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Kristi L. Wiley is a graduate student in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently writing her Ph.D. dissertation entitled Aghatiya Karma: Agents of Embodiment in Jainism. She is the recipient of a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (1997-98).

 

Abstract of paper given at Jainism and Ecology conference:
The Nature of Nature: Jain Perspectives on the Natural World

Jainism has placed great emphasis on minimizing harm to all living beings, even those who experience the world through only one sense, the sense of touch. In addition, Jains maintain that a soul may repeatedly by born in one of the four states of existence (gatis) as a heavenly being (deva), hell being (naraki), human (manusya), or as a plant or animal (tiryanca). For these reasons, Jains have sough to understand the nature of each type of embodiment. Jain textual sources contain descriptions of the characteristics of embodiment not just as a human or animal but in all categories that comprise the tiryanca gati. These sources reveal that there are certain distinctions that can be made among even the most basic forms of embodiment, the one-sensed beings (ekendriyas), including plants as well as souls with earth bodies (prthvi-kayika), water bodies (ap-kayika), fire bodies (tejo-kayika), and air bodies (vayu-kayika). While the potential for spiritual advancement of a five-sensed rational animal (pancendriya-samjni) has been frequently discussed, there has been less scholarly research on the other animals and on the plants and one-sensed beings that comprise the natural world. This paper will discuss Jain understandings of the characteristics of these living beings and the ways in which these views shape Jain perspectives on the natural world.

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Jainism and Ecology conference participants