22.04.2011 ►JERF ►Current News

Published: 22.04.2011
Updated: 30.07.2015


Jain Education and Research Foundation

Current News

First Annual Mahavir Jayanti Lecture at FIU *

“Visions of the Conqueror - Jain Art”


Phyllis Granoff, Yale University

On the campus of Florida International University, students are exposed to various cultures from around the world. Last Wednesday, on April 13, those who attended the Mahavir Jayanti Lecture, aptly named for Lord Mahavir’s birthday which falls around this time of year, got to whet their appetites for Eastern culture by being exposed to Jain art in the lecture: Visions of the Conqueror, Jain Art.

The lecture was sponsored by Target’s “After Hours” at the Frost Museum and the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship, and is just one of the many milestones the Jain Education and Research Foundation, a non-profit organization founded under the principles of Jainism, hopes to achieve in upcoming years.

The Jain Education and Research Foundation first paved the way for Jainism back in 2010 when they were awarded the first ever professorship in Jain studies outside of India.

The night began with a prayer, led by Jain nuns, whose presence has been felt since they began teaching classes six years ago on campus. Nathan Katz, Professor of Jain Studies and Religious Studies, and who was named the first Bhagwan Mahavir professor, thanked the nuns for their hard work in making Jain studies available to all students.

“When they first came here [FIU] no one really knew them but they quickly formed a mediation club and vegetarian club and made their presence known at the campus and have allowed Jain studies to really take off,” said Katz.

The lecture depicted the beliefs and history of Jainsim briefly before jumping into the main event, a presentation featuring the Bhaktamarastotra of Manatunga, an illustrated manuscript of hymns which praised the Jina.

“There are 18 folios in this manuscript,” said Phyllis Granoff, one of the world’s leading scholars in Indian Religions and professor of World Religions at Yale University and editor of the Journal of Indian Philosophy. “The illustrations, however, have been removed from the text and sold separately, making their identification difficult.”

Granoff had been able to identify some of the hymns by comparing them to other hymns which still had their text. He found the most interesting thing about the illustrations to be that many artists tried to convey abstract subjects in the concrete world. “It’s something every Jain artist attempts to do, not just the manuscript illustrator.”

The presentation also delved into artists’ different representations of Jina’s moment of omniscience, in which all the knowledge of the world as well as the past, present and future, follow into the enlightened mind.

“Artists pondered the very same question of how can something abstract be correctly represented,” said Granoff. “The Svetambara illustrators avoided the problem by depicting the Jina in the moment that immediately followed omniscience.”

The scene which comes after is an assembly in which Jina preaches to the community of monks, nuns, laymen and women. It often features distinct architecture made of jeweled balustrades and gateways. Three-dimensional paintings which are called samavasarana, demonstrate Jina’s ability to see in all four directions at the moment of preaching.

The temples of Jainism often reproduce this very scene of the preaching assembly. One such temple is located in Ranakpur, a four-faced temple that shows the Jina on all four sides of the central shrine, and gives those who worship him the opportunity to be present, outside of time and space, at the moment where he reaches infinite knowledge.

The images of Jina are also said to be a stimulus that gives way to memories in which we are able to recall Jina in his preaching assembly. “Samayasundara, a 17th century monk: ‘wrote that on seeing any and every Jina image, we are able to recall the Jina in his preaching assembly,’” said Granoff. “In India, there is an intimate connection between art and memory. In plays and poems, seeing the artistic expression can cause many viewers to be overflowed with emotion.”
The image of their first assembly is also an emphasis on the Jina’s long journey to find a release from samsara or the cycle of rebirth, promoting compassion and non-violence, which formed the path of truth.

The night concluded with a vegetarian dinner and a bright future for the Jain Education and Research Foundation, which also unveiled its first official newsletter at the event. The organization also plans to ready their young faculty members by awarding fellowships which would allow them to spend their summer months in India studying Jainism while encouraging others to incorporate Jainist philosophy in their daily teachings and research.
With its rich history and eye opening art, Jainism has a bright forthcoming full of promise.

* Posted by FIU oneild on April 19, 2011


Professors, Students will travel to India to learn about Jainism

Posted by FIU oneild on April 21st, 2011

Beschreibung: http://news.fiu.edu/wp-content/uploads/Katz-and-students3.jpgTwo FIU professors and three students have been awarded fellowships to study Jainism in India this summer. The students will learn about Jain ways of life and the faculty will research topics including environmental ethics and dispute resolution.

A group of FIU students and professors will travel to India this year to study Jainism, as part of the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship, held by professor Nathan Katz (center front). With him are two Jain samanis (nuns) who have been teaching in Religious Studies: Samani Dr. Chaitanya Pragya and Samani Unnata Pragya. The students include, back from left, students Tal Berman, Kimberly Tucker, Stefan Nahabir, Santana Iglesias and Religious Studies assistant professor Whitney Bauman.

