Category Archives: Jain Philosophy

Vegan Jain profiles: Pravin uncle, JAINA education committee speaks in the UK

Pravin uncle of the JAINA education committee in the US gave compelling talks in the UK this Paryushan about the hinsa involved in dairy production, among many other topics. See the audio and video files put together by Rajesh and Jyoti, of the Kanji Swami Jain community in their encyclopedic site here 

There are also YouTube videos:

1.  Gujarati – http://youtu.be/4ZJHbtgkIj0
2. Profile (English): http://youtu.be/sEgBMc9-9QM

Following Sagar and the Jain Vegans Working Group Vegan for Paryushan Campaign, there seems to be a growing awareness of veganism among Jains in the UK and the Jain Vegans blog  chronicles encouraging recent developments!

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Vegan Jain Profiles: Pravin Shah, JAINA Education committee chair

JAINA Education Leader Pravin Shah was recorded this week while in London, where he was invited to give talks for Paryushan. Here we have two talks in English and one in Gujarati on his personal decision to become vegan after visiting a dairy farm and discusses the decrease in his cholesterol that resulted. He also sicusses the philosophical basis for veganism in Jain philosophy and practice. One is “parapagraho jivanam“, all life is interdependent, and the other enjoins the practitioner to consume only those items known to him or her to be ahimsak. Thanks to Minal, Mahersh, Nishma, and Sagar from the JAIN vegans UK for producing these recordings!
1. Profile  (Gujarati) – http://youtu.be/4ZJHbtgkIj0
2. Profile (English): http://youtu.be/sEgBMc9-9QM
3. Interview (English): http://youtu.be/UcyVVJAByio
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Sanjay’s JCNC presentation on Ahimsak Diet and Lifestyles

Based on the combined work of 15 Jain Center of Greater Boston volunteers and his own personal stories, Sanjay provides a compelling case for Jains to become vegan as the true expression of vegetarianism based on ahimsa.

Presentations on Ahimsak Diet and Lifestyles at JCNC, Aug 4,2013

Sudhanshu and Sanjay gave two excellent powerpoint presentations at JCNC this weekend as part of the 13th Anniversary celebrations.

Indirect_Violence_and_Global_Warming

Ahimsak Life Style

Veganism addresses the root of hinsa: Panjrapoles are a stop-gap

A Perspective on Panjrapoles (Animal Shelters) of India

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Brett Evans  (bevans8@elon.edu) , Elon University, North Carolina, USA

During my undergraduate education, I researched Jainism as part of the Elon College Fellows and Lumen Scholars programs at Elon University in North Carolina (www.elon.edu).  As a vegan, I became interested in Jainism primarily due to its impressive and longstanding commitments to nonviolence, vegetarianism, and panjrapoles (animal homes).[Ed note: the panjrapol pictured above is from http://tharad.in/mahajanpura_panjarapole.html, taken from a website and not necessarily of that Mr. Evans visited, but meant to be illustratative).

 

With the assistance of Pravin K. Shah, I involved myself in 2010 with the Jain Study Center of North Carolina, where I attended monthly meetings and conducted interviews with its members.  My culminating paper on this research focused on North American Jain involvement with environmental and animal rights movements and has since been published in The Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography (Volume 2 – Issue 2 – June 2012)  (http://tinyurl.com/cpx2lnc).

Later, I studied abroad twice in India: the first time in 2011 with the International Summer School for Jain Studies (ISSJS) in North India run by Dr. Shugan Jain, and the second in 2012 with the anthropology-oriented South India Term Abroad (SITA) in Tamil Nadu.

Collectively, and especially living with a Jain family for four months, these experiences taught me a great deal about Jainism.  Following the second study abroad program, I undertook two months of independent research in Gujarat and Mumbai focused on Jain animal activists, with particular emphasis on the supporters ofpanjrapoles.

In the context of this project, I visited 27 Jain panjrapoles and a number of goshalas (cow homes).    I had the opportunity to tour these institutions and interview their managers, trustees, and donors.  In total, I discussed panjrapoles with more than 100 Jains who were closely connected to these organizations.

In between my two trips to India, a number of respected Jains living in the US raised concerns to me about the conditions present in panjrapoles today.  Many of them noted that while they donate to panjrapoles in India, they are uncertain if these charitable organizations are well-run or truly worthy of their support.  These individuals had heard many negative reports about panjrapoles, and they hoped that I might be able to shed some light on the situation.

Although assessing the value of these institutions was not the aim of my research project, I agreed to give my honest perspective on panjrapoles when I returned.  I agreed because, like you, I am passionate about animal welfare and helping to create a less violent world.

In this spirit, and based upon the experiences of my research field work, I offer you my perspective here.  It is my hope that this essay may start a conversation about panjrapoles and how our personal choices may lead to animals being abandoned and slaughtered.  If my perspective is incomplete or causes unintentional harm, micchami dukkadam.

