9th Jaina Studies Workshop - Jainism And Modernity - A Manish Mehta Report

Posted: 09.05.2007
Updated on: 19.03.2013

"JAINISM AND MODERNITY"
13 Scholars / 2 Days

1 (Unofficial) Workshop Report by a North American observer
Containing a fraction of the fascinating learning points from the
9th Jaina Studies Workshop March 21-22, 2007
Of the Centre of Jaina Studies
Held at London University, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)

From SOAS Website:

The conference was organized by the Initiative for the European Network for Jaina Studies: Dr Peter Flügel, Centre of Jaina Studies SOAS, Prof Olle Qvarnström, Centre of Theology and Religious Studies University of Lund, and Dr Julia Hegewald, South Asia Institute University of Heidelberg. Sponsorship was received by the Swedish Research Council (SRC), the Emmy Noether Programme of the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (DFG), and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

An excellent compilation of speaker abstracts and articles may be found in the souvenir edition of Newsletter of the Center for Jaina Studies, March 2007 (Issue 2), released in commemoration. Page 31 shows a 3-dimensional view of Vimal Vasahi, Dilwara Temple in Mt. Abu…Wow! (A great idea for future JAINA Calendars which are always in high demand!)

The aims of this report are:

  • to help disseminate highlights and information on unmet needs and diverse topics of active research in Jainism that were shared at this exceptional learning event;
  • to inspire youth and adults in our own Jain laity to appreciate the vast pool of knowledge our predecessors from time immemorial have developed and passed us to facilitate the quest for Moksha; and
  • to stimulate future collaborations and international programs of similar high caliber.
    These events and activities deserve our strong personal and financial support! Visit the SOAS website for making contributions.

To the scholars and readers:

I humbly request your forgiveness in advance if I have misrepresented any information in my enthusiasm to disseminate the essence from the many pages of lecture notes I gathered on March 22 in your distinguished presence – any inaccuracies in this report are due to my own shortcomings and Antarayakarma!


WORKSHOP PROGRAM

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Annual Jain Lecture by Prof. Lawrence A. Babb (Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA) on "Jainism and the Culture of Trade"
[Not Reported herein – an excellent summary by Dinesh Z. Shah is available at:

www.herenow4u.de/Pages/eng/Sections/SOAS/The7thAnnualJainLectureat.htm ]

Thursday 22 March 2007

9.00

Welcome

9.05

Prof Olle Qvarnström (University of Lund) The Dancing Indra: Jain Cave Paintings from Ellora

9.40

Dr Julia Hegewald & Sabine Scholz (University of Heidelberg) Mahamastakabhiseka 2006: Pilgrims, Preparations & Procedures

10.15

Dr Peter Flügel (SOAS) Jain Modernism

10.50

Tea and Coffee

11.20

Dr Anupam Jain (Holkar Science College, Indore) Contributions of Ancient Jaina Scholars to Modern Mathematics

11.55

Dr Prabha Jain (Jabalpur) The Language of Sets in Jaina Wisdom

12.30

Dr Kim Plofker (Brown University) Links between Sanskrit and Muslim science in Jaina astronomical works

13.05

Lunch

14.05

Prof Jonardon Ganeri (University of Liverpool) Worlds in Conflict: The Jains in Early Modern India

14.40

Dr Jayendra Soni (University of Marburg) Jaina Philosophy and Modernity

15.15

Dr Shin Fujinaga (Miyakonojo, Miyazaki) Jaina Studies in Japan

15.50

Tea and Coffee

16.20

Manisha Sethi The Proof of Custom: Negotiating Jain Widow's Inheritance Rights

16.55

Signe Kirde (University of Bonn) The Meaning of Possessiveness (parigraha) in Digambara Literature and the Search for a Strange Manuscript of Samantabhadra

17.30

Dr Maria Schetelich (University of Leipzig) Sources for the History of Jain Studies at Leipzig University - The Archive of Johannes Hertel

18.05

Final Remarks

Contact:

