Last fall, the nation’s first interreligious university, Claremont Lincoln University, located forty miles east of Los Angeles, California, saw its opening convocation, at which it celebrated a new partnership with the Jain community. This fall, on October 8, 2012, only one year since the beginning of the Jain Studies program, Claremont Lincoln University celebrated the inauguration of a new Center for Jain Studies, dedicated to furthering the work of Jain wisdom in today’s world. In the course of just one year, the Jain Studies program at Claremont Lincoln has become not only the most active program at the University, but also the most active Jain Studies graduate program in the nation--already administering over a dozen programs, including hosting an annual international Jain conference; offering graduate-level Jain dharma courses each year; bringing expert Jain scholars to the area for special lectures and events; hosting an annual Ahimsa Day celebration; and coordinating a summer Jain dharma study abroad program in India for local and national scholars.
With this much Jain activity happening on campus, the University sought to deepen collaborations with its Jain partners even further and, with philanthropic support from the Jain community, launched a Center that will serve as the hub for the many Jain Studies projects flowering out of this intimate partnership.
The Center’s inaugural ceremony on October 8th was held at Mudd Theater at Claremont School of Theology just before the national panel discussion of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, in which the Jain tradition was represented by former President of JAINA, and one of the senior advisors for the Jain Studies program at Claremont Lincoln, Dr. Sulekh Jain.
In the celebratory ceremony Professor of Jain Studies, Ms. Brianne Donaldson, who has served as the Dharma Traditions Coordinator for the past year, administering the majority of the Jain projects and activities, recounted the beginnings of the Jain Studies program and its many accomplishments so far. The new Center Coordinator, Ms. Lidiya Potapenko, followed, speaking on the central importance of ahimsa (or non-violence) in Jain dharma, and announced that the Center’s mission was to put compassion and non-violence to work in the world around us. Dr. Nitin Shah (Loma Linda University), past President of the Jain Center of Southern California and one of the main donors behind the opening of the new Center, spoke on the importance of education in the current world. The opening celebration also featured a short cultural program of music, dance, and theater performances by Anjal, Priyash, Vaishali, and Mahesh Jain—members of Claremont Lincoln’s local Jain partnership organization, the Jain Center of Southern California (JCSC) in Buena Park.
The new Center for Jain Studies is dedicated to facilitating and promoting open discourse, innovative scholarship, creative expression, and the practical application of Jain teachings in today’s world. In all of its projects, the Center will especially encourage connections between Jain dharma and other wisdom traditions, and will raise awareness of the larger interconnected ecological environment in which we live. To find out more about the new Center for Jain Studies at Claremont Lincoln University, please visit jain.claremontlincoln.org.