Jain and Hindu Symposium explores the intricate web of life

Image credit: SonoSonoStudio/Etsy

Image credit: SonoSonoStudio/Etsy

The Department of Philosophy presents the Spring 2022 Jain and Hindu Symposium “Intricate Web of Life: Microorganisms to the Divine” at 4 p.m. Friday, April 22, in the North Gym. The symposium marks the first public event organized under the newly created Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma.

“The partnership between Jain and Hindu traditions at Fresno State offers an example of bridge-building between the two wisdom traditions and between eastern and western philosophical systems. The Spring 2022 Jain-Hindu symposium focuses on the shared philosophy of the sanctity of all life and explores how Jain and Hindu teachings can offer guidance in taking care of the intricate web of life that encompasses microorganisms to the divine,” said Dr. Veena R. Howard, professor of philosophy, endowed chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma, and director, M.K. Gandhi Center: Inner Peace and Sarvodaya.

Dr. Christopher Chapple in a grey suit in front of a black background.
Dr. Christopher Chapple

Dr. Christopher Chapple, Doshi professor of Indic and comparative theology and founding director of the master of arts in yoga studies at Loyola Marymount University, will speak on “Jainism and sanctity of all life.” The Jain worldview posits an infinite number of eternal souls. These souls (jivas) constantly take birth and rebirth as elemental, microbial, animal, infernal, human, and heavenly beings. Enmired by karma, all beings suffer due to egotism, anger, self-deception, and greed. Five great vows can deliver human beings from the realm of samsara: nonviolence, truthfulness, honesty, upholding one’s dignity, and reduction of possessions. This presentation will explore Jain theories of life and their implications for arriving at a place of ultimate meaning.

Dr. Vijaya Nagarajan headshot
Dr. Vijaya Nagarajan

Dr. Vijaya Nagarajan, associate professor of theology and religious studies and environmental studies at the University of San Francisco, will follow with her talk “Hinduism and climate.” Over a billion people in the world are from the Hindu religious tradition. This lecture asks the question: Can there be individual and collective actions, at varying scales of operation, that a billion Hindus do that could act as a partial brake to present and future climate chaos? Exploring the potentialities of Hinduism as a toolbox for reducing excessive carbon in the atmosphere, this talk will weave together seven key Hindu principles, insights, and rituals. Meditations on the notions of “bindi,” “waste,” “element,” “death,” ”love,” “landscape” and “generosity” are all gateways into a re-imagination of how Hinduism could serve as a profound catalyst for expanding our multi-scalar capacities to respond to the urgency of the contemporary moment of world history.

Following the lectures, the Chinmaya Mission Fresno Children will chant the first chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita at 5:35 p.m. in the Peace Garden.

A specialist in the religions of India, Chapple has published more than twenty books, including the recent Living Landscapes: Meditations on the Elements in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Yogas (SUNY Press). He serves as an advisor to multiple organizations, including the Forum on Religion and Ecology (Yale), the Ahimsa Center (Pomona), the Dharma Academy of North America (Berkeley), the Jain Studies Centre (SOAS, London), the South Asian Studies Association, and International School for Jain Studies (New Delhi). He teaches online through the Center for Religion and Spirituality (LMU), the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and YogaGlo.

Nagarajan teaches in the Department of Theology/Religious Studies and the Program of Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco. Her teaching, research/writing, and service focus on Hinduism, Ecology, Gender, Ritual, Art, Climate, and the Commons. Her recent book, Feeding A Thousand Souls: Women, Ritual and Ecology in India, an Exploration of the kolam (Oxford University Press), is a singular ode to an everyday Hindu ritual performed by millions of Tamil women. Co-founding The Recovery of the Commons Project and the Institute for the Study of Natural and Cultural Resources, two tiny grassroots groups, she has co-organized events with an extensive range of activists/artists for nearly forty years.

The symposium is generously supported by the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies and sponsored by the Philosophy Department, the College of Arts and Humanities, the Asian American Studies Program and Associated Students, Inc. at Fresno State.

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