Prof. Peter Flügel, Centre of Jaina Studies, Department for the Study of Religions, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H OXG, 7898 4028, js64@soas.ac.uk


SUMMARIES OF SCHOLAR PRESENTATIONS

Speaker 1

Prof Olle Qvarnström
University of Lund
olle.qvarnstrom@teol.lu.se

“The Dancing Indra: Jain Cave Paintings from Ellora”

  • He has taken over 700 digital photos of the walls and ceilings in the Jain caves at Ellora (Maharashtra)
  • Most Jain art was done during the Rashtrakuta dynasty – he showed examples of paintings of Bahubali, Parashvanath and a unique 8-armed dancing Indra with 14 other figures shown as celebrating Samovasaran (1st preaching by a tirthankar); some other depictions of a fight between two identical characters (may be Bharat and Bahubali). Need for greater understanding of the overall theme and composition, as no previous studies have been done.
  • In the Indra Sabha cave, over 30 paintings are rapidly deteriorating due to bat droppings, insects, lack of maintenance, etc., and urgently need preservation efforts.

Speaker 2

Dr Peter Flügel
SOAS, University of London
pf8@soas.ac.uk

“Jain Modernism”

  • Peter described a dichotomy in the title of his presentation – Jainism and Modernity are opposites, because while Jain doctrine is eternal, the contexts of our interpretation are changing continuously.
  • Jainism is subject to historical change, with three distinct periods: Pre-modern / Modern / Post-Modern
  • A long list of features of Jain Modernism was presented that includes:
    • Westernization/anti-Westernization (colonialism, globalization, critical studies)
    • Revival of Jainism (re-publication of ancient scriptures, ease of access to texts, monastic revival)
    • Innovative religious practices (re-invention of meditation, use of media and texts)
    • Neo-orthodoxy
    • New forms of organization (such as lay leadership, charities, Jain federations)
    • Social & Political activism (such as ecology, world peace social work, women’s rights, democracy and socialism, anti-casteism, animal liberation, minority rights, etc.)
    • Worldwide missions by Jains
  • There is new emphasis on linking modern science to Jain teachings and cosmology to illustrate the rationalism, universality and eternity of Jain thought. He illustrated this by mentioning a new book on “Neuroscience and Karma” by Jetha Lal Zaveri. Many other books have been published on science and Jainism In the modern age.
    • Some scriptures contain references to electricity as a form of fire, and the wave theory of light pulses – light is a reaction between material atoms.
  • Peter firmly believes there is a “Protestant” Jainism, and he went on to contrast Jain Modernism with other prominent modernisms observed in Christianity and Buddhism. The evidence he presented included:
    • Canonical Age of Jainism (e.g., Agam yuga 527 BCE
    • New Age Jainism (e.g., Navinnaya Yuga 1473 BCE)
    • Sangha Yuga (e.g., Shrama Sangha unification 1952)
  • He also showed five types of Jainism (not related to chronology): Canonical, Classical, Mystical, Protestant and Modern – all excellent topics for a future keynote lecture!
  • Peter concluded by describing the efforts of (Hindu) Acharya Vinobha Bhave (1895-1982) who organized the Delhi Council in 1974 to show the commonness of various religions in India. This greatly helped unify Jainism and its leaders – a (modern) event was held to commemorate the 2500 birth anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavir, which inspired the publication of Saman Suttam book, which is a modern attempt at interpreting the essence of Jainism.

