Indian American donors join forces to establish $1 M Jain chair at UC Santa Barbara

Santa BarbaraAdding an important layer to an already robust and well-regarded program, a trio of generous donors has teamed to support research and teaching in Jain studies within the UC Santa Barbara Department of Religious Studies.

The Bhagvan Vimalnath Endowed Chair in Jain Studies was established through a $1 million joint gift from Drs. Meera and Jasvant Modi via the Vardhamana Charitable Foundation; Mrs. Rita and Dr. Narendra Parson via the Narendra and Rita Parson Family Trust; and Mrs. Raksha and Mr. Harshad Shah via Shah Family Foundation. 

“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,” the donors said in a joint statement. “UC Santa Barbara is a prestigious place and more important, it has an effective model to achieve our goals. This new position will make Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anekantvad principles better known in the mainstream — and this will benefit us all.”

The new gift builds on prior philanthropy from the Modis and the Parsons, in partnership with the Jain Center of Southern California and the Jain Temple of Los Angeles, to establish UC Santa Barbara’s Bhagvan Vimalnath Lectureship in Jain Studies and South Asian religions. The study of South Asian religious traditions is a core strength of UCSB’s religious studies department, which focuses on comparative study of religions from a secular approach.

Noted Chancellor Henry T. Yang, “Our UC Santa Barbara Department of Religious Studies, founded more than half a century ago, is recognized as one of the best in the world. We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of Drs. Meera and Jasvant Modi, Mrs. Rita and Dr. Naredra Parson, and Mrs. Raksha and Mr. Harshad Shah to establish the Bhagvan Vimalnath Endowed Chair in Jain Studies, which will help us to advance Jain and South Asian studies, an exciting and increasingly important field, at UC Santa Barbara.”

The chair holder will support the graduate program and develop and teach undergraduate and graduate courses on Jainism, including exploration of Ahimsa (nonviolence), Aprigraha (non-attachment/non-possessiveness) and Anekantavaad (plurality of views and beliefs) — the principles of Jainism — and their import and implication for modern society. Students will be engaged to explore the practical significance of such principles for enduring peace, social harmony and ecological sustainability.

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