15th JAINA Convention 2009 - The Religion of Non-Violence

Published: 11.07.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015

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15th JAINA Convention 2009
Thursday to Sunday July 2-5 2009
Jain Center of Southern California
8072 Commonwealth Ave
Buena Park CA 90621, USA



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Dear Colleagues:

This past weekend, JAINA, the Federation of Jain Associations in North America, held its 15th Biennial Convention. The Convention was held in Los Angeles at the Jain Center of Southern California, which is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen anywhere in America.

The theme of the Convention was “Ecology: The Jain Way.” The selection of this theme reflects a central focus of the Jain tradition: that all life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence.

Jainism is a spiritual tradition that is not well known to most North Americans and is very much misunderstood as a general matter. To try to describe Jainism in a blog essay would result in a trivial description that could not possibly do justice to an incredibly rich spiritual tradition that predates both Buddhism and Hinduism and is surely one of the world’s oldest spiritual traditions. I will however, reproduce the text of a brief statement prepared and distributed by Yogendra Jain who, in addition to being a JAINA Vice-President, maintains a site called JainLink:

Jainism is a religion and a way of life. For thousands of years, Jains have been practicing vegetarianism, yoga, meditation, and environmentalism. Jains have three core practices:

Non-Violence is compassion and forgiveness in thoughts, words, and deeds towards all living beings. For this reason, Jains are vegetarians.
Non- Absolutism is respecting views of others. Jains encourage dialog and harmony with other faiths.
Non-Possessiveness is the balancing of needs and desires, while staying detached from our possessions.

Jains believe in the existence of a Soul - in each living being - which is eternal and divine. JAIN WAY OF LIFE (JWOL) respects and honors all living beings through the practice of Non-Violence, Non-Absolutism, and Non-Possessiveness. We are all interdependent and, by living a JAIN WAY OF LIFE (JWOL), we can bring peace and spirituality to our lives and to those around us.

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This statement, which Yogendra distributes on cards that are the size of business cards, is certainly not intended to be an exhaustive or complete statement but merely a very brief description of the three central principles that characterize Jainism.

Jains are non-absolutist but they are not relativists; that is, they recognize that there is truth but that truth is often complex. One thing that Jains accept as clear and absolute truth is the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence, which is really the single most important idea in Jainism. Many Jains refer to their religion as the “Religion of Non-Violence.”

Because of their adherence to Ahimsa, Jains do not eat meat, fish, eggs, or honey. There is an increasingly strong movement within Jainism toward strict vegetarianism and the rejection of the use of animal products for clothing and other purposes. One of the most prominent living spiritual leaders in Jainism is Gurudev Chitrabhanu, who is a very strict vegan. There is no spiritual tradition that focuses on nonhuman animals as much as does Jainism. Not only do Jains advocate vegetarianism (and increasingly veganism), but they are the force behind most of the hands-on animal protection work done in India.

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I was given the great honor of presenting the Opening Address at the Convention this year. As you might expect, I spoke about veganism and the need to recognize that the principle of Ahimsa required that we eschew the use of all animal products. There were more than 2000 attendees at the Convention and they received my talk and my views on veganism with considerable enthusiasm. Over the four days that I was there, I spoke with hundreds of people who indicated that they agreed that veganism was the right way to recognize Ahimsa. At least a dozen people told me that they were going vegan right there and then!

Although the food served at the event was not completely vegan, it was mostly vegan and all vegans were fully and respectfully accommodated.

I thoroughly enjoyed being at the Convention and I accept the Jain Way of Life - the vegan version, of course! I encourage you all to explore this spiritual tradition. There is a great site that provides (for free) the full text of a large number of books in English (and other languages).

For those whose views about animal rights and abolition are, like mine, based ultimately on non-violence, you are probably already a Jain and just never realized it.

Sources

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/the-religion-of-non-violence/

Photos by Satish

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahimsa
  2. Buddhism
  3. Chitrabhanu
  4. Federation of Jain Associations in North America
  5. Gurudev
  6. Gurudev Chitrabhanu
  7. Hinduism
  8. JAINA
  9. JAINA Convention
  10. JAINA Convention 2009
  11. Jain Center of Southern California
  12. Jaina
  13. Jainism
  14. Meditation
  15. Non-absolutism
  16. Non-violence
  17. Soul
  18. Vegan
  19. Veganism
  20. Vegetarianism
  21. Yoga
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