Incredible India is the tag line used so often by many agencies to promote tourist attraction to India. If there was a tourist present in the legislative assembly hall of Haryana state of “secular” India yesterday, she might have felt “incredibly” disgusted.
They would have witnessed a completely naked man, sitting on the dais above the seats of Governor and Chief Minister of the state, and giving a lecture to the people’s representatives. That man’s name was Tarun Sagar, a famous monk of Digambara sect of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion. He said:
The control of dharma (morality) over politics is essential. Dharma is the husband and politics is the wife. It is the duty of every husband to protect his wife and it is the duty of every wife to accept the orders (discipline) of her husband,” “if there is no control of dharma over politics, it will be like an elephant out of control,”
This was not a surprise. The ruling Hindutva party,the BJP , consider all the religions originated from South Asian geographical area as their own and really believe in the “spiritual superiority” of Indian philosophies.
Also it was not surprising to hear such misogynist statements from the monk. His sect of Jainism, the Digambara sect, can be considered as the most misogynist of all religions that originated here.
Digambara comes from Dig (direction) and ambara (cloth) in Sanskrit. That means those who wear spaces of four sides as their clothes. In other words they do not use any clothes at all. Clothes being an attachment is, they believe, a hindrance to reach the ultimate aim, moksha (liberation from re births ). There is another sect of Jainism called Svetambara, whose monks wears white clothes. For them moksha can be attained with or without clothes.
Both sects agree that women cannot go around naked.
If women went around naked it would cause men to experience sexual desire and the desire produced would hinder the man’s progress to liberation.
Naked women would feel ashamed of being naked and the feeling of shame would hinder their progress to liberation.
It’s also intended to prevent the disruptive consequences of allowing women to walk around naked.
Digambaras thus think a woman can attain moksha only after being re-born as a man, because for them naked living is mandatory for it. Svetambaras think women can attain moksha with clothes on if all other criteria are met.
For Digambaras women are inferior not only because of their inability to attain moksha but also for other reasons.
Jains consider injuring any living thing, even an ant under your feet, as grave sin. That is why when they walk or sit, they clear the area off any insects with a piccihi, a broom made off fallen peacock feathers. Digambaras consider women as less non-violent than men.
This scholarly review of Jain scriptures and writings describe the misogyny in Jainism like this:
According to the unanimous Jaina view, certain portions of a woman’s body, particularly orifices and indentations such as the genitals, the space between the breasts, the armpits, and the navel, give rise to vast numbers of minute and subtle living organisms, known as aparyaptas ;. These creatures, sometimes seen as arising specifically from menstrual and other bodily fluids are, the argument goes, destroyed in vast numbers by the ordinary activities of the woman whose body is their host and so she is seen as inevitably the agent of massive involuntary himsa ;, or injury to living beings. Moreover, it is thought that the activities of these microscopic beings in the genitals are perceived by women as a sort of “itching” that can be relieved only through intercourse. As a result of this, Digambara authors such as Kundakunda argue that a woman is, by virtue of her very anatomy, incapable of fully adopting the great vows incumbent on an aspirant to liberation for, as a consequence of her inevitable infestation with these aparyaptas, she is, on the one hand, constantly violating the cardinal Jaina precept of ahimsa, or noninjury to living beings, and, on the other, never free from the sexual desires that block spiritual progress.
It is argued, for example, that women are not only physically weaker than men, and hence unable to endure the harsh asceticism regarded as necessary for liberation, but are intellectually, ethically, and morally inferior as well. Thus Sakatayana cites, as his purvapaksa ;, the arguments that women are excessively devious and fickle, that they lack the intellectual, forensic, and supernatural powers of advanced male spiritual adepts, and that they lack the physical, moral, and spiritual courage of men. In several passages the general cultural attitude that women have less control of their sexual passions than men is brought forward.
Sadly many of these two thousand years old Digambara myths about “evil, greedy, impure, violent, devious but intellectually inferior” women are regurgitated today in present day world, not only by lay persons but also by “intellectuals”.
Study of the Digambara philosophy followed by this “distinguished” naked guest of Haryana government gives us a better idea of roots of sexism in human civilization.