Learning Jainism and Buddhism by Susannah Morcowitz


I was really lucky this month to have had the opportunity to participate in the Eight Interfaith Workshop organised by His Holines the 14th Dalai Lama’s Foundation for Universal Responsibility. I spent a whirlwind 16 days with a mixed group of Tibetan monks and nuns, Tibetan students and of course Indian young people. We spend two intense days in each of the following faith centres for Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, studying and visiting temples and places of worship. I couldn’t possibly summarise all that I learnt but I can tell you that the most valuable things that I learnt were from my fellow friends and participants.

Having the opportunity to learn in-depth about Jainism and Buddhism was for me, the most interesting as I knew so little about these religions before I came to India. At the Jaina temple we even had the opportunity to meet naked Jaina monks (called Muni’s) who have renounced all material possessions, including clothes and shoes. The Jaina monks and nuns also eat and drink only once a day and pull out their hairs one by one!

At the Buddhist temple we arrived on an auspicious day, the 10th day of the Tibetan month, which was celebrated with special offerings, chanting, drumming and my favorite sound of the XXX (HORNS)

I feel very luck to have had the opportunity to have been a part of this experience and made some life long new friends.

Following my return to my project I was invited by a friend from my project to attend a wedding in her native place, a village on the west coast of India. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of such an interesting and exciting cultural experience. We spent four (hot and sweaty) days in this exotic coastal village, sampling a delightful range of home cooked delicacies, dressing up in our finery (yes I wore a sari) and practising henna designs on each other (I was horrendous)!

Susannah Morcowitz

Fortunately for me the children with whom I practiced on thought my total lack of artistic ability amusing. In just four short days I felt a part of the family, even though I did not speak a word of Kannada, still we managed to communicate to each other. I was very sad to say goodbye but I’m sure that I will be going back again soon.