+ Winter Issue 2013
Table of Contents 1. Letter from the Editor
by Malhar Teli
2. The Influence of Jainism
by Tejas Shah
3. A New Year's Resolution
by Rahul Shah
4. The Golden Age
by Mihir Shah
5. A Report on Youth and Jainism
by Hetali Lodaya
6. Why Interfaith Needs Us
by Gautam Srikishan
7. More Than Just a Celebration
by Priyal Gandhi
8. Event Summaries
by Various Authors
9. Upcoming Events
The Editor’s Letter As 2012 came to a close, most of us probably went home to our families and enjoyed of week of varied festivities. Personally, I celebrate Christmas during my winter break. Each year, I am asked, “What did you get for Christmas?” or, “What do you want?” For the last three years, I could never find a proper answer to that question. I was blessed with plenty, and I wanted to share that there wasn’t anything I really desired when confronted by the temptation. I had ascribed to a tenant of Jainism known as “Aparigraha.” The virtue of Non-Possessiveness is a common concept held across numerous religions, from the Abrahamic faiths to Buddhism. The concept of possession hampers the spirit and soul of the individual.
pratikaman felt like a major challenge. College may further complicate these matters by separating students from their Jain Sangh. Attending Dherasar with strangers can be a daunting experience, but if you remember that we are all seeking self-enlightenment together, it’ll be a lot more rewarding. So, as we leave the “Holiday Season,” I strongly urge everyone to keep up with their local Dherasars and stay in touch with your home sanghs.
But it is very difficult to separate one’s needs from wants in this modern era, which may be why I did not find Jain holidays so appealing in my youth. Jain Holidays tend to be light on the spectacle and heavy on the spiritual, which is why Jain holidays never really feel like holidays. Sitting through a whole
+ The Influence of Jainism A Personal Anecdote by Tejas Shah The faith of Jainism has had a significant influence upon my life. Jainism is a spiritual faith centered on self-control as a means of achieving moksha (salvation) as one selfdesigns his future. The core beliefs include non-violence, a strict vegetarian diet, truthfulness, and non-materialism, all of which contribute to good karma. In a city predominately focused on food and culture, maintaining a vegetarian diet has been the most strenuous task; however, I have no regrets as Jainism leads me to live a pure life. In the summer of 2009, I attended a Young Jains of America convention at which Raj, a Jain speaker, truly inspired me. Raj began by relating the story of Rishi, his younger brother who had been ill from birth. Rishi’s illness forced him to eat meat, as he was not able to receive sufficient nutrition via a vegetarian diet. Rishi was constantly in and out of the hospital with his mother, Ami, by his side. One day Ami was not feeling well, and Raju, Raj’s grandfather, told her to go home and rest. Raj explained that his grandfather was a zealous man who was so devoted to Jainism that he refused even to set foot into a room where meat was present. That day Rishi wanted to eat a cheeseburger – his favorite food; however he was too frail to feed himself. Despite the fact that Raju was opposed to the concept of meat, he adopted the “spirit of the law” over “the letter of the law” and fed Rishi. This inspirational story demonstrates that Jainism is not strictly about following the principles, but doing what is best for others.
That summer was a pivotal time in my development as Raj’s speech strengthened my faith and an incident occurred that helped to define my goals for the future. Towards the 2009 summer, I experienced a frightening event when my cousin fell and hit the concrete so hard that he became unconscious. I was shocked and unaware of how to react. Luckily, a student EMT passed by a few minutes later. The EMT’s responsiveness and ability to treat my cousin inspired me to pursue a medical career.
I immediately acted on my interest in the medical field and completed a two-month internship this past summer with an orthopedic surgeon. He allowed me to observe his appointments with patients and even watch surgeries in his surgical suite. He treated his patients with inspiring ease, and for this reason I have decided to pursue a career in medicine. I believe that Jainism and medicine go hand in hand as they both foster an appreciation for life and an integrated context for acting in the best interest of others, providing a pure life.