The professors - Whitney A Bauman and Manuel A. Gómez - were named Bhagwan Mahavir Junior Faculty Fellows. The students will study at Jain Vishwa Bharati University (JVBU), a Jain-oriented school located in Ladnun, Rajasthan. During the past five years, 10 FIU students have studied there, and two nuns (samanis) from the JVBU faculty have taught in FIU’s Department of Religious Studies.

The two faculty fellowships and two student scholarships are funded by the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship, the only endowed Jain professorship in the Western Hemisphere. The Department of Religious Studies supports the student fellowships.

One of the chief aims of the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship is to introduce Jainism to the FIU community and, eventually, serve as a bridge between western universities and Jain institutions in India. An exchange of students and professors is one of the key strategies in applying the values and practices of Jainism to the issues that challenge the modern world.

The professorship is also intended to expand FIU’s curriculum. The College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee has just approved a new Undergraduate Certificate in Jain Studies, the first of its kind in the West.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion, most recently articulated by the world’s leading teacher of non-violence, Bhagwan Mahavir, who lived during the sixth century BCE. “Jains are small in number,” said Nathan Katz, who holds the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship, “but enormous in influence.”

It was from Bhagwan Mahavir that the Buddha learn about non-violence, and from him it greatly influenced Hinduism, and from there it travelled around the globe, inspiring such profound teachers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Lama.

“We can do just so much in the classroom,” Katz said, “but to enhance traditional learning with travel and study in a great civilization like India’s, can be a life-changing journey for our students and our faculty. On our side, we have welcomed JVBU staff to teach at FIU, and this year we will have JVBU students studying here.”


Assistant professor Whitney Bauman

Bauman, an assistant professor of religious studies, will visit several Jain communities and educational institutions in Delhi, Jaipur, Indore, and Ladnun to explore the Jain doctrine that not only humans and animals, but plants, rivers, and mountains - indeed, all of nature - possess life (jiva). He wants to see how the cardinal Jain teaching of non-violence (ahimsa) is applied to nature.

This research will contribute to his ongoing research project that looks at the intersection of religion, nature, and globalization. His project broadens his longstanding teaching and research interests in religion and ecology. At FIU he teaches Earth Ethics, Religion and Science, and Religion, Gender, and Nature, and is co-chair of the Religion and Ecology Group of the American Academy of Religion.


Associate professor Manuel Gómez

Beschreibung: http://news.fiu.edu/wp-content/uploads/manuel-Gomez.gifGómez, an associate professor in the College of Law, teaches in the areas of international andcomparative law, arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution. He will pursue research on dispute processing in the Jain diamond trade in Mumbai and the western state of Gujarat.

Gómez is particularly interested in exploring whether the Jain approach to dispute processing differs from the methods employed by diamond dealers from other groups (namely, other ethnic or predominantly religious communities) and what factors might contribute to determine the differences.


Kimberly Tucker

A double major in psychology and religious studies, Miami native Tucker will study at Jain Vishwa Bharati University with tuition, room and board scholarship at JVBU.

In her application for the scholarship, she wrote: “I have become frequently troubled by the problem of consumerism, primarily because of its violent effects on human behavior. Obsession with material objects has driven the individual away from religion and into an illusory state of autonomy. In actuality, the individual has less discipline, less control, and problems of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed.  The teachings of Jainism reinforces a more peaceful way of living that allows the subject to strive for freedom from attachment and hatred. I am hoping that I can learn to apply Jain teachings to my own life, as well as share these ideas with my community.”


Tal Berman

Berman, an environmental studies major who also hails from Miami, will spend three weeks at Jain Vishva Bharati University with a similar scholarship for his studies at JVBU.

Tal wrote about his interest in this opportunity: “ I have found that most of what can be learned about the world is in the world, not necessarily in books. I can read about a stream, but I will never know a stream without seeing its water effortlessly flowing around its stones… Going through the journey to India, interacting with those practicing Jainism directly, including myself in the practices and teachings of Jainism, and reflecting on each day spent in India will enhance my understanding of a unique religion held by my fellow citizens of the earth. It is a moral responsibility to seek the perspective of the world through the eyes of many. This is what I hope to achieve by studying Jainism in India.”


Stefan Vishal Mahabir

Stefan Vishal Mahabir, a double major in psychology and religious studies, has won the Department of Religious Studies annual grant of $2000 to cover his airfare and travel costs, and JVBU is providing a scholarship for his tuition, room and board. He will take classes on Jainism for three weeks, and then travel to ashrams and holy sites around India.

Mahabir is a Trinidadian of Indian descent. This award, he said, “offers me a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the Jain religion in the land where it originated, surrounded by earnest followers of the faith, with a rare chance to observe and participate in their way of life. In my view, the theoretical knowledge we obtain in the classroom is far removed from the reality of direct experience.”

