What is Svetambaras?

Svetambaras is associated with Jainism, and is one of the two main sects.

The other sect goes by the name “Digembara, who” and there are certain differences between both sects. Here is a deeper look into what the differences are and what defines Svetambaras.

History

Let’s begin with the history while understanding Svetambaras.

The tradition was founded by Acharya Sthulabhadra and saw various branches of the Vrahada Order. From the classical orders, the names Kharatara, Tristutik, and the Tapa stand out.

It was Vijayananda Suri of the Tapa order, which initiated a movement against wandering monks. This damaged the sect until Acharya Rajendrasuri put together the Tristutik order.

Sventambara monks have followed various traditions since the development with the use of white cloths over their face.

It’s important to note the Svetambaras also split into different “panths.” This began with the Lonka sect in the year of 1474 CE. This led to the Sthānakavāsī in 1653 CE. It wasn’t until a hundred years later, monks from the Svetambaras put together a panth called Terapanth.

At this point in time, the Svetambaras is split between Sthānakavāsī, Murtipujaka, and terapanth.

Clothing

Svetambaras is a sect which sets its practice with wearing all-white clothing and avoiding nudity as seen with digembara.

Notable Points of Svetambaras

Let’s take a peek into some of the key differentiations between the Svetambaras and Digembaras. These differentiations are a clear distinction between the two sects in Jainism.

The Svetambaras do not accept the notion of omniscient beings as described by Digembaras. This is seen with their refusal to accept a saint who became kevali (omniscient). This means the saint didn’t require food to sustain himself and that is disagreed upon by the Svetambaras.

Another difference is seen in the liberation of woman. Digembaras believe a woman can only achieve moksha (liberation) when she is born again into a man. Until then, she is not able to meet this status. The Svetambaras do not hold this view and do believe women can achieve this status.

There is also a lot of emphasis on canonical literature in this sect meaning the Svetambaras hold their opinion on the twelve angas and sutras as being important.

The same applies to their understanding of Tirthankara Mallinatha, who they believe was a female. While the Digembaras hold the opposite view believing Tirthankara Mallinatha was a man. This leads to deviating understandings of the history of Jainism.