ISSJS - The Academic Study Of Jainism In North America [ASJNA]

Posted: 12.08.2005
Updated on: 02.07.2015



2004

A Fast-Track Proposal

Preamble

South Asian studies is making rapid advances in American universities, due to

  1. the new pluralistic outlook in the country,
  2. the large and growing influx of immigrants from the subcontinent who give faces to Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam,
  3. an increasing number of faculty of Indian origin,
  4. the emergence of religion as a major political player on the world stage, and
  5. the felt need to think globally.

Though Jainism is the oldest of Indian traditions, and presents a rich field of scholarship, as compared with the other traditions, it has a comparatively miniscule status in academia. Approximately 1000 colleges offer courses in all disciplines (religion, philosophy, art, history, music, language) of South Asian religions. These courses are offered on the undergraduate and graduate levels, and are taught by highly trained professors, with chairs in prestigious centers of learning.

By contrast, in the estimate of Jain scholar, Professor John Cort, there are only some 17 academicians, in as many colleges that are engaged in Jaina studies; and there are no indications to suggest that the present status will change for the better. Certainly the reverse is possible: in a world of rapid change you either move forward or you move backward.

This situation is ironic, because while Jain studies goes begging, the Jain community in North America prospers like no other community in the fields of business, medicine, engineering, etc. To close this disparity, it is essential that the college-educated children of Jain families have access to the intellectual sources of their culture. It should also be a mark of pride for American Jains to have their culture studied and disseminated by the brightest in the land. More than pride, conditions in the world call for the type of culture that Jainism has to offer America and the world; a culture that has been shaped by thousands of years in the study and practice of humanitarian values that flow from the Jain ideal of ahimsa.

In November 1991, the Jain Academy (JA) in U.K was formed to fill this need. It acknowledged that “the dissemination of Jain values is a worthy ideal, at the heart of all Jains.”

Beginning with the time of Lord Mahavira, Jain teaching-monks performed this task through personal contacts, “but now with the changing lifestyles, modern education, instant communication and the internationalization of the Jain community, the dissemination requires the study of Jainism at the academic level both for its traditional and contemporary aspects.”

In 1995, the same compelling need led to the formation of the Jain Academic Foundation of North America (JAFNA) by a group of concerned Jains. The stated goal of JAFNA is: “to be an instrument and catalyst in starting and facilitating regular JAINA Studies at several well-known universities in the U.S.A. and Canada. JAFNA is a Tax Exempt educational religious organization in the U.S.A. JAFNA is also an affiliate member of Federation of JAINA.”

The present proposal for The Academic Study of Jainism in North America (ASJNA) attempts to build on the achievements of JA and JAFNA, but with this two-fold distinction: it is fully integrated within the American university system, in which students can earn credits towards degrees; and it is integrated with academic institutions in India, aimed at helping students understand Jainism within its indigenous environments

The Plan

This is a fast-track, two-tiered programme, open to students and professors in American universities. Its purpose is to impart a basic grounding/skills in the Jain religion within a cultural context where it is experienced as a lived reality. Through seminars, lectures, and library resources, students and professors will be provided with the basic intellectual tools for an understanding of the many facets of Jainism, including its history, politics, philosophy, and ethics. Through fieldwork, they will be exposed to the culture of Jainism through the media of visual and performing arts, temple worship, rituals, festivals, family ceremonies, and visits to Jain homes.

Time

The programme will be conducted each summer, beginning 2005, for a period of two months (June, July).

Application Deadline

Applications are due by February 1.

Eligibility and Criteria

Students: the programme is open to all full-time graduate students enrolled in an American university, regardless of religion, race, or citizenship. It is expected that students will exercise sensitivity to their social environment in India.
In some cases, students from other countries who meet similar academic criteria as students in the U.S. will be deemed eligible.

Professors: the programme is open to all full-time professors employed in an American university, regardless of religion, race, or citizenship. Candidates with an advanced degree in Indian studies are best qualified; however, scholars with ties to India will be considered. The most important qualification is for the professor to be intellectually, personally, and professionally committed to the promotion of Jain studies in his or her university, through recruiting students, and seeing to it that Jainism is made a part of the department’s curriculum.

Cost

Each Students will receive a stipend of $3000 (to compensate for the loss of earnings during summer break), economy class return airfare to and from India, full hospitality, travels within India and complete course/lecture notes.
Each Professors will receive a stipend of $4000 (to compensate for the loss of earnings during summer break), economy class return airfare to and from India, full hospitality, travels within India and complete course/lecture notes.

In addition, there will be additional cost of boarding, lodging in India (for 2 months), honorarium to the Indian teachers/scholars and other incidental expenses.

It is estimated that on an average, the total will amount to about $7,000 for each Student and professor from North America (USA & Canada)

Requirements

Students are expected to enroll in the Spring Semester (prior to trip) in a seminar on Indian Religions/Philosophy, with focus on some aspect of Jainism, for 3 credits. The Jain component should be substantial.

In the summer, students will enroll in Field Methods in Religion/Philosophy, for 3 credits. They will maintain journals on their studies and field-trip experiences.

Following the summer session, students will write an analytical paper for a course, for 3 credits.
Total credits earned: 9.

The above model is only to serve as a guideline; actual distribution of courses and credits will vary with each department and university.

Professors will be supplied in advance with a list of readings to prepare them for the lectures, seminars, and other scholarly activities in PVRI, and to help them develop research projects, and curricular materials for teaching. The programme is intended to address the special research interests of the faculty. Details will be worked out on an individual basis.

