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It was only last April that the Bhagwan Mahavir Endowed Professorship of Jaina Studies was inaugurated in the Florida International University (FIU) in Miami with a generous gift from the Jain community. Prof. Nathan katz, the first Bhagwan Mahavir Endowed Professor, has been busy all summer in planning and incorporating courses with Jainism content in the university curriculum, in preparing academic material on Jainism to be incorporated in major religious studies textbooks and in arranging for the annual Bhagwan Mahavir lecture at the Florida International University.

In a recent ceremony jointly organized by the Jain Center of South Florida (JCSF) and the Jain Education and Research Foundation (JERF) on Aug 15 at the jain temple in Weston in South Florida, JERF made a gift of books on Jainism to the Florida International University library. This was also an occasion where Prof Nathan Katz, the first Bhagwan Mahavir Endowed Professor, was introduced to the local jain community.

The FIU team was represented by Prof Nathan Katz, Mr Robert Callahan, Asst Dean of College of Arts and Sciences and by Ms Ana Mendoza, Associate Dean of the Libraries of the Florida International University. The event was graced by Samani Chaitanya Prajna, Samani Charitra Prajna, Samani Prasanna Prajna, Samani Unnata Prajna and Mumukshu Sheetal. Dr Kirti jain, Director of JERF came down from Kentucky and attended the ceremony.

The meeting started with a discourse on the twelve vows (bratas) of Paryushana and on the significance of Daan (donation) by Samani Chaitanya Prajna followed by jain bhajan by Sm. Akruti Jain and Shri Praveen Jain. The visitors from FIU were greeted in the traditional Indian way with tilak by Sm. Bhavna Shah, Sm. Geeta Shah, Sm. Geetika Bafna and Sm. Jeevanprabha Mehta. After a brief introductory remark by Shri Sapan Bafna, President JERF, the guests from FIU were introduced by Prof Neptune Srimal, Vice President, JERF. Samani Charitra Prajna briefly talked about the background of the creation of the endowed professorship.

More than 50 books on Jainism in English were presented to the Florida International Library where these books will be catalogued and put into the general circulation for use by student, faculty and research scholars. Shri Jayant Shah, President, JCSF, Sm Deepika Dalal, Regional Vice President of Jaina , Shri Kirti Jain, Director JERF, Shri Rajiv Jain, Director, JERF, Shri Bindesh Shah, Chairman, JCSF and other luminaries of the local jain community took part in presenting the books to Ana Mendoza, Associate Dean of FIU libraries. (Full List of donated books)

Prof Nathan Katz, in his speech, spoke about the importance and influence of Jain values and ethics in the modern world. He highlighted the fact that one cannot get an understanding of Indian history, culture and of Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism without a deep knowledge of Jain religion and history. He underscored that the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship is the first endowed professorship of Jainism outside India and outlined his vision for making FIU an advanced center of Jain studies in the western world.

The meeting concluded with Aarti and a communal lunch hosted by the local Jain community.

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