Jains are divided into two major sects; the Digambara (meaning sky clad) sect and the Svetambara popularly known as Terapanth (meaning white clad) sect. Each of these sects is also divided into subgroups.
The two sects agree on the basics of Jainism, but disagree on:
- details of the life of Mahavira
- the spiritual status of women
- whether monks should wear clothes
- which texts should be accepted as scripture
Differences between Svetambara and Digambara
Both groups accept the basic Jain philosophy and the five basic vows. The philosophical differences between the groups mostly affect monks and nuns, or the very pious.
Digambaras and Svetambaras disagree as to which books constitute Jain scripture.
Digambaras believe that women cannot achieve liberation without first being reborn as a man.
This is because:
- women cannot live a truly ascetic life, because they have to possess clothes since it is impractical for them to live naked
- women are intrinsically harmful
Digambaras believe that the Jinas:
- have no bodily functions
- live without food
- do not act in the world
Dress and possessons
Digambara monks live completely naked
Digambara monks live completely naked. This is because Digambaras believe that one can only lead the life of a true monk:
- by having no worldly possessions
- by demonstrating indifference to earthly emotions such as shame
Nuns of both groups are clothed.
Digambara monks are not allowed any possessions, not even begging bowls and so can only receive gifts in their cupped hands.
Svetambara monks can have a few possessions:
- simple white clothing
- a begging bowl
- a brush to remove insects from their path
- books and writing materials
- Digambara images of tirthankaras have downcast eyes
- Svetambara images have prominent staring eyes
- Digambara images are plain (and always carved as naked figures)
- Svetambara images are richly decorated
Terapanth Digambara worship is simpler than Svetambara worship.