A symposium on April 22, Earth Day, will feature the theological and philosophical traditions of two of the world’s oldest religions—Jainism and Hinduism. It will explore their approach to the sacredness of all forms of life and the subject of climate change.
Titled “Intricate Web of Life: Microorganisms to the Divine,” the event take place at Fresno State University in California.
Christopher Chapple, a professor and noted scholar of Indic and comparative theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, will speak on “Jainism and sanctity of all life.” His presentation will also explore Jain theories of life and their role in providing ultimate meaning, according to a statement issued by the Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities, whose Department of Philosophy is hosting the symposium.
The cosmic worldview of Jainism, which along with Hinduism and Buddhism is one of India’s three oldest faiths, conceives an infinite number of eternal souls that pass through numerous lifetimes before being liberated from the seemingly endless cycle of birth and rebirth known as samsara.
These souls, known as jivas, include elemental, microbial, animal, infernal, human and heavenly beings. Jains believe that all humans suffer from egotism, anger, self-deception and greed—and that adherence to five great vows can free them from samsara: nonviolence, truthfulness, honesty, upholding one’s dignity, and reduction of possessions.
Vijaya Nagarajan, associate professor of theology and religious studies and environmental studies at the University of San Francisco, will deliver a talk on Hinduism’s approach to planetary climate. Titled “Hinduism and climate,” her lecture will revolve around the question of whether individual and collective actions by the world’s billion-plus Hindus can help impede climate change.
The university describes how Nagarajan’s talk will “weave together seven key Hindu principles, insights, and rituals,” including spiritual concepts such as “love,” “landscape” and “generosity,” as “gateways into a re-imagination of how Hinduism could serve as a profound catalyst for expanding our multi-scalar capacities to respond to the urgency of the contemporary moment of world history.”
Following the two talks, children from the Fresno center of Chinmaya Mission, an international organization devoted to spreading the spiritual teachings of its Indian founder, Swami Chinmayananda, will chant the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Sanskrit poem of the Hindu faith whose literal translation is “Song of God.”
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