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Cultural innovation in Jainism

Cultural innovation in Jainism

The older a culture, the deeper the hold of tradition. Given our huge technological and migration revolution, the old India is being forced to move with the times. And it is moving at different speeds in different contexts. What then of Dharma and its relevance to modernity? How should it be adapted to appease young people who seem to be running away fast, mesmerised by the attractiveness of western norms like fashion, freedom and materialism? How do we maintain Dharmic values against this tide sweeping from west to east? Young people need to directly experience the benefits of being Dharmic, and find peers with the same discipline and values - a highly challenging task for any Dharmic movement.

The Shrimad Rajcandra Mission Dharampur (SRMD) founded by pioneering guru and visionary Rakeshbhai is on a dynamic path of change without compromising wisdom, and attracting young people disillusioned by modernity. It has a base at Dharampur in India and a growing global following. It draws its philosophy from Mahatma Gandhi’s Guru Shrimad Rajchandra, an eminent philosopher-poet-merchant with a profound knowledge of the human soul and its deeper potential to attain divinity.

Young British Jain renunciation of Miss Amee Virani in London
Young British Jain renunciation of Miss Amee Virani in London

I was invited to a renunciation ceremony of young Amee Virani, raised in Britain but drawn to Rakeshbhai’s wisdom and leadership. With her expertise in Spanish she has already translated the epic ‘Atma Siddhi’ into the third largest European language and draws from her experience of charity in South America. To date there are 114 ‘Atmarpit’ young renunciates who have devoted their life to promoting Jain values globally.

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Cultural innovation in Jainism
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They bring their professional skills and knowledge to help manage the global media, outreach and grassroots education including charity and social enterprise. Rakeshbhai is very energetic to build and grow the movement with a special appeal towards young people who are often disillusioned by Jain rituals and traditions. The UK centre is twenty years old and based in Bushey, North London and led by SRMD President Mayur Mehta.

Like all organisations, Dharmic communities also need to adapt and innovate. Young people are the baton who will carry a culture forward and need to be given priority. We need to listen to their challenges and support them, giving support to their skills and aspirations. Courageous and disciplined leadership as shown by Rakeshbhai is one way of doing so. I was mesmerised by the professionalism of the volunteers and the use of multimedia to communicate timeless wisdom. Many of our Gurus were entrepreneurs too. 

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Cultural innovation in Jainism
SRMD Founder to bring bhakti, meditation on tour of Leicester, London

Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.  

*Info: SRMD

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