Kate Kragh

Kate 2

Originally coming from the Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Copenhagen University and Religious Studies at Harvard University, I have gradually turned my attention towards the Buddhist Indian roots of Tibetan asceticism and its interlaced epistemology of the mind. That in turn led me to explore the close ancient cousin of Buddhism, namely Jainism, which unlike Buddhism was able to survive in India throughout the ages till today bearing an ancient witness to a multitude of ascetic practices with its unique notions of the mind.

In particular, reflected in the vast Jain corpus of literature lie multiple layers for intellectual inquiries that have dominated my thinking on the origins of the earliest forms of Indian asceticism, the related theme of wilderness, and their relation to the oldest idea of the mind known to humankind regarding what I termed reversed ontology of the mind as expressed in the Indian concept of cittanirodha. Already present in the earliest Jain canonical Prakrit literature reflecting religious-philosophical conceptions dating back to at least 500 years before the Common Era, the concept gradually became transferred from the vernacular Prakrits to the Jain Sanskrit writings during the first centuries of the Common Era in South India in the wake of unprecedented linguistic and cultural shifts. It is precisely this highly intriguing geographical area and distinctive period for Jainism that especially caught my attention and is currently materializing in the form of my doctoral research that centers on a magnificent authorial representation in the person of the great polymath, mystic, and ascetic Pūjyapāda Devanandin.

My methodological approach, however, is multifaceted and does not shy away from drawing inspiration from contemporary Jain ascetic and meditational movements, wherein ideas about the mind are as pertinent and relevant as ever. Traveling across India to the many Jain institutions of learning with their manuscript holdings as well as experiencing various ascetic traditions are both inextricable parts of my academic investigation. The incomparable Jain places in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat such as the Apabhramsha Sahitya Academy or the Koba Tirth Institute are but a few locations worth visiting for a scholar to encounter the living Jainism in India.