August 2018

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e h t m o r f r e t t e L s r i a h C o C n o i t n e v n Co And just like that, the lights have dimmed. We stand on the other side of the 4th of July weekend - the 2018 Young Jains of America Convention has come and gone. Even though it forever stays as a part of the past, the experience replays itself to us, exists around us, and shows itself from within us each and every day.

It’s remarkable to think that only a few weeks ago over 750 young Jains from all over the world arrived in Chicago at the Westin O’Hare - unaware of what was about to come. The 2018 YJA Convention: Reconnecting with Our Roots. Not only was this YJA’s 13th Biennial Convention since its humble beginnings at the 1994 YJA Convention, but it also took place in the same location - Chicago. To see the change from then to now shows the strength, influence, and grace with which YJA has grown. 24 years later, we see YJA flourishing, better than ever. This year, the Convention Committee once again went above and beyond - planning over 180 sessions, one-of-a-kind mixers, and revamped nighttime events that gave you - attendees - an unforgettable experience. We witnessed you enjoying the novelty of our App and scanning other attendees’ QR codes to connect with new friends. We hope you discovered a deeper look at the power you hold to shape not only your future but even the world around us during the Keynote with Nikita T. Mitchell. We noticed you learn how attendees dive into Jain principles and envision changing their communities with the Jain Academic Bowl and Jains in Action competitions. And we 3

know you danced the night away with both new friends and old during Garba in the Galaxy and the Windy Wonderland Formal. Through it all, the roots of our collective pasts showed what’s possible when their flowers blossom in the present. What you might not have noticed were the countless hours of planning that went into creating this extraordinary Convention experience for 750 young Jains. From envisioning engaging sessions, planning unique events, collaborating with the hotel, and preparing Jain and vegan meals, the Convention Committee dedicated their days, nights, and weekends towards creating this unforgettable experience. While most of the Convention Committee members work full time or are students, each of them can tell you just how rewarding the journey has been. For all their support and sacrifices, we would like to sincerely thank each and every Convention Committee member for the hard work put in this past year. In addition, this Convention would not have been possible without the the support of the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. We would also like to thank our Adult Volunteers, our Session Speakers, our Subcommittee members, and our Donors for uniting with us on this incredible journey. with #yjalove, Chintav Shah & Jinen Shah Your 2018 YJA Convention Co-Chairs


“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost” - J.R.R. Tolkien



e h t m o r f r Lette s r i a h C o C Jai Jinendra, As the end of summer draws near, we hope that everyone is successfully getting ready for the school year, careers, and other new beginnings. In this special issue of Young Minds, we’d like to reflect on the impact of our recent biennial Convention which was held in Chicago, Illinois from July 5th - 8th at the Westin O’Hare hotel. Every two years, YJA brings together hundreds of Jain youth from around the world to learn about and expand the Jain way of life and build long-lasting friendships. Aptly themed “Reconnecting with our Roots”, this Convention aimed to dive deep into our Jain heritage and use our roots to shape our future. Throughout the Convention weekend, attendees engaged in thought-provoking sessions, exciting networking opportunities, and unique, interactive social events. In this issue, you will hear from various Convention participants, including speakers, attendees, volunteers, and more! Of course, the Convention would not have been made possible without the incredible support of the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago, our speakers, adult volunteers, donors, Young Jain Professionals, and our parent organization, JAINA. As Co-Chairs, it is our passion to bring Jain


youth together and promote the values of Jainism while creating a community amongst our peers, and this Convention has the power to do exactly that. Throughout the weekend, we saw how youth were inspired by their religion, speakers, and peers. They reconnected with old friends while expanding their networks and horizons. They were able to get involved with their community and further strengthen their ties to their roots. We hope that every attendee had an enjoyable experience and gained new insights from this Convention. Further, we hope that the values and friendships that have come from this event foster a deeper appreciation for our Jain heritage. Lastly, we can’t wait to see how the Jain youth of today take this inspiration and use it to preserve and promote Jain ideals in order to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. We hope you enjoy this issue of Young Minds. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope to see you sometime soon. Happy reading! With #yjalove, Siddharth Shah and Dharmi Shah Co-Chairs, 2017 - 2018






