A Summer in India

I will be spending the next three months in India, gallivanting through various adventures and exploits. It’s time to lay down the details.

Though this voyage has many different goals, my primary purpose is to gather research for a capstone project I’m pursuing for my individualized major in conflict resolution at Indiana University. I will abstain from entering into too much detail about the project now, since more and more snippets of it will arise as this blog develops. But, effectively, I’m interested in the ways in which Jain principles and practices can inform a model of conflict resolution. I’m interested in the difference between passive ahimsa (non-violence), which strives to avoid situations that might create violence and conflict, and active ahimsa, which calls us to engage with such situations so as to eliminate the violence, or to resolve the conflict. I’m interested in the Anuvrat reform movement of Jainism, a philosophy which emerged during the revolutionary period in India alongside Gandhi’s more prominent Satyagraha movement, a philosophy which advocates practicing active ahimsa as a means of achieving social justice and peace. I am interested in the extent to which Jains interpret their religion to contain a moral imperative for social engagement, for wrestling with issues of violence and conflict. And I am interested in the ways in which Jainism itself can help us better understand some of the intractable problems we face when trying to resolve conflicts effectively in the Western world.

To accomplish this, I’ll first be spending a little over three weeks at the International School for Jain Studies. The program moves through Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi for about a week each, where we will be primarily staying at Jain mandirs (temples). The program primarily comprises a survey course of Jainism, including philosophy, practices, and folklore, but also engages Jainism’s intersections with conflict, class, human rights, environmentalism, and social justice. Alongside this academic discourse, we will also immerse ourselves in Jain dietary and social practices, and train ourselves in Jain meditation.

At the end of the summer, I will take a three week course at Jain Vishva Bharati Institute in Ladnun, a small town in Rajasthan in northwest India. This university was founded by members of the Anuvrat movement, and our teachers will mostly be samanis (priests of the Anuvrat movement). This course, too, will survey Jainism, but internally, rather than academically, examining it from the perspective of Anuvrat.

In the period of time between these two programs, I will have some time to visit family. I will also take a couple of weeks to observe a few social organizations in Mundra, Kachchh. Kachchh, the land of my forefathers, is a steppe region located in westernmost Gujarat. There, I will be stationed with a group working with issues of intimate partner violence, and another group doing conflict resolution work between environmental organizations and burgeoning industry. Neither group has a direct relationship with Jainism, but both are brilliant examples of clever, relevant social engagement taking place in the subcontinent.

Bathing the statue of Bahubali in saffron at Shravanabelagola

It will be a full summer, and my mind will probably be in a state of constant explosion from the new experiences that I will have the lucky opportunity to encounter. I am able to have this summer only through the gracious support of family, friends, and my university. As much possible, I will be cataloging my thoughts and experiences here, at least in part to meet my own need for synthesis. Internet access will sometimes be sporadic and limited, and will vary from place to place, but it should be sufficient for regular updates. Stick around. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts, and to watch and see what happens when they pile up together.

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