黑料网 introduces endowed chair in Jain studies

Published January 2, 2024

At more than 2,500 years old, Jainism predates Buddhism and is one of the world鈥檚 oldest religions. Those who follow the Jain faith 鈥 which originated in India 鈥 believe in nonviolence, detachment from excess wealth and possessions, and striving toward understanding all sides of an issue.听听

Now, students at Cal State Long Beach can learn more about Jainism, thanks to a recently created endowed chair of Jain studies. The hired Professor to fill the position, making 黑料网 one of only two universities in the CSU system to have an endowed chair dedicated to Jain studies.听听

Bothra taught 鈥淚ntroduction to Jainism鈥 in fall 2023 and will continue to teach Jainism during spring semester 2024. The endowed chair is named after Bhagwan Suvidhinath, the ninth tirthankara, who in Jain tradition, is someone who conquered the cycle of death and rebirth and became a spiritual teacher to others.听听

Image
Dr. Jasvant Modi and President Jane Close Conoley
Dr. Jasvant Modi and President Jane Close Conoley

The position was made possible through , on behalf of Raksha and Harshad Shah.听

鈥淗e is one of the personalities instrumental in bringing in funds,鈥 Bothra said about Modi, a retired gastroenterologist living in Los Angeles. 鈥満诹贤 has a lot of first-generation college students who are really keen to learn. It鈥檚 a great opportunity for our students to learn about Jainism and its values, and it鈥檚 so much more satisfying to see that.鈥澨

Modi 鈥 who has pledged millions to colleges and universities across the country to support Jain Studies 鈥 expressed hope that providing education about Jainism can not only raise awareness about the underrepresented religion, but also help spread the values of Jainism. Reflecting on the current state of the world, Modi said he 鈥渨ould like to see belief in nonviolence and if there is a difference of belief, respect other people.鈥澨

The teaching of Jainism and establishment of an endowed chair is a prime example of The Beach鈥檚 aim to elevate the community and advance the public good, a key priority of the comprehensive No Barriers fundraising campaign.听

鈥楲iving a more mindful life鈥櫶

Founded in the sixth century B.C.E., Jainism has three principal tenets: ahimsa (nonviolence toward all living beings); aparigraha (non-materialism or non-attachment); and anekantavada (plurality of beliefs or open-mindedness). Jains pursue a spiritual journey toward Moksha, which is the state of complete liberation of the soul from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.听

Jains are vegetarian, avoid alcohol, tobacco and intoxicants, and most abstain from consuming root vegetables, such as potatoes, garlic and onions. This is to prevent injuring small insects and microorganisms, and to prevent an entire plant from getting uprooted and killed. Between 4 million and 5 million people worldwide follow the Jain faith, most of them in India.听

鈥淚t鈥檚 important to consider Jainism, the South Asian tradition itself, and its embrace of nonviolence,鈥 said Sophia Pandya, professor and chair of Religious Studies. 鈥淟ook at any newspaper, there鈥檚 so much violence going on in the world. (Jainism) is an ancient tradition that has always advocated for a peaceful, pluralistic way of communicating and living with other beings 鈥 not just other human beings, but other animals and plants. These ideas are important for the environment, they鈥檙e important politically, for the future of humanity, in so many ways.鈥澨

Caitlin Below, a fourth-year student who took Bothra鈥檚 Jainism class in fall 2023, said she learned a lot about the ethics and philosophical aspects of Jainism, and how anyone can 鈥渁dopt Jain principles and practice them, easily.鈥澨

鈥淚 resonated with absolutely a lot of the principles that we talked about, and by the end of the course, I definitely feel like it was very philosophically rich, and I got a lot out of the Jain philosophy,鈥 said Below, a religious studies major.听听

Jainism is 鈥渄efinitely centered around living a more mindful life,鈥 she said. 鈥淲e need to be more mindful of our consumption, and everything you do has a cause and effect. At the very least, that could be such a critical component in (resolving) a lot of the horror that we see on a global level.鈥澨

Jainism was an important influence on Mahatma Gandhi, who espoused nonviolence in India鈥檚 efforts to end British colonial rule. Gandhi in turn influenced Martin Luther King Jr., who also embraced nonviolence as the means toward achieving equality during the American civil rights movement.听听

Jainism was also an influence on humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, Bothra said, who was influenced by the Jain ethic of ahimsa, or nonviolence.听听

Bothra encourages students to take her Religious Studies 354 class, 鈥淛ain Worldview: Philosophy and Ethics,鈥 during spring semester, which will include a site visit to the Jain Center of Southern California in Buena Park, as well as RST 490: 鈥淣onviolence: A Survey of World Religions.鈥澨

She also invites students to learn more about Jainism by checking out the Jain collection in the University Library.听

鈥淛ainism has never started a war,鈥 Bothra said. 鈥淛ains say that if we have understanding of our negative passions, and if we are able to conquer our negative passions 鈥 anger, ego, greed and deceit 鈥 then all these war-related situations would never even arise.鈥澨

Image
Jain Studies chair Shivani Bothra in front of her office bookshelf
Shivani Bothra, pictured in her office, is one of only two Jain studies endowed chairs in the CSU system.