Certificates

Certificates will be presented to students and faculty upon successful completion of the course.
A Curriculum Committee will be appointed to supervise all academic requirements.

India Partner Institutions

The programme will primarily be carried out in partnership with the Parswanath Vidyapeeth Research Institute (PVRI), Varanasi, a fully accredited academic institution. PVRI will act as host, arrange for lecturers, organize field trips, arrange living accommodations, and supervise all activities.

Other partners include: Jain Vishwa Bharati (JVB), Ladnun, L.D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, B.L. Institute of Indology, Delhi, Vidya Sagar Institute of Management (VIM) Bhopal and Bombay University, Dept of Jainology.

The Partner Institutions are pivotal to the programme. They make India a “classroom” for their visitors, and enable them to get an insider’s view of Jainism, which never could be replicated in America. What they learn, how they learn, and where they learn will make the India experience unforgettable to students and professors alike.

By the same token, our partners also stand to benefit by the interchange. They will have “an anekantavada experience” as they are introduced to new ways of thinking about Jainism, and will sense the need to adapt Jain principles to the modern world. Contacts will also be made between individuals and institutions for future collaboration.

Strong Points of the Plan

  • The plan is not centralized, as in the case of an established Chair in a particular university. Instead, it is mobile, going to any educational center, big or small, that is interested in the development of Jain studies.
  • The plan is efficient, being unencumbered by a bureaucracy.
  • The plan is integrated; locating Jain studies within the university system of America, and making the students work hard toward the earning of grades toward a degree.
  • The plan brings students and professors back to the homeland of Lord Mahavira, and utilizes the expertise of Indian colleagues to uncover the subtle nuances of their ancient path.
  • The plan is fiscally attractive, because there are no salaries to be paid, no equipment to be bought, no quarters to be maintained. All administrators perform their work as voluntary service (seva).

Phase 1

The class of ’2005 will be limited to 4 students and 2 professors.
Upon completion of the first cycle, meetings will be held to correct weaknesses and reinforce strengths in the system.

Phase 2

Based on input from Phase 1, necessary changes will be made and a revised schedule will be implemented.

Organization

A Governing Board will oversee the operation, management, and maintenance of ASJNA, with the legal power to make all policy decisions. The distinction of the first Chairman of the Board is given to our colleague, Dr. Sulekh Jain.

He has made his mark as a pioneer of the Jain community in North America. Since 1973, he has been instrumental in establishing several Jain Centers in USA. Since 1981 he has been associated with the national organization known as the Federation of Jain Associations In North America (JAINA), and served as its Secretary (1985-1989) and President (1989- 1993). In 1995, Drs. Premchand Gada, Sulekh Jain and others organized the Jain Academic Foundation of North America (JAFNA) and in 1998, organized an International Seminar at Harvard University on Jainism and Environment. Through these years, Sulekh and his colleagues have had a passion to help Jain studies achieve the same recognition in American universities as Hinduism and Buddhism, and this has culminated in the formation of ASJNA. As Chairman (first year only), Sulekh’s chief function will be to act as a liaison between faculty and management, and between ASJNA and the partner institutions in India. 3 other members of the Board who will be selected from the Jain community in North America will assist him in his duties.

 

Academic Director

Professor Cromwell Crawford, Department of Religion, University of Hawaii, will fill the position of Academic Director in a voluntary capacity.

Born, reared, and educated in India with a graduate degree from Serampore University (West Bengal), he has an M.A.T. from Indiana University, a doctorate from The Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (FRAS). He has authored 6 college textbooks on Indian philosophy, and has chapters in 22 books, dealing with a variety of Indian themes. His latest book is Hindu Bioethics For The Twenty First Century, published by The State University of New York. In 1999 he delivered the National Lectures for the Indian Council of Philosophic Research at Lucknow University, Jadavpur University, Bombay University and Delhi University. He has served as a friend of Jainism for some 12 years, having lectured for JAINA Conventions since 1993 (Pittsburgh), Young Jains of America Conferences (3), and he sits on the board of Jain Spirit, London.

 

Exploratory Trip to India

Dr. Sulekh Jain is taking Professor Crawford to India in December/January [2004/05].

The purpose is to visit institutes of Jainology, and become familiar with the facilities, library, lodging, faculty, and ongoing programmes. They hope to identify and select 5 Jain scholars with proficiency in English to teach the students and faculty from the U.S.

Management of Funds

All pledges and funds will be donated to a pre-existing Tax Exempt/Charitable Institution in North America.
The organization will be identified later by three prominent Jain community leaders who will manage the funds and the entire programme, as stated above.
Academic decisions will lie within the jurisdiction of the faculty.

Benefits & Salient Features

  1. Such a program will be instrumental in establishing Jain academic studies on a regular basis in North America.
  2. This proposal addresses the most vital needs i.e. training of the teachers and the students.
  3. This is the most cost effective, practical and doable approach. This is far cheaper and economical than establishing a Chair at the present juncture.
  4. Proposal has the full support and backing of a highly well recognized academician within the North American University system.
  5. This program is built on the participation of American and Indian Institutions of higher learning and research.
  6. This program thru joint participation will be a catalyst in improving the quality, contents and scope of the Jain academic Institutions in India. Thus, Indian Institution should benefits tremendously thru this interaction.
  7. Over time, this program will pave the ways for Joint partnerships, collaborations, affiliation, exchange of students and scholars, fieldwork and seminars etc between Institutions in India and North America.
  8. Progress and Peer review of the effectiveness of this program will be done after the first year. For future years, necessary changes will be made based on the lessons learned. This program has a finite life.
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Dr. Sulekh Chand Jain, PhD