Peace Through Dialog 2007 - Dr. Narendra P. Jain : Global Impact Of Jainism

Posted: 14.10.2007
Updated on: 02.04.2013

Jaina Convention
Federation of Jain Associations In North America

Global Impact Of Jainism


Dr. Narendra P. Jain


Dr. N.P.Jain,
E-50, Saket, Indore (M.P.) India.
drnpjain @yahoo.co.in

Dr. Narendra P. Jain is the former India's Ambassador to Nepal, European Union, Belgium, Mexico, and UN as well as Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi. He is a noted economist, ardent environmentalist, poet, prolific writer, eloquent orator, and a renowned Jain scholar. Dr. Jain is the Executive President of the World Jain Confederation and has been a speaker in numerous international conferences. His articles on Jainism appear on several websites of spiritual and interfaith organizations.

In this era of globalization and growing east-west-north-south contacts in a rapidly shrinking world, time has come to recognize the need for increasingly globalised perception of spirituality, and the valuable role inter-faith constructive engagement can play in this regard. Historically the religions of the world have not necessarily grown in isolation; they have enriched one another in diverse ways at significant points of contact, while maintaining their distinct identity. This has happened in the early centuries between Jainism. Buddhism and Hinduism. Together they have woven the tapestry of the pluralistic heritage of India. Jain religion with its central focus on Ahimsa as a compassionate ethic has made an abiding impact not only on India's cultural moorings, but in recent times inspired Mahatma Gandhi's successful non-violent struggle for independence from British colonial rule. Indeed, India's cultural mindset has been deeply influenced by the Jain perception of non-violence not as a negation of violence only, but as a point of origin of virtues such as forgiveness, mutual supportiveness, tolerance, self-control, fearlessness, synthesis and equanimity.

Michael Tobias, a noted American Jain scholar has observed:

"Jainism- India's and possibly the world's oldest religion is a quiet and overwhelmingly serious way of life, a cultural insistence on compassion, a sociology of aesthetics that has dramatically changed the world, and will continue to effect change. Jainism is a momentous example to all of us that there can and does exist a successful ecologically responsible way of life which is abundantly non-violent in thought, action and deed."

Jain religion has, over many centuries, survived the vicissitudes of history and the competing claims of other faiths in multi-religious and multi-cultural India. By advocating a spirit of synthesis, it has contributed to the cultural pluralism that has characterized the growth of Indian culture and spirituality. While for many centuries it remained confined within the shores of India, it is especially in the 20th centuries that Jain businessmen, engineers, doctors and other professionals moved out and have settled far and wide in different countries and continents of the world, notably North America and Africa. It is to the credit of Jains settled abroad that they have not only been practicing their religion ritually, but have taken to actively propagating to non-Jains the relevance of the rational, scientific and deeply benevolent message of Jain philosophy in contemporary times when the world is confronted with ever-increasing violence, intolerance, ethnic and racial discrimination, hatred, greed, exploitation of have-nots and terrorism.

In this context, it is pertinent to recall what some north Americans have to say once they were exposed to the principles and practices of Jain religion.

A transformed American Balbhadra Costain writes:

"And yet with all the freedom from want as well as opportunities knocking at the doorsteps for material progress and comforts, people do not have peace of mind or equanimity born of tolerance. Tensions, stress and distress fill the life of an average westerner. Our life and times are very fragile. It is here that Jainism has given me insight into reality and helped me to understand the purpose of human existence on this planet."

Robert Goodman has felt that Jain philosophy has served to satisfy the hunger for spiritual growth and meditation, occasional fasting, abstinence from drinking and smoking, and graduated detachment with plethora of luxuries has given him a feeling of 'spiritual prosperity' with recharged soul energy and extended self-realization about self-development through self-discipline. What has impressed him most after long discussions with me in New York and reading about Mahavir that Jainism teaches first and foremost to cut through your proud and at times vain ego and wake up to the gentle Jain spirit in you that knows no arrogance, condemnation, revenge or punishment. It carries the mighty power of all-inclusive compassion, piety and kindness.

It is to the credit of Jains settled abroad that they have not only been practicing their religion ritually, but have taken to actively propagating to non-Jains the relevance of the rational, scientific and deeply benevolent message of Jain philosophy in contemporary times when the world is confronted with ever-increasing violence, intolerance, ethnic and racial discrimination, hatred, greed, exploitation of have-nots and terrorism.

In this context, it is a happy augury that in about a quarter of a century, JAINA in North America has grown from an 'idea' into an 'institution' and from an 'institution' into a 'vibrant symbol' of the unified and harmoniously integrated identity of Jain community and its increasing global spread and impact. I was happily associated in the early discussions and initiatives during my tenure as India's envoy to the U.N. in the seventies. I have with exultation observed constant consolidation and expansion of its activities not only for unifying the Jains abroad, but also taking meaningful initiatives in inter-faith deliberations as well as launching of humanitarian and environmental projects with abiding impact. In India also at the time of natural calamities like earthquake in Gujarat, tsunami catastrophe as well as for the disabled in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere, JAINA has played a valuable role. Activists in JAINA have gained recognition at important inter-faith for a like the Parliament of Worlds' Religions, Sacred Earth Gathering and similar Inter-faith assemblies both at micro as well as macro levels.

Jain community was strongly represented at the 1993 Parliament of Worlds' Religions in Chicago. Leading saints from all sects, scholars and society leaders working in cohesion made a deep imprint by succeeding in enshrining in the Declaration on Global Ethic that non-violence and reverence for all forms of life and nature should be recognized globally as irrevocable principles of an emerging global ethic order. It is this achievement, which needs to be kept up in future by Jain community in India and abroad working together to advocate Jain ethical art of living as a model for humanity. There is unlimited potential for taking up environmental up gradation projects in needy communities, help for the disabled and the handicapped, healthcare for animals, education projects for the poor and so on. There is unlimited scope for such activities and splendid examples of initiatives being taken by several Jain trusts and institutions.

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