Speaker 3

Dr Anupam Jain
Govt. Holkar Science College, Indore, India
anupamjain3@rediffmail.com

“Contribution of Ancient Jaina Scholars to Modern Mathematics”

  • In an energetic presentation, Prof. Jain described the role of mathematics in Jainism as perceived in Digambara tradition and Swetambara tradition (e.g., Bhagwati sutra) – the role of mathematics is to improve one’s understanding of the original texts.
  • Over 30 scholars have made major contributions in mathematics we use today, starting from Gundhara in 1st century BC, to Acharya Umaswati’s Tattvarthasutra in 1st century AD). Prof. Jain felt that many scholars have been completely ignored – there is a strong need to write a more complete book on the role of Jain scholars in mathematics.
  • There are over 10 lakhs (1 million) manuscripts lying in the bhandars at many temples all over India that are as yet untranslated and unpublished! There are many cross-references in existing Jaina texts to other texts which have not yet been found…and may never be, without serious new investment in resources and experts.
    • In certain texts, there is clear evidence showing that the word “Jinam” was deliberately and systematically replaced by the word “Shivam” This makes it even more complex to locate all Jaina scriptures.
  • Prof. Jain cited several examples of mathematical contributions of Jaina scholars – many contributions have not even been credited correctly due to the ‘knowledge gap” or for political reasons. In many cases, credit is given to western scholars (Fibonacci, Vieta, Herigon, Napier, Pascal, Omarkhayyam and Bernoulli) due to lack of widespread awareness of Jaina contributions. Among them:
    • Madhavchandra Traividya (11th C) which has concepts for algebra.
    • Hemraj (17th C) wrote the first Jain text on Theory of Numbers in Devanagri script.
    • Ardhamagdhi poetry also refers to mathematical concepts.
    • Mahaviracharya (850 AD) on solution of general combinations nCr and Hemchandra (1107 AD) on solution of permutations nPr
    • Sridhara ( 799 AD) developed the general formula for solving quadratic & cubic polynomial equations
    • Virasena (816 AD) who developed logarithmic concepts for counting and depicting large numbers.
  • A notable modern effort is led by Prof. Takao Hayashi in Japan in translating various Jaina astronomical manuscripts into English.
  • Prof. Jain mentioned key Jain centers fo excellence in math exist at Ujjain (MP), Southern School (Digambar school where Mahavir Acharya resided) and Vallabhi (Swetambara school).


  • He also refreshed attendees about contributions of Jain mathematicians for describing unaccountable numbers (used in para-worldly applications of karma theory) – the Rajju as well as the Rasi (basis of Jaina set theory).
  • He concluded by recommending further reading in Prof. LC Jain’s books published in the 1970s and 1980s (modern era).

Speaker 4

Dr Prabha Jain
Jabalpur, MP, India
prabhajain_didi@rediffmail.com

“The Language of Sets in Jaina Wisdom”

  • A scholar of Sanskrit and Prakrit, Dr. Jain is a frequent collaborator with Prof. LC Jain., and illustrated her fascinating presentation slides using Venn diagrams and sets (which are not reproduced here).
  • Her sources are primarily the Digambara Jain School using Prakrit texts such as the Gommatasara and Labdhisara, compiled by Nemichandra Siddhantacakarvarti (10th C).
  • Much fundamental work was done in South India – the genius of Mahaviracharya was responsible for many of these advancements.
  • The Jain theory of sets originated in 84 verses in the Bhagwati sutra, which describes Utsarpini and Avsarpini cycles (time is expressed in “kha” periodic units, and the existence of jivas expressed in Rasi units).
    • The greatest set is the state of Omniscience (all knowing).
    • One-to-Many mappings have been shown in the Syadvad of bios (living beings).
  • The key application of mathematical theory of sets is in explaining Karma science, infinity, and karmic particle motion/patterns to describe the influx of karmas and their interaction with bios and material particles.

Speaker 5

Prof. Kim Plofker
Brown University, RI, USA
Kim_Plofker@brown.edu

“Links Between Sanskrit and Muslim Science in Jaina Astronomical Works”

