Nov 19, 2008

Jain Studies in the west

Dr. Noel King
Santa Cruz, CA, U.S.A
Dr. Surendra Singhvi
Spring Valley, OH, U.S.A


Early Western Knowledge of Jainism Many westerners well versed in European culture had read and wondered at the stories brought back from ancient India by the Greeks. They were told that there were in that far-off land naked philosophers who gave themselves to the solitary; neither they possessed home nor material, and could not be coerced even by Alexander himself. They observed strict continence, ate little and willingly gave themselves to death. The stories are rather in a muddle because even to this day few scholars versed in Indian lore and the western classical languages have bothered to go over these accounts with care and detail they deserve.However, a discernable eye that knows something about Jainisim and monastic features of its holy people suggest that the medieval Cathari's may have had contacts with the Jains and thereby were influenced. This is indeed quite possible, though the connecting link may be the overlap of Mani's teachings with Jainism.

Study of Jainism Before GandhiA century before the arrival of Virchand Gandhi to the West, the work of the Orientalists and the missionaries in India were quite exhaustive in 179s-1820s. In this regard, the account of the German scholarship in Jainology is very rich. Dr. George Buhler (1837-1898) who taught at Elphinstone College, Bombay from 1863 to 1878 collected large number of Jain manuscripts; established the antiquity of Jain ascetic lines of spiritual and teaching descent from inscriptional studies and wrote books on various subjects.Herman Jacobi (1850-1937) produced two volumes on Jain texts. In Boston with its Harvard Indological scholars, the first Indian work reaching U.S. is a book printed and published by the American Mission Press in Bombay in the 1840s. Its title page speaks of :"Historical researches on the origins of the Buddha and Jaina religions, embracing the leading tenets of their systems as found prevailing in various countries."

- James Bird esq, M.R.A.S., F.R.G.S., Bombay Printed at the American Mission Press T. Graham, Printer, 1847

The book is beautifully printed with colour-tinted works of lithographic are; describes a colossal image of a Trithankara as 'words cannot well convey an idea of this magnificent sculpture;' or of the Jaina ascetics as 'the ultimate object is to obtain a state of perfect apathy or quiescence through the practice of abstraction and mortification.' Kalpasutra and Nava Tatva translation was done by Rev.J.Stevenson *1847). Life and Stories of Jaina Saviour Parsvanatha is another valuable work on Jainism published by Prof. Mauric Bloomfield, who was born in Austria and moved to Milwaukee at the age of four. He studied at Chicago, Furnam is South Carolina and Yale; went as a Fellow to John Hopkins where Lanman, the doyen of Sanskrit Studies in the United States, was establishin School in Sanskrit. Obtaining his Ph.,D. in 1879, Bloomfield went off to Berlin and Leipzig for further studies. In 1881, he returned to John Hopkins as Prof. of Sanskrit. Late in his career, he began his work in Jain Maharashtri and Jainology.

