A $1.5-million donation from a group of philanthropists from the Indian diaspora and belonging to the Jain community has resulted in the launch of a new teaching and research programme in Jainism.
Dr Jasvant Modi representing US donors and Nemu Chandaria representing UK donors are among the diaspora members behind the establishment of the "world-leading" programme, which will begin rolling out from September 2023. It features the creation of an Assistant Professorship in Jain Studies, an Assistant Professorship in the Ethics of Non-Violence, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Jain Studies and students can apply between January and March 2023.
Named after an apostle of unconditional non-violence, the Bhagavan Dharmanath Jain Studies programme will develop teaching and research in relation to contemporary issues, such as environmental protection, human rights and interfaith dialogue.
Dr Jasvant Modi said: “I am delighted that the University of Birmingham is launching a Jain Studies programme named after the Jain apostle Bhagavan Dharmanath, whose teaching represents what I consider to be three pillars of a modern democratic society.
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“The Jain doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) teaches us to avoid harming of any life form; the doctrine of aparigraha (non-possessiveness) teaches us to keep only what we need for ourselves and give the rest to others; and the doctrine of anekantvad (many-sidedness) teaches us to respect everyone's opinion.
“I am excited that our donation will enable academics and students at the University of Birmingham to explore subjects which are relevant to these concepts in the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion."
The University of Birmingham said, being located in a religiously and culturally diverse city, the local Jain community has been part of the Birmingham Council of Faiths since its beginnings in the 1970s. Jainism, an ancient religion originating from India, has non-violence, self-control, compassion and non-possessiveness at its core. The Jain principle of non-violence or “ahimsa” profoundly influenced India's vegetarianism, movements of passive resistance and, more recently, environmental engagement, the university notes.
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Professor Charlotte Hempel, Head of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham, said: “The generosity of our donors means that we have the opportunity to establish a world-leading centre of excellence in Jainism at the heart of one of the world’s most culturally and religiously diverse cities.
“I look forward to welcoming students and researchers to this tremendously exciting project, which we believe will enhance understanding of Jainism around the world over the coming years.”
The academic team will jointly cover a wide range of topics, including Jain philosophy of religion, peace and conflict resolution, forgiveness, environmental ethics, ecology, human wellbeing, women’s rights, animal rights and business ethics.