Jain Sadvhis - on www.bbc.co.uk

Posted: 09.05.2004
Updated on: 07.01.2011

Jain nuns (Samanis or Sadhvis) Pratibha and Punya Pragya came to Oxford University earlier this month, to launch a new society aiming to raise awareness of the religion, which is still relatively unknown in the United Kingdom.


The afternoon meal Gochri.


Originally from Rajasthan in India, the Sadhvis live a nomadic lifestyle, sleeping on the floor, relying on the community for food and owning nothing bar two pairs of clothes.

To get initiated they took five major vows: non-violence, truthfulness, celibacy, to not steal and to not become attached to possessions.

During the year they have been in the country, they've acted as a 'spiritual catalyst', by trying to highlight how basic principles and values are more important than material goods and technological advancement, even in the 21st century.

So how did they get involved in Jain Sainthood? "I lived a normal lifestyle up until 16, and then my parents began talking about an early marriage", says one. "I realised I had a compassionate nature, a love for education and the desire to help others, but if I marry I would only be able to give this to onefamily. So I thought, why not take the alternative route? I knew little about the Sadhvis' lifestyle, but went to see what it was like, joined and did seven years of training."

Samani Punya Pragya (l) and Samani Pratibha Pragya (r)


Sadhvis Samani Punya Pragya and Samani Pratibha Pragya.


The afternoon meal saw the Sadhvis partake in Gochri, a symbolic mutual exchange between the community and saints. "We give them physical food, and in return they give us spiritual nourishment", says Dr Atul Shah, founder of Young Jains UK. "It brings us together, and indirectly reminds us of interdependence - we all need each other."

At present, the Sadhvis are running several classes at the Jain Vishva Bharati in London, including Preskha ("to see carefully and profoundly, and to perceive by your mind's eye") meditation and yoga, Jain philosophy, and Sambodhi ("path to purification"). With classes open to everyone, 565 people are said to have benefited from Preskha last year.

"We have a holistic approach, and give personal consultation" says Samani Pratibha Pragya. "People now call us when approaching exams and interviews, and even to celebrate their birthday with our blessing and Jain values."

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