Among the Indian religions, Hinduism and Buddhism treat earth, water, fire and wind as inanimate elements. However, in Jainism, these elements are treated as living entities. In the past, this Jain view of the elements was interpreted as showing that Jainism was animistic in outlook. Subsequently, however, many scholars have argued against this interpretation.
In this paper, I will first outline the existing scholarship that argues that Jainism is an animistic religion. Then, I will survey research critical of this view. Likewise, the view that Jainism must be old because it is animistic can also frequently be found. However, this view is based on the theory of the evolution of religion that has become the target of much criticism in recent years and therefore requires reexamination.
Next, I examine the counterargument by J. C. Jain. On the basis of the three points, I clarify the way in which his interpretation offers a valid counterargument to earlier scholarship.