An Interview with Chaitanya Prakash

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An Interview with Chaitanya Prakash
By Chaitanya Prakash

Master of Arts - Engaged Jain Studies Graduate Student 

Arihanta Institute & Claremont School of Theology


What inspired you to undertake graduate studies at Arihanta Institute?


What inspired me to undertake graduate studies at Arihanta Institute was the opportunity to delve deeper into my religious tradition and explore the teachings and principles that can guide me in addressing contemporary issues. Studying religious texts and immersing myself in the “Studies in Jain Karma and Ethics” course will provide me with a solid foundation and a profound understanding of Jain philosophy and ethics.


Additionally, Arihanta Institute's emphasis on critical thinking resonates with me. I believe that engaging in critical thinking is crucial to analyze and evaluate the complex issues that the world faces today. By questioning assumptions, considering different perspectives, and examining the social, cultural, and historical contexts, I can develop well-rounded and thoughtful approaches to problem-solving.


I also appreciate the institute's commitment to staying informed about current events and global trends. Keeping up with social, political, environmental, and ethical issues is essential to understanding their impact on individuals and societies. Arihanta Institute's interdisciplinary approach aligns with my belief that contemporary issues are multifaceted and interconnected. Drawing insights from various disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, economics, and science will enable me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges at hand.


Moreover, the emphasis on engaging in dialogue and fostering compassion and empathy at Arihanta Institute resonates with my values. By participating in conversations with individuals from diverse backgrounds and engaging in respectful dialogue, I can broaden my perspective and contribute to collaborative solutions. Additionally, cultivating qualities of compassion, empathy, and understanding is essential for addressing the problems of humanity and working towards a more inclusive and compassionate society.


Lastly, Arihanta Institute's focus on academic and public discourse aligns with my desire to contribute to the field. By sharing my insights and perspectives through research, writing, conferences, and public engagements, I can raise awareness and promote positive changes within India and outside India.


Arihanta Institute embodies the ideals and approaches that inspire and resonate with me. Its commitment to religious studies, critical thinking, interdisciplinary approaches, dialogue, compassion, and academic discourse make it an ideal institution for my graduate studies. I am confident that my passion, dedication, and alignment with the institute's values make me a strong candidate for your scholarship program.


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

From my personal perspective, I envision a strong connection between my studies in the classroom and the various communities, organizations, and individuals that surround me. Specifically, as I embark on my journey of pursuing an M.A. in Engaged Jain Studies at Arihanta Institute, I am excited about the opportunities to apply what I learn in the wider world.


Jainism, with its profound teachings on non-violence (Ahimsa), animal advocacy, embodying devotion, and spirituality, holds immense wisdom that can positively impact both individuals and society as a whole. By delving deeply into the teachings of Jainism, I hope to gain a comprehensive understanding of non-violence as a way of life and its practical applications in today's world.


Armed with this knowledge, I aim to actively engage with the various communities and organizations around me in India and overseas. I aspire to become an advocate for non-violence and animal welfare, promoting compassion, kindness and empathy towards all living beings. Through educational initiatives, awareness campaigns, and direct involvement in relevant organizations, I intend to spread the message of Ahimsa and work towards a more harmonious coexistence in and around the world.


Additionally, I believe that Jainism's emphasis on embodying devotion and spirituality has the potential to bring about profound personal and collective transformation. I plan to integrate these teachings into my daily life and share their benefits with others. Through various community activities, workshops, and spiritual gatherings, I hope to create spaces for reflections, dialogues, and inner growth, fostering healing and wholeness among individuals and communities.


Moreover, I recognize the importance of interfaith dialogue and collaboration in addressing societal issues and promoting social justice. By actively participating in interfaith initiatives, I aim to contribute to a more inclusive and harmonious society, where different religious and spiritual traditions come together to work towards harmonious societies and common goals.


In summary, my goal is to bridge the gap between academic learning and practical application by connecting my studies in Engaged Jain Studies with the community and organizations around me. I am eager to utilize the wisdom of Jainism to promote non-violence, animal advocacy, embodying devotion and spirituality, and interfaith dialogue. By sharing what I learn and actively engaging with others, I aspire to make a meaningful and positive impact in the world, fostering transformation, healing, and a more compassionate society for all.


What is your background in Jain education and Jain tradition?


Jainism has been a passion of mine since my childhood, despite being born into a Hindu family. The desire to become a Digambara saint has always lingered in my mind, fueling my spiritual search. Although I pursued a different career path and held various positions in the Government of India before retiring, my interest in Jainism remained steadfast.


