Jain Radiance On The Western Horizon [10/14] Some Developments in Indian Studies of Jainism

Posted: 16.05.2008
Updated on: 13.10.2008

Jain Radiance On The Western Horizon

[10] Some Developments in Indian Studies of Jainism

More difficult, if not impossible, for outsiders mainly resident in the West to follow, but of the greatest importance for revisionists and onward-going thinking during the last decades are the lively discourse and debate on Jain studies going on in India. At the beginning of the period in 1954 Dr. B.J. Sandesara reporting as President of the Prakrit and Jainism section of the All India Oriental Conference seemed at first to be somewhat pessimistic. He described how Sanskrit still has the strongest pull over Prakrit for the best students, as Buddhism and Hinduism have over Jainism.[33] However, he points out that new Institutions are coming up in Bihar and Gujarat. A Cultural Index of the Jain canon is now well under way. He says it is time to take up Dr. Bloomfield's call male years ago for more work in Jain Sanskrit: The provision of Hindu l ex ice for Prakrit words is being well met. In the matter of publishing texts from the Grantha-Bhandaras, the re-discovery of Indological works dealing with all kinds of subjects is still going on. Hindi work on very many aspects of Jam literary activity is appearing and more is on j its way. Hindi translations of German master works are becoming available. Dr. Sandesra also gives detail of many works on Jain material originally written in Sanskrit on drama, lexicography, astrology, mathematics and much else. He passes on to learned works appearing in Gujarati on Jain topics. After speaking of work in Kannada, he turns to cynic publications on Jam art and architecture both ancient and modern and speaks of Jain philosophy, culture and history and comes on to non-violence and Religion, He concludes with bibliographies and catalogues. One can only say this is a staggering output during a two year period when you come to thistle how small in proportion to the total the Jain population of India is. (Some say it is about half of one percent.) This activity has not abated but increased geometrically.

To say a little more about only the discourse in Hindi (while acutely aware of Gujarati and hearing something of the work going on in the languages of Rajastan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu), the availability of texts is prodigious. Manuscripts from the old storage houses including those overtaken by Partition are continuing to be catalogued edited and collated. The whole attitude of the modern fundamentalist western approach to authorized, canonical texts must give place to something nearer to real life. Here the urgent need of Christianity to be aware of and use its interdependence with other religions is underlined. Beside commentaries and text editions, various helps to study and aids to understanding exist in Hindi and no doubt in other Indian languages, which we sorely lack in English. Jainendra Jaina's Dictionary, comes immediately to mind.[34] The community must decide, now English has reached the status of a world sacred language, if it is worthwhile to do translations or to wait for a new generation of Jain scholars with English as a first language and computerize as a second to produce or duplicate them.

In India as well as among those living abroad, the Diaspora, the nature of the relationship of the Jain dharma to the "Hindu" and the Buddhist is also being thought out now by non-violent people less and less in terms of the earlier western religious denominations fighting one another and competing but of people living and working together and sharing a culture. In a living corpus or body separate systems co-exist and impermeable partitions are rare. The British Oriental fists' paradigm for the History of Indian Religions has been overturned by archaeology amongst other things. The missionaries and Orientalists first net male pandits who extolled Sanskrit and "Brahmanism." Now Hindi speakers at Conferences such as that held in New Delhi in February 1992 by the Rishabdev Foundation are asking whether the snaring of features with the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas is a purely one way traffic, merely borrowing and nee-working by Jams of "Hindu" themes. The naked mendicants who wander in and out of literature, the iconography of Moenjodaro and Harappa, may have something fundamental to tell us about Jain antiquity. The claim in this speculation is not proprietary, there is no cry of "Jainism was there," or Hum Hindu nahin hai but rather a call to realize the fluidity and inter-dependence of Indian religion with elements which afterwards we recognize as specific, pointing to a certain primordially of Jain features. As we begin to catch a glimmer of the basic religiousness of humanity and through humanity of the universe, it is possible that we see in Jainism. With its non-violence and joyful co-dependence an abiding and unchanging element in our universe which may take the place of "nature red in tooth and claw" and "man rampant on a field of pollution." The Jain Declaration on Nature presented to the Duke of Edinburgh grows out of a world-wide, not just a US/UK earth.

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