Coming of Gandhi to AmericaFollowing the Columbian Exhibition of 1892 in Chicago, the Parliament of World Religions was planned by a group of religious leader and institutions - a Swedenborg follower, a Presbyterian, a Ukrainian and the Vatholic Churches. Virchand Gandhi, an English educated Jain thinker and social reformer of the times, came to America as a delegate to the Parliament representing Jain religion. Gandhi, was introduced at the Parliament as 'a lawyer from Bombay and one of the chief exponents of Jain religion.' In his own words Gandhi introduced Jainism in its most brevity: "I come from India, the mother of religions. I represent Jainism, a faith older than Buddhism, similar to it in ethics, but different from it in its psychology, and professed by 1.5 million of India's most peaceful and law abiding citizens." Of the Parliament, Gandhi observed that 'it has (also) been the dream of Atmaramji's life. I am (as such) commissioned to offer congratulations on the achievement of the consummation of that grand idea, of convening a Parliament of Religions." Again in his main address Gandhi reiterated that he speaks " simply as the mouthpiece of Muni Atmaramji, the learned High Priest of the Jaina community of India."Gandhi delivered a short no-nonsense, highly condensed and technical account of the ethics and history of the Jains, their books, precepts and practices. The word 'Hindu' in his speeches he used is in its generic and geographical sense: 'people following a certain type of culture and originate in a certain area.' In the Conference Plenary, he was to refute a speaker who had "cast reflection upon the chastity of the women who serve in Hindu temples. Gandhi, maintaining the dignity and the decor, responded:" I did not want to allow free scope to an un- Christian spirit which seemed to interpose from time to time. I am glad that no one has dared to attack the religion I religion I represent. It is as well they should not. But every attack has been directed to the abused existing in our society."The thought of Gandhi and its akinness to his guru, Atmaramji, can be traced in considerable detail in the Chicago-Prashnottar, a valuable compendium of Jaina doctrine of the day and age in logical terms.After the Parliament, Gandhi stayed on a while in the United States. He contributed a paper titled 'Christian Missions in India' found in The Arena of 1895. While still in the West, He captured the hearts and minds of many, and a permanent work was begun. An overview of his teaching and the integration of his religion with plans for education, social reform, politics etc., can be seen in the work if his English disciple Herbert Warren.
Study of Jainism After GandhiColebrook and Buchanan acknowledged it. Margret Sinclair Stevenson spoke with affection of the women, pundits and instructors who taught her so much with generous patience. Schubring rejoiced in the company of his Jain colleagues and in community events. As foreign scholars began studying Jainism, Jains themselves also produced their own works with editions and critical texts.William Norman Brown (1892-1975) from Balitmore studied at John Hopkins and Varanasi and taught at Jammu. His works included Jain miniatures and manuscript illustrations. Champat Raj Jain (1867-1942), who had Bar-at-Law from England (1892-1897), wrote many books on Jainism. His important publications are Kay of Knowledge, Confluence of Opposites, Jain Logic, Jain Psychology, What is Jainism, Jain Law, Jain Penance, Jain Penance, Jain Culture, Jain also worked on Jain archaeological findings.Barrister Jugmandir Lal Jain (1881-1927) who went to Oxford (1906-1910) devoted much of his time to the study of Jain scriptures and literature. He translated Tatthvarthasutra, Atmanushasana, Pancastikayasara, Samayasara, Jica-Karma Kanda, and initiated the translation of Gommatasara. His The Library in London, and Central Jain Publishing House in India.Dr. Hiralal Jain (1898-1973), who followed J.L. Jaini, completed the translation of Gommatasaara (1923); edited 16 volumes of Satkhandagama Siddhana (1935-1959) and Prakrit works. Heinrich Zimmer, whose main career had been in Germany, gave courses of lectures at Columbia in New York in 1942-43 on the philosophies of India including Jain teachings. He died before they were finalized in writing for publication. They were edited and put through Press by Joseph Canpbell, Oriented Mythology: The Masks of God (1962) and Zimmer's Philosophies of India, Bollingen Series, Vol. XXVI.

Y. J. Padmarajiah's, A Comparative Study of the Jaina Theories of Reality and Knowledge published in 1963, is his work (1947-4952) for which the degree of Doctor of Philosophy was awarded by Oxford University.

The work of Kendal W. Folkert, the promising Jainologist from Harvard, raised many critical question of his predecessors in the best revisionist style. He questioned the focusing on texts for Jainas do not have a narrow authoritative cannon such as the sixteenth and later century European Christians had imagined. He questioned how any philologist sitting in Europe or America can think he understands what he is studying. His article in the Penguin Handbook of Living Religions is one of hte best encyclopedia articles.

R. Willians Jaina Yoga is basically a technical discussion of medieval texts but also portrays Jain ideas of physiology, psychology and holistic approach to health. Prof. Padmanabh S. Jaini's The Jaina Path of Purification has rightly been hailed as one of the best studies sin the religions of South Asia in this century and certainly the best on Jainism. More recently, he has Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debated on the Spiritual Liberation of Women wherein he presents tightly and meticulously argued analysis of ancient Jain discussions about whether only the totally unclothed can reach the goal, whereas most agree it is indecorous for a woman to appear before mixed groups unclothed. Even long ago and even among male ascetics who are well known throughout world history for their suspicion of womanhood, the Jain community has had strong groups of those who insisted on women's absolute and universal rights.
La Voie Jaina, Histoire, Spiritualite, Vie des ascetes pelerines de I'nde (1985) by N. Shanta is a field-work of total immersion.

Harvard Pluralism Project supervised by Prof. Diane Eck has a number of papers on the Jain side of the research prepared by Holly Seeley.

Structural Development in Jaina DiasporaEmergenca into self-consciousness if the world-wide Jaina diaspora - people of Jain faith domiciled overseas - calls for their strict retention not only to discover ways of retaining them in modern environment but demands to think of the : laity and the house-holders.' their strengths and what they can do. It is they who are the mainstream and backbone of Jainism in the west. In this sense, a house-holder is a person in his or her own right, not just a deficient monk or nun. The fluidity and inter-dependence with elements recognized as specific, pointing to a certain primordiality of Jain features,may or may not present with a positive change for the fullest development of the community as in the case of Jaina diaspora. They demand a new and tightly defined, but to work within the present condition a structural development in social, psychological and physical contexts, both of the individual and of the institutions. It is to emerge fresh and new in the choosen environment taken for granted on the good promise and premise.
The organizational structures through the establishment of societies and associations in North America began in the early 1960s as the Jaina community grew numerically. Following is the list of some organizations:
Jain Centre of New York (1966) changed to Jain Society of America at Queens. It has temple building with community oriented activities.

