Bahai News - Striking a balance key to religion: Jainism will be explored as part of interfaith series

Striking a balance key to religion: Jainism will be explored as part of interfaith series


Speak the truth. Avoid violence. Harm no living creature. Respect the opinions of others. These are elements of a gentle and giving religion called Jainism.

"We pray for uplifting of the soul but not material things," said Naresh Shah of Cross Lanes. "One has to strike a balance between life and spiritual life. Greed can destroy anybody. Anger and hatred don't help family."

Shah, an engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said there are nine Jain families in the Charleston area, three in Beckley and six in the Huntington-Ashland vicinity.

"We do not meet regularly for worship, but we meet during social functions at the India Center along with many other Indian families," he said.

"Jainism: a Religion of Non-Violence" is the seventh in the ongoing series entitled "Interfaith Growing-Growing in Unity by Understanding Diversity." Each month a different religion or faith group in the Kanawha Valley is featured in the series presented by the Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council. Sessions so far have included Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Baha'i, Buddhism and Native American spirituality.

The session on Jainism is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the India Center, 800 Green Road off Corridor G. Sessions are free and open to the public.

The Jainism session is sponsored by Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council, the Hindu Worship Center and the Vedanta Society of West Virginia. The program will include speakers, question-and-answer period, and refreshments.

Keynote speaker is Bruce Costain, director of education for the Jain Center of Columbus, Ohio.

Jainism, an ancient religion of India, does not adhere to the philosophy of a creator but states life is an ongoing cycle with no beginning or end.

"The whole Jain philosophy is centered on soul and the soul is potentially divine," Naresh said.

Through reincarnation one may continually upgrade the soul until a divine status is reached that ends the cycle of life and death allowing the soul to remain in a state of bliss or heaven.

Historically, Jainism has been known by many names, including Jina, which means a conqueror. This refers to one who has conquered desire, hatred, anger, greed and pride. All humans have the potential to become Jinas and be viewed as Gods in Jainism. There are 24 Tirthankaras (Jain Gods) that are to be worshipped. Lord Mahavir was the last.

Jains strive for a "proper conduct" of nonviolence, self- purification, compassion, penance, austerity and meditation. Jains believe one may be reincarnated based on decisions and actions of the current life cycle.

Jains are vegetarians due to their belief in the sacredness of all life. They also believe in unconditional love.

"We have multiplicity of viewpoint," Naresh added. "We respect different opinions. The truth is many sided. Everything is relative. Nothing is absolute. Things can change depending on time and place. We respect all religions. We don't say that one is right."

While Naresh owns more than 40 books on Jainism, he said the basics are simple, with things falling into place through kindness and compassion.

He added that the interfaith sessions offer an excellent opportunity for understanding each other.

For more information on Jainism check out the Web sites or

Religious leaders who are interested in sponsoring an evening explaining their faith may send a written request on letterhead to the Rev. Linda Geronilla, 92 Cook Drive, Charleston, WV 25314.

Writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith can be reached at 348-1246 or by e- mail at

©Copyright 2001, Charleston Daily Mail

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