Essay on Jainism by Andrew Davis

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...

My formal statement of interest and qualifications as a candidate for the summer program of 2012

It is indeed a rare opportunity to study with the International School for Jain Studies in India.  With enthusiasm, I thoroughly read the about the program. This essay is submitted as my formal statement of interest and qualifications as a candidate for the summer program of 2012.

Presently, I am a fulltime graduate student at Claremont School of Theology/Claremont Lincoln University pursuing a M.A. in Interreligious Studies.  The opportunity to study at Claremont is truly wonderful and the result of a generous scholarship.  By the time summer 2012 arrives, I will have completed my first year of coursework in the newly created interreligious institution, Claremont Lincoln University (CLU).  As a leading visionary, CLU seeks to desegregate religious education bringing adherents from a diversity of religious identities under one roof to learn about each other’s traditions.  The vision is both new and bold and I am thrilled to be a part of its inaugural class.

I am fortunate to have visited India very briefly in the spring of 2009 and it is a gross understatement to say that I was profoundly captivated by Indian culture.  The colors, smells, tastes and diversity of life possessed me.  During my five day stay, I was able to learn of the complexities of Hinduism and the difficulties of the pervasive caste system.  I enjoyed the hospitality of the Dalit (untouchable) people as they invited me into their village for an overnight stay with ancient religious rituals and dancing.  I visited temples, sacred sites and enjoyed a spicy home-cooked meal and conversation with an Indian family that welcomed me into their living space

It goes without saying that my interest in Jainism is directly related to these personal experiences in India.  In fact, my first exposure to the lasting tradition of Jainism came through a conversation that ensued on the sensory-overloaded streets of Chennai.  I learned of the radical commitment of Jainism to the path of non-violence in addition to other noble vows practiced by Jain monks such as truth, non-stealing, chastity and non-possession.  These virtues are truly honorable.  My short stay in India left me craving for more understanding and experience of the religious landscape that has shaped Indian culture for thousands of years.  Moreover, as an interreligious student, I am committed to study that reaches beyond the dominance of monotheisms and embraces the splendor and wisdom of eastern traditions.  I have learned how the power of place greatly matters.  To be sure, studying Jainism from textbooks in Southern California carries value, yet studying Jainism in its culture of origin and learning from adherents is far more valuable and powerful.

Although I am only 24 years old, I have enjoyed the rare privilege and experience of remarkable global travel, education and service, having now visited over 20 countries.  At the current time I am confirmed to journey to Palestine and Israel with a study group in early January 2012.  The trip has an interreligious and ethical focus that surrounds the “Holy Land” and the ongoing conflict.  I fully expect the experience to be dramatic. Other travel and service experiences include Nepal, Spain, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Mauritius, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Guatemala, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and Belize. 

This significant travel resume is not the result tourism or pure adventure seeking.  My undergraduate major combined philosophy and theology.  In all of the global travel listed above my orientation has been cultural and religious understanding.  Each city and county offered a distinctive doorway through which to walk in the shoes of the “religious other.”  I intentionally visited religious sites and engaged local people regarding their religious life experience.  I treasure these experiences as rich and instructive for my future career.  A few examples that illustrate include: Swayambhunath Buddhist Monkey Temple in Kathmandu; Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca; the Grand Palace in Bangkok; the Holy See Temple of the Cao Dai faith in Tay Ninh (Vietnam), and Mt. Saint Benedict Monastery in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

At the risk of self promotion, I’m confident I have much to offer the ISSJS program.  I have demonstrated a serious commitment to the study of cultures and religious systems.  Further, adjusting to the demands of travel and foreign locations, investing in learning on location, and joining and supporting new friends is a proven strength.  Finally, I am pleased to have been recognized as a service-oriented leader and encouraging team member.

The ISSJS program will provide a necessary expansion to my training and experience for service.  It conforms to my pattern of globalism and cultural learning. It will also enrich my current program of study which will include coursework on eastern traditions and I know it will strengthen my commitment as I move forward academically and professionally.  What do I hope to gain?  I expect nothing short of an enriching immersion into the first person realities of Jain life.

Currently, I am in the early phase of initiating a nonprofit organization.  In short, the mission of the organization will be global humanitarian services through interreligious collaboration.  Looking further ahead, I fully expect to continue my academic preparation through doctoral studies. The ISSJS program will undoubtedly shape my personal and professional development and I am confident it will pay dividends forward in the form expanding my preparation for educational and religious service.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Davis
Claremont Lincoln University

Share this page on: