US university establishes chair in Jain studies

A U.S. university in California has established a chair in Jain studies following a generous donation of USD 1 million from three Indian-American couples.

The Bhagvan Vimalnath Endowed Chair in Jain Studies University of California, Santa Barbara will support the graduate programme, and develop and teach undergraduate and graduate courses on Jainism.

Prominent among them include exploration of Ahimsa (non-violence), Aprigraha (non-attachment/non-possessiveness) and Anekantavaad (plurality of views and beliefs) — the principles of Jainism — and their import and implication for modern society, the university said.

Students will be engaged to explore the practical significance of such principles for enduring peace, social harmony and ecological sustainability, it said.

The donation for this has come from Dr. Meera and Dr. Jasvant Modi via the Vardhamana Charitable Foundation; Rita and Dr. Narendra Parson via the Narendra and Rita Parson Family Trust; and Raksha and Harshad Shah via Shah Family Foundation, according to a statement.

The most effective way of helping mankind, climate change and all forms of life is by spreading the principles of non-violence, giving and showing respect for all opinions. Support and creation of an endowed chair in Jain studies is the most effective way to achieve this goal, the donors said in a joint statement.

UC Santa Barbara is a prestigious place and more important, it has an effective model to achieve our goals. This new position will make Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anekantvad principles better known in the mainstream — and this will benefit us all, they said.

The new gift builds on prior philanthropy from the Modis and the Parsons, in partnership with the Jain Center of Southern California and the Jain Temple of Los Angeles, to establish UC Santa Barbara’s Bhagvan Vimalnath Lectureship in Jain Studies and South Asian religions.

University Chancellor Henry Yang said that the establishment of the Bhagvan Vimalnath Endowed Chair in Jain Studies will help to advance Jain and South Asian studies, an exciting and increasingly important field, at UC Santa Barbara.

The new position will also enable academic investigation of the many ways in which Jainism has been integral to South Asian and transnational religious histories.

The chair holder will support and train innovative scholars in the fields of Jain studies and South Asian religions, including language instruction in Sanskrit and Prakrit, while simultaneously making UCSB the programmatic center for an emerging network of scholars in the field, the statement added.

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