Understanding Jainism

(Deemed University)
Understanding Jainism
July 23 to Aug. 12, 2013
Jain Vishva Bharati Institute (JVBI) : A Profile
Jain Vishva Bharati Institute is a Institute of higher learning and research blended with spirituality, which came into existence in 1991. JVBI’s avowed aim is to integrate academic knowledge and its application for evolving a new social pattern based on non-violence and peace. “Right conduct is the essence of knowledge” is the motto of the Institute. Every programme and every activity is directed
towards the realisation of this motto.

The mission of the Institute is to integrate modern science with ancient wisdom given to us by great spiritual practitioners and visionary seers. The Institution seeks to interweave moral & spiritual norms and values with the mundane and economic fibers of mankind to foster and develop universal human relationships for the peaceful co-existence of individuals, groups, communities, sects, races,
sexes, religions, nations and peoples. The Institute provides reverential study courses in Jainology and Comparative Philosophy & Religion; Non-violence and Peace; Science of Living, Preksha Meditation and Yoga; Prakrit and Jain Agamas; and Social Work for development of a more balanced human being and humanity.
The Understanding Jainism Theory and Practice (UJTP) programme of the JVBI emphasizes Jain Philosophy, Ethics, Non-violence, Meditation, Art & Architecture and life-style in India. It is interdisciplinary in nature, with participating faculty of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Linguistics.

i. To understand the concept and ideas of Jainism.
ii. To develop understanding and attitude of nonviolence.
iii. To familiarize the participants with the philosophy of creative non-violence in India.
iv. To impart training of Preksha Meditation for emotionally balanced life-style.
v. To establish the importance and relevance of amity for the survival of living being.

For more information, please look at the course information poster.



The Concept of Supreme Good in Jainism


Samani Charitra Prajna
Vice Chancellor, Jain Vishva Bharati University, India

วันศุกร์ที่ 17 สิงหาคมนี้ เวลา 10 – 12 น.
ห้อง 705 อาคารบรมราชกุมารี คณะอักษรศาสตร์

Jainism at Chula

Invitation for summer course in Jain Philosophy (Wed, 25 April – Sat, 12 May, 2012)

Program: Social Consciousness & Jainism

Buddhism and Jainism have a lot in common as both are contemporary religious of India belonging to the same Sramanik tradition. Both have much to share and learn from each other. Both complement and supplement each other and hence it is imperative that we start this study and dialog to further strengthen the cultural and educational ties between Thailand and India.

This summer program is available exclusively for the faculty, researchers and students who are involved in Buddhist studies, Indian studies, philosophy, religion, South Asian studies and anthropology. Expert faculty from India will conduct the program in English language.

All participants must be affiliated to a recognized university or college preferably. Applicants having demonstrable interest in Jain or Buddhist studies, South Asian studies, religions, philosophy or anthropology are preferred. Reasonably good English language skills (speaking, reading and writing) are essential for all applicants.

Since year 2005, International School for Jain Studies (ISJS) has also been inviting scholars from the field of Religion and Philosophy from various counties including Thailand to study Jain Philosophy in English language in India during the months of June and July each year. Many Thai scholars have already studied intensive summer course at ISSJS during past 4 years (2006-2011).

For more information please download the poster and the application form.

Buddhism and Culture

One thing that Lewis Lancaster talked about in his lecture at Berkeley (see here) is that Buddhism is a “portable” religion. This means that Buddhism was the first “global” religion which was followed by Christianity. The core or the essence of Buddhism is not tied up with any particular place, or a race of people. Earlier religions, such as Brahmanism and Judaism, were very much tied up to particular places and people. You can’t become a Hindu; you have to be born one. That is, you have to have already a context in which you are a Hindu. You have to belong to a certain caste, and foreigners are always outside of the caste system. Hinduism, then, is not a proselytizing religion.

What interests Lancaster is that you can always take Buddhism with you, everything that enables you to set up and have a fully functioning religions practice and doctrines so that you can transplant the whole religion in a far away land. This is also in accordance with the teaching about no-self; there is no self, no core thing that one gets attached to. Buddhism in this sense does not have a core. Of course the Buddha said that there were important places for Buddhists to travel to in order to commemorate the Buddha’s time on this earth — his birthplace, the place where he attained Enlightenment, and so on. But those are not necessary for accomplishing the highest goal of the religion. For Hindus, on the other hand, the river Ganges is a “real” source of blessing. No other river can even come close. But there is no such river in Buddhism.

Another religion that is closely related to Buddhism, Jainism, has aboutthe same apparatus that could have made it as portable, but Jainism is not portable. This is not because of the doctrine in itself. There is no holy river in Jainism either. What has made Jainism much tied up with the land of India is instead its injunctions that the Jain monks may not make use of any vehicle. They have to walk wherever they want to go. So they cannot go far. This severely limits the range at which Jainism can fully spread.

