April 2012

Page 1


Pat h s h a l a : L e s s o n 3 Ecology and Jainism

Jai Jinendra,

A letter from a

The third lesson of the Pathshala series for this year’s Young Minds is about Ecology. In this issue you will read about how, as Jains, we must always be mindful of our surroundings. You will also find out more about the upcoming YJA 2012 convention in Tampa Bay, Florida. Get ready for a very memorable weekend!!

reader iJain: Evolution of a


Mind Science or Religion? 6 YJA 2012: Social


Events YJA 2012: JNF


Events Midwest Ski Retreat 9

We hope to see you this summer at the convention!

Shikhar’s Story




Creativity Contest


Jain Story


Jain Internship


Sincerely, YJA Board 2011-2012


YJA Donation Page 16

Interested in writing for Young Minds? Contact Ruchita Parikh: youngminds@yja.org


April 11, 2012

Dear YJA Community: Greetings! My name is Minal and I am a doctoral student studying in cell and molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. I wanted to talk about how leaving my personal automobile has affected my life for the better. Recently, I gave up my car as I joined school, and it has been the most liberating experience ever. I live in the center city district of Philadelphia and really enjoy taking beautiful thirty-minute walks to campus and back on nice days while listening to music. When I first started, I dreaded walking, as I would think it was a huge chore, but now I enjoy it and it has become second-nature to me. During weekends, I take walks to the city when going either for grocery runs or shopping with friends or just walking around the park. It is just so peaceful and allows me to embrace the fresh air and enjoy the natural environment. It also makes me feel proud that I am reducing my carbon footprint by not contributing to the usage of fuel/gas required for keeping a car. This change has also allowed me to think in terms of relating more towards our Jainism ideals. By ceasing my personal car usage, I have come to realize that I not only reduce the burden of air pollution that could kill and/or harm countless living organisms, but also reduce the presence of vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide which could harm human health and which can contribute to global warming. Walking has also allowed me to enjoy my surroundings and improved my overall health as I have lost quite some weight while doing so. Walking instead of driving also helps reduce the traffic and the noise levels as well as having positive effects on other aspects of the environment and our personal health and well-being. I have been very fortunate to find a home close to campus where it is convenient for me to walk to work when I have to go to lab on weekends, or enjoy a day or night out in the city. And it has given me a great way to use my walk-time for the necessary exercise. It is also a great energy booster, as I have noticed that on days when I walk, I feel more enthusiastic, inspired and ready to take on my day. I believe that everyone should spare at-least thirty minutes out of their lives every day to walk. I know it can be hard with our busy schedules and often times we all get so involved with our day-to-day routines and this can become quite stressful, but walking allows us to clear our minds and it is a great stress reliever. It allows us to connect back to the world and with ourselves. It can also help us to think of new ideas and promote clear thinking in moving forward when we are stuck with our thoughts or with our work. I hope everyone is able to enjoy the fruits of walking, as I have as and it has just been amazing!

Minal Mehta University of Pennsylvania Studying Cell and Molecular Biology




Working as a molecular biologist in gene therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, I’ve often been asked about what I do, whether I k i ll a nim a ls, whether it’s safe, and how it impacts society. I am vegetarian through my principles, yet I create viruses that will be injected into mice. Is that Jain? I may be performing this action with good intentions, but am I breaking the fundamental principles of Jainism? I do not claim to know everything about biology or Jainism; in fact definitely far from that! Therefore, what I am putting forward is purely my perspective. Growing up, like many other Jain families, my family and I would go to the temple every other weekend, where we would pray to God to forgive us for our sins and erase all bad karma. At the same time, I often went to my dad’s lab on weekends. My dad has been a cancer research scientist almost all his life. I was always fascinated by his lab -the glass test tubes, the slides, the microscopes, the scientists running around wearing white lab coats! When I decided to venture into this field, it was a subconscious decision that I had never really considered before. I suppose that I followed my Dad’s footsteps after admiring him at work for so many years. From the first time I looked at a skeleton, to holding

