, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 119-176
Date: 14 Mar 2012

Sacred Matter: Reflections on the Relationship of Karmic and Natural Causality in Jaina Philosophy

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The article examines a fundamental problem in classical Jaina philosophy, namely, the ontological status of dead matter in the hylozoistic and at the same time dualistic Jaina worldview. This question is of particular interest in view of the widespread contemporary Jaina practice of venerating bone relics and stūpas of prominent saints. The main argument proposed in this article is, that, from a classical doctrinal point of view, bone relics of renowned ascetics are valuable for Jainas, if at all, because of their unique physical attributes, rather than the presumed presence of the deceased in the remains as posited in much of the extant literature on relic worship across cultures. The specific focus of the article are Jaina and non-Jaina explanations of the qualities of special matter in terms of karmic and natural processes of transformation.

This article is dedicated to Karel Werner. The research was in part funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Fellowship AH/I002405/1. I am indebted to Ācārya Śubhacandra, and Muni Padmacandra (Jaymalgacch), and Ācārya Sunīlsāgara, Muni Amodhakārti, and Muni Amarakīrti (Digambara Ācārya Ādisāgara Aṅkalīkara Paramparā) for their explanations of details of Jaina karman theory; and to Lance Cousins, Padmanabh S. Jaini, Kristi Wiley and J. Clifford Wright for their insightful comments on earlier versions of the text.