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Jain nuns in an American University

e-Jain Digest I e-Jain Digest October 2009

Jain nuns in an American University

Report from Florida International University

"Jainism is a rich philosophy, why should such a philosophy be deprived of flourishing.”

These are the views of scholars like professor Dr. Natan katz, a director of ‘Center for the study of spirituality in FIU’. This thought opened the doors of Jain studies in US University. The dream of His Holiness Acharya Tulsi and Acharya Mahapragyaji came true. Samani Charitra Prajna and Samani Unnata Pragya have been teaching at FIU since 2006, with full vigor while opening new windows. Shashi Jain, took the initial and leading step to make this happen. The Jain center of South Florida along with the whole Jain community has whole heartedly supported this project and the Samaniji, facilitating their residence, Jochari and all the other requisites, without which this would not have been possible. They have served as guardians for Samanijis since day one.

Courses offered in FIU:

Jainism & Nonviolence, Meditation & Spiritual development, Religion, life & Vegetarianism, Intro to Asian religions, Religious Classics of Asia & more. There has been a good enrolment, where students look forward to learning from the living practitioner. The courses gives them the eastern perspective of Religion, Philosophy & Meditation practices. The courses are geared towards nonviolence, healthy living, Vegetarianism and more.

Preksha Meditation Club:

Samaniji has started a Preksha meditation Club on campus. Through this club various enlightening events and meditation sessions are organized. This has been a blessing for the stressful life of students. ‘This is best for my wandering mind’, say some students. ‘It helps me focus and align my mind. It is a blessing and a bliss’. The Preksha meditation Club also received two awards for its wonderful activities. The ‘Best New Organization Award’ and the ‘Outstanding Club award in the Religion & Spirituality Category’. This has created awareness among students, as to how they can control their mind, stay stress free and lead a healthy life.

Special events:

Samaniji are at FIU to impart the knowledge and philosophy of Jainism, Nonviolence and healthy living. A series on Nonviolence was organized on Campus, where different aspects of Nonviolence, healthy living, stress management were discussed and brought to light. The events were not mere theoretical but also practical to help them feel and experience the difference. We welcomed different orators, Activist, and organization including Dr. Dipak Jain, Dr. Hiene, Bernard lafyette, Surabh Dalal, Big Cat rescue organization and many more.

Nonviolent series:

· Mahaivr Jayanti in FIU

On the eve of Mahavir Jayanti, Essence of Jainism = was presented by Samani Charitra Prajna

· Live & Let live –

A special event which focused on Vegetarianism, animal rights and nonviolence in life. The event was enlightened by three great speakers. Samani Charitra Prajna brought to light the violence of life and the counter acting forces. Carole Baskin talked about the violence on Big Cats and Saurabh Dalal highlighted vegetarianism and vegan food.

· Know the color of you aura and heal it –

This event was about what You know about your aura, how you can see and change it. Samani Unnata Pragya spoke about the concept and ways to seeing the Aura. Samani Charitra Prajna guided the class into meditation.

· Nonviolence in Business –

This event was vibrant with the presence of the then Dean of Kellogg, Dr. Dipak Jain. He shared his experience of Jain values in the field of Business. Samani Charitra Prajna’s speech on Nonviolence in economics followed that.

· Stress management –

This event lectured By Samani Unnata Pragya and Swamiji walked through the different steps of Stress relief.

· World Peace Diet –

The Author of World Peace Diet, Will Tuttle was invited to FIU on 25th Feb, 09 to talk about his Book and his life changing experience.

· Peace in the world-

March 11th 09, the event was for the students, by the students, and of the students. Convened by Preksha Club, different organizations on campus,came and shared the practice of nonviolence in different cultures. Different vegetarian food and activities from all various cultures were offered to acknowledge the thriving practice of nonviolence in diverse human life. This commenced with a meditation session by Samaniji and concluded with fun activities.

· Vegetation and Meditation for peace –

16th Sept 09, students demonstrated making vegetarian dishes and brought an awareness towards the easy ways of healthy living.

· Meditation Camps were organized and interfaith programs attended by Samaniji to spread the message of self respect the self

· Nonviolence training in Ahimsa Center-

Summer was a training period for Samaniji. Samaniji also participated in the Nonviolence training in the Ahimsa Center of Cal Poly, Pamona University.

Students comments:

· Jennifer Bowitz –

I truly enjoyed this course. I found that it had very insightful and meaningful messages that I will remember for the rest of my life. I also enjoyed learning about Jainism because

It was a religion I had not yet studied and I believe it helped me understand people better.

I am a nursing major and I have to work with a large diversity of people and I feel that this class helped a lot with how to take care of them. I would suggest this course for everyone.

· Michael Meyer-

This was a truly excellent course for me to take. I feel much better about my life in general. By taking these classes I am better able to deal with the stress currently existing in my life. I truly agree with many aspects of Jainism such as the pursuit of spiritual growth. I see the real advantages having learned of them from this perspective.

· Natasha Neckles-

This has been a very interesting and enjoyable course. I have learned a great deal about Myself and how my actions and reactions affect myself and others. I am now conscious when I waste the earth’s precious resources. The best thing about Jainism in my opinion is the way they make a point of not hurting any living creature. I agree with the belief that our behavior attracts different kinds of karmas. I will now try to be more conscious of the things I do, say, think and consume.

· Young Terrance-

"I hope FIU continues this course for the future students”

· More from different students-

"I’m an American but I have faith in nonviolence….we appreciate the knowledge you are sharing with us.” "We know many things but we need some awakening….” "I agree that nonviolence is the core. This can help get away from disparity. It could be by more education of it.” These are the voice of the students. The inclination of students is crystal clear. Though the course was for the undergraduates, even graduate students turned up to take advantage of this unique opportunity. ‘it is very intriguing as well as helpful not just for the purpose of the course but for life, career, mind and most of all spirit.’

Transformative presence

Samaniji has offered different courses over the last four years. This has been educative and transformative at the personal level. Some students have changed to vegetarian diet, some are stepping towards it. Students have added meditation in their daily practice. Students are exposed to different aspects of wellbeing, and peaceful world. Guest lectures in various classes have facilitated the spread of Jain philosophy. The diverse events have created an awareness of the rich spiritual heritage we humans carry unexplored. The Jain ideal "Nanassa saram ayaro”, ‘the essence of Knowledge is Conduct’, is seen coming true, the purpose served. This is an attempt to sow the seed of Jainism in the academic world in US, it has started sprouting, the day is not long away when we would enjoy the branched green tree, its shade and sweet fruits.


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