Arihanta Institute at the UK House of Commons: A Trip to Meet the British Jain Leaders

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Arihanta Institute at the UK House of Commons: A Trip to Meet the British Jain Leaders
By Parveen Jain     View Gallery

Recently, some of us from the Arihanta Institute team visited the UK to participate in the Ahimsa Day celebrations at the British House of Commons and met some of the prominent Jain leaders of the country. We had excellent meetings and were pleasantly surprised by the level of awareness of Arihanta Institute.


The Institute of Jainology (IOJ), headed by Shri Nemu Chandaria and Dr. Mehool Sanghrajka in the UK, celebrates Ahimsa Day every year at the UK House of Commons (UK-HoC) to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. This year, it was celebrated on October 28th, and IOJ invited us to present Arihanta Institute because of our mission to promote non-violence and compassion through education. Prof. Chris Miller, PhD, Pramod Patel and his wife, Roshni Patel, Kamlesh Mehta, and I and my wife, Neeraj Jain, attended this prestigious event in London.


Speaking from a place where Winston Churchill supposedly announced the end of British occupation of India, which marked Indian independence from British rule, was indeed a nostalgic experience. Lord Karan Bilimoria, an India-born member of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, attended a part of the event along with some British cabinet ministers and members of the British Parliament. In addition, several academic leaders of the University of Birmingham, Jain and other dharmic leaders and community members of the UK were present.


The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Ahimsa Award to Dr. Jasvant Modi, a distinguished philanthropist from Southern California dedicated to Jain education. He is a generous supporter of Arihanta Institute and has been our advisor since the founding days.


Meeting Chris Miller at the House of Commons was an emotional high for all of us. I've been working with Chris for more than four years, and I met him for the first time at the Ahimsa Day event, just like everyone else. This in-person rendezvous was an emotional and tear-filled moment for us all.

I delivered the speech introducing the Arihanta Institute while sharing our objectives, vision, mission, and achievements of the last couple of years. The audience recognized our endeavor as the first of its kind outside of India. Our breadth of educational and scholarly interaction programs and their best-in-class quality were well-acknowledged. The audience was appreciative and received the message exceedingly well based on their reactions and interactions with us afterward. After the program, many audience members surrounded us for over an hour with questions, comments, and accolades. Leaders of Jain organizations, among them, offered their assistance in various ways, including promoting Arihanta Institute and our offerings to their members. They suggested cooperating with us in various ways, including partnerships. The speech had a successful effect in captivating the British Jains towards our mission – the key objective of our visit to the UK.



On the sides of and before the Ahimsa Day, we had very productive conversations with Nemu bhai Chandaria and Jaysukh bhai Mehta, who are highly respected Jain leaders of the UK and are involved in some of the leading education and scholarly projects such as the Institute of Jainology and Jainpedia. Based on their extensive experience in Jain education, they offered excellent suggestions about building the institute and our go-to-market approach in the UK.


Some of the Jain organizations heard about our trip and invited us to visit them, making this a tour to meet the UK’s Jain organizations in addition to the Ahimsa event at the UK-HoC.


We spent a day at the beautiful and sprawling Oshwal Centre, perhaps the UK’s oldest Jain organization with over 32,000 members – about fifty percent of the total Jain population in that nation. The Oshwal Centre has a beautiful Jain temple on a historic site, and their Board of Trustees, headed by Mr. Rumit Shah, includes Shandip Shah and other highly committed individuals dedicated to the service of Jain tradition. They expressed a strong interest in partnering with Arihanta Institute to offer  courses to their members and the UK’s Jain society. We had an extended meeting with them to explore the framework of this cooperative partnership, which should come into effect in the coming months.


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Professor Atul Shah, PhD, a well-respected Jain scholar and educator of the UK, and a teacher on Arihanta Institute’s platform, was instrumental in making this a productive trip to the Oshwal Centre.

We traveled to Birmingham to celebrate the University of Birmingham's commitment to research and teaching in Jain Studies. In Birmingham, we first visited the Jain Ashram of the International Mahavir Jain Mission (IMJM), UK – the first Jain organization established outside of India by my Guru Ji, Acharya Sushil Kumar. Guru Ji established an organization with the same name and a Jain Tirtha, Siddhachalam, in the US, of which I am a Trustee. We were greeted and hosted at the Jain Ashram by its President, Arvinder Jain.


At the University of Birmingham, we had the opportunity to meet several of the university’s senior academic leaders, including the Pro-Vice-Chancellor. We are already partnering with Birmingham University along with Ghent University to offer Dialogues in European Jain Studies, a monthly webinar series, and foresee good prospects of expanding the partnership to offer joint courses in the near future.


During the trip, we also met the executives of JITO-UK (Jain International Trade Organization) – Manoj Malu (Chair), Amit Baid (Vice Chair), Nitin Jain (Secretary), Suraj Bafna (Treasurer), and Mayuri Chordia (Board Member). They were all very welcoming and offered to work with us and promote Arihanta Institute in the UK.


We also met the executives of the Mahavir Foundation (Nitin Sutaria), the Navnat Vanik Association, Shrimad Rajchandra Mission, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, and some other organizations. All of these meetings were highly productive and driven by a sense of doing the right thing for humanity by spreading the messages of non-violence and compassion. They all agreed that Arihanta Institute is a perfect vehicle to bring those teachings.


In summary, our trip to the UK was a great experience, and it was an honor to meet the Jain luminaries of the UK. We had multiple opportunities to meet with those deeply committed to non-violence and compassion – the bedrock teachings of the Jain tradition. We met some people who are leading the efforts for Jain education and some others who are educators themselves. They shared their experiences, and we learned a lot that is very relevant to all aspects of our operations, especially in the context of our reach in the UK. While the trip was an excellent opportunity to promote Arihanta Institute, and we were pretty successful at that, it was equally valuable to receive feedback, comments, and suggestions to improve our plans and strategy.


The primary learning of our trip was the beautiful demeanor of the British Jain community and their open-mindedness to share what they knew and to receive what we had to offer. I believe we successfully built some bridges that will promote goodwill among the two prospering communities outside of India in North America and the UK.