New York: A virtual inauguration celebration of Dr. Shailendra Palvia Endowed Jain Scholar Speaker Series under the aegis of College of Liberal Arts (CLA), Long Island University (LIU) was hosted by the dean of CLA Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch and moderated by him and Dr. Palvia on July 22. Over 100 participants from the USA, Canada, and India joined the celebration that included representatives of LIU administration and faculty, and friends of Dr. Palvia, and the Jain community.
The Speaker Series is established through a $30,000 gift from Dr. Shailendra Palvia, Professor at LIU. A seminar each semester starting with Fall 2020 shall focus on a topic related to the three prominent philosophies of Jainism: Ahinsa (Non-Violence) and Anekantwad (Respect for Diverse Viewpoints) and Aparigraha (Avoidance of Indiscriminate Use of the World’s Resources) and conducted by Jain scholars.
After the welcome address by Dean Bowditch, the Jains’ Namokar Mantra was recited; is meaning was explained by Dr. Nitin Shah, Vice Chairman of Academic Liaison Committee (ALC) of JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America). Dr. Sulekh Jain, Nevada based founding chairman of the ALC of JAINA, talked about the evolution of several centers and programs of Jain Studies in USA colleges and universities, predominantly in California. He quoted recently departed Congressman John Lewis who said in 2017 that “had it not been for the message of Ahinsa from Bhagwan Mahavir, there would be no Mahatma Gandhi, no Martin Luther King, no civil rights movement and no John Lewis.”
At this point Dean Bowditch introduced Dr. Palvia who moderated the remaining meeting. Through PPT slides, Dr. Palvia briefly explained the meaning of the Jain Greeting “Jai Jinendra” and Jin (conqueror of inner enemies of anger, ego, deceit and greed). He went on to articulate the meaning and significance of the three pillars of Jain religion – Ahinsa, Anekantwad and Aparigrah. Pointing at a picture of Bhagwan Mahavir, he mentioned that Bhagwan Mahavir and Lord Buddha were spreading the messages of the two religions about the same time in India. He explained that Jain monks that wear masks lifelong to avoid killing germs when they talk or yawn. The masks that we wear now are to protect us from infection by Covid-19 microbes. In the context of the pandemic enveloping the whole world, Prof Palvia reminded that “not killing animals for any reason is the sacred ahinsa pertaining to action and Jain religion strives for ecological balance — Let all Living Beings live in peace and harmony.” He emphasized that following the philosophy of Anekantwad, “we must respect differing views to control and treat the pandemic with balanced and rational approach.” He also pointed out that “all of us have learned to live with very limited means and resources in terms of travelling, partying, eating out, and entertainment,” which is aparigraha.
Vice President of Academic Affairs at LIU Post, Dr. Ed Weis, said that the title of Professor Emeritus will be conferred on Dr. Palvia when he retires after 25 years of service from LIU Post starting September 1, 2020.
Dr. Jaswant Modi, retired physician and philanthropist, talked about funding endowed Chairs in California universities and also his passion to fund in future as many initiatives as possible to spread the message of Ahinsa in academia.
Dr. Faquir Jain, Professor at University of Connecticut (Storrs campus) and former chair of CT Council of Interreligious Understanding, mentioned efforts to set up Bhagwan Neminath Endowed Professorship to teach Jain courses at UConn.
Arvind Vora, chairman of Long Island Multi Faith Forum, said that he has been fortunate to be invited by PMs, Presidents, and Popes to represent his interfaith contributions as a Jain.
Professor John Lutz, chairperson of the Department of English, and Foreign Languages, talked about his new awareness of Jain religion and his appreciation of its overarching philosophy of Ahimsa.
President of New Jersey Jain Center, Jigar Shah, reminded the audience about the Jain DNA of entrepreneurship in business and that lately they have made a mark in social entrepreneurship too. He called Prof Palvia’s Speaker Series as an example of Spiritual entrepreneurship.
In his concluding remarks, Dean Bowditch emphasized that this was just the start and he was open to forging partnership with the Jain community in Long Island and beyond to move farther into Jain religion programs at LIU Post.