Later religions, Christianity and Islam, all partake of this “portability” feature of Buddhism. You can have everything about Christianity without being tied up to, say, Jerusalem. All you need is a Bible and a set of practices. These practices even do not have to be exactly the same. As is the case in Buddhism, the practices serve to carry on the message of the religion, and they don’t have to be the same. All that matters is that they help to realize the purpose. For Buddhism, all you need is the set of the scriptures and a group of monks who follow the Vinaya rules. The monks are the ones who embody the teaching, so to speak. And even the monks themselves are not absolutely necessary, because one can gain Realization without becoming one. This is a rather controversial point, but even if the monks are necessary, one can become a monk only when certain minimal rules are followed. All this helped the spread of Buddhism far and wide.

What makes all this possible is the emphasis on the mind. And this shows how universal the religion really is. Since all of us possess our own individual mind and the capability of thinking and understanding, all of us have the potential to become fully realized. This is one of the important messages of the Buddha.

Is it me that exist in the past lives?

Well, I used to be advised not to title a post (or an essay or a paper) with a question sentence, but somehow I could not resist it here. I kind of don’t agree with the advise anyway. Continuing from the previous posts about karma, it seems that there is something that is still left unsaid or unclarified. That is, what is the identity of the persons who existed in one’s previous lives? Are they one and the same as the one who is living now, or are they different persons?

The doctrine of reincarnation is a very old one and it certainly predated Buddhism. The simple picture of the theory is that there is a soul which transmigrates. It changes the bodies as if it is changing its clothes. So in this sense my previous lives essentially belong to me, because there is this *me* that travels around in various “clothing” or bodies. This is subscribed by the Hindus and Jains and I think in some way this belief did penetrated into Greek thinking also (viz. Pythagoras and some others).

However, the Buddha did deny that doctrine. Since he emphasizes that there is no such thing as an ego, there is nothing that transmigrates and there is certainly nothing that remains the same in these various “clothings.” However, the Buddha did not deny that past lives exist either. Which makes the whole thing much more difficult. The usual explanation of this is through an analogy. Let us look at a flame on a candle. In one way it is one flame, because it is there. We can see it. But on a closer look the flame is strictly speaking not a thing at all. It is an appearance of a rather complex chemical phenomenon when oxygen is entering into some other elements in the candle such as carbon and water and gives out heat, light and carbon dioxide (well, I am not a chemist, as you can see but you get the point). Since this is a process, we had better call this an event rather than a thing. It is “flaming” rather than “a flame.”

According to the Buddha, the picture is the same for our bodily and mental composition that we usually call our body or our “self.” First of all, we are all breathing every moment we are alive (we are just not aware of this all the time). The oxygen enters our lungs and sparks the very same kind of process that is taking place on the candle. Each cell in the body is also a chemical factory, consuming energy and oxygen and gives out enzymes, or whatever that is needed for the survival of the body. So everything is a process. We can also look deeper than the chemistry and get into the physics of it, to the basic physical structure of the atoms that make up the body, and then we see the process picture will be more pronounced.

Now let’s look at our mental episodes. Right now I am typing on this editor in WordPress, trying to say what I would like to say. The doctrine of the soul would have it that there is a soul, a ‘homunculus,’ one might say, that ultimately does the thinking and the directing of the movements of the fingers on the keyboard to type out all these words. However, this is not borne by empirical fact. All there is is the brain and the brain is nothing but a very huge collection of nerve cells, none of which can lay claim to being the soul that is mentioned in the theory.

So perhaps the soul might be something immaterial. Perhaps it is something that is purely in the mental realm in the Cartesian dualistic sense. Or perhaps in the Hindu sense of the immaterial soul that animates this body. Or perhaps it is there in the Kantian sense of the “Transcendental Unity of Apperception” (oh how I love these high sounding words) that does the binding together of all these disparate mental episodes so that they make sense.

But then Buddhist would say something like — are we putting the cart before the horse here? It is because we (or most of us) tend to have this sense of our selves that we devise all these fanciful ways of accounting for them? What if there is no such sense at all? Would that make any difference in terms of how the body is functioning or how the mind works? It is clear that such a self does not exist in bodily or physical terms and in mental terms since all our mental episodes are changing rapidly and we do not remember everything so there is no thing that stays the same in all the memory episodes that substantially connect all our episodes either. (The picture is more like there is a thread in the memory that links up with other threads and one usually gets a sense of who one is by remembering only some of these threads rather than the whole thing. But this means that there has to be something deeper that tells us that these threads are enough and we are now “convinced” that we are one and the same.)

It is precisely this sense of believing that there has to be something, some enduring thing, that answers to the pronoun “I” that is the root cause of our wanderings in samsara, the root cause of all the defilements. More on this later. But the point here is that, if this is the case, then strictly speaking we cannot say that the person who existed in the past was or is the same person as I am right now. Even though there might be some connection, some cause and effect relations, between a particular person and myself, still it would be wrong to say that that person is ‘me.’ This is because that person had to exist in a context — his society, his community, his circle of friends and relatives and so on — and within that context he had an identity, which is definitely not ‘me’ at all.

So he (or she) is his own person, and I am my own person, although what he did did have some effects on me. So on the one hand, it is not me who existed in the past, but that does not mean that there is no cause and effect relation either. Past karmas do have some effects on our present constitution, but that is not the point. The point is for us to realize the truth that the sense of there being an ego, a self, is the root cause of defilements that are binding us within this samsara. And we need to get away from that.