Essay on Jainism by L. Patricia Parker

Posted: 18.04.2012
Claremont Lincoln University

About 3 months ago, Claremont Lincoln University ran an essay competition to select candidates who want to go to India to study Jainism during ISSJS Classes in 2012. They were asked to write on why they want to study Jainism...

... the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality ...

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


Paulo Freire is known for his dialogue and concern with issues of the oppressed.  He was expressly known for his ability to weave together a number of thinking about educational practices and liberation.  It is with this thinking that I am applying for an opportunity to study in India.  Much like Freire, I would like to integrate what I already know with the teachings of Jainism, which emphasizes the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation.  Here is my story. I live in one of the greatest cities in the United States, Los Angeles, California. Yet the community of South Los Angeles in which I was born, raised and still resides today, suffers from the tragedies of homelessness, lack of equal access, poverty of mind, body, and spirit.  It is a place that is plagued with family and gang violence. Within the community there are those of us who have had the opportunity to escape our plight. Some of us have decided to stay, to commit, educate and empower those who may never get the opportunity to leave. I have been fortunate to have many doors opened for me. I have walked through most and have always been compelled to come back to share what I have learned.   As an African American woman in the middle of a great life, with unique opportunities to learn, I ask myself the question that my grandfather asked me as a child, “What are you going to do with what you learned.” I would like to go to India, study Jainism and come back to my community and share what I have learned.

Diversity and inclusion are foundational principles for me.  My grandparents had a small mission near downtown Los Angeles.  I was heavily influenced by what I learned from them in their teachings, especially since I lived with them for most of my childhood.  As far back as I can remember my grandfather spoke to me of celebrating our differences, but always highlighting our innate intertwining. He likened it to a banquet table filled with the best representation from every nation. His descriptions ignited my interest in diversity and inclusion and how all things are related and can be used for the good of all.  In 1969, my grandparents partnered with Jewish synagogues and Presbyterian churches in the San Fernando Valley to form an interracial camp. Throughout the year, they would raise enough funds to send 100 African-American and 100 Causation children to camp each summer. These were wonderful years, filled with wonderful experiences with the children who attended those camps. Every summer I made new friends and continued my connection with old ones. I learned to bring what I had to the table and shared what others brought as well. I would say that this is when my appetite for diversity was established.

I came to Claremont Lincoln University because its program is in alignment with my belief system and goals. As an MDiv student, I feel that the program is able to help equip me to continue a dialogue of diversity and value. Claremont is doing something new and, so am I. I learned about the Jain’s during Claremont’s annual convocation. I was excited to encounter people from a tradition that I had never heard of before, and wondered what I could learn from them. As I began to research Jainism, I found its principle of non-violence interesting because it goes beyond human beings and includes every living thing. However new to me, I wondered how it might be applied in my community and to the work I am currently doing.

Since 2001, I have been serving communities of burden; especially in the South Los Angeles area through a self-efficacy curriculum I developed called The Value Series. The purpose of The Value Series is to help people understand their value and to jump over the hurdles in life that are sure to come.  In the series, we teach a foundational principle that transcends religion, politics, culture, ethnicity, and gender and socio economic status. We teach the principle of value. We believe and teach that value is a birthright. It is through this vehicle that everything I learn through my experiences and education is transmitted. It is how I have come to understand my calling, the sharing of spiritual principles beyond the walls of the church. Our hope is that if people begin to understand their value, then they will see value in others as well.  Using Freire approach I will integrate the non-violent principle of Jainism to The Value Series. This concept raises ones consciousness beyond mere human interaction to the awareness and connection of all living things.

My interest was really peaked when speaking to a recent participant of the Jain program about the process, and if it had changed her. While her answer was simply "yes," I also understood in that moment, what she didn’t say; all experience produces change. It is my desire to go to India this summer to study Jainism. I know I will be changed by the experience by witnessing first hand their principle of non-violence. With this experience I will return and witness this knowledge to my community. 

L. Patricia Parker
(323) 855-4319 4107 Don Tomaso Dr. #4
Los Angeles, CA  90008

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