a tibia (leg) bone in my hand, and dissecting a frog without blinking, I knew biology was the right field for me. I initially never questioned my career interfering with my religion, but now that I have been giving it more thought, sometimes I do question it. For those who do not know much about gene therapy, it is a treatment used to cure hereditary diseases by changing the DNA in humans inside a cell. DNA is the foundation of our body, what I like to refer to as the alphabet blocks of our body. Each individual’s DNA is different, the nucleotides or “letters” in each are different, but still a combination of certain letters make up a “gene” which in turn makes necessary proteins that signal our bodily functions. Sometimes, one of these letters undergoes a “mutation” or a change, which causes the body to produce the wrong protein or stop the production of the protein entirely. This ultimately causes many kinds of disease, be it cancer, Alzheimer’s, or ADHD. With gene therapy, we correct this “DNA letter change” in the lab, in viruses which can be easily manipulated to contain the correct gene, and inject those same viruses into humans to multiply, so as to correct the mutation. Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds or looks on paper. There are a lot of steps before this, and that’s what we do in our lab. The steps involve splitting cells (we use human embryonic kidney cells), growing bacteria, growing viruses, dumping ex-


cess bacteria down the sink, injecting mice for testing the viruses, injecting chimps, and then finally during the clinical trial stage, trying it out on humans. It may work, or it may have an adverse reaction. Trials have gone wrong in the past, but of course that’s what research is about; we try to find a cure. Jainism is based on the principle of not harming living things or our environment as much as possible. This is the reason why we do not eat meat or eggs (and why a lot of us don’t drink milk), and why a lot of us cringe at the idea of fishing or hunting. We believe in non-violence. Being completely honest, I’ve often questioned our limits regarding this. Why is it alright to butcher a tomato, but not an onion? Why is it okay to wash our dishes to kill bacteria, but not okay to step on the grass that may be the habitat of other organisms? Why is it okay to have Tylenol without realizing how the pill was made and what it came from? There were probably animals that were used as guinea pigs for it before we started taking the pill to alleviate the symptoms of the common cold! Some of these questions I do not have an answer for. When I asked a few people about this, the most common response I received was: we try to minimize harm to any organisms, as much as possible. I think that’s the best answer I can give all of you as well. Just by our very nature, just by being humans, we don’t see the miniscule life all around us, so subconsciously, or without even knowing it, we tend to harm millions of organisms a day. That is perhaps something that cannot be helped, but what we are conscious of, what we know is harmful, we should minimize. For survival, we have to eat, so we eat things that minimize our “paap”, our sins. We try not to step on ants that may be walking on the ground, be-

cause we can see them. We should just try to reduce as many of our sins as possible. This comes back to my original question: Is what I do Jain? By trying to find cures for human diseases, I am willingly growing bacteria, growing up cells, only to destroy them and making viruses that will be tested out on mice and chimps, before they finally cure someone. Is this wrong? I tell myself it’s not wrong, because it’s my job, and it’s something that will help society. I tell myself that I got into this field because I wanted to help people. There are still times when I sit back and think to myself, at what cost? Then again, I feel that at least in the end, I will be able to feel good about myself someday, thinking I may have improved the lives a lot of people, I will have improved the life of people who deserved to live, but just didn’t have a cure. I will be able to make many families happy and healthy. And of course, if diseases aren’t cured, humanity will cease to exist, and ultimately the concept of Jainism will as well. Does that mean my research is “right”? Does that mean Jainism is “right”? It’s a paradox, an answer to which perhaps no one has. So I find myself in the same position as I was years ago when I was visiting my dad’s lab and also going to the temple. I love what I do at work, but I’m still going to pray, hoping that any sins that I have committed, knowingly or unknowingly, will be forgiven. Jai Jinendra.

Jigesha Shah Currently works at University of Pennsylvania. Masters in Biosciences from United Kingdom. My hobbies are watching movies, listening to music and reading books!


Get excited for YJA 2012's Social Events! We are beyond thrilled to present this year's line-up! Have a hidden talent? Like to sing or dance? Then we’re looking for you! Register today for the Talent Battle | Destination India! www.youngjainsofamerica.org Get ready for a night full of twist, turns, and illusions with our Alice in Wonderland Formal! Start packing your bags and don’t forget your shades for this year’s YJA 2012 convention, in Tampa, Florida!


Get excited forYJA 2012's JNF Events! We are beyond thrilled to present this year's line-up! Come to our Cupcake Mixer where you can mingle with new and old friends. Prepare for a night of mystery at the Masquerade Ball! And finally, end the convention with a Starlight Slumber Party. You don’t want to miss it! Start packing your bags and don’t forget your shades for this year’s YJA 2012 convention, in Tampa, Florida!


Alok awoke to the grimy light filtering in from his lead curtains. He opened his window and took a deep breath of fresh air. His lungs burned due to the sulfur floating about him as the acidic morning dew evaporated. The scene outside his window was familiar to him as the mess about his own room – the gnarled stumps of tree growing in his lawn, three cars driving over the potholes of US Route 64, the sun blazing down like a nuclear explosion, and a lone blue bird flying south for the winter.