I hold a PhD degree and had the opportunity to study in the United States as a Fulbright Scholar. However, my thirst for spiritual knowledge persisted, leading me to delve deeper into the realm of Digambara Jainism. I have been fortunate enough to visit Digambara temples and interact with the saints, gaining insights into their way of life and spirituality.


My studies have revolved around crucial aspects of Jainism, such as Namokar Mantras, Bhakti, Anekāntavāda, Vegetarianism, and Kevala Jnana. I have immersed myself in texts like Atma Siddhi, Tattvartha Sutra, Niyama Sara, Samaya Sara, and Bhagwati Aradhana, seeking a comprehensive understanding of the Digambara tradition.


My quest to learn about Digambara Jainism prompted me to travel extensively across India, visiting numerous temples and seeking blessings from revered spiritual figures like Acharyasree Virag Sagar, Acharyasree Vishuddha Sagar, and Acharyasree Svithi Sagar. I have also studied the works of esteemed spiritual writers such as Mr. V.K. Jain (https://philpeople.org/profiles/vijay-k-jain) and Dr. Devakumar Jain (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/C-Devakumar), expanding my knowledge and deepening my connection to the tradition.


When I expressed my interest in joining their Sangh (religious community), the authorities assessed my commitment to the path and informed me that I could join provided I severed all worldly connections, including bank accounts. To fulfill this requirement, I liquidated all my assets, offering my savings to my daughter's NGO, Kids Care Rehab Centre (https://www.kidscarerehabcenter.org/) This organization provides free treatment to underprivileged children with autism, ADHD, and learning difficulties. Supporting their noble cause brought me immense satisfaction.


In my pursuit of learning, I came across the CST and Arihanta Institute online. The opportunity to study Jainism in English and follow a structured academic curriculum greatly appealed to me. Unfortunately, the language barrier arises as our Acharyasree are not fluent in English, and I, myself, do not know Hindi. However, I am determined to overcome this obstacle by immersing myself in studying Jainism.


I remain committed to deepening my knowledge of Jainism and integrating its profound teachings into my life. Through my studies and engagement with the community, I hope to contribute to the preservation and promotion of this noble tradition to the world.


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 envision connecting my studies in the classroom with the communities, organizations, and individuals around me in several meaningful ways. First and foremost, I believe that knowledge gained through academic study should not be confined to the classroom but should be shared with the wider world.


As I deepen my understanding of Jainism and its principles at Arihanta Institute, I plan to actively engage with the Jain community in my local area. I aim to organize workshops, seminars, and study circles where I can share the insights and teachings I acquire during my studies. By doing so, I hope to foster a deeper appreciation and understanding of Jainism among fellow community members.


Furthermore, I am eager to collaborate with organizations and NGOs that promote social justice, compassion, and inclusivity. I believe that the teachings of Jainism have profound implications for addressing societal issues such as poverty, violence, discrimination, and environmental degradation. By sharing my knowledge and engaging in collaborative efforts, I aim to contribute to positive changes and promote a more compassionate and sustainable society.

By engaging in respectful and open discussions with individuals from different religious traditions, I believe we can foster understanding, cooperation, and harmony. I will contribute to interfaith activities and events that promote dialogue, mutual respect, and a deeper appreciation for the diversity of religious beliefs and practices.


Lastly, I plan to use my knowledge and insights from my studies to contribute to academic research and writing. I aspire to publish articles, participate in conferences, and engage in scholarly discussions that further the understanding of Jainism and its relevance in contemporary society. By actively contributing to academic and public discourse, I aim to raise awareness about Jain philosophy, ethics, and spirituality, and inspire others to explore its profound teachings.


In summary, I see my studies at Arihanta Institute as a springboard for engaging with communities, organizations, and individuals in various ways. Through sharing my knowledge, collaborating with like-minded organizations, participating in interfaith dialogues, and contributing to academic research, I hope to make a positive impact and promote the values and teachings of Jainism in the world. 




The MA in Engaged Jain Studies interreligious course offerings cultivate further critical and much sought-after insights from yoga, dharma traditions, and other religious philosophies.


We are so fortunate to have Chaitanya in our first class of Engaged Jain Studies graduate students. We look forward to accepting more scholars like Chaitanya who will integrate Jain philosophy and wisdom teachings and cultivate positive change in their communities and the world. 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.