a Master of Arts degree in Jaina Studies serving as the prerequisite for the doctoral program.  Master’s degrees in the discipline typically span two to three years, while doctorate programs, which include a dissertation that must be approved by and presented to the faculty, can take anywhere from three to five years to complete.
The course content or curriculum for the Jaina Studies program is broken down into two main modules, The History of Jainism and Contemporary Jainism, each of which covers a number of different topics.
  • The History of Jainism.  While the Jain doctrine teaches that Jainism has always existed and will always exist, historians date the present form of Jainism back to sometime between the 9th and 6th centuries BCE.
  • Contemporary Jainism.  Jainism has approximately eight million followers worldwide, most of whom live in India.  In that country, the religion has had a significant influence on ethical, political and economic policy.  Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship and have the highest degree of literacy for a religious community in India.  Jain libraries are the oldest in the country.
Some of the topics students will cover while pursuing a graduate degree in Jaina Studies include:
  • Main principles and core beliefs of Jainism
  • Non-violence and the concept of Karma
  • Customs and practices of Jainism, including meditation, pacifism, vegetarianism, monasticism and fasting.
  • Worship and rituals of the Jain religion
  • Jainism and its contribution to Indian culture
  • And many more…
Candidates who wish to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Jaina Studies must possess at least a Bachelor degree in philosophy, world religions, cultural studies or a related field, while doctoral candidates are expected to complete the M.A. program before applying for admission into the program.