Prem awoke to the sun shining happily on his sleeping face. He muttered angrily about it being too bright, as he walked over to his window. The scene outside his window was as familiar to him as the mess about his own room – the row of trees encircling his backyard so no one could see inside (and bother his privacy), cars of every color and shape flying over US Route 64, the sunrise caressing his face like a lover's hand, and a flock of blue birds singing happily as the flew across the warm spring morning.

After a few seconds taking in the beauty of the day, his skin began tingling. Without an ozone, he had no protection from the ultraviolet rays and felt their effects almost instantly. Alok had seen what these rays could do – his one friend, Kurt, who had held one of the few outdoor jobs available (Kurt worked as a construction worker), got skin cancer within three months on the job, and was put on intense chemotherapy that left him nauseous, bald, and eventually, dead. Alok felt a small shiver run down his spine as he remembered his friend's passing, and tried to scrub away the sadness with his microfiber cleaning cloth.

After a few seconds taking in the beauty of the day, a distant timer rang aloud. Prem reminded himself that today was his big company presentation, and he had no time to waste dilly-dallying. As he stepped into his shower, he thought back to his friend who had come to a presentation not dressed to the nines – he was demoted, docked a christmas bonus, and eventually, fired. This friend, Kurt, now struggled to make ends meet as a construction worker. Prem felt a small shiver run down his spine as he remembered his friend's career trajectory, and he tried to scrub away the disgust he felt with his soapy loofah.

Once, as a boy, he had asked his mother why everyone cleaned themselves with these silvery looking pieces of fabric, when all of the people in those old 3D movies stood under metal rainclouds and rinsed themselves with water and some queer bubbly liquid. She laughed, “Oh Alok, those movies are just people's imagination. Can you imagine actually wasting water like that? There would be nothing left for the hydroponic farms that grow all of our food.”

Once, as a boy, he had asked his mother why everyone in India washed themselves with only a bucket of warm water, while it was commonplace for his family and peers to take fifteen or twenty minutes showers that use about 25 gallons of water. She laughed “Oh Prem, those people are so dirty. Can you imagine actually washing like that? You would be so dirty, nobody would ever want to look at you. It's water, Prem – it's not like you can run out of it!”

As he finished up cleansing himself, Alok lathered on his SPF 150 sunscreen and went to the murti of bhagwan he kept in his home to meditate for some time before work. Feeling much calmer, he took an umbrella for the sun, and began his walk to work. Seeing a lone flower growing under the shelter of a rock, Alok stepped forward to take in the fragrance. It was an ordinary day.

Checking the clock as he exited the shower, Prem realized he didn't have much time. He threw on some clothes and ran to his Hummer. Driving to work, he noticed the trail of dark exhaust following his car, but disregarded it as commonplace. Seeing a colorful communtiy garden coming up, he rolled up his windows and drove faster to prevent any bees from getting in. It was an ordinary day.


Why is it that we need to wait for calamity to strike before we notice all that is beautiful in our lives, and work to preserve it? Prem is living in a world that is not dissimilar to ours, and his reactions and daily schedule is, unfortuantely, not dissimilar to ours, either. We see in Alok's world the stark future we have ahead of us if we continue to disregard our environment. At our current rates of consumption, we will soon run out of potable water, and twenty minute showers will be all but a dream. Without controlling our carbon emissions, the impending threat of global warming becomes all too real – the scorched earth and lack of greenery around Alok ceases to be science-fiction and will become an all-too-real state of being for us in mere years. There are a plethora of solutions available, but few as all-encompassing as those afforded by the Jain religion. Three simples rules are proffered: Ahimsa, Aparigraha, and Anekantvad. In reverse order: being more accepting of the views of others will put an end to the race- and religion-based wars that are plaguing the earth right now. Being non-possesive will lead to more sustainable use of resources, for we will be more prone to reuse and recycle than to buy new goods simply because they look good and we want them. Living peacefully, in every aspect of the word, will lead us to treat our environment with greater care – as we shift to more peaceful diets, and take better care of the nature around us, we will have solved the root cause of global warming. Shikhar Shah, 19 “Born in Bilimora, Gujarat. I now live in Chicago, where I listen to music and read books. Sometimes, I go to math class. One day, I might just become an academic physician. Until then, though, I intend to use phrases out of context.. YOLO”


This Jain recipe is very easy to make. It’s especially good for bachelors who have had a long day at work and don’t feel like preparing something too complicated or eating out This healthy meal takes about 15 minutes to prepare and goes very well with rice or rotlis. When explaining to your friends what you’ve made, call it Banana Curry!

