First Project on Jain Art History and Religion enriches German Research Centre

Posted: 22.06.2016


Press Release

First Project on Jain Art History and Religion enriches German Research Centre

16 June 2016, by Kaete Hamburger Kolleg Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe.

Bochum, Germany - Every year internationally renowned scholars from the broad range of fields within humanities are invited to conduct their research at one of the ten international Kaete Hamburger Centres in Germany. Funded by the German government, these centres give them the opportunity to spend time on a single research project for a prolonged period as visiting research fellows. Among these institutes is the Kaete Hamburger Kolleg at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. It focuses on the dynamics in the history of religions between Asia and Europe.
Campus of Ruhr-Universität Bochum

For the first time, Bochum’s Kaete Hamburger Kolleg has included a project on Jain religion into its portfolio. Dr. Patrick Krueger, a scholar in Jainology and South Asian art history from Leipzig University, was invited this year to start a research project on Jain art history and religion, entitled ‘The Visualization of the Dharma - New Perspectives of the Origin and the Meaning of the Jina Image and the Beginning of Jain Image Worshipping’.

Jainism included

Every academic researcher at Bochum’s Kaete Hamburger Kolleg follows an overarching topic. In the current season it is the relation of religion with senses or sensory perceptions. In this context, Dr. Krueger broaches the issue of ‘visualisation’ in ancient Jainism, which formed the Jain ritual culture in an exceptional manner. As it is generally known, visualisation, i.e. the sight of the sacred or the deity, has an important place in all religions derived on the Indian subcontinent. It is, however, absolutely astonishing that especially Jainism developed any kind of images, even if it was said to be an ascetic order, whose members refused any kind of possessions. The creation of both the Jina image, which was presumably adopted by the Buddhists, and an own Jain art transformed the Jainism. By both developments the orally transmitted doctrine of the ascetics became visible to the lay devotees. Thus, the Jain religion was enlarged from a pure audible doctrine to a highly visible cult. Words became images, or were at least accompanied by them. Hence, the beginning of Jain ritual culture, including the meaning of the earliest Jina images, cannot be understood only through textual tradition. These sources only deal with the monastic life of the ascetics, where objects of worshipping and even rituals were not assured. The research project therefore intends to investigate the origin of the Jina image and the worshipping of the Jain image from a new perspective. It is primarily based on the non-textual traditions of the ancient lay communities, which were later adopted by the learned Jain monks of the medieval times. It were these monks, which, on the other hand, formed the modern Jainism, where visualisation and sight of both, the Tīrthaṁkara and his eternal religious law, is of special importance.

Building of the Kaete Hamburger Centre at the Center for Religious Studies

The Kaete Hamburger Kolleg 'Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe' commenced its research activities under the direction of Prof. Dr. Volkhard Krech in April 2008 and is incorporated in the Center for Religious Studies, an independent academic unit of Ruhr-Universität Bochum. In addition to the visiting research fellows, numerous local scholars from the university are involved in the institution's research programme, which brings together scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines: Religious studies, Classics, Protestant and Catholic theologies, Islamic studies, Japanese studies, Korean studies, Sinology, Indology, Jewish studies, history, philosophy, and from now on Jainology. The research programme focuses on the formation and expansion of religions, the mutual permeation of religious traditions and their densifications into the complex figurations widely called 'world religions.' Regionally, the research covers these phenomena in Europe and Asia. The academic goal is to establish and test a typology of contacts of religions and an overarching theory regarding the transfer of religions. Fundamental results are published in the academic series 'Dynamics in the History of Religions' with Brill and the online journal 'Entangled Religions' is edited at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

About Kaete Hamburger Centre

The Kaete Hamburger Centre ‘Dynamics in the History of Religions’ is a Bochum based academic institution funded by the German government.