As you are likely aware, there is much that is admirable about panjrapoles and the individuals who are involved with them.  Historians can trace the presence of animal homes in India for thousands of years, while westerners have had similar sanctuaries for mere decades.

This longevity exhibits the relevance and importance of these institutions in a time of unprecedented slaughter and mistreatment of animals.  Such a rich tradition, then, has much to teach those around the world who are involved with contemporary animal rights and welfare movements.  Over its long history, many Jains have devoted their human lives to saving and improving animal lives, and even today I did not meet a single panjrapole trustee who was not undoubtedly committed to the cause of protecting life.  Indeed, many spent significant amounts of time away from their families and businesses to ensure their charitable work was done.

During my time in India, I was continually impressed and humbled by these individuals.  These supporters are faced with a very challenging situation, however, and many, including me, would argue that panjrapoles need improvement and cannot be the only solution to animal suffering.

I would like to pose a broad but crucial question: what is the purpose of a panjrapole?  While this query may seem elementary, I believe it is essential that we take a step back in order to chart a way forward.  The most common answer I heard to this question is that a panjrapole’s purpose is to protect animals who would otherwise be abandoned or slaughtered.

However, if this is the purpose of the panjrapole, we must ask why animals are being abandoned and slaughtered in the first place.  There is a clear answer to this question, and it is readily apparent upon visiting most panjrapoles.

Overwhelmingly, animals living in these institutions are older female cows who are no longer able to produce milk and male calves (who obviously do not have the capacity to produce milk).  These animals have been deemed “useless” because they are not profitable to the dairy industry.  Neither the dairy industry nor the independent farmer can afford to maintain these unprofitable animals and, as a result, they are abandoned or shipped illegally for slaughter in Maharashtra.

Given this situation, the panjrapole serves as one important solution.  However, it is only a temporary, stop-gap solution.  If we regard panjrapoles as a permanent solution, then they (and we) are simply enabling a system that produces the injustice of abandoned and slaughtered animals, and the milk producers continue to profit at the expense of the panjrapoles, who bear the burden of taking in the old females and young males. 

This “solution,” which effectively redistributes rather than reduces dairy’s violent outcomes to panjrapoles, is neither sustainable nor equitable.  Moreover, it is widely acknowledged by panjrapole supporters that these institutions are only able to take in a tiny percentage of the animals in need.  This lack of housing capacity is obvious when you consider the amount of milk products consumed in India.  It would be impossible for panjrapoles to house the hundreds of millions of cattle and buffaloes who produce milk across the country.

We must remember that half of this number, the male population, is cast aside immediately and that young, lactating females naturally would be outnumbered by their older, “unproductive” counterparts.  And, these figures do not even include goats, sheep, birds, dogs, cats, and the rest of animals in need who are not used for mainstream dairy but are currently minority residents of panjrapoles.

As it is, most of the panjrapoles I visited were incredibly overcrowded.  Many of these panjrapoles were originally built on grazing grounds outside of cities, but, as these metropolises developed, the animal homes were eventually swallowed by them. Urban expansion means that panjrapoles are now located in confined, polluted environments that are not well-suited to animals. 

While many managers and trustees admit this is a problem, most stated it is not financially feasible to relocate.  Few panjrapoles can afford to provide any space for animals to roam or graze, which means that the animals in these shelters typically have an unnatural and poor quality of life—one which is better than starvation or slaughter but not one which we would find an acceptable, systemic outcome for countless individuals.

It is with the circumstances that I have outlined above in mind that I advocate for a permanent solution that strikes at the root of the problem are intended to address.

This solution is surely familiar to many of you:It is to adopt a Vegan (or pure vegetarian) lifestyle.

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Profiles of Vegan Jains: Gurudev Chitrabhanuji

Gurudev Chitrabhanu describes the karmic consequences of consuming hinsic dairy in engaging and thorough fashion.

“These selfish acts perpetrated by human beings, due to their greed, result in the following three consequences:

1. When we take the milk which belongs to the off-spring of the cow, the suffering vibrations of the cow and the calf would boomerang on us and might create some separation in our lives.  As we plant the pain in others, the vibrations received would result, as a ‘karmic’ consequence, into separation from our dear ones.

 2. The cow’s normal life span is twenty-five years.  Humans reduce this longevity by slaughter or use in veal industry.  The ‘karma’ of taking away the longevity of a living being influences our life span and results in reduction of our own life span or of our dear ones.  Also the end of the life may not be natural and it may be by accident or some permanent disability may take place.

3. We snatch away or steal the off-spring from the cow, as well as its milk for the calf.  The milk and the child are taken away ruthlessly by us without the permission of the cow.  This is ‘adattā dān’.  This is a charity not done by the donor.  It is acquisition of someone’s belongings without consent.  One should therefore be ready to face consequences of losing one’s own property, wealth or dear ones.