Ingredients: -

2 bananas (sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces) 1 tomato (sliced and diced) Small amount of water to make gravy 1 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil) Pinch of “hing” Pinch of cumin Pinch of rye Salt to taste Pinch of hardar Pinch of dhana jeeru Pinch of red marchu 1 tbsp garam masala 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Directions: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Take medium non-stick saucepan and heat it on medium-high for about 30 seconds. Add olive (or vegetable) oil to warm saucepan and wait 30 seconds. Add hing, cumin, and rye to the hot oil and let it sizzle a little bit. Add tomato to the mixture and stir (you should hear sizzling sounds)5. Let the tomato pieces cook for a few minutes and then add salt, harder, dhana jeeru, red marchu, and garam masala and stir so the color of the tomato pieces changes 5. Add some water to it so it becomes liquidy 6. Let water and tomato mixture cook for a few minutes and then add in the sliced bananas into saucepan 7. Stir tomato, spices, and water mixture, and lemon juice so the banana pieces become coated with everything. Then turn the heat off and cover saucepan with lid (the heat from the saucepan will cook banana pieces automatically) 8. Stir every few minutes until the banana pieces are tender 9. Sprinkle some coriander on top as garnish (if you wish) 10.Your kera nu shaak is now ready to be enjoyed!



Once there was a discussion going on in Indra's (head of heavenly angels) court. One of the demigods said that there are brave and merciful kings on Earth who would not hesitate laying down their own lives to protect those who come to them for a shelter. Another demi-god doubted his statement. The two began to argue and so Indra intervened by asking them to go to the Earth and see for themselves. The two demi-gods made a plan of action. One of them decided to take the form of a pigeon, and the other took the form of a hawk. On the Earth, King Meghrath was sitting in his court surrounded by his courtiers. At that time a pigeon flew in through an open window and started circling inside the hall. To the king's surprise, it landed on his lap. The king realized that the pigeon had come there out of fear. At that very instant, a hawk flew into the king’s court too. He said to the king, "This pigeon is my prey." The king was struck with a wonder to hear a bird speak. However, he replied, "It is true that this pigeon is your prey, but I can give you some other food." He ordered his servants to bring a basket of sweets. But the hawk said, "I am not a human being. I am not vegetarian. I need the flesh for my food." The king said, "Let me give you my own flesh instead of this pigeon’s flesh." Upon hearing this, one of the courtiers said, "Your Majesty, why should you give your own flesh? Let’s get the flesh from a butcher's shop." The king replied, "No, because just as a confectioner's business thrives when we consume sweets, a butcher's trade flourishes when we use up meat. The butcher may have to kill another animal in order to supply us the meat. This pigeon has sought refuge and it is my duty to protect it. At the same time, it is my duty to see that no one else is harmed in this process. Therefore, I will give my own flesh to the hawk." With these words, he took out his dagger and cut off a piece of flesh from his thigh and offered that to the hawk. The whole court was stunned. But the hawk said to the king, "Oh, king! I want the same amount of flesh as the pigeon." So, a weighing scale was brought to the court. The king put the pigeon on one side and a piece of his own flesh on the other. The king kept putting more and more of his flesh on the scale, but was still not enough. Finally the king was getting ready to put his whole body on the scale. The court filled with the murmur that the king was giving his own life for an insignificant bird. But the king considered it his duty and religion to be above everything else. He sat on the side opposite to the pigeon in the scale, closed his eyes, and began meditating in the peace. As soon as the king entered into the meditation, the pigeon and the hawk assumed their original divine form. Both demi-gods bowed to the king and said, "Oh great king! you are blessed. We are convinced that you are a brave and merciful man." With these words, they praised and saluted the king again and left. The whole court resounded with the joyous words, "Long live the King Meghrath." Later on, the soul of King Meghrath became the sixteenth Tirthankar, Shäntinäth. A merciful person is someone who is not only influenced by seeing the misery and suffering of others, but goes a step further and attempts to alleviate the pain. A merciful person would not harm others to promote himself but on the contrary, would sacrifice even his own life to save the lives of the others. Jain story from www.jainworld.org



Neil Shah 39731 Forbes Dr. Sterling Heights, MI, 48310