About the film
This is the first feature length documentary film on Jainism in over 30 years.
Our idea was to discover what Jain culture and community mean in today’s times. While we believe there is no single way to tell a story, especially one that is ancient as Jainism; it is a deeply important story to tell.
Throughout this journey we have met Jains from all over India and around the world. We have searched for answers by reading religious texts and secular history. We have listened to Jains from all parts of society, from ascetics to business leaders, the elders and the younger generations. We have spent time with scholars and historians. And we have closely tracked various developments related to Jainism throughout these years.
Our film is called Anekanta, inspired by the Jain tenet of anekantvada, which means multiple points of view, or multiple truths. According to Jain tradition, there is an absolute truth, but most of us are not able to experience it, and so each of us is given a small glimpse which translates into our own perspective. Without each other, we are not able to see other perspectives, and not able to understand more of the truth.
Parsparopagrahojivanam is a Jain motto. It means that all life is mutually interdependent and bound by interconnection. This means that no living thing can operate in isolation. It gives respect to every living form in the world, including the Earth itself, because it acknowledges that every living thing is significant. It elucidates the Jain belief that each soul is essentially as perfect as the liberated beings who are accorded the highest place in Jainism. It helps guide our actions and reminds us that we can only if we move together can we move forward towards that potential perfection.
If the principle of anektantvada guides our approach to storytelling, then parsparopagrahojivanam is the foundation of the film.
The stories we encounter influence our thoughts and behaviour. History too, consists of such stories which help us understand who we are and where we come from. Today, information and stories reach us through multiple forms of media, we are able to get information that shape our perspectives and become patterns of behavior. Film is one such medium through which stories can reach easily reach multiple people and convey stories in visceral and powerful ways. Through our film, we hope to explore one of the many stories that make up the Indian heritage.
Many people are not aware of the Jain community, and even for those who might have heard the term, it brings to mind just strict dietary regulations, and a sense of obscure ideas. There is a popular confusion about on whether Jainism is seperate from the Hindu religion. With this film we hope to shed light on some historical truth about Jainism, and what we think are the various facets of living life as a Jain.
This film follows 8 Jains as they explore two questions: what is Jainism, and how is it relevant today? We watch these men and women negotiate and navigate what it means to follow Jain principles such as ahimsa (non-violence), aparigraha (non-possession), satya (truth), and anekantavada in their everyday lives. Along with these 8 characters, there are a number of a number of “guiding lights” in the film, who provide information and insights that enrich and contextualize the subject for the audience. In the film, we highlight some of the less-known Jain communities.
We focussed on trust, family, community, and connections of all kinds. We explored temples, homesteads, and sacred spaces. We looked at ecological and economic systems. We looked at life-goals and sustainability. We highlighted relationships with money, food, faith, and meaning and the labour, the love, and the humour that keeps it all going.
Our hope is that every person who watches the film walks away with their own interpretation and of the ideas of Jainism. As a slightly risky choice, we decided to tell this story without a central narrator or voiceover. Our goal was to interweave individual stories though common threads of sounds and visuals, and to let the voices in the film speak for themselves. We trust that the idea of parsparopagrahojivanam will shine through. We hope to show the rituals of Jainism, along with a deep sense of spiritual commitment some of the people in the film have taken.
We hope that everyone who watches the film will see a part of themselves on screen, and will recognize that they are not alone in their own questions and concerns.
In truth, in some ways, this film only begins the conversation. At Jainism.com, we know that a single film will not be able to convey all that needs to be said about this community, and how these ancient ideas resonate with a rapidly changing world. As societies seem to get more divisive, our hope is that somehow there is space for conversation about interconnection. We are left with wondering about the Jain legacy and the next generation of Jains--what will they do?
In making this film, we walk away with inspired by what we have learned, and hope to continue on this path of searching and listening.