As Bhagwan Mahavir had said, ‘Non-violence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself.  For thereby one’s own self is saved from various kinds of sins and resultant sufferings and is able to secure his own welfare. ‘    ”

For his full article on ahinsa in action please continue reading Continue reading

Chitrabhanuji and Thich Nhat Hanh among few vegan spiritual teachers

Dr. Will Tuttle writes here about why so few spiritual teachers are vegan and mentions the two that have influenced us, as the hosts of this blog, the most: Chitrabhanuji, our foremost teacher of Jainism in the US and Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk teaching mindfulness with Westerners, Vietnamese and others around the globe.  See our other posts for more about both of these revered teachers and we would like to acknowledge, too, the teaching of Pramodaben Chitrabhanu, who continues spreading the message of veganism among Jains.

We know of the other vegan spiritual teachers that Dr. Tuttle mentions as well: we’ve eaten at the Loving Hut restaurants that Master Ching Hai inspires. We’ve also been amazed by the videos produced in multiple languages with vegan cooking lessons. And Dr. Gabriel Cousens has inspired  friends to run a program to reverse diabetes based on a raw vegan diet based on their experiences at his healing center.
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Happy 90th Birthday Gurudev Chitrabhanu

Today is the 90th birthday of one of the two Jain monks that brought Jainism to America. Gurudev has been instrumental in creating the environment that enabled Jains from India, such as my parents, their children born in the US, such as me, and Americans interested in Jainism, such as friends at the Jain Meditation International and Lighthouse Centers, to understand and practice this ancient  tradition with its timeless principle of ahimsa.

He is pictured  on the far right at one of the Pratishtas ( temple openings) that he attended.

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Gurudev Chitrabhanu came to the US in 1971. I was one year old. As he travelled and authored books, founded Jain Meditation International and spoke to audiences, my parents and their friends founded the Jain Society of Chicago. He helped organize the association of Jain associations  called JAINA.   He wrote books prolifically, and my  mother bought them, kept them in our temple and as she prayed, I read them voraciously.   I grew up reading “Inspiring Anecdotes”, ” A Lotus Blooms” and later, his books about Jain meditation. I heard Gurudev speak at Jain centers and JAINA conferences. And then when I was 20, I went to Siddhachalam, the Jain ashram founded by Acharya Sushilmuniji, the other Jain monk that brought Jainism to America. I became vegan after attending a New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance Conference there. As I, along with  a cohort of Jains in my generation, went vegan, we were reassured that Gurudev and Pramodaben understood and promoted veganism, or pure vegetarianism to our Jain community. They have spoken about the need to remove dairy products from our rituals and our diets, eloquently and persistently.

There has been a remarkable resistance to giving up dairy. Some Jains argue that veganism is a religion separate from Jainism and that Mahavir was not vegan. Despite criticism, Gurudev, with the spiritual understanding borne of 5 years of silence with monks’ vows and a lifetime of practice, maintains the clarity of his message: Ahimsa Paramo Dharma. Non-violence is the supreme religion. Veganism is but one expression. One cannot consume milk and consider oneself a pure vegetarian, practicing ahimsa.

And his reply, as Pravin K. Shah wrote recently, to the question of how to respond to people that oppose veganism, continues to inspire me. These are lines from the song that he authored  Maitri Bhavana Pavitra Zharanu :

May I always be there to show the path  

To the pathless wanderers of life

Yet, if they should not hearken to me,

May I bide in patience.

Is it time for Jains to give leather the boot?

This post is contributed by Sagar Kirit Shah,   member of the Jain Vegans in the UK.

                               

In a world dominated by greed and materialism, the Jain community are leaders when it comes to demonstrating how to live a peaceful, low himsa lifestyle.  For thousands of years, Jains have followed a strict vegetarian diet and lived in harmony with nature.  And Jain monks and nuns illustrate how it is possible to live an empowering and fulfilling life without material possessions.

Jains in the West continue to try to live by traditional principles.  We try to lead modest lifestyles and participate in charitable activities when we can. We steer clear of activities and professions that involve violence or exploitation of other humans and animals.  Despite being confronted with a variety of temptations, large numbers of us have continued to follow a strict vegetarian diet.

While I’m tremendously proud of the example set by members of our community, I’ve always found it very difficult to understand why Jains, Hindus and other vegetarians seem to find it acceptable to wear leather.   As a young child, I often used to ask my mum why it was wrong to kill cows to eat them, yet acceptable to kill them for clothing.   My mum would explain to me that leather was taken from cows that were already dead. Continue reading

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True Health and Beauty Arise from Compassion

Ajahn Guna of Berkeley Buddhist Monastery discusses how good health and beauty are not commodities but the consequences of generosity, compassion and virtue. Next to him is the producer of the documentary “Got the Facts on Milk?”, an informative and provocative film that we watched and discussed with a break for mindful walking, allowing for people to process the information they received with a fresh state of mind.