By Ellanee Kruck, Mercy Osborne and Julia Robertshaw, Young Ambassadors for RE at St Bede’s Interchurch School, Cambridge
On 4th March, the Young Ambassadors for RE from St Bede’s Interchurch School in Cambridge went to the Jain temple in Potters Bar as part of our research for a presentation we will be delivering to the RE Council of England & Wales at the Young Ambassadors Conference on 6th June. Our research question is ‘How does Jainism prepare people for life in modern Britain?’ We chose Jainism as we thought it would be interesting to study a religion that we knew little about. The 2,500-year-old religion comes from India and shares some of its main beliefs with Buddhism and Hinduism.
As we arrived at the grounds we were astounded by their beauty, and by the intricacy of the temple. The temple was made in India and shipped over to England piece by piece. Surrounding the temple were statues of the Tirthankara, the 24 founders of Jainism. Inside the temple, a group of Jains were completing puja, wearing masks over their mouths, chanting before three white marble statues which were of three of the founders of Jainism, and some were shaping grains of rice into patterns. We were told by our host for the day, Dr Harshad Sanghrajka, the Deputy Chairman of the Institute of Jainology, that they only use grains of rice that are at the end of their life and can’t be planted or used again so they are not destroying anything. Following our tour of the Jain temple, we then interviewed and filmed four Jains to gain further knowledge for our presentation. We learnt about their ancient scriptures, the bell ringing tradition that ends a worship, their opinions about homosexuality, terrorism, and the reason the majority of Jains are vegetarians, to list but a few.
Another memorable part of the day was lunch, which we had with about a hundred other Jains. Lunch came in two halves; first, lentil curry with sweet bread (a tradition in half of the country) and then the lentil curry with rice (a tradition in the other half of the country). This was followed by oranges, ginger biscuits and chai tea – we loved sampling another culture’s cuisine!
Overall the day was very interesting; we learnt a lot. It is something that will stay with us forever, as we learnt first-hand what being a Jain meant. Much of the information stuck with us, which we will use to answer the question in our presentation later on in the year in front of the RE Council.