Shri Virchand Raghavji Gandhi: A Pioneer in bringing Jainism to the West
It was September 11, 1893. The opening day of the first ever Parliament of World Religions Conference, the first such conference ever organized in the history of mankind. Over the 3,000 delegates of different religions and nations had congregated for this landmark event. Among them was Shri Virchand R. Gandhi. A young man of twenty-nine left a lasting impression on those present by this eloquence, brevity, and impartiality of outlook.
An American newspaper wrote, "of all Eastern scholars, it was this youth whose lecture on Jain faith and conduct was listened to with the interest engaging the greatest attention."
Virchand Gandhi had a gift for demystifying the difficult terminology of Jainism into such a coherent manner that many newspapers published his lectures in full. In his lecture during at the conference, he broke down the philosophy of Jainism in its main aspects: Jain philosophy, Jain Way of Life, and the Jain code of conduct. Staying true to his practice of the Jain values of non-violence (ahimsa) and the respect for multiplicity of views (anekantvad), his lectures on Jainism did not criticize other religions. It was this approach that garnered a deep respect from the audience, resulting in his speeches receiving publications in several publications.
Shri Virchand R. Gandhi was born on the August 25, 1864 in Mahuva, near Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India. After primary and secondary education at Bhavnagar, he joined Elphinstone College in Bombay. He graduated and took a B.A. degree with honors from the university of Bombay in 1884. Among many of his accomplishments was the command of fourteen languages including Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali, English, Prakrit, Sanskrit, and French. He delivered more than 535 lectures on Jainism, Yoga, Indian systems of philosophy, Indian culture, occultism, and spiritualism.
Establishing Jainism in the West:
In the US, Virchand Gandhi founded The Gandhi Philosophical Society, The School of Oriental Philosophy, and The Society for the Education of Women of India. He was big proponent of women's rights as well as the humane treatment of animals. In England, he founded the Jain Literature Society and taught Jainism there.
View the following list of articles and documents about Virchand R. Chandra: