JAINISM: AN INTRODUCTION
By Jeffery D. Long.
NewYork:I.B.Tauris, 2009. Pp.xxiv + 240. Cloth,£45.00; paper,£ 14.99.
This book, intended for use in undergraduate classes on religion, presents a reliable outline of the history, philosophy, and ritual practices of Jainism, emphasizing how Jain ideals such as “relativity” and nonviolence can be used to foster religious pluralism and an environmental ethic. Long begins by explicitly endorsing Jain teachings, arguing that he will depart from recent Western scholarship by presenting the religion not as a historical phenomenon, but as atimeless, consistent set of ideals. Despite this troubling methodology, chapters one to four outlining the history, doctrines, and observances of Jains, do keep historical considerations in mind, giving a sufﬁcient introduction to the tradition. In these chapters, Long builds upon existing introductory books by adding a more extensive discussion of Jainism in the Diaspora and of twentieth-century movements. The second half of the book, which focuses on what the author calls “The Jain Doctrines of Relativity”(aneka¯ntava¯da, sya¯dva¯da and nayava¯da), also historicizes these philosophical tools, effectively situating them in the context of competing Indian philosophies. Some scholars will take issue with Long’s tone, as he often comes off as a Jain theologian. They also may disagree with his translation of aneka¯ntava¯da, a philosophical stance in many ways anti-thetical to relativism, as a doctrine of “relativity.” The author anticipates these concerns, however, and presents his increasingly inﬂuential interpretation of aneka¯ntava¯da within the Jain community in a sophisticated manner. It is for this reason that the book could stimulate important discussions in an introductory class on religion or South Asia.
Ellen Gough Yale University