A New Year’s Resolution
By Rahul Shah I recall reading a narrative in the first few days of the year that truly inspired me to partake in more community service in 2013. It describes the day of a businessman who chose to volunteer one day in Ahmedabad. He regularly donates a portion of his annual earnings to the needy, and has always been aware of his privileged life. While serving, he came across an 8 year old girl who was selling balloons on the street to earn a living. She had no parents, a brother who was in 5th grade, and slept outside the school that she attended afternoon classes for. He was touched by the little girl’s glad acceptance, and continued desire to work hard and uplift her conditions. The businessman then realized that he should not limit his actions to just giving money, but to offer his time to raise the standards of those in need. Reading his narrative had a profound impact on me. It was a humbling reminder of how good I really have it, and that I should strive to volunteer my time more in 2013. I have previously spent a year volunteering in the municipality schools in India, have organized multiple fundraisers for children in need, and have donated my personal funds on many occasions to help existing organizations in anyway that I can. However, in the amount of time, energy and effort that I have spent volunteering, raising funds and donating funds, I have
found that your time is often much more valuable than the money. This is especially true when you form loving bonds with those you are serving. Reading the narrative inspired me to make a New Years resolution for 2013. It is my New Years resolution to volunteer at least 12 times this year. It's not a large amount, and shouldn't be difficult to fulfill, but it can be so easy to let time go by without actually making the time commitment and effort to do so. I believe 12 times a year is manageable and meaningful, and call on all others to join me in this resolution. Although New Years does not have Jain roots, it is an ideal time to make a commitment that aligns with Jain ideals, such as service to others. Find a buddy and make this resolution together. Not only will it be easier to stick with, but will be more enjoyable for those involved. Partake with your family or other loved ones. If your schedule does not allow for 12 times in a year, strive for 6. Volunteering allows us to give back to society, while learning and bettering ourselves in the process. I guarantee that you will gain from your volunteering experiences, and will form long lasting memories of how you spent your time on those days. You will be amazed at how much of an impact you can make on an individual or community with this one simple decision. As Gandhiji so famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
+The Golden Age Passions and dreams often are what drive people through the challenging maze of life. Many succeed in their goals to achieve what they have always wanted, while some go downhill and never make it up the ladder again. But one thing is for sure, everyone always ends up at the same, inevitable place: everyone must go through the golden age of being a senior. Sadly, many seniors lose their independence and have difficulty leading a normal life. 87% of all injuries in the elderly come from falling while trying to navigate and repair their own household. That’s where He comes in. He has helped seniors live as normal of a life as possible, as well as changed the lives of many seniors who were struggling financially. He is a leader, and most importantly, exemplifies many Jain principles such as ahimsa, anekantavada, and aparigraha. He is Zach Hudson, a nominee for the 2012 CNN Heroes Award, and is My Jain Hero. Zach Hudson’s story starts when he joined the Lake Mary, Florida Police Department in 2007 and was first dispatched to a home of two elderly women. What he saw left him appalled. The women were barely surviving; they had no food or electricity, and they would split up what they would spend their money on: food, or bills. Zach has witnessed many cases of seniors suffering but this was the last straw. You see, he had grown up in a senior community, raised by his grandparents. After seeing these two ladies, he started thinking about solutions and eventually created the Seniors Intervention Group, a non-profitable charitable organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly. Ahimsa plays an important role in the work of Zach Hudson. Ahimsa is not just about being non-violent; it’s about being compassionate towards others. Zach has been caring towards hundreds of seniors and shown kindness through all his acts, which shows how Jainism can be applied to our normal lives for the better. This kindheartedness shows how there’s more to being a hero then just being hardworking. The Seniors Intervention Group offers services such as providing rides to the grocery store and doctor’s office, as well as helping with utility and food payments, crime prevention, installation of wheelchair ramps, and more. Now, Zach Hudson is not a millionaire with money to spend freely on these things, as he is a father of two children. Aparigraha can be seen in what Zach does, as he donates most of his time and effort into making sure the elderly are taken care of. He has very limited possessions, but enough to keep his family happy. His countless number of selfless acts shows the world that there are important issues to worry about outside your own home, and it is possible to be generous with your time and satisfied with yourself at the same time. This is just another reason why Zach Hudson is my Jain hero. As a true leader, Zach Hudson had to look at each senior and their situations differently. That is what makes the Seniors Intervention Group unique; they help out the elderly with day to day things, whereas other programs help with things like disaster prevention. The elderly need help financially, emotionally, and physically, but it all comes down to how to deal with their personal needs. Incorporated in all this is one of the most important Jain fundamentals that respects multiplicity of views and looking at situations differently. Anekantavada is a significant factor in the work of Zach Hudson as he must respect the view of the seniors, the community, and of his co-workers. As my Jain hero, he has provided one thing the world often lacks in times of fear and desperation: hope. Thus we can see that Zach Hudson has inspired many people to stand up for what they believe in, just like he has done. His work had a huge impact on the lives of many seniors, and he let them regain the mobility and flexibility in life they once had. Passions and dreams that were once lost were gained once again, and it was like the elderly were gifted with a second chance in their golden age. Zach Hudson used ahimsa, aparigraha, and anekantavada to improve the quality of life for everyone around him. But at the end of the day, Zach Hudson is just a friendly neighbor, a generous citizen, and a brave leader. Best of all, he is My Jain Hero.
