That Is the Question
There are three things about which I spend the vast amount of my time: writing, teaching, and caring for Ginger. Ginger is my 60-pound Irish Setter puppy who is 9-months old. Interestingly, those three driving forces congeal together in this essay.
Allow me to explain. I was born several weeks before my dad was shipped overseas during WWII. When he returned, I was a toddler. It was not long before my two brothers came into the world. My dad had three children and a wife for which to provide. He wanted to go to college but couldn’t take care of the family and go to school at the same time. However, when he got a promotion, we moved from Pennsauken, NJ to Pittsburgh, PA. Prior to moving, he went to Pittsburgh to find a house and asked a realtor about the best school system in the area. Mt. Lebanon was the answer. He wanted to assure that his children had the opportunity of a good education so that they could attend college.
It turned out that Mt. Lebanon was the 19th best school system in the entire country at the time. I was finishing up elementary school in Pennsauken and was an above average student. The move to Mt. Lebanon had an extreme negative effect upon me. I went from an above average student to feeling dumb. Nevertheless, I survived that feeling. I went to college and graduate school and did okay. It wasn’t until I got my post-graduate degree before I realized that I was not as dumb as I had thought.
It was then that I wanted to teach at the college level and have for a couple of decades. I’m 74 and love teaching. I don’t want students to make the same mistake that I made. The past semester, I was teaching two online survey classes in world religions. The classes focus upon the emergence of all the major world religions today and their historical development.
One week, we were discussing Jainism, which was an attempt to reform Hinduism. The Jains critique Hinduism for not being world denying enough as it should have been. The other attempt of changing Hinduism was Buddhism. Therefore, all three religions had, in varying degrees, negative notions of this world, which reflected in their religions. This is especially true of Jainism.
All religions reflect the society and culture from which they emerged. I mentioned this statement many times to both the classes. Additionally, I could not explain why they were not more positive in their view of life and the world in general. Even though I have traveled in India, I still can’t explain the Jain mindset.
I was commenting to a student of mine, Sam, regarding a posting that she made describing how Jains are serious about ahimsā, which means to do no harm. Jains cannot harm any living thing. Many Jains wear masks that look like surgical masks to avoid killing an insect inadvertently.
My response to Sam was that I wished the Jains would not harm women by treating them as less than equals. From my point of view, it is not only sexist but contrary to ahimsā. If gnats have value, women surely do. In an attempt to make my point. I added:
Sam replied. However, as chance would have it, she mentioned that she was attached to her family dog also. She didn’t want to reject her relationship with her dog and how meaningful that attachment was.
It will be up to the Jains whether they address their theological contradiction about ahimsā, women, and attachments. Having said that, we need to reach out to those in our world and become attached by helping them as they journey down their yellow brick roads in life.
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