The Institute of Jainology, celebrated its 10th Annual Ahimsa Day on 17th October 2012 at its regular venue, the House of Commons, London. Again, the room was filled to the brim and the compere for the evening, Mrs. Komal Mehta, welcomed the audience.
The evening started with the recitation of the auspicious Jain prayer, Namaskāra-mantra. Speakers, such as, Baron Dholakia, OBE, PC, DL, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Mr. Shailesh Vara, Conservative MP for NW Cambridgeshire and Mr. John Ashworth MP, Leicester South, opened the evening.
Jaysukh Mehta, a Director of the Institute and coordinator of the Ahimsa Day programme, welcomed the guests on behalf of the Institute and thereafter Dr Mehool Sanghrajka, Director of Education, introduced Mr. Scott Neeson the Winner of the Ahimsa Award this year. For a full description of this festival see the ‘Ahimsa Day’ article on the JAINpedia site.
Dr Sanghrajka described Scott as someone who had moved from rags to riches by becoming the president of 20th Century Fox and then giving everything up again to care for the destitute children in Cambodia.
Scott Neeson in acknowledging the award and as the keynote speaker proceeded to describe his life. He was born in Edinburgh in a working class family and did not do well at school. He migrated to Australia and got a junior job in the film industry. He began working his way up in the industry and moved to Hollywood where he had it all, fast cars, fame, and the ‘Hollywood Life’. He rose to be President of 20th Century Fox but the sight of children eking out a meagre living from the smoldering rubbish dumps of Cambodia changed his vision of life. He went back to rags by selling all he had to salvage these children and their families from the drudgery they were suffering. Neeson, started a school for 45 children first, however the number of schools formed since then has grown and currently he has over 1300 children and several hundred families under his care. (See Cambodian Childrens Fund)
Scott Neeson’s two main statements in the course of the evening touched us all in the audience. The first being the relevance of the Ahimsa Award to his life and the award being the ‘most precious’ he had ever received.
The second statement that ‘I will not change my present life for anything else on this earth’; was awe inspiring, especially after the description of his life from ‘having it all’ as President of 20th Century Fox to giving it all up to be ‘the change’ and lifting children from rubbish dumps to give them shelter, clothing, food and an education.
Dr Harshad Sanghrajka gave the Jain perspective on alleviation of poverty and quoted the three Aces of Bhagwan Mahavir; Ahimsa, Anekantvad and Aparigraha and explained their relevance in the modern world. At each point he was able to compare Scott Neeson’s activities with the three principles.
Nemu Chandaria OBE, and Chairman of the Institute then addressed the audience highlighting some of the Institute’s activities during the past year, including the progress of the JAINpedia project and future plans for the Institute.
The evening came to a close with speeches from Mr. Raxit Shah, Chairman of Oshwal Association of the UK and Mr. George Ballentyne from Leicester Council of Faiths, with the vote of Thanks given by Mr. Kanti Shah, Secretary and Director of the Institute.