  • Prof. Plofker described the key role Jain munis and scholars played in interfacing science across these diverse cultures that fluorished in places like the durbars of Mughal India (like Shah Jehan). It is widely documented that Emperor Jahangir consulted with Jain scholars – this is seen in the painting of Prabhasuri.
  • Influential Jain mathematicians were often consulted and trusted in the management of Muslim treasuries and mints that developed coinage. This relationship dates as far back as 11th and 12th centuries. She described the role of scholars such as Takara Peru in 12th century.
  • Mahendra Suri (1370 AD) created various astral-aids such as Yantras (instruments or tools) and Asaras (extracts/essence/nectar); these were akin to today’s analog computer to depict key astronomical concepts using trigonometry and spherical geometry for incorporating in star-maps.
    • She showed examples of scripts authored by him – the uniqueness is that there are NO diagrams or illustrations in the texts, but very detailed writeups of spherical methods- this is indicative of the advanced understanding and high level of confidence Jain scholars had developed in astronomical principles.
  • Jain scholars played a disproportionately large role in translating Islamic mathematical concepts for use in Hindu jyotishi (astrology) and other predictive sciences.
  • However, the role of Jain scholars appears to have diminished by the middle ages, as evidenced in the planning and construction of the famous Jantar-Mantar observatory by
  • Sawai Jai Singh (17th C). According to Prof. Plofker, by then, Hindu scholars had caught up on various knowledge gaps and no longer needed the Jains to help translate.
  • Prof. Anupam Jain remarked that the oldest known Jain texts on astronomy are from the 7th century AD, found in Moodbidri, Karnataka.

Speaker 6

Prof. Jonardon Ganeri
University of Liverpool, UK
jonardon@liv.ac.uk

“Worlds in Conflict: The Jains in Early Modern India”

  • Professor Ganeri described his research on the life and times of Yasovijay Gani (1624-1688 AD), a Gujerati merchant and philosopher, who was a key figure in the era of Navya Nyaya (Jain modernism) and in the clash of cultures, during the Mughal era in India.
  • He provided a summary of Gani’s life from readings from Gani’s text, titled Nyaya Jainakhandakhadhyay.
  • Gani dedicated his life in three main stages – as an apprentice in Varanasi; as a prolific writer and translator of Hindu and Jain treatises into Persian; and as an author of major spiritual works on neutrality and tolerance grounded in appreciation of all viewpoints.
    • Yasovijay Gani argued that no body of theory (sastra), whether Jaina or non-Jaina, is to be accepted merely on the basis of sectarian interest, but the theory should be subject to testing.
    • Neutrality is explained as the dispassionate use of reason, so that a person who embodies this virtue follows wherever reason leads. Gani stressed that neutrality is not an end in itself, but rather a means to another end.
    • Being grounded in all view-points means giving each view-point its proper weight within the total picture, so that the benefit that accrues is in the use of reason rather than quarrel and imposition of ego on others engaged in discussion.
    • Gani proposed the unification of Jain thought, rituals and practices amongst various denominations, which forms a strong basis for expanding the approach to harmonious living in other multi-faith communities.

Speaker 7

Prof. Jayendra Soni
University of Marburg, Germany
soni@staff.uni-marburg.de

Jain Philosophy and Modernity: Some Thoughts Based on Mahavira’s Words”

  • Prof. Soni began his talk by asking two key questions, “Was Mahavira a philosopher?” The answers are both, Yes and No – He successfullylinked theory and practice through his austere ascetic practices to ultimately achieve salvation.
  • “What relevance do his life and teachings have in today’s modern era when he lived over 2500 years ago?” The answer is that the 21st century has many similarities and analogies to 6th century BCE in terms of:
    • Human suffering (old age, disease, death, despair and alienation are pervasive)
    • Aggression and violence have reached new heights, despite the widespread availability of education and civil societies.
  • He drew the audience’s reference to a new book, “Mahavira’s Words” by Walther Schubring (re-published by LD Institute, Ahmedabad in 2004; Schubring’s original version was authored in 1926), which enumerates key teachings of Mahavira – He recommended using a personal filter for making life’s key decisions and for rational choices in our living habits: WWMD or What Would Mahavira Do?
    • Each person is responsible for his/her own actions
    • Each one of us reaps for himself the opportunity of progressing and achieving a higher level of salvation – abstinence from all activity is the best way to reach
    • salvation (e.g., Bahubali), and every individual should strive to reach such a state of self-control.
  • Prof. Soni concluded by stating the need to more widely promote the book “Mahavira’s Words”, and thereby enable more persons to implement the essence of Jainism and Mahaviar’s philosophy.

