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Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

BEST SPEECH EVER! Former CEO Citibank Phillip Wollen owns the stage – challenging you to be vegan to save the planet!

In Being Vegan on October 24, 2012 at 1:22 am

Who is Phillip Wollen, information from Wikipedia.

Forbes Magazine interviews Gurudev Chitrabhanu

In Gurudev Chitrabhanu on October 9, 2012 at 11:50 pm

On Sept. 18, 2012, Dr. Michael Tobias interviewed Gurudev Chitrabhanu for Forbes magazine. Link to Forbes article.

A Jain Leader Addresses the World

This past July, Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanuji, who spends part of each year in New York City, turned 90. For the millions of Jains and non-Jains worldwide, this former Muni (monk) is a global leader, pioneer, visionary, activist and profoundly affecting philosopher. His life and message are more relevant than ever.

For decades, Shri Chitrabhanuji has rigorously, gently and persuasively advocated for peace throughout the world, ahimsa in Sanskrit, meaning non-violence. Shri Chitrabhanuji represents a living link to the great Jain sage, Mahavira (599 – 527 BCE) who is believed by some historians to have been an elder mentor to Buddha.

Buddha, © M.C. Tobias

Mahavira proposed, among other things, a brilliant message of non-violence, tolerance, compassion, and the embrace of what was (then) a radical notion: the ecological interdependency of all living beings. After millennia, this potent ethical ideal has become key to the biological sciences, as well as inspiring such people as Tolstoy, Gandhi (who was tutored by a Jain monk early in his life), and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Shri Chitrabhanuji, a global ambassador for Mahavira’s call to peace, is the author of over twenty-six books, but it is his very life that offers us a particularly timely opportunity to reflect on his philosophy of world peace and an emphasis on our pressing need to appreciate the sanctity of all life. The photographs of Shri Chitrabhanuji seen here have never been published before and are done so with the most generous permission of the Chitrabhanu family.

Michael Tobias: Gurudev, many people may not be familiar with Jainism. What is it?

Shri Chitrabhanuji: The “ism” added to the end of “Jain” is an English construct. In Jain thinking, there is no “ism” as “ism” implies separation or competition with other systems of thinking. We prefer Jain “dharma” which is a complementary way of life that can co-exist with others, just like a healthy diet. Dharma means to be in one’s original nature – the state an object will return to when not influenced from the outside. For example, the nature of water is to remain cool. You can boil it and it will become hot, however, when you put it down, after a while it will become cool again. The nature of fire is to be hot and burning – you can try to dampen it, but given a chance it will rage again.

Michael Tobias: And humanity, human nature?

© M.C. Tobias

Shri Chitrabhanuji: What is the original nature of the human being? Is it peace, love and goodwill?

Today, due to the demands of our life, we have lost touch with this element. However, if you let people unwind, take a morning walk, spend time with children or work on our craft…we will return to peace, love and goodwill.

Michael Tobias: So, what does “Jain” mean?

Shri Chitrabhanuji: Jain is derived from the word “ji” which means to conquer. Jains are they who seek to conquer anything inside themselves that takes them away from their original nature. Jains were born in a warrior culture. Perhaps that is what explains the importance of the notion of “conquest.” However, the difference is that rather than conquering outside, conquest here is within the inner world. To live a long and fruitful life, be in harmony with your original nature. If you become raging with anger for an hour, you will get a headache. If you rage for the whole day, you may get a heart attack. You can’t sustain long-term anger because it is not your original nature. But in peace, you can live your entire life.

Michael Tobias: What is it about Jain traditions in India, the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, that lend themselves to an understanding of the world that is non-violent?

Shri Chitrabhanuji: Jain dharma adds to the singular personal vision the lens of plurality of perspectives or relativity of thinking (Anekanta). As children we grow to see life through the lens of personal preferences. Our parents and teachers instruct us to see life through the lens of others, as well, to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” Jain dharma takes this notion further by recognizing that the imposition of one’s views on others is a subtle form of violence upon them. This influences how we think about our personal relationships as well as how we think about relating to other groups in society. Your point of view is as valid to you as my point of view is to me.

© J. G. Morrison

Michael Tobias: The ecological dimensions of this should be obvious, no?

Shri Chitrabhanuji: Michael, Jain dharma encourages sensitivity towards not just human beings but all sentient life forms, which includes animals and plants – even single-celled beings. Every living being wants to live. You can see this in their actions and behavior. Even if you try to trap a small ant, it will try to run away. All life moves towards safety and away from danger. So, for a Jain, since it may not be possible to eradicate all forms of violence, the emphasis is on minimizing violence to all beings wherever possible. Thus, anyone who is Jain is also automatically an environmentalist and ecologist.

Michael Tobias: The concept of “minimizing violence” is, of course, a brilliant philosophical stroke, because it not only references inherently the notion of pragmatic idealism, but also invokes the goal of symbiosis, of mutual respect, empathy and tolerance.

© M.C. Tobias

Shri Chitrabhanuji: The symbiotic nature of non-violence and plurality of perspectives in Jain dharma has greatly inspired Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence movement. Through Gandhi, the emphasis on non-violence has influenced both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela in their freedom struggles. So you can see how the core teachings of Jain dharma have trickled into our modern world in a profound way.

Michael Tobias: The world can be brutal; and for many billions of animals and hundreds of millions of people, it is indeed so. For so many who are hurting, unemployed, desperate, and more than a billion people who are hungry, what can Jain dharma contribute?

© J. G. Morrison

Shri Chitrabhanuji:This is a good question and highly relevant today. The answer is subtle. The Jain notion of non-violence begins with one’s self and moves outwards to others. The violence we see in the world is a secondary violence. The primary violence is experienced first by and upon the person committing the violence. A matchstick cannot burn something else without burning its own head, first.

Michael Tobias: Very true.

Shri Chitrabhanuji: For someone who is going through troubled times, often the first reaction is anger and blame. Jain dharma teaches us that the first thing to do is to accept that “this is my situation, my karma” – what I have sown somewhere else, that is what I am witnessing here today. However, the future is wide open. It may be shaped by my past but it’s dominant influence is my present – and my present is something that I fully control. Therefore, in desperate times particularly, we should not spend our precious energy in blame or anger upon others. Our anger will likely not hurt the other but will certainly damage our own creativity and initiative. When we resolve to take full ownership of where we are, we are left with great energy to address the pressing matters at hand.

Michael Tobias: But then what?