Synopses & Reviews
John Cort explores the narratives by which the Jains have explained the presence of icons of Jinas (their enlightened and liberated teachers) that are worshiped and venerated in the hundreds of thousands of Jain temples throughout India. Most of these narratives portray icons favorably, and so justify their existence; but there are also narratives originating among iconoclastic Jain communities that see the existence of temple icons as a sign of decay and corruption. The veneration of Jina icons is one of the most widespread of all Jain ritual practices. Nearly every Jain community in India has one or more elaborate temples, and as the Jains become a global community there are now dozens of temples in North America, Europe, Africa, and East Asia. The cult of temples and icons goes back at least two thousand years, and indeed the largest of the four main subdivisions of the Jains are called Murtipujakas, or "Icon Worshipers." A careful reading of narratives ranging over the past 15 centuries, says Cort, reveals a level of anxiety and defensiveness concerning icons, although overt criticism of the icons only became explicit in the last 500 years. He provides detailed studies of the most important pro- and anti-icon narratives. Some are in the form of histories of the origins and spread of icons. Others take the form of cosmological descriptions, depicting a vast universe filled with eternal Jain icons. Finally, Cort looks at more psychological explanations of the presence of icons, in which icons are defended as necessary spiritual corollaries to the very fact of human embodiedness.
"This is an invaluable addition to our knowledge of the origins and reception of image worship in India and the debates that it sparked. Too often Jain speculation on major issues is ignored and this meticulously researched book fills an important gap in scholarship."
--Phyllis Granoff, Lex Hixon Professor of World Religions, Yale University
"Framing the Jina is a tour de force which I read with mounting excitement and admiration. Cort's study is firmly grounded on a description of the historical interplay between the highly articulate iconic and aniconic traditions in Ívetåmbara Jainism, but its argument carries much further into the broader area of theoretical discourse about the function of scriptural texts and mimetic representation. Its range of reference and clarity of exposition make this book obligatory reading for anybody with an interest in image worship and its opponents, whether in South Asian traditions or the West Asian monotheisms."
--Paul Dundas, Reader in Sanskrit, University of Edinburgh.
About the Author
Associate Professor of Religion, Denison University
Table of Contents
Note on Language, Transliteration and Names
Introduction: Lives, Frames, Terms
Chapter 1: The Archaeology of Jina Images
Chapter 2: Icons and Cosmology: A Cosmos Filled with Eternal Icons and Temples
Chapter 3: The Spread of Icons in Our World
Chapter 4: The Lifetime "Living Lord" Icon of Mahavira: Anxiety about the Authenticity of Icons
Chapter 5: Idols and a History of Corruption
Chapter 6: The Inevitability of Tangible Form: A Natural Theology of Icons
Conclusion: Framing the Jina
Appendix: Titles of Jain Texts