In an age of NOW, where society is obsessed by usefulness, consumption, materialism and home delivery, cultures which have a long history and a breadth and depth, we have a problem.
Dharma is complex and not easy to translate into the language of WhatsApp or Instagram. The tide seems to be against the past and towards a hyper-real memory-less society where history is irrelevant and backward. We are forced to be defensive and creative at the same time, to change our language and customs and struggle constantly to attract the attention of young people.
This is why it was so refreshing this Sunday (June 18) to see the dynamism of the Jain Vishwa Bharti (JVB) movement, led by two Samanis Pratibhaji and Punyapragyaji in Europe, showcasing youth and children and their love of Dharma. The timeless Jain tradition was given a new life and vigour, but the struggle it has taken to get here has been long and arduous, because the Samanis were forced to reinvent their message against this strong tide of selfishness and materialism.
I am very fortunate to have helped them on this journey over two decades. In that time, they completed a PhD at London University (SOAS), acting as humble students in the heart of London. The Jain Nuns built relationships with scholars all over Europe, taught Preksha Meditation, composed timeless poems and hymns, and encouraged proper recitation of the sacred mantras to attain inner peace and outer courage.
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I feel the way to channel Dharma especially among the young is through family and community, bringing them together, BUT parents have to be engaged and involved in this transformation. They too need to abandon the attitude to education as consumers rather than facilitators of wholesome growth and development. The grades are easy but if culture is lost, the achievements will NOT be sustainable. So be ready to sacrifice and give selflessly as parents.
It was the JVB women’s wing which deserve huge praise for their creative commitment to the cultural education of the children. The Nuns have proven that even a religion as old as Jainism can breathe new life and vigour so far away from India, and evidence its scientific value through the transformation of people’s lives and the nurturing of a community of disciplined souls. Long may the parampara (lineage) of Jain Vishwa Bharti flourish.
They move on to Miami in Florida, but will be reincarnated by new Samanis coming to London. Like the farewell we gave the old, we must be ready to give the warmest and most joyful of welcome to the new, for they are the soldiers of peace. And they will need all the help in translation.
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