In addition to these five, three other FIU students are planning to attend the JVBU summer session or a similar program at the International School for Jain Studies, based in New Delhi. The eight, along with JVBU administrators, Katz, and an Indian travel agent, have formed a Facebook page to share travel ideas and remain connected during their journeys.


Study of Jain Scriptures in FIU, USA

From the academic year 2011 Professor Nathan Katz, Professor Oren B. Stier and Samani Chaitanya Pragya have developed the following three new undergraduate and graduate courses in which the studies of Jain scriptures and philosophical texts have been given preference. Almost 50 students have been enrolled in the courses.

  1. Religious Classics of India

  2. Seminar on Sacred Sources

  3. Intro to Sanskrit Language


Seminar on Violence and Non-violence in Jain Scriptures

Beschreibung: C:\Users\Chaitanya Pragya\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Word\DSC07396.jpgDr. Oren B. Stier, the Professor of Judaist Studies at FIU, invited Dr. Samani Chaitanya Prajna as a resource person to give seminar on “Concept of Violence and Non-violence in Jain Sacred Sourses” among the graduate students. She discussed the concept of equality of all souls, its environmental and ecological implications, interdependence of natural resources and the dreadful results of violence which is the direct or indirect root cause of human suffering and global problems. She taught all these direct from the canons Acharanga, Prashnavyakarana, Upasakadasha, Dasaviakalika and the philosophical treatise Tattvarth Sutra. She gave talk on the following topics in the consecutive three seminars:

  • Jain Canons and Hermeneutical Tradition
  • Violence and its Effect in Jain Scriptures
  • Non-violence: Philosophy and Practice
Beschreibung: C:\Users\Public\Pictures\samani chaitanya pragyaji photos of fiu\100_5227.JPG


Visiting Lectures on Soul and Liberation

Beschreibung: C:\Users\Chaitanya Pragya\Downloads\samani chaitanya pragyaji photos of fiu\DSC_1487.JPGDr. Nathan Katz, the outstanding Professor of Judaist and Jain Studies at FIU, invited to Dr. Samani Chaitanya Pragya to give talk on “Concept of Soul and Liberation in Jain and Yoga Tradition”. She discussed the concept of spirituality, soul, rebirth and eternality of soul, liberation and meditation on the basis of the canon Acharanga and the philosophical treatises Tattvartha Sutra of Umaswati and Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali. Looking at the affinity in the ideas of soul, rebirth etc. in Jain and Yoga traditions they can be said as complimentary system of thoughts.


Study of Sanskrit Language at FlU

Beschreibung: C:\Users\Chaitanya Pragya\Downloads\samani chaitanya pragyaji photos of fiu\DSC_1487.JPGThe interest and curiosity among the foreign students to know Indian culture through its original Sanskrit texts is increasing day by day. Looking at the great interest FIU has started two courses on Sanskrit language at undergraduate level and graduate level. The responsibility to conduct the Sanskrit language classes at both the levels is given to Samani Chaitanya Prajna. This year 10 students are enrolled for the courses. They are not only curious to learn Sanskrit language but also interested to contribute in this field. They have started transliteration work on Jain philosophical and canonical texts. 


Community Outreach

Lectures in South Florida Jain Center, Miami, USA

Samani Dr. Chaitanya Prajna was invited by the organizers of SFJC to deliver lectures on “Jain Life Style in Modern times”, “Worship as Understanding of Mahavir” February 22nd and March 3rd 2011 respectively. She has said that in the age of globalization and interculturality there is great need to develop mutual understanding and respect. In the lecture on birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir, she said that the proper understanding and following the teachings of Mahavir is real worship. Faith integrated with knowledge and conduct leads to success and not faith devoid of knowledge and conduct.


Lectures in South Florida Hindu Temple, Miami, USA

On March 27, 2011 Samani Chaitanya Prajna was invited by the organizers of SFHT to deliver a lecture on “Concept of Liberation”. She said that the concepts of soul and liberation are the core of the heart of spirituality. Liberation is the pure and perfect state of soul. To achieve the state is the highest goal of life in Indian culture in general and Jain culture in particular. The means to achieve the goal we need an integrated and holistic approach suggested by Jain Tirthankras and that is Triratna or Trinity. Enlightened faith, enlightened knowledge and enlightened conduct together can help to realize the goal. Any one devoid of the two is insufficient to serve the purpose of life.


Lectures in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

Dr. Samani Chaitanya Prajna was invited to deliver a lecture on “Philosophy behind Tolerance” and “Philosophy of Action” by the Jain community of West Palm Beach on February 25th and March 18th, 2011. She spoke that there are certain situations in which there is no solution to the problems other than tolerance. Especially something which is pre-destined and determinate or in other words, when demeritorious karmas come into fruition then one has no other option than tolerance. If one keeps patience and balance in the conflicting situation then it becomes easy to overcome the situation without any adverse effect. It is universal truth that every person has to pay for his deeds. Each action affects one who acts. Only the person who has no self-interest can remain unaffected by the action.


Dr. Samani Chaitanya Pragya

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