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Report on Visit to India, Nov-Dec 2010

Between November 21 and December 3, I visited scholars of Jainism, as well as religious and community leaders in the Delhi area, at Jain Vishwa Bharati University in Ladnun, Rajasthan, and in Indore.

I arrived at IGI Airport, , late on November 21, and was warmly received by about a dozen individuals from the Jain community, and taken to a hotel booked by Shri R. P. Jain, proprietor of Indological publishers.

For the most part, I rested on November 22. I met with Professor Navras Jaat Aafreedi of Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida, about common research interests, and for the most part of the day, I walked around the city and tried out its very impressive new metro system.

I met with Professor P. K. Kumaraswamy of Jawaharlal Nehru University over breakfast on November 24. We have mutual research interests, and I also sought to enlist JNU on a US government grant to provide training in Indian critical language for American students.

At noon I visited Motilal Banarsidass, and this eminent publisher expressed interest in bringing out a series of books on Jainology, edited at FIU. This would be a fine project for the future, once our Center is up and running and producing high-quality research.

That evening, we called on Dr. Karan Singh. We discussed our work at FIU, and I extended an oral invitation for our School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) to speak at FIU the next time he was in the U.S. We have applied to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations for a two-year visiting professor in Jain Studies and Conflict Resolution/ Peace Studies. As Dr. Singh is the chair of ICCR, naturally I hope our conversation will help our efforts to land this prestigious grant. Dr. Singh’s visit and lecture would advance relations between the university and the Indian-American community in general.

The next day, November 25, Shri Jain took me to a “Seminar on Jainological Studies” at Vidya Bharati School in Suriyanagar. Professor Muni Mahendra Kumar led the event. (I found Muniji to be delightful, a man of penetrating intelligence and warmth; I look forward to interacting with him over the years.) There were some academic papers, and I spoke about our project at FIU. Lively discussions followed. The seminar was graciously coordinated by Dr. Kusum Dhanpat Lunia, who invited participants to her home for conversation and a meal.

Following that event, I went to meet with Dr. Shugan Jain and several faculty at the International School for Jain Studies (ISJS). They are very interested in having us facilitate bringing American students to study Jainism in their programs, which highlights on-site, rather then classroom studies. I think FIU can play a role in facilitating North American college student participation at ISJS.

November 26 was spent travelling by car to JVBU in Ladnun. I was greeted by the Vice-Chancellor, Samani Charitra Pragya, whom of course I know from her years at FIU. November 27-29 was the “National Seminar on the Application of Non-Possession (Aparigraha) in Jainism,” organized by JVBU staff. Scholars from all around India participated, and this was an ideal occasion for me to meet with a wide range of academics, ranging from classical Jainological textual studies, to the application of Jain principles to business and the environment. My overall impression is that we are on the right track in highlighting “applied Jainology” rather than “classical Jainology” at FIU. Most everyone I engaged in discussions reinforced this opinion.

In particular, there was keen interest in exchanging views about business management and entrepreneurship, social work, development economics (Ven. MahaPragya’s notion of “relative economics” in particular), and environmental studies, and during the course of the seminar I came up with idea to send some of our junior faculty from FIU to interact with Jain colleagues in India. I propose we initiate the “Bhagwan Mahavir Junior Faculty Fellowship” program at FIU.

The organizers of the seminar were most kind in allotting an hour to a dialogue about our proposed FIU Undergraduate Certificate in Jain Studies, which I hope will be offered both on-line and in-person. There was a good deal of give-and-take, and we are moving toward the goal of a fully on-line Jain Studies program, as well as more classroom courses at FIU and a field work program.

At the conclusion of the seminar on Nov. 29, Ven. Samani Charitra Pragya took me to Dungergadh to meet H. H. Acharya Shree Mahashraman ji. The Samani and I told Acharyaji about our work at FIU, and he was very encouraging and supportive of our efforts. After this audience, I was taken to meet the leader of all the Terapanthi nuns, Ven. Sadhvi Kanak Prabha, a poet and scholar as well as a religious leader. I especially enjoyed meeting her.

November 30 was a long day of travel, by auto to IGI Airport, New Delhi, to catch a flight to Indore. I was once again regally greeted at the airport and escorted to a lovely hotel room, thanks to the Indore Jain community, especially Professor Anupam Jain of Devi Ahilya University.

December 1 was filled with lectures and meetings. We started at Kundakund Gyanpitha (KKJ), a Jainological research institute affiliated with Devi Ahilya University. We began with a “National Symposium on Jainology,” at which I spoke about our work at FIU. Sharing the platform with me was the Vice-Chancellor, Professor P. K. Mishra. During the day, several times he expressed his university’s strong desire to have an ongoing relationship with FIU in a number of fields – not only Jain Studies, but economics, sciences, business, etc.

I was shown the remarkable Jain manuscript collection and witnessed the inauguration of a new exhibition. KKJ is a remarkably rich resource for traditional Jainological studies. My host, Professor Anupam Jain, is a mathematics professor at Devi Ahilya University, and I was enthralled by his work on Jain mathematics, a field of tremendous research potential.

After lunch I was taken to Holkar Autonomous Science College, also affiliated with Devi Ahilya University. The event was the inauguration of their Certificate Program in Religion and Science, the first of its kind in all of India, and I was asked to speak about contemporary research into this field in America. I believe some of our FIU faculty would benefit from engaging our Jain colleagues in Indore about this field. Again, the Vice-Chancellor was present, and he reiterated his great interest in collaborating with FIU.

In the afternoon, we returned to KKJ for a dialogue session about our work at FIU, about the on-line certificate program, and about possible avenues for collaborative research. Leading this dialogue session was Professor N. P. Jain, a scholar and diplomat, who will be sending us a draft proposal. Overall, I was very impressed with the opportunities at Indore, a charming city with a very rich Jain community.

Following this dialogue and a brief reception at the private home of one of KKJ’s chief benefactors, I was taken back to the airport to return to Delhi.

December 2, I met with Professor Ranabir Chakravarti, a very eminent historian at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). I have known Professor Chakravarti for many years, including one year he spent as a Fulbright professor at FIU. He has been doing very interesting research about Jain history, especially Jain merchants and their relations with religious life, and he is training some of his doctoral students in this field. We had many areas a mutual interest, including funding a solid successor at the Bhagwan Mahavir Professor at FIU. That night, Professor Chakravarti took me to IGI Airport for my return to Miami.

I am very grateful to my hosts and my colleagues who worked very hard to create a very stimulating and promising visit to India. I also found my hosts to be remarkably gracious.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I hope to visit other Jainological centers in India, perhaps including universities and institutes in Chennai, Mysore, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, and Kolkata.

Nathan Katz
Bhagwan Mahavir Professor

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