Do you want to make the world a better place? Do the grave social injustices of racism, sexism, and other social issues compel you to make a difference in the world?
Jain philosophy has long inspired various social justice movements around the world to help us approach these questions. Mahatma Gandhi was famously influenced by the Jain principles of non-violence (ahiṃsā) and truth (satya) through which he inspired an entire nation to non-violently resist British imperial colonialism and occupation in India. His embodiment of non-violence as a tool to produce political effects was both novel and ancient, representing a fusion of ancient ascetic wisdom with the particular needs of his day.
The way that Gandhi embodied Jain and other dharmic principles inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to conclude that Gandhi was the “greatest Christian” in contemporary society and that Gandhian philosophy was “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom”. Gandhi’s Jain influences thus spread further beyond India, compelling other notable social justice activists and leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Caesar Chavez to organize various forms of non-violent resistance against oppressive regimes worldwide.
Today, Jains continue to make a positive impact for those in need. Donations of time and community energy have made possible countless educational, medical, and hunger-solving initiatives worldwide. These include, for example, the global medical volunteer work of Jain doctors and the multiple initiatives to feed the poor such as Joy of Sharing’s weekly serving of thousands of meals to the poor and houseless in Southern California.
In our courses on Social Justice here at Arihanta Academy, students will learn about Jain principles that are helpful for achieving social justice outcomes such as these and others in contemporary society. In addition to studying inspiring leaders such as Gandhi and many others including Acharya Sushil Kumar who pioneered Jain education in the Western world, students will learn how to adapt Jain principles and culture to the manifold social justice challenges of everyday life.