While strong religious identity is often associated with violence, Jainism, one of the world’s oldest practiced religions, is often regarded as one of the most peaceful religions and has nevertheless persisted through history. In this article, I am arguing that one of the reasons for this persistence is the community’s strategy of dialogic identity construction. The teaching of anekāntavāda
allows Jainas to both engage with other views constructively and to maintain a coherent sense of self. The article presents an overview of this mechanism in different contexts from the debates of classical Indian philosophy to contemporary associations of anekāntavāda
with science. Central to the argument is the observation that anekāntavāda
is in all these contexts used to stabilize Jaina identity, and that anekāntavāda
should therefore not be interpreted as a form of relativism.
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