Cast the Money Changers Out of the [Jain] Temple

In Spring 2003, the day after US troops rolled into Baghdad, I proclaimed, in a totally unscripted moment, the death of postmodernism (within six months of a similar pronouncement published in the New York Times ), and the demise of postcolonialism (since my nation has become a colonial power). I believe I suggested that a stake be driven through so-called "postmodernism"s undead heart. I also stated a strong opinion about the way for scholars to relate, and not to relate, to the Jain Sangh. This was in my "Miracles, Marvels, and Magic" class, and the remarks seem to have circulated widely, out of context. apparently, many students, and others, were quite surprised to hear me express an opinion of my own. I have a well-earned reputation for neutrality, for disciplined presentation of class material, and for playing devils' advocate for views defiinitely not my own, all in the line of duty. Now is the time for some reiteration, clarification, and amplification.

In my opinion, the only thing that will save a corrupt discipline, so-called "Jain Studies," from itself, is for the Jains to impose a total fund-raising ban upon non-Jain scholars (I said this in class). The initiative will have to come from the Jains themselves. Please give us nothing, to keep us honest. Jains owe us nothing, and we owe them respect, more than we have given them so far. Let's cast the money-changers out of the Jain temple, as Jesus cast them out of the Jerusalem temple. Righteous indignation is sometimes appropriate, even for Jains. (Please see "Blows Against the Empire,.")

I, Jerome Bauer, do solemnly renounce any cash grant from any Jain, for the duration of this lifetime. I will not solicit funds for my own research or teaching, nor on behalf of any institution. I may accept hospitality (lodging and meals) if it is freely offered. I will not try to use the Jains for self-aggrandizement (I would publish anonymously if I could). I urge other scholars to take this vow of renunciation as well.

My colleagues in Religious Studies here ar Washington University know my views on this. I was told by one of them that this is acceptable.

Jains have often told me they think I am one of them, a once and future Jain, if not formally one in my present life. I take this as a compliment and a statement of faith in the Jain law of karma. However, I think they really mean it, and I think I know why. When I was living in poverty in West Philadelphia I turned down a couple of opportunities for financial aid from Jains. Living in poverty has its advantages, I told the potential donor, it keeps me honest and not beholden to anyone. In the light of subsequent events, this spontaneous and sincere renunciation was a wise decision.

Who Speaks for Jainism, and Who Against?

I don't know how often I have heard statements such as, "Oh, you study the Jains, you should get them to endow a Chair for you," as if that is their purpose: to give us money and power. The current revisionist scholarly orthodoxy, at least in the United States, holds that studies, such as mine, which take Jain ideas seriously on their own terms must be discouraged. I once received a one sentence letter, on official letterhead, telling me exactly that, after which I was disrespected and disregarded, and not invited to conferences on my specialty., for example, one on "why we can't talk of Jain orthodoxy anymore" and another on "new approaches" to Jain karma. No doubt I was assumed to be going blind and bankrupt in West Philadelphia (as very nearly happened) and therefore I could safely be ignored by the ironically named "open boundaries" clique. I also once received an email diatribe against certain Jain leaders for not adequately funding a project to teach Jains about themselves. Apparently the social scientists understand the religious people better than they understand themselves, and should be put in charge (following the conceit of Emile Durkheim, et. al.). I am proud not to be a purveyor of such "real historical stuff that people can recognize," blah blah blah, orientalist elitist hypocrisy. I don't think there has been a "paradigm shift" or "profound change" in Jain Studies, unless this just means a power grab. [Please see my 2003 statement "Demilitarize South Asian Studies;" this seems prescient, considering the "top down," "current events" focus of the current WashU South Asian Studies development plan]. I know I could have had a truncated version of my dissertation published long ago, and a golden career path, if I had only been willing to submit to censorship. I am proud not to have done so. I don't care who knows this, the whole world can know...

I am sure not all who become interested in "Jain Studies" are motivated by power and money, and careerism (I was not), but many are, and the problem is systemic, under current conditions. I prefer to teach and research about religious therapeutics and environmental humanities, and other approaches useful to our students, to help them live their lives. To the extent that I can integrate "Jain Studies" into these pedagogies, I will do so, in the best interests of the students.

I am proud to serve my students honestly, as their college teacher, and ask only that I be able to continue doing so, without having to watch my back. Because I incorporate Jainism ("the Jains") into all my classes, I believe the Jain Sangh is well served by me, indirectly. This is my way of keeping a promise I once made. My work with the WashU Cooperative, promoting egalitarian intentional community and healthy living, including sustainable consumption and vegetarian diet, is also Jain in spirit, perhaps more valuable than another book about "the Jains." Of course I intend to write my book on "Jainism in America" (NOT "the Jains"), in my own good time, in my own way, but only when Washington University grants its Lecturers job security, effective grievance procedures, and sabbatical. (Please see Neither Publish Nor Perish, Teach and Organize, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and Lecturer's Policy Reform).

Why do so many in academia these days seem to believe that those who disagree are in error, and must be put down? It is wrong to submit to censorship. Please see "Free Speech: Is It Possible, Is It Even Allowed?] Please read Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia, especially his discussion of the "total conception of ideology." I have "real problems" with this way of thinking.

A student in my "Introduction to Hinduism" class once asked me, "Why are there no Jain fundamentalists?" I turned the question around, asking, "Why do we not generally call Jains by the now pejorative [stereotyping and subalternizing] term, 'fundamentalist'?" The answer may be, "Because we don't insult people whose money and power we want." Also, it would be a stretch to construct the weatthy and powerful Jains as backwoods yokels, as H. L. Mencken did the original Protestant Fundamentalists (and it was a stretch for them, too). My attempt to answer this question, and other questions such as, "Why do the members of an elite academic society no longer know what 'miracle' means?" has stimulated my research-based course development, adventures in the sociology of knowledge such as "Fundamentalisms East and West," "Miracles, Marvels, and Magic,"and my continuing "New Age Spiritualities" series, all about ivory tower stereotypes of religious believers.

I always say I am not a Jain, but since so many Jains tell me I am a once and future karmic Jain, I perhaps have some right to speak "for" Jainism. Here is what I have to say:

Please, in the name of Mahavira, do not commit [female] feticide. This is not Jainism. The 1991 census data reveal that Gujarati Jains had a natural gender ratio. For whatever reasons, this community must have been practicing their religion of non-violence, and thereby distinguishing themselves from the rest of the Indian population. The 2001 census data reveal a pattern similar to the rest of the nation: a majority male community. Please, set an example for others to follow, that is what Jains are supposed to do. An unbalanced sex ratio has serious consequences for Indian society, and for the Jain community.