Anjali Kumar – Author
A few years ago, I set out on a mission to find God.
Now, I’m going to tell you right upfront that I failed, which, as a lawyer, is a really hard thing for me to admit. But on that failed journey, a lot of what I found was enlightening. And one thing in particular gave me a lot of hope. It has to do with the magnitude and significance of our differences.
So, I was raised in America by Indian parents — culturally Hindu, but practicing a strict and relatively unknown religion outside of India called Jainism. To give you an idea of just how minority that makes me: people from India represent roughly one percent of the US population; Hindus, about 0.7 percent; Jains, at most 0.0046 percent. To put that in context: more people visit the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory each year than are followers of the Jain religion in America.
To add to my minority mix, my parents then decided, “What a great idea! Let’s send her to Catholic school” — where my sister and I were the only non-white, non-Catholic students in the entire school. At the Infant Jesus of Prague School in Flossmoor, Illinois — yes, that’s really what it was called — we were taught to believe that there is a single Supreme Being who is responsible for everything, the whole shebang, from the creation of the Universe to moral shepherding to eternal life.
But at home, I was being taught something entirely different. Followers of the Jain religion don’t believe in a single Supreme Being or even a team of Supreme Beings. Instead, we’re taught that God manifests as the perfection of each of us as individuals, and that we’re actually spending our entire lives striving to remove the bad karmas that stand in the way of us becoming our own godlike, perfect selves. On top of that, one of the core principles of Jainism is something called “non-absolutism.” Non-absolutists believe that no single person can hold ownership or knowledge of absolute truth, even when it comes to religious beliefs.