Dr. Vinod Kapashi From London Teaches A Class On Jainism At Charles University In Prague

Posted: 12.12.2012



International Summer School for Jain Studies, ISSJS


Dr. Vinod Kapashi From London (U. K) Teaches  A Class On Jainism At Charles University In Prague (Czech Republic)

Jainism is not a known religion in some of the countries of the world. One will hardly see any Jain or a Jain temple in countries which were under the communist rule. Czech Republic is one such country. Previously it was Czechoslovakia but in 1993, Slovakia and Czech Republic became two separate countries.

There are hardly any Jains living in Czech Republic and consequently no Jain organization or a Jain temple there either. But in spite of this, it is most heartening to see that Jainism is being taught in the most prestigious Charles University in Prague. Charles University is more than 700 years old with buildings spread in many parts of Prague. In one of the buildings, one will find that many religions are taught regularly. Jainism is one such religion. Question now arises who teaches Jainism and is there any one taking interest in Jain studies.

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To find the answers to this question one has to go back a few years in the history of Czechoslovakia.  History tells us that it was a man called Otokar Pertold who came across Jain books and studied Jainism in depth.  The following paragraph about Pertold can be seen in the Google Search.

“Otakar Pertold (21.3.1884 Jaromer-3.5.1965 Prague), was a Czech indologist, historian of religion and ethnologist. He was the first professor of religion on the Charles University in Prague. He wrote many books on religions, especially Eastern ones. He was very fond of Jainism and wrote this book with great admiration. Thanks to him the “Oriental-ni Ustav v Praze” has most of the Jain scriptures in Ardhamagadhi”

Otokar Pertold first wrote a book on Jainism in 1924 but could not publish it during the communist regime.  He re-wrote the book again in 1961 and then got it published in Prague in Czech language because political repression had almost died down. The book explains Jainism in more than 200 pages. It is a remarkable book in the Czech language.

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However, Pertold did not teach Jainism in Prague. It is another remarkable man, Josef Bartosek, who now teaches Jainism to the Czech students there. Josef has lived in India for a few years and has also studied Jainism. His interest in Jainism grew after reading Pertold’s book on Jainism. He still has an original copy of Pertold’s book. He has acquired lots of other books too on Jainism.

Now Prof. Josef Bartosek runs regular classes in Jainism in the Charles University. Prof. Bartosek and ISJS   invited Dr. Vinod Kapashi and his wife Sudha (from London, U.K) to go to Prague.  On 26 November 2012, they did just that and give a lecture (in the class of Prof. Bartosek) on Jainism and also demonstrated how a Jain ‘Snatra Pooja’ can be performed.  It was not easy or practical to take everything from London but they took all basic things (without Trgadu) required for a Jain Pooja. Both Dr. Kapashi and his wife performed the pooja in the class itself, explained the whole procedure and also delivered a lecture on Jain philosophy. The Pooja ceremony and the lecture were attended by 24 students. At the end an Aarti was also performed after the pooja. Many students asked Dr. Kapashi and his wife  to tie the ‘Raksha Potlis on their wrists as well.

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About Josef Bartosek, Dr. Kapashi says “he lives a very simple life like a true Jain shravak in Prague. He does not keep a car or a TV set. His wife and children are very well used to managing without these facilities. He was first trained as an Engineer but could not work under the communist regime. He then travelled to Glasgow (U.K) and studied further. Later he went to India and attended International Summer School for Jain Studies run by ISJS in 2010.  This helped him a great deal in understanding the Jain path and its philosophy. He is an environmentalist in true sense”.

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In one of the photographs attached herewith shows Prof. Bartosek   holding a copy of Pertold’s book on Jainism. The other photographs show the Jain Pooja ritual as explained to the students in Prague.

Prof. Bartosek is the first person in the Czech Republic  who offers a regular course in Jainism and Dr. Kapashi and his wife are the first Jains not only to go to teach the class but also to demonstrate the Jain pooja rituals in the class. What followed were   many interactive discussions, questions and answers.

Prof. Bartosek plans to repeat this positive experience in future and invite more practicing Jains from many places to Prague as Guest lecturers.  Prof. Bartosek can be reached at Josef.Bartosek(at)seznam.cz

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