Jain Radiance On The Western Horizon [08/14] Some Notable American Scholars of Jain Studies

Posted: 15.05.2008
Updated on: 02.07.2015

Jain Radiance On The Western Horizon

[08] Some Notable American Scholars of Jain Studies

In Dr. Singhvi's previously cited article the work of three American or American-related scholars was described. The following is to add a few details. Maurice Bloomfield who was probably of Jewish background was born in Austria and moved to Milwaukee at the age of four. He studied at Chicago, Furman University (South Carolina) and Yale. He carne as a Fellow to the young John Hopkins University where Lanman, the doyen of Sanskrit studies in the U.S.A., was founding a school of Sanskrit. Bloomfield took his Ph.D. in 1879 and went off to Berlin (not India) and Leipzig for more study. He became Professor of Sanskrit at John Hopkins in 1881. He became one of the leading scholars of Indology and its related philology. Somewhat late in his career he began his work in Jain Maharashtri and Jainology and did not publish in this subject till near his death. However, his Life and stories of the Jaina Savior Parsavanatha is to this day well worth careful study.[21]

William Norman Brown (189219'75) was born in Baltimore and studied mainly at John Hopkins. He taught at Jammu and studied at Varanasi. He became deeply interested in Indian art, made many Indian friends and kept up close links with India. His publications include works in Jain miniatures and manuscript illustrations.

Heinrich Zimmer, whose main career had been in Germany, gave courses of lectures at Columbia University in New York City in 1942 and 1943 on the Philosophies of India, naturally including Jain teachings. He died-before they were finalized in writing for publication. They were edited and put through press by Joseph Campbell who achieved national television fame as a mythologist. Jain mythology and philosophy came before the American general public both through Campbell's references to it on T.V and through Zimmer's philosophies of India which appeared in the prestigious Bollingen Series as volume XXVI.22 Although Jainism is unfortunately omitted in some of our main series and compendiums of and introductions to World Religions, Campbell gave excellent coverage to the important Jain teachings in his Oriental mythology: The Masks of God (1962).

It is not American chauvinism which causes us to mention especially the work of Kendall W Folkert, one of our most promising Jainologists, who was killed as a young man on field-work in a motor accident outside Ahmednagar. He asked many critical questions of his’ predecessors in the' best "revisionist" style. He asks why. scholars have so focused on canonizing texts when Jains really do not have a narrow authoritative canon such as sixteenth and later century Europeans imagined Christians had. He questioned how any philologist sitting in Europe or America can think he understands what he is studying. One must meet the people, see the monuments, not only the inscriptions, attend the ceremonies, exegete the rituaIs.[23] His article in the Penguin Handbook of Living Religions is one of the best Encyclopaedia is articles of its size ever written.

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