Double-clicking the Temple Bell. Devotional aspects of Jainism online
AbstractIn its earliest scriptures, Jainism appears as a non-theist religious tradition with a heavy emphasis on individual ascetic practice on the path towards the ultimate goal of spiritual liberation, or mokṣa. However, there is also early evidence of more devotional elements that attained a prominent place in the religious life not only of the lay community, but also of Jain monks and nuns. Practices like bhajan and stavan (songs of devotion), darśan (worship through seeing a deity, a guru or a holy place), and elaborate pūjā ceremonies (offerings of different substances) have recently found their place in the wonderful world of the World Wide Web. In their computer mediated form, these practices are often doubly contested: the tension between scriptures emphasizing individual asceticism and practices based on devotional aspects is further enhanced by the tension between offline devotional practices, often performed in temples with other members of the community, and practices mediated by the Internet, where problems of ritual purity of the online place of worship and the right mind-set of the devotee come into play.
Introducing the little explored case of online Jainism, this article aims to add to discussions about computer mediated religious practices, their function, and the possible grounds for their contestation. After situating the different devotional practices in Jainism, I will look into their prevalence online, attempt to identify their target audience and look into their reception. The data used are drawn from a broader dataset of online resources on Jainism and from a series of exploratory interviews conducted between November 2013 and July 2014 on different locations, both in India and in the diaspora.