|Christopher Fleming is an undergraduate student at the Whitman College, majoring in historical religious studies. He's deeply influenced by the Jain Philosophy. He enrolled in summer Sanskrit courses at the University of Wisconsin, to translate classical Jain texts and further refine his linguistic and cultural appreciation of India and Jainism in preparation for advanced graduate research in classical Indian religious texts and history. His fascination with Indian religion and Jainism in particular is inspired by the qualities that he himself adheres to and values in life. The philosophy of nonviolence, or ahimsa, is an essential facet of Jainism that has played a tremendous role in motivating Jains and non-Jains to empathetically advocate for the protection of all living beings and reflects the strong ethic of environmental advocacy instilled in him during his years as an Eagle Scout in Oregon. Likewise, the strong sense of compassion which characterized the volunteers he met at the Jain bird hospital in Delhi reminded him of the grounding he received as a volunteer at the Oregon School for the Blind. His research with Jains and travel in India is ultimately aimed at fostering an increased academic and cultural dialogue with an inestimably important, but understudied tradition of philanthropy and erudition which will prove invaluable for further study.
India's venerable Jain community has made significant contributions to the humanitarian and intellectual culture of ancient and modern India, yet these achievements are tragically understudied within global academia. Mr. Fleming's project aims to help rectify this cultural/historical lacuna by exploring the complex relationship between classical Sanskrit and Prakrit Jain texts and contemporary philanthropic efforts of Jains in Benares, Jaipur, Chennai and Delhi. By studying classical texts with university professors in Benares and Chennai while conducting ethnographic research at Jain hospitals, animal refuges and other civic projects he hopes to illuminate the enduring significance of ancient textual traditions to modern Jains in a multi-religious milieu.