21.09.2014 ►Delhi ►Model Town ►Digambar Sant Sammelan

Posted: 13.01.2015
Updated on: 17.01.2015

At the time appointed a driver already known to us from driving to Delhi Mehrauli Dadabari Jain Temple came to our hotel and picked us up. It was a Sunday, and we noticed much to our relief that there was not yet much traffic on the streets. Even the usual traffic jams from Southwest Delhi in direction of the centre were missing when we came along. To get from our hotel in Mehrauli in the Southwest to Model Town (Delhi) in the Northwest of the city we had to pass India Gate in the centre before we were able to head towards Northwest from a roundabout. On the way we tried to get connected with Ajit Benadi’s Indian mobile number. Some days before our departure to India the president of Jain Association International (Germany) e.V. had given the information including full address to us via email that a meeting of Digambara Acharyas and Munis will take place in Model Town. He said to be willing to participate himself, and so we hoped to meet there.

No further informations were available, but we had Ajitkumar Benadi’s Indian mobile number. When we heard his voice we noted pleased and also a little surprised that connection was successful. Although it was difficult to understand each other because of some ear-splitting noise in the background. Nevertheless, from this moment on we had a concrete destination plus someone to ask for details if necessary at the other side. Finally, after several calls and modifications of street names and house numbers with the help of the driver who had taken over the communication we succeeded to find the area..

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It was not far from this crossroad as the sound of the music was very near

Not without agreeing on a meeting point and exchanging mobile numbers with the driver we made our way to the music. For us it resembled to a small wonder that we finally met Ajit Benadi in spite of turmoil and noise. But it took some time talking on mobiles since we met in person on the street in front of the area. There was a little park belonging to the Digambar Jain Centre in Model Town which intricately had been changed into an appropriate location for a big spiritual gathering. We had no idea what all this was about. First of all we were really impressed by the many people present and the beautiful decoration.

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 Ajit Benadi waited for us at the entry and showed us the way inside

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 Monks, nuns, and lay followers were on the wonderfully decorated stage

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Numerous people had come

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Many volunteers were ready for service

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After passing them we entered the stage

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There were male and female Digambara ascetics from different Sanghs sitting in a row together

It was an unforgettable moment when we entered the stage. About 20 Digambara Acharyas and Munis, the Bhattaraka of Moodabiri, Karmayogi Ravindrakirti Swami of Hastinapur as well as about 18 nuns and the entire audience granted their full attention to us. Someone presented us with our full names to the gathering via loudspeakers. It was then when we felt a wave of sympathy from all sides encompassing and lifting us very high for one moment until we softly were put down again and someone led us to our seats. Christian Geerdes was sitting on the stage behind Ajit Benadi and Nirmal Kumar Jain Sethi, National President of Digambar Jain Mahasabha. The latter spoke to him on a book titled “Jain Archaeological Sites Outside India“ certainly interesting for us. It was authored by Dr. Jineshwar Das Jain, and some days later Nirmal Kumar Jain Sethi personally came to our hotel with two copies of the book which he donated to us. Concerning his seat, Christian Geerdes actually didn’t need it, as most of the time he was moving around for photos and videos.

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Ajit Benadi(l), Nirmal Kumar Jain Sethi, National President of Digambar Jain Mahasabha

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Next to Sheila Jain (l) in the first row I easily was able to follow the program

We highly enjoyed the program although we did not understand the language. Every face told another story of life, and especially the faces of the ascetics attested to a life in truth and cheerful humanity. This meeting was so special because it was the first of its kind. Male and female ascetics as well as male and female lay followers from different Digambar Sanghs had come together for the first time at the occasion of Das Lakshan expressing their strong determination to settle all conflicts hitherto and cooperate instead. In the past, we got to know later on, one at best got out of the way to not again being hostile towards each other as it had happened several times before. Even some grim controversies had taken place, but we just as little caught the reasons as we did know in advance that we will participate in a historically unique event. But the character of the gathering explains why all speeches were received with high concentration by the audience. There were moments one could hear a pin drop.

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The speech of Bhattaraka Charukirti Moodabiri was very well received. He was honored with gifts, and so were all other speakers  

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The musicians accompanied a dance performance with singing from an episode of Lord Mahavira’s life. The presentation is documented in the video below

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The children waited for their appearance in the scene where they embodied the different Sanghs

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The dance performers receiving recognition from the audience, see video

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Lal Krishna Advani was the chief guest of honour

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This young woman gave a very committed speech

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Thereafter many from the audience entered the stage…

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…and bowed down to the monks and nuns for their blessings

Suddenly there was motion among the monks on stage. Nearly at once all of them arose, lined up in front and hugged each other! They were laughing, smilingly shaking hands and waving enthusiastically to the audience in such an energetic and inviting manner that all attendees felt addressed and like surrounded in a magic circle of harmony. Representative for all, the monks demonstrated what understanding and accepting each other is like. A message not only understood, but also supported by the audience with full verve and gestures of affirmatione.

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Great pleasure everywhere...

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...in harmony

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Everyone wanted to document this historical moment with the camera

The audience cheered in agreement, people leaped to their feet and shook hands for showing their readiness to not further indulge in but amicably resolve disputes. Faces beaming with joy anywhere and as if upon signal people started talking and laughing together. We highly enjoyed to be in their middle and to be present at this wonderful occasion. Everyone was open for each other, a beautiful and rare occasion for realising tolerance in such a gathering of people with different views and backgrounds.

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  The monks are aware of the new quality…

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…and very happy to have it in their own and their lay followers’ life

There was nothing to top this wonderful big gesture. The aim of the gathering had been fulfilled. All happily headed towards the exits, after the monks and nuns had left stage. With lightning-speed the volunteers changed the tables along the sides of the big tent into buffets and brought deliciously scenting meals kept hot in appropriate vessels. In no time people queued up and patiently waited for their turn. In the middle of the tent people were standing with their plates and talking softly to each other while eating together. Someone took care of us and directed us through the throng to the nearby community house of the Digambar Jain Centre in Model Town. There we were served a very tasty meal and even got chairs to sit on. Finally we called the driver and not long afterwards we sat in the car bringing us back to the hotel. What an unforgettable Sunday!

Video: Digambar Sant Sammelan

Photos 21.09.2014:

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