With a recently received $1 million gift, UCSB’s Department of Religious Studies has established the Bhagvan Vimalnath Endowed Chair in Jain Studies.
In an interview with the News-Press, Department of Religious Studies professor and chair Fabio Rambelli said the creation of the Jain studies chair is the culmination of a four to five-year process. The department held its first courses on the Jain tradition last year.
He added that the addition of Jain studies to the program’s curriculum, which studies many religious traditions from a secular academic perspective, will be a “crucial and original component.”
The professor stated, “The addition of Jain Studies is important for a number of reasons; the Jains have created a long and successful tradition that dates back to about 2,500 years.”
He added, “They have established and consistently applied three main principles: radical nonviolence (including the prohibition of using violence against any living being, including plants), generosity, and the acceptance of multiple points of view. It is a pluralistic tradition, whose tenets are particularly relevant to our world, especially in terms of nonviolence, business ethics, and environmental concerns.”
According to a press release, these tenants are respectively called Ahimsa, Aprigraha, and Anekantavaad.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the university is “tremendously grateful” for the gift that will allow it to create the Jain studies chair. He expects the new position will be helpful with the advancement of Jain and South Asian studies, which he called “an exciting and increasingly important field, at UC Santa Barbara.”
John Majewksi, the Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, said Jainism’s fundamental principles are “of increasing relevance to our students and the wider world” and that the funding for the new program will support “innovative new courses, path-breaking interdisciplinary research, significant national and international conferences and important public programming.”
The $1 million used to create the Bhagvan Vimalnath Endowed Chair in Jain Studies was a gift from Meera and Jasvant Modi via the Vardhamana Charitable Foundation, Rita and Narendra Parson via the Narenda and Rita Parson Family Trust, and Raksha and Harshad Shah via the Shah Family Foundation.
In a joint statement, the donors said the establishment of a Jain studies chair will make a positive impact by making the principles of Ahimsa, Aprigraha, and Anekantavaad better known in the mainstream.
“The most effective way of helping mankind, climate change and all forms of life is by spreading the principles of non-violence, giving and showing respect for all opinions. Support and creation of an endowed chair in Jain studies is the most effective way to achieve this goal,” their statement reads.
Whoever is chosen for the position of Jain studies chair will lead academic investigation into the ways in which Jainism has played an important role in South Asian and transnational religious history. Their instruction will include Sanskrit and Prakrit language lessons.
Students in the new program will explore how the principles of Ahimsa, Aprigraha, and Anekantavaad can be practically applied to promote enduring peace, social harmony, and ecological sustainability.
Dr. Rambelli said that the recruitment process for a Jain studies chair will begin in a few years.