Written by Mihir Shah
A Report on Youth and Jainism By Hetali Lodaya Introduction At the YJA 2012 Convention held in Tampa, FL, a session called “Be the Jain You Wish to See in the World” was conducted with every high school and college attendee. YJA Convention is a unique opportunity to gather Jain youth from all different sanghs, backgrounds, and levels of involvement in the Jain community to exchange experiences and ideas. The purpose of this session was to allow youth to give back to their communities – to discuss the common struggles and problems each sangh faces, and to work together to brainstorm solutions. Participants were divided into small groups and asked to consider four questions: 1. 2. 3. 4.
What is the greatest challenge facing your sangh in increasing youth involvement? What solutions can you come up with to address this problem? What resources would you need to implement your solution? If tasked to solve this problem tomorrow, would be the first action step you would take?
Their insights are detailed in this report. The youth have spoken – it is now up to all of us to take those first steps towards maintaining healthy, active Jain communities. Summary Youth identified several common challenges facing their sanghs. These included excessive administrative politics, lack of youth involvement and voice in executive boards/committees and in pathshala curricula, an overemphasis on fundraising, and a lack of emphasis on volunteering and community service. Suggestions to address these challenges are all different: some more appropriate for large sanghs, some for small ones. They include the creation of official youth boards, allocation of funding to these groups to conduct youth programs, youth positions on executive boards, alternative fundraising methods, and sangh-wide volunteering opportunities. Youth consistently note that the resources they need most are money, space, and autonomy. They recognize that for many sanghs, funding is limited and must be spread among different initiatives. Without access to appropriate space and the permission to take on leadership roles, however, they also cannot fundraise on their own to support youth activities. Almost every group noted that their first action step would be to communicate: with their sangh executive committee, with patshala teachers, with community members. They recognize that this is a joint effort, and that creating change starts with establishing a dialogue. Youth have a clear, composed perspective on how they could work with adults in their communities to create sanghs that better serve everyone in our quest to live by Jain ideals and foster strong communities. Jainism in this country has a bright future – it just requires giving youth the tools they need to succeed.
Why Interfaith Needs Us
In 1950, a young college student took a train to Philadelphia to hear a famous preacher preach on the subject of Christian love. The student listened as Mordecai Johnson explained that one of the greatest 21st century examples of Christian love was not a Christian but a Hindu: Mahatma Gandhi. That student, listening to Johnson, was young- only 20- the same age as many of you readers. That student was Martin Luther King, Jr. And even at 20, he had the capacity to understand other faiths not as lesser beliefs to be dominated, but as opportunities to learn and grow. King had the vision to see the world through an interfaith lens. He understood that, despite his own theological beliefs, he could cooperate with people of differing beliefs to make the world a better place. In 1965, he marched from Selma to Montgomery arm in arm with the Jewish Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; of the experience, Heschel said, “I felt my legs were praying.” He reapplied Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance methods for the civil rights movement, saying, “Jesus gave me the message. Gandhi gave me the method.” And in 1967, King stood in solidarity with the Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh against the Vietnam War, despite how contentious this stance was at the time. But people like Martin Luther King don’t come along very often. That’s why our generation needs to take up the reigns in leading the movement for interfaith cooperation. When the media says that America’s diversity is what divides us, we must show them that our pluralism unites us. We must train the next generation of interfaith leaders to emulate King’s example. Every year, Interfaith Youth Core hosts several Interfaith Leadership Institutes, 3-day trainings that help students get the skills they need to start building the interfaith movement on their campuses. As Jains, it’s more important than ever that we take our place in the interfaith movement. As strong advocates for non-violence (ahimsa) and pluralism (anekaantvad), our story is as central to the American project as anyone else’s. And if we are to combat the huge problems of our society, we won’t be able to do it alone. We will need to fix our problems together. As Charles Bonney said at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, “The great religions of the world will no longer declare war on each other, but on the giant ills that afflict [humankind.]” It’s time to take action.
Gautam Srikishan is a recent graduaste of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he studied music and helped lead student groups like the Jain Students Association and Interfaith in Action (mostly by heckling poor, unsuspecting students with countless emails). In his spare time, you can find him playing ping pong, watching the Daily Show, or ranting about how terrible a lot of media outlets are. He would love for you to sign up for an Interfaith Leadership Institute right here!