Speaker 8

Dr Shin Fujinaga
Myakonojo University, Japan
fujinaga@cc.miyakonojo-net.ac.jp

“Jaina Studies in Japan”

  • Dr. Fujinaga opened by stating that the work of Japanese scholars on Jainism remains largely unpublished and uncommunicated to the world!
  • He provided a brief historical perspective of events in Japan which sparked modern day studies in Jainism, attributing this to the Meiji Restoration period of the 1890s which led to the new openness of Japanese (conservative) society, and hence led to the stimulation of new research in things non-Japanese. There are several examples:
    • Hemchandra’s “Yogasastra” was first translated into Japanese in the 1920’s!
    • Tattvartha Sutra and the Dashavaikalika Sutra were translated in the 1940s.
    • Forty Japanese students were sponsored by the Govt. of India in the early 1950s to live and study in India – some of them studied Navinaya in Varanasi and Gujerat, which led to new interest in the study of Jainism in Japan; one of the accomplishments was the first Japanese book by Minakata Kumagusu to simplify and translate the concepts of Jainism into Japanese for use by the common people in Japan.
  • Dr. Fujinaga stated that his Japanese Journal of Jaina Studies is circulated to 500 individuals/organizations in Japan, and there is a Society for Jain Studies. He contrasted this with 10 Japanese universities which have programs on Buddhism.

Speaker 9

Ms. Manisha Sethi
Lecturer, Jamia Millia Islamia University, India
manisha.sethy@gmail.com

“The Proof of Custom: Negotiating Jain Widows’ Inheritance Rights”

  • Ms. Sethi opened her talk by stating that since colonial times, “Jains presented a predicament to the legal system in India”: while they lived the Hindu culture, they were considered to be outside the purview of the Hindu Sastras (basis of Hindu Law). Jains were deemed to be distinct from Hindus and hence, eligible to be governed by our own form of Jain laws and customary practices.
  • Jain Jurisprudence evolved from ancient Jain texts such as Bhadrabahu Samhita, Archana Niti and Vardhamana Niti. It covered succession of moveable and immoveable property, which may be further classified as Obstructed (moves to deceased’s sons) and Unobstructed (moves to uncle, nephew, etc.). Traditionally, property and possessions held among Jains transitioned from husband to wife and from father to son. Not only did the deceased’s widow inherit his property, she also enjoyed absolute and final authority over its use and disposal.
  • However, Prof. Sethi stated , there are many cases recorded in the law courts of India, and she summarized many interesting disputes and precedents from the early 1900s, where courts demanded greater authentication of proof of custom in many cases, resulting in a great diversity in judgements.
  • Prof. Sethi concluded that with modern interpretations, Jain widows are no longer given more rights than Hindu rights (in the absence of a son), however, there are always challenges to both custom and law
    • Example – Bunts Jains of Karnataka follow a largely matriarchical secession of property.
    • In other colorful cases, widows with no male progeny often went to great lengths to demonstrate public adoptions of sons in order to establish secession rights!

Speaker 10

Dr Signe Kirde
Universitat Bonn, Germany
kirde@web.de

“Some Aspects of non-Possession in the Digambara Tradition – and the Search for a Strange Manuscript of Samantabhadra”

