Jainism – How should we live?


In my approximate five decades on this planet thus far, I have made many mistakes, each time wondering if I would ever be able to learn, grow, improve and forgive myself. Sometime it would take me months or years, but I have always found the courage to accept responsibility, move on and get on the road to make changes. As I look back on those experiences in my relationships with my family, my friends and my businesses, I have found that there are things that worked and things that didn’t. Over the years, through studying Jainism and playing chess, I have learned to laugh at my mistakes, accept them and study the past to broaden my perspective versus obsessing about the past, and in the process gained valuable lessons to derive more successes than failures.

Our lives are not defined by our mistakes, and these bumps in the road often can be the catalyst for better things.

If you are having a personal setback, made mistakes or having a failure, don’t beat yourself up. It is time to close your eyes, inhale, own up to your mistakes, dig deep, exhale, and forgive yourself from the painful memories of the past. Free yourselves from the shackles that are holding you back and allow yourself to find the silver lining to move forward. This will make you a stronger human being and, in turn, a respected leader. The future is bright. The time has come for you to make a conscious choice to live fully in the present.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them”. – Bruce Lee

The central question in philosophy is “How should be live?”

When I came to the United States in the 1970s there were not many Indians living here, much less Jain Indians. Growing up in New Jersey, we did not know many Jain families as not so many had emigrated from India yet. The medical doctors would tell my parents they needed to feed my brother and myself meat in order for us to grow and thrive. Much to the chagrin of the medical community and the society at large during the 1970s, I am thankful that my Mom and Dad were wise, held on to their roots and raised us as vegetarians. Growing up in New Jersey, I was exposed to many different religions at a young age and our family practiced the religion Jainism. A great portion of my life revolves around the religion, partly because my Father is a devoted Jain scholar/author and my Mother is also a published Jain author, but mostly because I am convinced of its core values. Namely, ahimsa (non- violence), aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and anekantvada (pluralism). The majority of my youth/adult life, cultural identity and personal ethics is centered around and informed by these principles. I apply them whenever possible. I feel fortunate to have been born into a Jain family and married into a Jain family as well. I am not intending to demean other religions/philosophies, just want to explain the spiritual value I’ve gained from Jainism. So you may be wondering, what is Jainism?

Jainism, one of the world’s oldest religions, is different from Hinduism and Buddhism, and similarly originated from the Indian subcontinent. There are an estimated 10 million practioners worldwide. Jainism is often classified as a way of living life with a rich philosophical andethical system versus a religion by theologians. The word Jain is derived from the word “Jina” or “conqueror/victor of the 5 senses”.

The central tenet of Jainism is Ahimsa (non-violence) and this extends to not harming living beings both physically and mentally. As such Jainsare vegetarian.

Jainism is a responsible, ethical and compassionate way of living and effectuates positive, nonviolent change in thought, action and deed. A formula impounded by Darwin is “Survival of the fittest”. We see this in our competitive corporate boardrooms and throughout the chain of command. A Jain scriptural aphorism is “parasparopagraho jivanam”. This translates to “living beings render service to one another”. The life of a living being is a life of mutual cooperation, support andinterdependence. The Jains recognize and are practitioners of the philosophy of non-violence (Ahimsa) and ecological harmony. In short Jainism is about discipline and observance. If we apply principles of Jainism in day to day life, we can lead our organizations with more discipline and listening, become stronger, powerful agents of change and disrupt the status quo.

About Binny Nanavati

Binny Nanavati was born in Palanpur, India and came to the United States at age 7. She was fortunate to be raised in a religious family and was active in promoting Jainism to the young generation in her 20s.. From 1989-1992 Binny taught Pathshala at Jain Center of New Jersey and grew the program to over 80 students (age 4-18). She founded Jain RSVP (Religion Social Vegetarianism Practical) Conferences for Young Jains living in the North East United States and managed 2 conferences out of New Jersey including guest speakers/accommodations. She was a guest speaker at the 1994 Young Jains Conference in London, England, a speaker & panelist at 1993 JAINA in Pittsburgh and a recipient of the 1991 JAINA Leadership in Youth Activities Award. When her kids (currently ages 20 & 18) were younger, she taught them various aspects of Jainism at home, both from a knowledge and practical point of view. When she travels to India with her husband and children, they always include a jatra to Palitana. She was first Jain in Austin to complete an Athai in 2004 and since has been making an effort to avoid potatoes, onions and garlic to develop more self-control.

Currently Binny is the President of Binnys LLC. Her firm provides coaching and consulting strategies with emphasis on embracing an inclusive work culture and help professionals build a compelling branded message to effectively navigate their careers. She serves on the Board of Advisors of Momentum Scholars, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides free quality education to students across Austin for the purpose of teaching arts and humanities, STEM and public speaking, especially those facing socio-economic, gendered or racial barriers. She also is a public speaker at diversity conferences in the United States (she has been invited to speak at the National Diversity & Leadership conference in April to an audience of 850 attendees and serve as a panelist following Mayor Steve Adler of

Austin regarding Diversity in Tech). Binny serves on the Parents Council for Business Honors Program at UT Austin McCombs School of Business.

Previously, Binny spent 5 years at Dell in leadership positions including Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion and 5 years running her consulting firm. Prior to that, she spent 18 years at AT&T in various management functions in Sales, Program Management, Marketing and Consulting. She has co-authored White Papers including “Lessons Learned from Network-Centric Organizations”.

Binny holds Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Economics from Rutgers University and a mini-MBA in Finance from Wharton. She and her husband Sujal have two children and live in Austin, Texas.

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