Jainism or the Justice
The Place of Women in the World

There are several things that I genuinely love to do: write, teach, travel, and care for Ginger. As I psychoanalyze myself, my love for teaching has a lot to do with moving from Pennsauken, NJ to Mt. Lebanon, PA at the end of 5th grade. Moving from a middleclass town and school district to the 19th best school system in America and the richest community in Western Pennsylvania was a pleasant walk in the park for me. I learned two things in the schools in Mt. Lebanon: I was dumb and poor.

I am able to blend the curse of Mt. Lebanon into a blessing, which essentially explains much of what makes me tick. I’m 77 years old and still teaching. I don’t want to see my students making the same mistake that I did nearly seven decades ago.

This semester, I am teaching an online survey class that deals with world religions. I post an announcement before the class even starts. I tell my students that the grade that they get, which I send to the registrar, is essentially meaningless. If they get a C or better, a year from the end of the semester, that grade will have no bearing on their lives and/or their success in life.

Then I add a little caveat. The grade that the world issues them based upon what they learned during the semester has an immense importance to them. Students, when they read that comment of mine, must wonder what’s with their old professor.

A week ago, I wrote an essay, Importance of Human Sacrifice. That week dealt with Hinduism and some of the 33 million gods and goddesses of that religion. My article started out with an important one…the goddess of death, Kali.

The past week, we devolved into Jainism. Most of the classes over the years have never heard of the Jains. It was a spin up of Hinduism sometime in the 6th century BCE. About a century later, Buddhism was the other reaction to Hinduism, which we are studying this week.

The class seemed to enjoy writing about Jainism and would point out that Jains were into equality of the sexes. Any religion or mindset that is 2500 years old isn’t going to be into equality. In fact, Jainism has two major mantras: one is do no harm to any living creature, and the other is to avoid any attachments. Attachments are anything to which a Jain might create an affection. One of the major issues relates to attachments that Jains would have with women. It is the Jains’ version of Eve and the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. Women are the cause of creating bad karma or what we call sin in the West.

During the week, we discussed the issue of the place of women in Jainism. Students tend to accept whatever they find on the Internet about women and Jainism. On the one hand, some Jain writers mentioned the equality of the sexes, and, on the other hand, women are the root of all evil.

I have mentioned on a weekly basis the issue of the inequality of women. Students are beginning to accept one of my contentions, which is that there is a disconnect between what religions say and do. If someone talks the talk, they must walk the walk. If they don’t, it is blatant hypocrisy.

I told the class to name a female leader, theologian, spokesperson, etc. that is a Jain. The two major mantras of Jainism about do you harm and don’t get attached are a logical disconnect. If Jains wish to stop their samsara or wandering, women need to be avoided.

However, infants come into this world and get attached to their mothers. Mothers raise the child, etc. Nonetheless, that child will become an adult and must go through samsara, the cyclical birth and death of reincarnation, many more times before moksha, which is the end of reincarnation.

And who do the Jains blame for this? Women. So, do harm to women emotionally, etc., but don’t inhale a gnat. That makes no sense.

I told my class that I’m not getting paid to tell them what to believe or not believe. That isn’t any of my business. The students need to decide what is morally right or wrong. Some of the class thinks that Jainism is just an old religion in a faraway place. America is on the cutting edge of the brightest and best of things having to do with religions and life in general.

That is a nice notion, but reality doesn’t bear witness to that as a truth. I asked my class to name any religion in America that is or has been headed by a woman. Most Christians attend worship services with only male clergy. The only group of Christians that ordain women are the mainline Protestants denominations like Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, etc. And most of them started to ordain women in my lifetime.

The other major religion in my class is Islam. How many imams are women in America? How different is either the attitude of Christians and Muslims different than what Jains believe?

As for issues about life in general, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18 and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. She was the second female justice to be on the Supreme Court since its founding over two centuries ago.


Justice Ginsburg voted to allow women to decide on their reproductive rights rather than men deciding for them. She defended same-sex marriages, voting rights, affirmative action, and immigration. She also defended and supported the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare.

Everyone liked to label Ginsburg a liberal. I wouldn’t call her a liberal. She defended women and wanted women to decide on their reproductive rights. If we want to put a label on her, you can call it the right thing to do.

We live in a society that needs people like Ginsburg to say that women should decide for themselves. Hey, I wouldn’t want women deciding what is right or wrong for me. Nevertheless, we label Ginsburg’s perspective as liberal.

It is the same issue with same-sex marriages. I don’t wish to have gays or lesbians to decide for me who I can marry. Sexism, racism, and homophobia are essentially the same-ism. The value of a person is solely determined by birth? Really? That’s absurd.

Half of my class are women. I told them that, if they feel discriminated against, they and other women need to begin the process of change. Discrimination isn’t felt by those who discriminate nor those that don’t care about that issue. If women feel discriminated against based on your sex, that form of discrimination needs to be addressed initially by women.

In closing, I suggested that my class should read what President Obama said about Justice Ginsburg. “Over a long career on both sides of the bench -- as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist -- Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn't about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn't only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It's about who we are -- and who we can be.” Obama’s insight deals directly with to do no harm.


PS For the women that read this essay, there are two comments that were written by Justice Ginsburg. This statement is about women and their reproductive rights. “This is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity. It's a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she's being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

This comment is about equality, “Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”