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To learn more about the Kaete Hamburger Centre and the work of Dr. Patrick Krueger contact
Mr. Ulf Plessentin
Käte Hamburger Kolleg
Center for Religious Studies
Universitätsstr. 90a
44789 Bochum - Germany

Jainism as Visual Root following interview with project leader Dr. Patrick Krueger gives insights into the state of research of Jain art history at Bochum’s Kaete Hamburger Kolleg.

Q.: Dr. Krueger, since you have worked in the field of Jainology for many years, what is the present situation of Jain studies in Germany?

A.: There are only a few scholars of Indology or religious studies, who dedicate their researches on Jainism. Until the 1960’s, Jainism had have an important place within the field of Indology at German universities, but since then it has been widely neglected. Today, the research of Buddhism is very popular within university when it comes to South-Asian religions. Jain studies, however, have led into a niche existence.

Q.: What is so special in the research of Jainism in Germany, where - except from some believers - no Jainas ever have lived?

A.: Historically, the study and research of Jainism at German universities was mostly text based right from the beginning in the 19th century. That is why Jainology was first and foremost a field of philological Indology. An exceptional case were the Jain studies in Berlin, where Jain art history was an inherent part of the research in addition to the textual sources. One of the major aspects, that was emphasized not only in Indology and the research of Jainism but among German scholars in general, was always the question of methodology. The central question was what is the sensus literalis historicus and that lead to the development of the historical-critical method.

Q.: Your current research project is situated not at an institution for Indology but rather for religious studies. How does this peculiar institutional affiliation affect your research?

A.: I truly entered uncharted terrain in a way, but it is a great chance in order to enlarge the research questions. While the fields of Jain philology that focus on literature, manuscripts etc. and Jain art history were partly separated in the past, I now have the chance to bring both sections closer together and intermingle them. Compared to the philological methods of Indology the approach of religious studies is different to some extent. But in my opinion this provides far more chances and challenges than problems.

Q.: Could you be more specific on the chances and challenges?

A.: From an Indological perspective, which is mainly based on texts, Jainology means only to research ancient and medieval stages of Jain religion. Given the opportunities by the connections to other scholars of religious studies, there is a chance to move the study of Jainism forward while including aspects of the sociology of Jain religion, or studies of ritual and media. This mixing of different approaches and sources may help to develop a better understanding of ancient Jainism and its history. Additionally, it brings us a broader image of the modern and contemporary Jain religion - something we surely cannot cull from the mere study of ancient texts.

Q.: Which significance has Jainism within the field of religious studies in Germany?

A.: Of course, the existence and importance of Jainism is known among scholars and students of religious studies, but in most cases there is no profound knowledge about what Jainism is like. Understandably, the research field is first and foremost dominated by the major religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. However, there is much interest growing in minority religions, whether it is Yazidi religion or Jainism. In this regard, my current research project might be a somehow contribution to include Jainism to the research field of the religious studies, so that even in future times it has a place in this subject. This would be very desirable, not only because Jainism is a minority religion, but also because it was of special importance in the history of religions.

Q.: What makes Jainism that important?

A.: Well, there are many aspects. It is well-known that Jainism, together with Buddhism and Hinduism, is one of the three religions, which originated in ancient India. In this regard, Jain religion made so many important contributions to the formation of ancient Indian culture. To understand the history of culture and religions in South-Asia, you simply have to know about Jainism. Another aspect is the beginning of art in ancient India. Speaking from the position of an art-historian, it is also well-known within the academic world, that there are two regions in the antiquity, where a canonized iconography arose to create cult icons: On the one hand, it was ancient Greece, and on the other ancient India. This process of ‘visualisation’ of religion would have been totally different, if Jainism hadn’t played an important role. As far as we know by now it was the Jina image, from which the Buddha icon was derived. To understand Buddhist art requires doubtlessly the knowledge of Jain art. If we have a look on numberless Buddha images in Thailand, China and Japan, we may not forget that the beginning of this imagery was the depiction of the Jina. The Jina image is the very root for any of them.

All pictures: © RUB, K. Marquard


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