The University of North Texas Sept. 7 announced that it has named George Alfred James its first Bhagwan Adinath Professor of Jain Studies.
The professorship was created at the university's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences with a half million dollar gift by the Jain Education and Research Foundation.
It was established by the foundation to promote the study of Jainism, an ancient religion of India, in the United States.
The central tenet of Jainism is nonviolence and love toward all living beings, with nonviolence, non-absolutism and non-possessiveness as the three main principles.
"Not every university includes information about Jainism as part of its courses, but there's a long legacy of the influence of Jainism throughout history," James said in a statement. "The religion's idea of nonviolence was extremely influential on Gandhi and also Martin Luther King, who adopted Gandhi's actions during the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, the idea of nonviolence is now getting less and less attention in the world."
The Jain Education and Research Foundation established the first Jain professorship in the U.S. in 2010 at Florida International University. The professorship at UNT is named for the first Tirthankara, a spiritual guide in Jain tradition who preaches the dharma, or righteous path, UNT said in a news release.
James, a faculty member in the University of North Texas Department of Philosophy and Religion who joined the university in 1983, has included information about Jainism in the courses on South Asian philosophy and world religions that he teaches, UNT said.
The department also occasionally offers a course on Jainism, which was created after Indian American Pankaj Jain was hired as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Philosophy and Religion and the Department of Anthropology.
James also studies environmental movements in India and has traveled extensively to the nation for his research, according to the university.
Interest from the professorship's endowment will eventually fund conferences focusing on nonviolence as it pertains to contemporary issues and bring speakers with expertise in Jainism to UNT, James noted in the news release.