Globalisation Of Jainism (4)

Posted: 18.07.2007
Updated on: 15.02.2008


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IMMIGRATION TO WEST ASIAN COUNTRIES

Emergence of sprawling, very well planned towns, particularly the capital towns, having multi-storied buildings having all facilities of modern life in petroleum rich, west Asian countries opened the avenues for many Indians, including Jains, to make fortune in business, professions and services. The migration to these countries including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Behrien, Kuwait etc. Mainly occurred since the early 1970s. High profits in oil earned by these countries prompted the rulers/governments to undertake various developmental activities including construction of wide roads, education institutions, hospitals, shopping centres, development of civic amenities and modernization of seaports.

The population also increased considerably and so also increased their needs in various sectors. These threw open avenues for large number of emigrants. The number of Jains residing in these Muslim countries engaged in medical profession, engineering, computer technology, other professions, business and service is not known. It is estimated that 500-600 Jain families reside in United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) alone. Though they celebrate their religious and social functions on limited scale, but in view of enforcement of strict Islamic laws they are neither permitted to purchase property nor to build temples or institutions building. In Dubai "Jain Social Group" is active in organising get-togethers and functions.

JAIN CENTERS AND ASSOCIATIONS ABROAD

Establishments of Jain centres, temples, societies and associations have resulted in organisation of the Jain community in various countries. There have been a lot of organised Jain activities in USA and Canada since the 1960s. The first Jain centre was established in 1966 in New York City by late Professor Narendra K. Sethi, Professor Duli Chand Jain, Dr. Mahenera K. Pandya and Dr. Surendra Singhvi. Starting from 20 families, which used to celebrate major Jain festivals, the centre now has more than 500 members. It has its own Jain temple. Gurudev Chitrabhanu came to USA in 1971 and established the Jain Meditating International Centre Centre in New York City in 1975. Gurudev lectures on Jainism and has published numerous books and prepared video - audiocassettes on Jainism.

Acharya Sushil Kumar Ji came to USA in 1975 with a few Jain monks. He first established and Ashram in Burlington, later in Staten Island in New York and finally a huge Ashram - Siddachalam in 120 acres in Blairstown in New Jersey State in U.S.A. It has a large Jain temple inaugurated in 1991 and has many impressive large and small statues on Jain Tirthankaras. Siddhachalam has developed into a big religious and pilgrim centre with various religious and social activities going round the year.

As the Jain activities in North America needed to be expanded with a proper central co-ordination and guidance, the need was felt by a few concerned and farsighted Jains to create an umbrella organisation to provide leadership to help create more organizations and promote Jainism in the wider world.

The establishment of Federation of Jain Associations of North America (JAINA) in 1981 by holding its first convention in Los Angeles is indeed a great achievement towards globalization of Jainism. It started by representing four local Jain Centers, mainly with the initiative and efforts of Shri Lalit C. Shah, Dr. Tansukh Salgia and Dr. Manoj Dharamsi.

Today Jain represents 54 Jain Centers and Associations, 49 in USA and 5 in Canada, which are affiliated to it. Being an umbrella organisation its objectives is to provide a forum to foster fellowship and unity among numerous Jain Associations and Centers and to take up religious causes and issues that will benefit its member associations. The Federation has been publishing its quarterly journal 'Jain Digest' since 1985, which is mailed free to about 7500 families. JAINA has established two libraries in Lubbock, Texas, U.S.A. and in Toronto, Canada. Young Jains of America (YJA) has also been founded to encourage Jain youth to participate in the religious activities, seminars and conventions. The Federations sponsors monks, nuns, Bhattarkas, Shramans, Shramnis and scholars from India to lecture in U.S.A. There are several other activities sponsored by JAINA such as publication of Jain literature, a youth exchange programme between U.K. and North America. It has established JAINA Charitable Trust to finance construction of Jain temples, some projects and Senior Citizens housing near Jain temples where they can live in a happy religious atmosphere for the rest of their life.

JAINA holds a Biennial Convention after every two years in some city of U.S.A. or Canada. At each of these conventions thousands of Jains participate, majority being from North America, including participation from India and other countries. New time needed themes are picked up at each of the conventions. The invitations are wide based, even calling Non-Jain scholars and social workers to attend and express their views. It gives them a proper opportunity to understand Jainism, which was not attempted before.

