An Interview with James Taylor

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An Interview with James Taylor
By James Taylor

Master of Arts - Engaged Jain Studies Graduate Student 

Arihanta Institute & Claremont School of Theology


What inspires you to undertake graduate studies at Arihanta Institute and makes you a good candidate for our scholarship program? 


A big draw for me to undertake this graduate degree program is the amazing professors at Arihanta Institute, they’re incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and encouraging. I first discovered Arihanta Institute through Dr. Christopher Jain Miller, his YouTube channel has a video series called “Introduction to Jain Studies”, after I had stumbled onto his channel and watched all the videos, I was left eager to further explore this timeless wisdom that I knew very little about. Dr. Miller answered some of the many questions that I had; his passion for Jain studies really shines through his lectures and videos. The expertise of the entire faculty and their ability to bring these complex teachings ‘down to earth’ in an easy-to-understand way is a blessing, and it's exciting to be back in the classroom. 


Undertaking graduate studies will deepen my own personal spirituality as well as engage me in scholarly studies exploring complex religious concepts, texts, and traditions. There is an ethical compatibility that is a strong motivating factor when choosing Arihanta Institute, the curriculum and principles align with my own personal beliefs and values, making this school a really good fit. Some of the topics that are covered in the curriculum are complex and sensitive, so by actively listening, asking questions, and offering thoughtful responses, I hope to engage in respectful dialogue that will further religious education. I hope to share some of my unique insights and perspectives during discussions that may help broaden the understanding of my peers and professors and contribute to the diversity of ideas. This program covers animal advocacy – with nearly two decades of experience working with animals in both a volunteer and professional capacity, I expect to have a unique perspective that could diversify and widen the discussion on animal advocacy. By broadening my own understanding, valuing inclusivity, and promoting respectful and meaningful dialogue, I feel I can make a significant contribution to Arihanta Institute’s community; helping to create an enriching learning environment for myself and for others. 


How do you see yourself connecting your studies in the classroom with the community(ies), organizations, etc. that you are involved in or which are around you? How do you plan to use what you learn in the world? 


In 2026 I will become a legally ordained priest through a seminary program I am a member of, and there are clear spiritual parallels with my path and the Jain tradition; in fact, the lead founder of my spiritual tradition was influenced by Jainism and incorporated Jain terminology. I feel that Jain philosophy can greatly deepen my own spiritual path as I lead, teach, and serve as religious clergy. 


As I work toward a leadership role in the ministerial department within my temple, what I learn in this MA program will significantly support my chances of being selected to serve my community as a lead minister. If elected as a lead minister I plan to revive my temple’s Animal Ministry, which was left underdeveloped by a past lead minister. I could use my unique background in a directing role for promoting stewardship and compassion for our animal siblings. Additionally, this graduate degree helps me qualify as a chaplain where I may serve the spiritual needs of the public, offering guidance, comfort, and religious services to those that request it. I am particularly interested in being certified as an animal chaplain, to serve and support all sentient beings, regardless of their species or their belief system. 


What is your background in Jain education and Jain tradition? 


I started studying South Asian religions as a requirement for the seminary program I am a part of. I was to pick a different spiritual tradition and learn as much as we can about that chosen tradition during our school year. I chose Hinduism because I knew very little about it and looked forward to exploring its doctrines. In reading about Hinduism, I kept encountering and feeling particularly drawn to Jainism. I was originally drawn to its unique message of non-violence, vegetarianism, and animal advocacy. Jain and Animal rights activist, Prof. Gary Francione has given many lectures and discussions that I found particularly inspiring early on, covering the key principles of ahimsa and anekantavada

After watching Dr. Christopher Miller’s ‘Introduction to Jain Studies’ YouTube series, I learned more about Jainism and felt many parallels with my own spiritual beliefs and ethics; for example, the Jain theory of karma resonated with me more so than the view of karma that is often presented within Buddhism and Hinduism. 


Dr. Miller invited me to take a live course last year, Jain Philosophy in Daily Life Course – it proved to be very enlightening. I found myself learning not only from the professor but also the students in the online class, many of them had been born and raised within the Jain tradition and provided unique perspectives and lively dialogue on how Jain philosophy could be applied to many different facets of our lives. I have been obsessed with learning as much as I can about the Jain tradition ever since that course. I purchased several books on Jainism that were recommended, I have visited the Jain Center of Houston and the Jain Society of North Texas, and my 7-year-old son and I have also been slowly learning Hindi together. 


Are you interested in pursuing higher studies in Jain education or another tradition’s higher studies? Would you pursue a career in engaged education or a similar profession? 


I am definitely going to continue to take part in future courses with Arihanta Institute beyond this graduate degree program. I have recently purchased a course on Jain Dharma and Animal Advocacy that I haven’t started yet but am highly looking forward to. I am certain that this graduate degree will lead me to further my education, it will prepare me to pursue a PhD in a related field of scholarly inquiry. I want to further facilitate engaged education through my career as an author of spiritual and vegan advocacy books. Writing has been a primary focus for me, and I have a notable publishing company interested and waiting on one of my three book manuscripts. My main areas of interest to write about are animal advocacy and vegan education, which I feel are topics of utmost importance. I endeavor to educate as many people as possible about veganism and animal rights, I feel that I can have the greatest impact on the most amount of suffering in the world. I also intend on pursuing a career in education in the capacity of an ordained priest and chaplain, where I will be teaching individuals about my tradition’s beliefs and practices through classes and workshops, and study groups. I will also be offering spiritual guidance and counseling services to individuals and families who are facing personal, emotional, or spiritual challenges, by listening and offering advice based on religious teachings, and by contributing prayers or rituals for comfort and healing. 



In addition to their own personal and spiritual development, graduates of the MA in Engaged Jain Studies program will learn to enrich their professional lives with Jain principles and ethics and to develop their own entrepreneurial endeavors. Others seeking further graduate studies will be prepared for pursuing a PhD in Jain Studies, Yoga Studies, Dharma Studies, South Asian Studies, and other related fields of scholarly inquiry.


We are so fortunate to have James in our first class of Engaged Jain Studies graduate students. And we look forward to accepting more scholars like James who are in pursuit of a deeper understanding of Jain philosophy and wisdom teachings so that they can align with Jain values and enrich their personal, spiritual, social, and professional lives. This is central to the Arihanta Institute mission.


To ensure success in this endeavor, we need your support. 


In this season of giving, we urge you to donate to our mission.  Every level of contribution helps us continue the path to spreading knowledge about the Jain philosophy and tradition and its relevance in our daily lives. 


Your generosity can significantly impact our success and is immensely valued. If you feel compelled to contribute, visit arihantainstitute.org/donate or email us at learn@arihantainstitute.org.


If you are interested in applying to our MA – Engaged Jain Studies program, schedule an appointment with one of our advisors to learn more, please email study@arihantainstitute.org.