Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jainism and Buddhism

VARANASI, India - Is the ancient city on the verge of witnessing a confluence of Jainism and Buddhism that spreads the philosophy of the two religions to other parts of the world?

Nearby Sarnath (where the Buddha delivered his first sutra, setting in motion the Wheel of the Dharma) has emerged as an international center for Buddhist studies.

Now Parshwanath Vidyapeeth (PV), an external research center of Jain studies recognized by Banaras Hindu University in association with the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS), is set to promote research on various aspects of Jainism. It will expose students, research scholars, and teachers to a real life experience of the peaceful co-existence of various religions in the city. "We have established ISJS-PV global center for ahimsa (non-violence) and Indic research, and special summer schools are also being hosted for foreign scholars... More>>

A nun's tale
William Dalrymple, Washington Post (Adapted by the author-historian from his book Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India)
Two hills of blackly gleaming granite, smooth as glass, rise from a thickly wooded landscape of banana plantations and jagged Palmyra palms. It is dawn. Below lies the ancient pilgrimage town of Sravanabelagola, where the crumbling walls of monasteries and temples cluster around a grid of dusty, red-earth roads. The roads converge on a great rectangular tank. The tank is dotted with the spreading leaves and still-closed buds of floating lotus flowers. Already, despite the early hour, the first pilgrims are gathering.

For more than two thousand years, this Karnatakan town has been sacred to the Jains. It was here, in the third century BC, that the first Emperor of India, Chandragupta Maurya, embraced the Jain religion and died through a self-imposed fast to the death, the emperor's chosen atonement for the killings he had been responsible for in his life of conquest. Twelve hundred years later, in 981 AD, a Jain general commissioned the largest monolithic statue in India, sixty feet high, on the top of the larger of the two hills, Vindhyagiri.

This was an image of another royal Jain hero, Prince Bahubali. The prince had fought a duel with his brother for control of their father's kingdom. But in the very hour of his victory, Bahubali realised the transience of worldly glory. He renounced his kingdom, and embraced, instead, the path of the ascetic. Retreating to the jungle, he stood in meditation for a year, so that the vines of the forest curled around his legs and tied him to the spot. In this state he conquered what he believed to be the real enemies -- his ambitions, pride and desires -- and so became, according to the Jains, the first human being to achieve spiritual liberation. More>>

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