Jain Centre of Boston (1973) has temple with Community oriented activities. It pioneered the publication of Jain Directory of North America, and regularly brings out updated editions.

Jain Meditation International Centre (1975) founded by Gurudev Chitrabhanu. Meetings and Lecture on meditation etc., caters mainly for westerners.
Siddhachalam (1983) founded by Acarya Sushil Kumarji. It is Jain ashram and resident community of monks and nun, laymen and laywomen on 108 acres of hill top near Pocono mountains in Blairstown, New Jersey.

Jain Society of Chicago, IL. It built America's largest Jain temple complex in 1993.

Jain Society of Washington D.C. It acquired property and established Jain temple in 1987. Dr. Manoj Dharamsi was its active President till 1993.

Jain Society of South California, CA. It established a Jain temple and library in 1986.

Jain Society of New Jersey, NJ. It has established Jain temple.

Jain Society of Northern Texas, TX. It has established temple in Richardson.
Jain Society of Toronto (1981) has the largest temple building in Canada, and has community oriented activities to observe Jaina festivals and pravacans.
International Mahavir Jain Mission, USA & Canada (1986) It was founded by Acarya Sushil Kumarji. It is involved in Jain Campls during the summer months of August both at Siddhachalam and Nigra Falls, Canada. The Toronto organization often promotes Jain Seminars in Canadian universities. And in conjunction with Jain Society of Toronto, it produced shows on Jainism for public television in 1989-90.

Jain Meditation and Philosophy (1981) It is established by its President Irena Upenick. Mainly caters to westerners on meditation, Vegetarianism, fasting and Jaina basic philosophy. Independently it promotes Jaina precepts and practice among westerners through networking.

Rooplal Jain Lecture Foundation (1990), Toronto. Founded with the aim of promoting academic study of Jain religion. Sponsors annual Jain lectures at the University of Toronto, and it began its first lecture in 1990 delivered by Prof. Padmanabh S. Jainni of the University of California, Berkeley.

Jain Federation of North America (JAINA) founded in 1981 with Lalit Shah as the President. Dr. Manoj Dharamsi was elected after a few months, and he continued devising developmental plans up to 1985 when it had its first Bi-ennuak Cibcention organized on a large scale in Detroit, MI. At this gathering, a quarterly magazine, Jain Digest was launched with S.A. Bhuvanendra Kumar of Mississauga, Canada as its editor, elected by Directors of JAINA. The first issue of Jain Digest came out in memory of the Air India bomb victims travelling from Toronto to Bombay in 1986. In 1989, it established JAINA Library in Lubbock, Texas and Toronto Canada with funds provided by Dr. Premchand Gada of Lubbock, Texas. In the same year, Young Jains of America and Matrimonial Information Bureau were established under the leadership of Dr. Urmila Talsania of Chicago and Fakirchand Dalal of Baltimore repectively.
Bramhi Society U.S.A. and Canada (1989) It was founded by a group of twelve individuals from the U.S.A. and Canada to make a contribution in a contemporary environment to the study and promotion of Jaina reflection in the West. It has begun the publication of Jinamanjare, a bi-annual Journal, with the first issue in October 1990. S.A. Bhuvanendra Kumar is the founder and editor.

In 1991 Bramhi Society organized Jain Youth Exchange is association with Young Jains of U.K., and the Jaina Federation of North America.

These organizations and asscociations while are important indeed, the onus for the development of Jainism in the West falls squarely upon the Jaina laity who lives the life in mainstream America. The term laity in Jain sense has altogether different meaning then in the Christian parlance. In Jainism, it means those who follow the faith but have nit entered monastic life - being monks or nuns. The term laity in Jainism consists of an intimate symbiosis of four orders, namely - male and female renunciates, women and men, and so in the American condition, the onus inevitably falls on the latter two to bring out Reality and Truth in terms of Jain precepts and practices. Similarly, it is largely their task to maintain symbiosis with the ascetics.

Ordinary renunciates in the West understand a very little of their importance in this symbiotic inter-relationship, as propagators of Jaina gospel and making history; however they will be the originators in the given situation.

Where were those Jains of 1960s - 1990s? Whence and why did they come? What did the principles of religion teach them? A lot unanswerable questions arise now, and if it is not addressed properly, the Jain diaspora in the west will manifest itself in an unstructured and highly ambiguous condition.

The four teachings which the Jains have unflinchingly witnessed: co-dependence as part of an organically interrelated universe, positive non-violence in all its aspects, the aspects, the realization that there are various paths to the Truth and the importance of the feminine. The educational task and maintaining of it through these four Jaina covevant will indeed insure strength to the organizational structure and to the Jaina diaspora in the West.

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