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The Forest of Thieves and the Magic Garden: An Anthology of Medieval Jain Stories (Penguin Classics) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 28. August 2007

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The stories collected in this volume reflect the rich tradition of medieval Jain storytelling between the seventh and fifteenth centuries, from simple folk tales and lives of famous monks to sophisticated narratives of rebirth. They describe they ways in which a path to peace and bliss can be found, either by renouncing the world or by following Jain ethics of non-violence, honesty, moderation and fidelity. Here are stories depicting the painful consequences when a loved one chooses life as a monk, the triumph of Jain women who win over their husbands to their religion, or the rewards of a simple act of piety. The volume ends with an account of vice and virtue, which depict the thieving and destructive passions lurking in the forest of life, ready to rob the unsuspecting traveller of reason and virtue.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Phyllis Granoff received a PhD. from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Fine Arts in 1973. She teaches Sanskrit and Indian Religions at McMaster University on Hamilton, Ontario, edits the Journal of Indian Philosophy and continues to work on traditional and modern Indian literature. Phyllis Granoff received a PhD. from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Fine Arts in 1973. She teaches Sanskrit and Indian Religions at McMaster University on Hamilton, Ontario, edits the Journal of Indian Philosophy and continues to work on traditional and modern Indian literature.

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An incredible collection of fantastical tales... 4. Juli 2011
Von ewomack - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Our modern notion of "superhero" very likely originates from a very primal impulse. Stories of humans becoming superhuman, or of powerful spiritual beings with semi-human characteristics, may in part help us deal with the limitations and finitude of our very fragile humanity. People often wish to be more than "mere people" and fantastic tales of any kind can fuel these fantastic desires. The question as to whether traditional tales associated with religion once played a similar role that contemporary "Superhero" stories (i.e., Batman, Superman) play may raise fire and brimstone ire in some and fervent curiosity in others. Parallels definitely exist between them, though how tenuous remains another question. In any case, anyone looking for great tales of magic, wonder and superhuman feats will find a host of them in "The Forest of Thieves and the Magic Garden." These 31 tales dating from roughly 900 - 1400 seem to provide multiple functions. In the manner of many tales (and arguably modern comic books, novels and television shows) these stories attempt to entertain while moralizing about the proper religious life. Not that they're overly pedantic, though a few do straddle this fence, but the purpose of these tales seems primarily to draw people in with a fabulous and hypnotic story while promoting the Jain way of life. Early marketing? Maybe. Most religions, and possibly all of them, utilize such techniques to increase the numbers of converts. Nothing new. What will appear new, particularly to those unfamiliar with Jainism or the vast diversity of Eastern spiritualism, is the medieval Jain ethos. One must keep the dates of these texts in mind while reading. Religions and cultures evolve, for better or worse, through time. Medieval texts, particularly a small sampling, may not necessarily represent a religion's entire lifespan or current beliefs. They almost never represent the entire culture of which they play a part, especially in one as religiously complex as India. As such, these stories represent the totality of Jainism no more than "Chronicles of the Crusades" represents the totality of Christianity. But they do have one thing in common: fascinating stories with intriguing historical dimensions.

That said, modern sensibilities will find some elements of these tales distasteful, but that goes for many historical texts (and even many on the shelves today). Descriptions of devoted Jains performing ritual starvation to achieve a higher rebirth or men who willingly abandon their families for religious devotion may cause difficult reading for some, especially when many stories glorify such actions, though not all of them do. The stories depict the religious call of a medieval Jain as a difficult, though very rewarding, one as joining a monastery leads to renunciation of the world and rewards in rebirth. Often the abandoned families "see the light" and become devout themselves. Some seek revenge, as the bride Kanakasri does against her husband in the amusing story "Celana." Her husband becomes a Jain monk and leaves her only after seven days of marriage. After they both die she becomes "a troublesome demi-goddess." Upon recognizing her husband as a monk in another life, she decides to inflict an inconvenience on him and gives him an erection. Some may find themselves rooting for the woman, though the monk overcomes. Some stories have a naughty saucy edge to them, such as the erotic "Durgila." One day, a young man sees the apparently well-built Durgila ("like the fortress of the God of Love") swimming in scant clothing and explodes with desire. Little does he know that Durgila, though married, also sees him and feels similarly. The man finds a nun, of all people, to intercede on his behalf with the ravaging woman. Durgila violently tells her off numerous times, though the couple send "messages" to one another through the poor shamed and abused nun. They eventually meet, have a tryst, and her husband's father catches her in the act, but she outsmarts them all in front of the whole town by worshiping the yaksa. Though a great read, this tale does come off as somewhat misogynistic. One of the best tales, Sundari, tells of a princess who loses her husband and refuses to believe he's dead. She feeds and nurtures the corpse for what seems like too long. Her father in desperation seeks help. Another man has an idea and inexplicably finds the corpse of a woman. He sits next to the woman in denial and nurtures his corpse the same way she nurtures hers. Eventually he builds up enough trust, disposes both corpses and convinces the woman that the two corpses ran off with each other. "Your husband has clearly run off with my wife," he tells her. An ingenious, if not repugnant, solution. "Aramasoha" tells of a girl who helps a snake God outwit snake charmers and gets blessed with a luxurious garden that literally follows her everywhere. This story includes as many page turning twists as any thriller as does the longer "Devadinna," which defies summary. Throughout, people receive favors from the Gods through their loyalty to Jainism. Some receive riches, others obtain superpowers, others attain Jain salvation. The stories seem to argue that the right path will lead to beauty, wisdom, riches, just enough sensual pleasure and eventual rewards in subsequent lives. Some stories even challenge other religions. "Padmalata" directly excoriates Buddhism as a religion of "meat eaters" (which was once true) and as a "false belief." Jainism always triumphs in the end and the Jain Gods show their pleasure through miracles. Along the way some amazing and unforgettable tales get spun.

As the introduction suggests, one should not take this book as a good introduction to Jainism in general. The religion itself does not get delineated in any systematic or consistent way, as the stories give multiple perspectives and represent different time periods. Not only that, the stories here represent only a small number of tales written by Jain monks over the centuries, so this collection is apparently in no way comprehensive. The introduction recommends finding other books on the religion itself and offers no summary of its beliefs. Given this, no one should embrace or dismiss Jainism based on this book alone. It's foremost a collection of stories. And as that the collection succeeds brilliantly. The stories stand on their own regardless of one's religious affiliation and represent yet another facet of human creativity, humor, reverence and, in many places, wisdom.
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