Promoting Jainism To French Speaking People
By Mr. Pierre Amiel
French tourists, when going to India, find many remains of the development of Jainism such as cave-temples, temple-cities, stupas, pillars, and sculptures. They are fascinated by what they discover at palitana, Girnar, Sammed-Shikhar, Sravana-Belagola, Ellora and many other places. They have never heard of Jainism before. Some, when seeing white monks and nuns walking with a handkerchief in front of their mouths, think it is because the air in India is as polluted as in Japan, or sometimes as in the large cities in France. Some are perplexed when they see a huge image of Bahubali, with nude monks at his feet praising him. They suppose it is the ancestor of some Indian king or some Hindu divinity, like Siva or Vishnu. If they ask somebody who this man is they will be told he is a Jain Saint, a model of self-denial for monks aspiring to moksha.
When returning home these tourists will perhaps be happy to learn more about Jainism or will forget forever what they saw in India, already preparing for new adventures in future holidays.
Surely you will think, why should French people, who are so proud of culture, ignore what Jainism is? It is a fact that they know nothing about it. The reasons for this are many. One of these reasons is that Jains are not interested in preaching as compared to a large majority of other religions, like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, we see numerous churches, Temples, Mosques, Synagogues, but no Jain temple, and very few pages to read about Jainism.
As French people don't learn religions of the world at school they are limited to their own culture. In the UK and the USA, in ancient English exist in the market and we find Jain temples in these countries. In France there is no established Jain community and no Jain Centre can be found.
But, you will ask me, why are you attracted by such a religion, such a philosophy? My relationship to Jainism is the result of a long period of spiritual quest. It all started by my practicing yoga. I had the good fortune to have a young Indian Brahmin as my teacher, who also taught me plenty of things about India: It's history , it's philosophies, its religions ,its arts and so on .I bought books about it and I read in them that Jainism is a philosophy that claims non-violence as a major principle. When going to the "Musee Guimet Library" in Paris. I found many books in English together with magazines like "Jain Journal"; I became fascinated by I what I read. I discovered the long history of Jainism in India, Its splendid temples and remains, its sacred scriptures, and so on.
With the kind help of Dr. Sulekh Jain, president of JAFNA, and of Alkit Malde and his family, I attended the "Young Jains Convention" in London, in 1996. What a success the event was! Dr. Sulekh Jain decided at that convention to encourage me to give a publisher in Parish my translations into French of two splendid books in English on Jainism. So last year, my translation of "Lord Mahavira" by Bool Chand and Sagarmal Jain was published and this year "Aspects of Jain Religion" by Dr. Vilas Adinath Sangave, with the authors encouragement. With these two books it is largely possible for French speaking people to have easy access to Jainism. These books are now in bookshops and some even in libraries for students.
French people may now see that non-violence is the basic principle of Jainism. Such a principle may inspire governments to prevent wars in many countries where they tend to develop. French people also want to see less violence, especially in the larger cities where it is common action from young people. They wish that violence were avoided on TV and in films. French people too are in favour of peace in the world and Jainism is a way in which this can be achieved.
The French are more and more for the Defence of nature and the environment. Jainism with its "Declaration on nature", presented on the 23rd of October 1990, is a living example of what to do on that matter. Non-stealing and truth are also Jain principles and rules that can be applied in order to battle corruption. May the 21st century be inspired by the Jain spirit or living. Right faith in human values, in the teaching of Mahavira and other great Heroes. Right knowledge of what is good for humanity. Right conducts as shown and preached by the conquerors, the Jina and all leaders of peace.
These are the true elements of the path to a better world, to better existence, to a better confidence in our splendid destiny, if we make the necessary effort.