The 2500-year-old tradition of Jainism, which emphasizes nonviolence as the only true path leading to liberation, offers a worldview seemingly compatible with the goals of environmental activism. But can Jainism adopt a sociocentric environmentalism without compromising its own ascetic principles and spiritual tradition? How does traditional Jain cosmology view the natural world? How might a Jain ethical system respond to decisions regarding the development of dams, the proliferation of automobiles, overcrowding due to overpopulation, or the protection of individual animal species? Can there be a Jain environmental activism that addresses both the traditional concern for individual self-purification and the contemporary dilemma of ecosystem degradation? The voices in Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in This Web of Life reflect the dynamic nature of the Jain faith and its willingness to engage in discussion on a modern social issue.
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Christopher Key Chapple is Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University.
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