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University of North Texas establishes professorship in Jainism

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The professorship was establsihed to promote the studies of Jainism in the United States.

Dr. George Alfred James has been named as the first Bhagawan Adinath Professor of Jain Studies at the University of North Texas.

Dr. James, who is currently a faculty of Department of Philosophy and Religion. The professorship was created by College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences through the fund donated by Jain Education and Research Foundation.

Jainism, a religion with birth in India, teaches nonviolence and love for all beings in the universe as they believe all living organisms contain souls. The followers of the religion are called Jains and they are strict vegetarians.

The university established the Bhagawan Adinath professorship to promote the studies of Jainism in the United States.

The name Bhagawan Adinath was adopted for the professorship in memory of Adi Jina, or Adinatha the title of Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism. Tirthankara is a savior and spiritual teacher of the dharma.

Florida International University was the first to establish a professorship in the US by the name Jain Education and Research Foundation in 2010.

James joined the University of North Texas in 1983 and added extensive details about Jainism in the course curriculum of south Asian philosophy and world religion.

The department also offered occasional courses on Jainism after Pankaj Jain joined the university as the Assistant Professor, who had prior experience teaching the course at North Carolina State University.

James is well versed in studies about environmental movements in India and has traveled extensively to the nation for his research.

He told UNT News that a Jain professorship at UNT “will help to fortify the religion program and provide UNT with distinction.”

“Not every university includes information about Jainism as part of its courses, but there’s a long legacy of the influence of Jainism throughout history. The religion’s idea of nonviolence was extremely influential on Gandhi and also Martin Luther King, who adopted Gandhi’s actions during the civil rights movement,” he said. “Unfortunately, the idea of nonviolence is now getting less and less attention in the world.”

The interest from the donation received for the professorship will be used by the university to conduct conferences that aim at spreading the message of nonviolence by bringing in speakers who are experienced in Jainism.

According to David Holdeman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, there are a number of faculty members and students in the university, interested in cultural and social issues pertaining to India.

“We hope that the Jain professorship will help to foster additional discussion not only of Jainism in particular but also of Indian religion and culture more generally. We are excited and grateful to be able to launch this new professorship,” he said.