  • With a mysterious title as above, Dr. Kirde began her lecture, stating that Sramana tradition was based on non-possessiveness (or aparigraha) that was different from the Vedic interpretation of non-possessiveness in that it extends to avoidance of destruction of possessions. This principle provides a ‘roadmap’ that can help future generations deal with global challenges we see and experience around us in this modern day.
  • These core teachings apply to Patent Laws and the exploitation of biological resources – several organizations in India are actively championing trade-related intellectual property rights, such as Vandana Shiva, The Crucible Group (seedlings solution).
  • She drew reference to Champatrai Jain who authored several legal texts on Jain Law in the 1030s. Such contributions resulted in Jainism having a highly regarded code of conduct on possessiveness.
  • Prof. Kirde then described an early handbook/treatise written by Samantabhadra in South India, titled “Ratnakarandasravakacara,” meaning in Sanskrit “The Ethical Conduct of Lay Followers According to the Jewel Box [of Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct]”. A Hindi translation by Dr. Jaykumar Jalaj is available from Hindi Granth Karyalaya, Mumbai (2006).
  • She then provided a historical account of Samantabhadra, the 9th century AD grammarian, poet, logician and philosopher, leading into current speculation by Jain scholars of the modern day on whether he authored (the “Strange Manuscript”) titled “Gandhahastimahabhasya”, which is regarded today as a monumental commentary on the Tattvartha Sutra. The research continues…

Speaker 11

Dr Maria Schetelich
Leipzig University, Germany
Signe Kirde
Universitat Bonn, Germany
maschete@web.de

“Sources for the History of Jain Studies at the University of Leipzig: The Archive of Johannes Hertel”

  • The great German scholar, Johannes Hertel (1872-1955) was the chair of Indian Studies at University of Leipzig, and is best known for his reconstruction of the Panchatantra – the earliest collection of folk tales/fables or Kathas with moral teaching. According to Wikipedia, “the Panchatantra approximated its current literary form within the 4th — 6th centuries CE. No Sanskrit texts before 1000 CE have survived. According to Hindu tradition, it was written around 200 BCE by Pandit Vishnu Sarma, a sage.” Notice that no credit is given to contributions by Jains to the compilations of these stories!
  • Dr. Schetelich recounted the life of Johannes Hertel (who began his career as a teacher in Switzerland). Hertel was first inspired to consult the Jain Katha literature by Ernst Leumann, the librarian at the Prussian State Library Berlin (which has one of the best collections of Jain manuscripts). He believed in accuracy, and consulting only original manuscripts of Panchatantra, and quickly mastered both, Hindi and Gujerati languages in order to correspond with Jain scholars – this work was done mostly in the 1920s.
  • Hertel’s view was that the efficiency of Jain story-tellers was superior to Hindus and Buddhists of that time, and he devoted the latter portion of his career to documenting and translating our Kathas, by corresponding with scholars in Varanasi and Patan (Gujerat).
    • He amassed a great deal of Jain literature and materials, all of which are well-preserved. They were donated after his death by his eldest daughter, Margarethe, to the Hand-written Manuscripts Section of the University of Leipzig. For many years, all this rich material on history of Jain studies remained unknown, almost like “a hidden treasure!”
  • There are about 165 manuscripts, of varying sizes as well as many Jain Granthmalas (smaller books sponsored by private sources) most of which are no longer in print.
  • Dr. Schetelich emphasized the need to catalog all of Hertel’s manuscripts, to preserve and conserve as well as digitize, so as to enable easier access by scholars, and thus, promote learning and recognition of the contributions of Jain story-tellers. The catalog also needs more verification, cross-checking, abstracting and other typical library functions.

Speaker 12

Ms Lynn Foulston
University of Wales, UK
lynn.foulston@newport.ac.uk

Screening of film on Lord Bahubali’s “Mahamastabhisheka 2006”,
held every twelve years at Shravanabelagola (means “White Lake of the Ascetic”).

  • Ms. Foulston is involved with the publication of a new book titled “Religions of South Asia”. More information may be obtained at www.equinoxpub.com/rosa, and she is looking for book reviewers.

 


The SOAS conference theme for 2008 will be on Jaina Art & Architecture.

Author

Source/Info

Report compiled and written by Manish Mehta, (JAINA Director and Pathshala Teacher at Jain Society of Greater Detroit, Michigan, USA). Direct your comments/feedback to: singapuri2000@yahoo.com.

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