By Gautam Srikishan Communications Associate at the IFYC 8|Page
More Than Just a Celebration
Think back to when you were six years old. You were probably in your early years of school, playing with friends, maybe even attending events at your local Jain center or starting pathshala. Did you ever, however, think about renouncing your worldly life and taking diksha? If you have not read the story of Aimutta Muni, you may not know that this sixyear-old was the youngest person to become a monk and the youngest person to achieve kevalgyan, or omniscience. As Jain laymen and laywomen, we have many Jain holidays where we celebrate the diksha, kevalgyan, etc. of thirthankars such as Mahavir Swami, Aimutta Muni’s guru. Each tirthankar has five auspicious events in his (or her) life known as panch kalyanak. These five auspicious events are as follows: chyvan kalyanak (conception), janma kalyanak (birth), diksha kalyanak (renunciation of worldly life), kevalgyan kalyanak (omniscience), and moksha kalyanak (liberation of the soul). You may be familiar with some of these occasions: every spring, for example, Jain centers celebrate Mahavir Jayanti, or Mahavir Swami’s janma kalyanak, with religious ceremonies, talent programs, and more.
By Priyal Gandhi YJA Director of Education
I know that at my local Jain sangh, Mahavir Jayanti is the biggest event of the year, along with Paryushan/Das Lakshan. Growing up, I’d participate in Mahavir Jayanti in a variety of ways: putting on skits, dancing, singing, introducing acts as an MC, volunteering backstage, serving dinner after the show, etc. It was the highlight of our Aprils and always involved months of preparation and practice. In October or November, we’d celebrate Diwali (Mahavir Swami’s moksha kalyanak) with parties and programs. What I, and many others, forget in all the excitement is why the panch kalyanak are truly important. Yes, we revere the tirthankars, and yes, these events mark important milestones in Jain history. But the reason we place so much emphasis on celebrating events in tirthankars’ lives is because of what our tirthankars mean to us. These omniscient beings are our inspiration to better ourselves. These liberated souls are our guides to the right path. The teachings of Tirthankars such as Mahavir Swami are the reason individuals such as young Aimutta Muni were so motivated to renounce their worldly life and take diksha. One of my favorite quotes from Aimutta Muni’s story is when he explains to his mother why he cannot wait to take diksha: “Mother, I learned from Lord Mahavir that no one is young and no one is old. I also learned that no one knows what is going to happen tomorrow. No one knows who will die first or last. So why wait and miss this opportunity which has come my way?” Whether or not you plan on taking diksha as Aimutta Muni does not matter. The important idea to note is that we are never too young to spiritually advance ourselves. For one person, it could mean performing more community service. For another, it could mean reducing the amount of violent video games he or she plays. For yet another, it could mean taking time out of his or her day to reflect. The ways in which we apply Jain values to our daily lives may have changed over the years, but the lessons our tirthankars passed down to our ancestors are timeless. These lessons are what we really should remember when we celebrate a tirthankar’s kalyanak. I encourage you to think deeply next time you observe a Jain holiday. Why are we celebrating this day? What should I be getting out of this? How can I use this as an opportunity to improve myself? Then, share your experiences with the rest of us! Email us at email@example.com, or feel free to discuss your thoughts and questions with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Event Summaries: We recap a fun-filled season, with more in store!
Winter Board Meeting in Chicago
The 2013 Board held its second meeting in Chicago, where we set up our operations for the rest of the year and
Volunteering in Raleigh
Fire and Ice in Boston
On December 15th, YJA youth in Raleigh
in partnership with Jain Study Center of
friendships, enjoying eclectic cuisine,
North Carolina volunteered at the Food
and savoring delicious ice cream made
Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
We spent about 2 hours volunteering at
memorable night. :)
even got around to discussing the next
the food bank. Many of the Jain youth brought canned goods and other food items to donate. We collected over 115
Pooja Nagda (Northeast Regional
pounds of food to donate to the food
bank. Afterward, YJA met up at Remedy Diner in downtown Raleigh in order to enjoy a gourmet vegan meal! It was a great success volunteering, and it was nice to help out during the holidays. Akash Shah (Southeast Regional Coordinator)
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YJA convention. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plenty more activities and retreats to look forward to, so keep your finger on the pulse for all the latest information on the YJA website and our Facebook group.
Event Summaries cont. `
Skiing and Anekantvad
Soup Kitchen Jains “Giving Thanks” to Thanksgiving YJA Southern California gave back this holiday season by partnering with the Jain Center of Southern California and Tender Care and Community Outreach to volunteer at the First Friends Church in Long Beach. We served vegetarian chili, bread, and peach cobbler to the less fortunate. We had 10 youth come out for this event and all were very enthusiastic about volunteering here every month. Stay tuned for more volunteer events in the future!
