30.10.2011 ►JVB London Bids Farewell To The Enlightened Nuns

Posted: 06.12.2011
Updated on: 30.07.2015

It was the late Acharya Tulsi, one of the most charismatic Jain acharyas of the twentieth century who 32 years ago created a new Saman Order - a category of novice monks and nuns whose rules and regulations permit the use of vehicles and travel abroad. This innovation has enabled Samans and Samanis to engage with the world outside India about Jain religion and wisdom. To reminisce this event and to bid farewell to the eminent Samanis Prasanna Pragya and Vikas Pragya, Jain Vishva Bharati London (JVB) held a farewell gathering on 30th October 2011 at London Academy, Edgware, and North London. Also gracing the event were Samani Pratibha Pragya and Samani Punya Pragya who had both previously spent several years at JVB London. People from all ages, including children, came to the event.

The keynote speakers at this event were Jay Lakhani from the Hindu Academy, Dr. Peter Flügel, Director of the Centre for Jaina Studies at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Dr. Atul Shah of Diverse Ethics. Ashok Gudka introduced each of the speakers.

Dr Flügel recounted his personal meetings with Acharya Tulsi as a young scholar, and how helpful and welcoming he found him, and how much he learnt from the dialogue and the engagement. In Dr Flügel’s opinion it is entirely due to the foresight and initiative of Acharya Tulsi and Yuvacharya Mahapragya that the Terapanth order reformed itself and adopted and interest not only in world renunciation but also in world transformation, that is, in the improvement on the conditions of existence, on a regional, national and global scale. Mr Lakhani reflected in his inimitable style on two of the critical aspects of Lord Mahavir’s legacy - Anekant and Aparigraha, and how they play a key role in world wisdom. Pluralism and non-possessiveness are keys to building peace and harmony in the world, and the Samanijis are rare living symbols of these virtues.

Atul Shah started his talk as follows:

“In these troubled economic times, jobs are very scarce. I have some good news for you - a job offer. Here are the terms and conditions:

  • No pay
  • No holidays
  • No fixed abode or location
  • No benefits or pensions
  • No defined hours - you should be available at any time

Who will do it? Who will take the risk? One may even ask who is crazy enough to sign a contract like this!

This friends, is the job specification of a Samani (Jain nun) - and today they are in front of you.” 

Dr Shah spoke about the practical life and selfless service of the Samanijis and how their simplicity and dedication ensures that they operate with truth and integrity and give the very best of their huge knowledge and wisdom to all. Their rigorous training ensures that in all their engagements they act selflessly and professionally.

Samani Vikas Pragya and Samani Punya Pragya wrote special poems for the event, which they performed with huge grace and creativity. Listening to them, one felt transported to the vast ocean of wisdom that is India, and its continuing living tradition of Jainism. Everyone present felt that the significant contribution of the Jain Samanijis, through lectures at universities, engagement in inter-faith dialogues, Preksha Meditation workshops, special festive celebrations of Paryushana, Mahavir Janma Kalyanak, Navratri and Diwali, travel to various places in the UK and Europe, all helped to promote awareness and respect for Jainism.

In her farewell message, Samani Prasanna Pragya thanked the community members for their support and generosity, in terms of hospitality, event management, publicity and promotion, travel and accommodation, and all the volunteering needed to manage JVB activities in London. Samani Pratibha Pragya expressed her gratitude for returning to London and explained how she has come to specially focus on her PhD studies in Jainism at SOAS. It is noteworthy that like his predecessor the late Acharya Mahapragya, Acharya Mahashraman also has the foresight to encourage critical scholarship in the West, and ensure that this dialogue continues and flourishes. She is the first Jain nun to embark on such a project in the UK.

A short DVD on “Jain Nuns and Samanis” was shown to the audience.

Few members from the audience including Rashmi Shah, Rajiv Shah and Rajesh Jain recollected their own experiences with the Samanijis and JVB. Hasu Vora expressed his gratitude to the audience for their attendance. He also thanked all the volunteers who helped in organising a very uplifting programme.

Photos

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From L to R: Samanis Prasanna Pragya, Pratibha Pragya, Punya Pragya, Vikas Pragya

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Mr Jay Lakhani

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Dr Peter Flügel

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Dr Atul Shah addressing the audience

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Samani Prasanna Pragya addressing the gathering

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Mr Hasu Vora

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Samani Prasanna Pragya

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Samani Vikas Pragya

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