The volume ‘Jain Philosophy’by Virchand Gandhi waspublished ten years after hisdeath. A thinker and aphilosopher, an orator parexcellence, Virchand Gandhiwas the first exponent of JainPhilosophy in the western world.The volume of Jain Philosophyreflects his unbounded love forand faith in Indian culture andhis ire against the nefariouspractice of proselytisation inIndia. His exposition of thetenets and principles of Jainismis in-depth and in a style which isso lucid. He was well-versed notonly in Jain philosophy but inphilosophy of other religions too.Yoga, Psychology, Science offood and nutrition are otherareas in which he delved andspoke about them with authority.He has succeeded eminently inprojecting a vivid picture of realIndia, with its rich cultural andspiritual heritage, the ethicallives of the people of India, itsindustrial progress and theIndian womanhood. He,therefore, comes across as atrue representative of India in allits menifestations.
His great moment of being ushered into the global limelightwas the historic first ever Parliament of World’s Religions atChicago (U.S.A.) in 1893. He was deputed by reverend JainaMonk Acharya Atmanandji to attend on his behalf as a pioneerflag-bearer of Jaina religion outside the borders of India.
Virchandbhai lived up to the confidence of the Jaina monk.At the age of 29, he articulated most persuasively and cogentlythe fundamental theories and principles of Jaina religion, itsphilosophical perceptions and its ethical dimensions. And this hedid in the context of Jaina phitosophy’s integrated perception ofAhimsa, Aparigraha and Anekant in perception (Darshan),knowledge (Gyan) and conduct (Charitra).
Beginning with his scintillating and soul-stirring speech inthe Parliament and his subsequent interventions during the 17Gays session, he was invited to deliver a series of speech onJainism in Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington and othercities during his three years sojourn in U.S.A. On the return journeyhe was invited to deliver many speeches in London in U.K.It was his speech at the Parliament of World’s Religions thatopened the gates of the western world unaware about the history,legacy, principles and philosophy of Jainism as one of the oldestreligions of the world.
Chicago Daily Sun wrote on April 3 1894 :
''Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi who represented Jaina religion atthe Parliament of Religions has been listened to by larger andmore enthusiastic audience then any other oriental religion duringand since the parliament''. Reverend A White of Chicagoconsidered him as one of the best equipped of the many scholarlymen who represented the various religions of India at theParliament. In an interview with St. Joseph Gazette on May 8,1894 Rev. Pastor Addison Parker of laporte (Indiana), observedthat Gandhi impressed him as one of the brainiest and most stirringof the representatives of the Far East.
Hon’ble Mame Marium Marie Snell succinctly summed up :''Virchand Raghavji Gandhi has brought home to the Westernaudience and the largely Christian world that there exist otheroriental religions like Jainism which surpass in philosophical depth,rational and logical approach, ethical intensity and stress onintegrating perceptions, thought and conduct in the day to daylife behavior.''
It has been the great fortune of the Jaina community thatwithin 10 years of his passing away, Mr. Bhagu Karbhari, editorof 'The Jaina’ and the 'Patriot' of Bombay collected all the speechesand writings of Virchandbhai on the Jaina philosophy in U.S.A.and U.K. and published it with his preface in 1911.
Now 108 years after his demise and 116 years after hisimpact creating speech at the Parliament of world’s religions WorldJain Confederation (W.J.C.) is bringing on this fresh edition. Wein the W.J.C. felt that the content cf Virchand Gandhi’s speecheswould be as relevant in the 21* century as they were in the 19''century. Time has changed. Jaina religion has becomeincreasingly globalized with the settling down of indianprofessionals and business persons first in South Africa and laterin large number in U.S.A., Canada and U.K. Jaina temples andSthanaks have came up in USA, Canada, UK, Japan, Singapore,Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand and a number of other countries.
Jainas abroad are not only following the traditions of Jainareligion but are also actively functioning as Jaina philosophy’senvoys at interfaith meetings and conferences, environmentprotection meetings and programs and conventions on non-violence and world peace.
Virchand Gandhi’s speeches lucidly elaborate withconvincing logic,on the theoretical concepts of Jainism in respectof the existence of universe, the Jaina Karma philosophy andeternal nature of the soul in comparison to other religion. He hasalso analyzed the scientific, rational and logical base of Jainaphilosophy. Above all, he has explained with the help of interestingstories and anecdotes the ethical dimensions of the Jainaphilosophy and how they have formed the roots of India’scompassionate philosophy of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
What is also of great interest is that Virchand Gandhi boldlyendeavored to correct misconceptions and prejudices aboutIndian Culture as well as Hindu customs and traditions. Heimpressed western audience as a wise, broad minded, liberalhearted , spiritual person as well as a scholarly and well educatedemissary of India’s age old heritage of non violence, compassionequanimity, fraternity and tolerance. .
The collected speeches and writings vividly bring him as aglobal citizen with universal perspective, an outstanding-Karmaveer’ as well as ''Dharmaveer’ and above all he come asa charming personality with an brilliant and lustrous face, wellchiseled physical bearing and eloquent voice.When the parliament of worlds religions was reconvenedafter a gap of 100 years at Chicago (USA) in 1993, had theprivilege of being invited to address the Parliament, spoke onan universal reliance of Jaina religion in contemporary times. Jainadelegates comprised 25 representatives including prominentsaints from all sects leading Jaina scholars and prominentcommunity leaders. On this occasion, the everlasting contributionof Virchand Gandhi was highlighted and his statue was unveiledat the Jaina temple in Chicago.
It is most welcome that WJC is endeavouring to createdawareness not only among Jainas but Indians in general aboutthe historic role played by V. R. Gandhi for putting Jaina religionon the world stage and correcting and prejudices andmisconceptions about Indian culture and philosophy in the westernworld.