Sheenika Shah (Co-Chair)
Young Jains of America participated in Nor-Cal/Bay Area's Giving Thanks For Thanksgiving Community Service Event on November 22, 2012 with CityTeam Ministries in San Jose. We primarily served the Men's Recovery Program, where we got to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds struggling to make a living, provide food on their own dining tables, and even have a roof above their heads. Gathering through Young Jains of America empowered us to see the difference we can make even in the simplest ways. Whether it was preparing strawberries for the fruit salad or serving some mashed potatoes, it was incredible to see the smile on the faces of those who were going to be fed. Just a "Happy Thanksgiving" or "Have a great day" were some short phrases that made everyone's day. Through this experience we can all see that even the voices of such youth have a voice, power, and influence. Pankti Doshi (West Regional Coordinator)
Everyone at the YJA Mid-West Ski Retreat in Brighton, MI had a great time last month, enjoying both educational sessions as well as more social activities like Taboo, and of course skiing. A lot of great discussions came out of the Anekantvad/Theory of Multiplicity session, where attendees even made a resolution to change something in their life in order to be more Jain. Although some of the trails at the ski resort were closed due to 60° F weather, everyone had a blast, especially those getting out of their comfort zones learning skiing for the first time. The Taco Bar afterwards won 1st place for best meal at the retreat, and Jain Jeopardy Saturday night pushed the boundaries of our collective knowledge of Jainism. All of us made some extraordinary friends, and I for one will never forget that weekend.
Paras Vora (Mid-West Regional Coordinator)
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West Flyer Goes Here
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ANNUAL YJA WEST RETREAT ð
ð WHO: Everyone between 14-29 who is interested in learning about Jainism WHERE: 135 Howard Ave, Morro Bay, CA WHEN: April 5th – 7th, 2013 HOW: Register at www.yja.org/regions/west Pricing Information: Phase 1 Fees: Now – Sunday, March 24th at 11:59pm EST. -‐ $95.00 for JainLink Members -‐ $105.00 for non-JainLink Members Phase 2 Fees: After Phase 1 - Wed., April 3rd at 11:59 EST. -‐ $105.00 for JainLink Members -‐ $115.00 for non-JainLink Members
Questions? Concerns? Email Pankti Doshi at email@example.com
Young Jains of America Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook Us! Visit the new YJA.org for news and updates on the latest events in your region!
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Please Make a Contribution to YJA Today to Pass Jain Principles in Practice onto the Next Generation of Youth! Jai Jinendra! The Executive Board for the Young Jains of America (YJA) plans to be very active in bringing Jain principles to all youth across the country. We would like to take this opportunity to briefly discuss our current projects and how they will make a difference to the YJA community. Monthly webinars to educate and raise awareness about Jain principles and ideals and address youth problems, difficulties, and concerns. Website Maintenance to continue to develop a professional website for Jain youth and create a forum to share Jain principles. Regional Retreats from the East to West Coasts to instill a sense of religious and cultural pride among Jain youth. Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, and volunteering at soup kitchens to allow youth to participate in charitable community activities. National Dinners in Jain communities to encourage youth to both develop new friendships among Jain youth and strengthen current relationships within local Jain youth groups. With the support of donors like you, YJA has grown to be the largest Jain youth organization in the world. For the YJA Executive Board, this an honor to be a part of a group that motivates and inspires countless lives. Please consider supporting our efforts with a personal contribution to YJA today. A contribution of any amount will provide tremendous support to instill a sense of among youth about their Jain heritage. The ultimate goal of the YJA Executive Board is to prepare todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Jain youth to become tomorrowâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Jain leaders. Not only do we appreciate your donations, but the fundraising team would like to hear from you! Please e-mail email@example.com with your comments, suggestions, or recommendations for improvement by YJA. If you have any questions regarding Young Minds, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your wonderful contribution. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Young Jains of America Contribution Form *You can make a contribution by credit or debit card at https://www.yja.org/donation/donation.php.* Full Name (Middle Initial): ___________________________________________________________ Company Name (Optional): ___________________________________________________________ Address: _______________________________ City: ____________ ST: ____ Zip: ___________ Daytime Phone: (______)______________ Evening Phone: (______)_____________________ Email Address: __________________________ Please make your check payable to Young Jains of America and mail it to: Young Jains of America c/o Sheenika Shah 3921 Grandview Drive Brea, CA 92823
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