Officials at Rice University Jan. 17 signed off on establishing a full-time Bhagwaan Mahavir post-doctoral fellowship program for Jain studies at the university.

The signing took place at the Jain Society of Houston, with members of Rice University, the Houston Jain community, Jain Vishwa Bharati Meditation Center and Sugar Land, Texas, Indian American councilman Harish Jajoo, among others, in attendance.

According to past-president of JAINA and chairman of the International School for Jain Studies in the U.S. Sulekh Jain, there are no course offerings of Jainism at any Houston-area universities. Houston-based Rice University, which has been around for more than 100 years, will be the first.

The announcement confirms that Rice University will hire a full-time post-doctoral fellow Jain scholar with a proven track record of leadership and publication, a joint statement by Jain and Payal Kapadia Patani said.

Rice and the Jain Society will split the cost in half for the collaboration, which will include the study of Jainism, its philosophy, history, art, culture and contributions to the world. The to-be-named scholar will create a platform for discussion, learning and awareness of Jainism and will offer classes each semester.

Additionally, the scholar will interact with the Jain community in Houston to facilitate learning of the tradition of Ahimsa, Anekant and Aprigraha – the three jewels of Jainism — Jain and Patani said.

While Jain studies at Rice is the first in Houston, the curriculum is available at 10 other universities in the U.S., including two fully-funded chairs at Florida International University and the University of California-Irvine. 

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