Jain Radiance On The Western Horizon [13/14] Organized Jainism in North America (1960-1993)

Posted: 18.05.2008
Updated on: 02.07.2015

Jain Radiance On The Western Horizon

[13] Organized Jainism in North America (1960-1993)

To help to meet the needs of the Jain community as well as of the larger general community in India, Britain and North America a number of organizations have come into being.

  • First Jain Center in New York

    There have been a lot of organized Jain activities in North America since the 1960s. The first Jain center was established in 1966 in New York City by the late Professor Narendra Sethi, Professor Dulichand Jain, Dr. Mahendra Pandya and Dr. Surendra Singhvi. The membership consisted of about 20 families and it used to celebrate major Jain festivals at Columbia University. Today the center has more than 500 members and has its own temple. Since 1966 about 60 Jain organizations have been established in North America.
  • Jain Center of Boston

The center was established in 1973. It has published the third edition of the directory of Jains in North America in 1992. The center has been sponsoring an annual Jain essay competition for youths since 1980. The top three youths in three age groups are given prizes and their essays are published in the Jain Study Circular (discussed later).

Acharya Sushil Muni came to the U.S. and Canada in 1975 along with a few monks. In 1983 he established an ashram at Siddhachalam in Blairstown, New Jersey. This 108 acres of hilltop property is located near the Pocono mountains and provides the ideal peaceful environment for the practice and study of the science of Arhurn Yoga. Siddhachalam is a resident community of monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen. It is the headquarters for the International Mahavir Jain Mission, the World Fellowship of Religions and Kundalini Science Center, all founded by Sushil Muni. A newly built temple, inaugurated in 1992, housed deities of various Tirthankaras. In cooperation with the Federation of JAINA, a chair in Jainology will be established in 1993 at Columbia University, NYC.

  • Jain Study Circle

The circle was established in 1987 to propagate the fundamental principles of Jainism through publication of the quarterly Jain Study Circular and other literature, and organization of study groups and seminars. Prior to 1987, the Circular was published by the Jon Center of Boston. The first issue of it was published in 1980. It is distributed to about 5000 families at no cost. Dr. Dulichand Jain is the editor of the magazine.

  • Federation of JAINA

The Federation of Jain Associations In North America (JAINA) was founded 1981, running 4 Jain centers. Being an umbrella organization, its objective is to provide a form to foster fellowship and unity among numerous Jain associations and to take up religious causes and issues '`that will benefit its member associations. The Federation has been publishing a quarterly Jain Digest since 1985 and distributing to about 5500 families at no cost. The editor-in-chief is Dr. grinder Jain of Athens, Ohio. It organizes a biennial convention in July and the 7th convention will be organized in Pittsburgh in 1993. Two Jain libraries have been established in Lubbock, Texas (under the leadership of Dr. Prom Gada) with about 5000 books and journals, and in Toronto with more than 500 books. Young Jains of America, a national organization, has been founded under the leadership of Dr. Urmila Talsania to encourage Jain youth to participate in the religious activities.

The Federation sponsors scholars, monks, nuns, Bhattaraks, shramans and shramanis from India to lecture in North America. Dr: Nathmal Tatia of Ladnun, India was a visiting professor at Harvard University and taught courses on Jainology during 1990-91. There are a lot of other activities sponsored by JAINA such as publication of Jain literature, a youth exchange program between the U.K. and North America, contacts with Jains in other countries and promotion through news media. Dr. Sulekh Jain is the President of the Federation (1989-93) and has devoted a lot of his time to achieving the objectives.

  • Bramhi Society

Bramhi Society was established in 1989 by a group of twelve individuals from the U.S. and Canada to make a contribution in a contemporary environment to the study and promotion of Jain reflection in the West. It has begun the publication of Jinamanjari, a semiannual journal, with the first issue in October, 1990. Mr. S.A.B. Kumar of Toronto is the founder and editor-in-chief of the journal.

These organizations and associations are important indeed, but at the same time the onus falls squarely upon ordinary Jain men and women who live the life of the American way - "the laity." In Christian parlance "laity" means those not ordained priests, or deacon or minister. Strictly speaking; Christian monks and nuns are laity. Accurate use in Jain terms yields a very different meaning. In Jain terms it means those not monks or nuns. But Jainism consists of an intimate symbiosis (dwelling together, inter-living as well as living with) of four orders, namely, female and male renouncers, women and men. In the American situation the onus of being Jain and bringing Jain truth to the world around inevitably falls on the later two. Similarly the matter of keeping up the symbiosis with the ascetics is largely their task. Ordinary Jain people in North America and Britain do not understand their own importance as propagators of Jain principles and in history. They are pioneers. Recently one of the authors wrote to a number of Jain organizations asking for back copies of the material they published and other historical material. Most did not reply. The Secretary of one organization wrote back to say "Our publications consist only of opinions on religious questions, letters and questions of readers and some notices of members comings and goings and of meetings. We have no historical material to send". But that is exactly the kind of thing of which grass-roots, floor-level history consists. People in 2060 will be asking "Where were those Jains of 1960-1990? Whence and why did they come? What did they find here, how did they with such slender resources soon start providing jobs for others? What slid the principles of religion teach them in factory, shop, college, home lab and office? Did they learn it from their parents, fellows, monks, nuns or books?" Hundreds of other good questions come to mind.


(Please note: This report was done in the 90s - an update is announced. [Editors])

Share this page on:

Author

Source/Info

International School for Jain Studies.   For References, contact Dr. Singhvi, Dr. Noel at (513) 885-7414.