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02 Sep 2015
Amitbhai B. Bhansali Conferred with PhD in Antwerp

Amitbhai Bhansali defending his thesis

Amitbhai Bhanuchandra Bhansali of Antwerp was conferred with a PhD degree for his study of Jainism by the Tilburg University in The Netherlands at a function on September 1. The topic of his thesis was ‘Samkit: Faith, Practice, Liberation’.

Amitbhai has been Managing Director of Rosy Blue Belgium for the last 15 years. He completed his dissertation under the guidance of promoter Prof. Dr. J. H. Rijsman, with Dr. A. Nugteren as co-promoter.

Born in December 1962 in Mumbai, Amitbhai completed his schooling from New Era and graduated from HR College. He worked for a year with the family business (B. Arunkumar) in Mumbai before moving to Antwerp in 1983 to support the growth of the business there.

In 2011, Amitbhai received an Honorary Masters Degree from Antwerp University, based on his years of business experience. Finally, in February 2012, he applied to the University of Tilburg to fulfill what he describes as a “lifelong dream of a Phd in a Jain subject”.

Amitbhai gave further details of his PhD in an email interview with Palanpur Online.

Amit Bhansali with sons Rishi (to his l) and Ravi (to his r)

Palanpur Online (PO): Can you share with us the details of your thesis?
Amit Bhansali (AB): My thesis is titled ‘Samkit: Faith, Practice, Liberation’.

Samkit is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Jain religion and philosophy.

While it is difficult to explain the entirety of Samkit in just a few words, in short – Samkit means to have faith in Dev, Guru and Dharma and more importantly to have faith in your own soul’s ability to attain liberation.

In Jain dharma, perspective and attitude are the most important factors that determine a soul’s progress. Delusions and misperceptions block the soul’s progress towards Moksha. By attaining Samyaktva – a state of total belief and adherence to the true Jain path – the soul can make accelerated progress on its path to liberation.

PO: How did you approach this research?
AB: My thesis takes the approach of constructive methodology. What this means is rather than observing and describing, the approach I’ve taken is to collect the entirety of information on Samyakta and create a fundamental guideline based on the findings.

Simply put, my thesis describes how to live life, based purely on Jain Dharma’s philosophy of Samkit. Jainism is not detached from life – it is an entire way of life. So in principle, to a follower of Jainism, this set of guidelines describes the way to realize Samkit, and in doing so, get on the path to liberation.

Much of the information on the subject is tremendously spread out across a variety of sources and individuals. My main attempt has been to unify this vastly spread out knowledge. I have explained Samkit using a variety of sources including ancient scriptures, modern literature, other learned Jains and most importantly from Jain Sadhu’s whom I travelled across India to meet on numerous trips over the past several years. For the subject of Samkit, I met with Sadhu’s of the main denominations of Jainism – Digambar and Shvetambar – as the subject is one that unites them all.

Amit Bhansali and wife Rupa seen with University officials

PO: What made you choose this particular subject?
AB:  I’ve always been keenly interested in Jainism. I’ve had a very strong faith in this way of life since childhood. Living in Belgium, I found that many other followers had the same level of interest, but lacked the level of clarity and knowledge on the subject. I found that many started following alternate paths or simply gave up due to the fact that the religion is not always accessible – either due to language barriers, or due to difficulty in getting in direct communication with those who do have the knowledge.

Also, over the past few years, most Saturday’s we have group Samayk in Antwerp where friends and people with interest attend to learn more on Jainism. I usually pick a new subject every week and then come up with daily applicable examples in understandable language. Through these encounters, I got further motivation to study this subject in depth to better explain our religion and its fundamentals to those who seek the knowledge.

PO: How did you balance the needs of the business and your study?
AB:  I have been longing to do a PhD on Samkit for the past 10 years, but as one can imagine, to balance business, family life and research on this level is quite a challenging task.

In 2012, I once again got inspired to pursue this dream. By then both my sons, Ravi and Rishi, were married and were part of my business. Their ability to take on workload, allowed me to pursue my studies. This pursuit also took hours of work on weekends and nights as well, and here my wife, Rupa was very supportive of my efforts throughout. So I guess I can say that I was able to manage the balance with the support of my family. 


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