The vision of the convention organisers is highly commendable in involving every class of Jain including women, youth and children. At the Conventions, the hope is increasing that the youth will continue to take active interest in Jain activities and a big fear about their indifference to Jain thought and activities is allayed. I was amazed to see the involvement of people of all ages in the four big JAINA Conventions in different cities of U.S.A., which I attended in different years. The 9th Biennial JAINA Convention during July 4-6, 1997 held at Toronto (Canada) had a remarkable attendance of 7500. JAINA hopes to prompt construction few more Jain temples in U.S.A. and Canada in addition to the existing 12 Jain temples or Hindu Jain temples.

JAFNA, Jain Academic Foundation of North America established in 1995, is another devoted organisation to promote Jainism on global basis. Its main goal is to be an instrument and catalyst in starting and facilitating regular Jaina Studies and Research at several well-known reputed universities in U.S.A. and Canada. It is a tax exempt educational, religious organisation in U.S.A.

It has funded a semester for graduate level course in Jaina Studies at University of Guam, awarded several scholarships to non - Jain students to do research and write research papers on Jainism, sponsored and funded a four day International - Seminar "Vedanta and Jainism" at Miami University in October 1996, funded and eminent Professor to write the chapter 'Jain Vision' for a college level text book, sponsored and funded translation and publication of (1) 'Lord Mahavira' by Dr. Boolchand and (2) 'Aspects of Jainism' by Dr. Vilas Sangve in French language.

The future programmes of JAFNA include International Conference on 'Jainism, Ecology and Environment' at Harvard University, Boston U.S.A., arranging annual lecture series on Jainism in five universities in U.S.A. and Canada, planning Jaina Academic studies with the cooperation of several university professors and Jain Academy in Europe and to start a high level reference journal of Jaina Studies and Research in collaboration with Jain Academy (U.K.)

A significant work of far reaching importance, which JAFNA has undertaken in hand, is compilation and publication of Eight Volume Encyclopedia of Jainism in English Language.

ROLE OF WORLD JAIN CONFERENCES ORGANISED BY AHIMSA INTERNATIONAL, WORLD JAIN CONGRESS, AND JAINA

The World Jain Conferences in New York, London, Delhi and Siddachalam U.S.A. and the Regional International Jain conferences in cities of Asia continent like Bangkok and Singapore organised by Ahimsa International and World Jain Congress, and the JAINA Conventions in U.S.A. and Canada are much instrumental in dissemination of Jaina information and doctrines on global basis. The Jaina concepts are communicated on a wider scale through deliberations, discussions, speeches and literature published at these conferences and conventions and thereafter. Jainism is now better known to the people of the world as a result of these efforts.

About three decades before Jainism was virtually unknown in Europe (except U.K.), America and Canada. But due to increased contacts by the Jain emigrants with the local people and supplying to them to some extent Jain literature and calling them to their conventions and functions the local people are receiving more information and getting interested in Jainism. They appreciate the principles and the scientific aspects of the Jaina thought and the depth of observations and studies of the Jain ascetics. This has aroused interest in Jainism of many more Americans and Europeans and they are coming forward to write books, prepare papers and video films on subjects of Jainism and pilgrim places.

As an important religions of the East, Jainism is attracting the attention of western organisers of conferences and seminars on world religions and ethics. During the past few years several Jain scholars has been invited in U.S.A., Canada and countries of Europe to deliver their lectures on Jainological subjects. It is a happy beginning.

The last three decades have been very important in the attempts towards globalisation of Jainism. These have seen the fuller emergence into self-consciousness of the world wide Jain Diaspora, i.e. people of Jain decent domiciled overseas.

Jainism, as today, has made its firm root in almost all parts of India, being a scientific and practical religions, quality of tenets, and a highly religious, clean and regulated life. Today the Jain community is and important section of the population of the Indian union. It not only contributes significantly to the industry and business of the country in a big way but is also endowed with a remarkable cultural heritage and has succeeded in preserving in a large measure the originality and integrity of its creed.

The upsurge in Jain activities, in several parts of the world, is decidedly congenial to globalisation of Jainism.

Kurt Tietze of Germany in his monograph "Why Jainism" writes 'Through acts of renunciation and deep learning of the great Jain saints in ages long past the religion known as "Jainism" has taken roots and began to grow and blossom'.

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