I have endeavored in this book to give a portrait of Jain religion and philosophy in a comprehensive setting of spiritual, ritual, ethical and at the same time socio-cultural, environmental, national and international perspectives. With growing global spread of Jain community across the world, it is imperative to keep in view not only the doctrinaire approach to religion, but also the broader framework for propagating to the wider human society the compassionate principles and practices of Jain religion.
There is in evidence growing interest globally in Jain religion despite its limited following. The interest is more in terms of the relevance of the fundamental tenets of Ahimsa (non-violence), Aparigraha (non-possession) and Anekant (relativity of manifold aspects of truth) for designing a stress-free ethical art of living.
Escalating violence, horrifying spectre of terrorism, continuing exploitation – political, economic, social, cultural and ethnic of the have-nots in the society, increasing intolerance, and unrestrained wasteful consumption are issues of paramount global concern. Jain path of self-restraint at the individual level and equity and generosity at the community level offers the prospects of peaceful coexistence and harmonious mutual supportiveness of humans not only among themselves, but even more so in their relations with other living species and forces of nature. Jain spirituality is anchored on love and compassion for others through the practice of active non-violence, and firm belief in Ahimsa being the supreme religion.
It has been a matter of deep and abiding pleasure for me as a Jain born and brought up in the best of Jain traditions to have taken active interest in propagating the compassionate principles of Jainism abroad during four decades of serving as India’s Ambassador to several countries, and in the last two decades since retirement from I.F.S. (Indian Foreign Service) by articulating them at the U.N. and other International Conferences like the U.N. Millenium Spiritual Summit, Parliament of World’s Religions, U.N. Earth Summit and global Jain conventions.
A heartening feature of Jain community settled abroad is that they have not only built temples and sthanaks for worship, but are assiduously orienting their younger generation to the Jain way of life, and educating them into the principles and practices of Jain religion. In India as well, with the younger Jain generation turning professional, it is imperative for them to grasp the fundamentals of our religion, and not rest content with remaining vegetarians and observing religious rituals only.
It is a happy augury that Jain community abroad is steadfast in following Jain religious principles and practices. Large number of joint Jain temples representing all the Jain sects under one roof have come up in environmental-friendly ambience in almost all parts of the world ranging from New York to Nairobi, Bangkok to Boston, London to Los Angeles, Kobe to Kuwait, Antwerp to Atlanta, and San Hose to Singapore – to just give a few illustrative examples. Jains have earned great respect abroad by their active pursuit of human welfare projects, environmental initiatives, and inter-faith compassion programs.
A more important fact emerging in today’s increasingly shrinking world, is for the Jain religion to make a decisive impact on global ethical thinking for securing stable peace, social harmony, equanimity and tranquility.
The global Jain Diaspora needs to come together and form a united and cohesive group transcending varying practices of different sects. Forging unity in diversity in the Jain community in India and abroad is both a challenge and an opportunity to give the Jain religion a distinct global identity and presence.
- Dr. Narendra P. Jain