e h t m o r f r e t t e L r o t i d E Jai Jinendra,

Dear Young Minds readers, From the first YJA Convention, where we learned for tomorrow, to the thirteenth YJA Convention, where we reconnected with our roots, our Jain community has always guided us and welcomed us home. We share a heritage, a history, and a challenge: to stay true to Jainism despite the difficulties. Whether #YJA18 was your first convention or your final one, we hope that you have found the means and community to shape your future and to face its challenges. With strong winds come strong roots. After planting the seeds for your Jain way of life, we can’t wait to see how you leaf your comfort zone, branch out, and grow. For instance, as Darshi Shah, a JAB Participant who later served on the JAB Admin Team, shares “[JAB] gave me an unprecedented opportunity to connect with like-minded people, and build a greater sense of community”. This issue is dedicated to remembering the magic of Convention and getting an

insider’s perspective on how Convention was planned, how it was carried out, and what you can do next. Multiple perspectives -- your memories; pictures; video clips; recollections from attendees, speakers, adult volunteers, Convention Committee members; and endless more -- serve as a record of what happened this past July 4th weekend. As the months and years pass, whenever you think back to #YJA18, the photos and stories in this issue can bring your memories back to life. As Siddharth Challani, the winner of #YJA18’s Essay Contest, shares, "In a society where it is already hard to talk openly about religion, it is even harder to speak about Jainism...What, then, are the roots of our religion worth?" What does Jainism mean to you? How will you reconnect with your roots? I hope that you enjoyed Convention and enjoy this issue of Young Minds! With #yjalove, Rachna Shah Director of Publications, 2017-18







Learn what each Committee brought to #YJA18.

Adult Volunteer Committee The 2018 Adult Volunteer Committee's biggest innovation this year was producing complete hourly schedules for each volunteer that registered for Convention. Each schedule tried to optimize preferences, like who volunteers wanted to work Aastha Kodia

with, when volunteers were free, and what volunteers wanted to do. In addition to producing full schedules, AVC also made a few more changes. They, in partnership with the Hospitality & Site Committees, provided snacks, chai, and full meals to

Anand Shah

Adult Volunteers throughout Convention. AVC also gave volunteers some much-deserved stage time during Convention with an Adult Volunteer Flashmob during the Talent Show night.

Convention Committee

Meet the people behind the orange badges!

Finally, AVC formed a WhatsApp group with volunteers to communicate throughout Convention -- both Miten Shah

conversation and important announcements made for an efficient and enjoyable experience for the AVC Coleads and the Adult Volunteers.



This year, the 2018 Daytime Programming Committee provided small discussion experiences to attendees by increasing the number of sessions offered and capping Bansari Shah

the number of attendees allowed in each. This allowed for smaller, more personal conversations rather than large, lecture hall style discussions. As always, they were also looking to provide a wide range of speaker and session topic backgrounds for fruitful discussions.

Foram Shah

For Keynote, the Daytime Committee was looking for diversity and brought a female person of color with an extremely interesting background who was able to connect well with attendees. Lastly for JIA, they provided a revamped experience for the participants which gave them the chance to get to know their team members and learn from mentors over the course

Neelam Savla

of two months, culminating with an early arrival to Convention. For JAB, we wanted to make the games more fun and engaging for the audience, while making the questions and answers more relevant to young Jains’ day-to-day lives.

Parshva Vakharia

Daytime Programming Committee 12


The 2018 Fundraising Committee held a successful Pre-Convention dinner, for the first time, at the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago (JSMC) sangh in May Monika Jain

to connect donors with the Convention and what it entails. The Committee also worked closely with other committees to understand which items could be donated, ensuring that as a whole, YJA was remaining

Nilesh Dagli

fiscally responsible. Convention Committee members also engaged with their local sanghs to spread awareness and understanding on #YJA18.

Rachna Shah


Convention Committee

Fundraising Committee


Brinda Shah

The 2018 Hospitality and Souvenirs Committee worked tirelessly to improve the quality of the souvenirs. For instance, instead of drawstring bags, attendees received backpacks that could also be used after the Convention. Neil Shah

Additionally, attendees had hot snacks (samosas and pakoras) available to them in the Director's Parlor during Rec Hour and between sessions on Friday and Saturday.

Prapti Ghiya

The Committee also coordinated with adult volunteers and Convention Committee members to help them manage all their tasks.

Rishab Jain

Hospitality and Souvenirs Committee 14


The 2018 Jain Networking Forum (JNF) Committee Avish Jain

had a goal of providing attendees with a space to create and expand their network of people and opportunities as this is something they can walk away with and use throughout their lives. JNF is more than just a way to find a significant other and this Convention it was rebranded to focus on

Michelle Shah

networking, careers, lifestyles, and different paths that people can take to make all types of meaningful connections.

Neesha Daulat


Convention Committee

Jain Networking Forum Committee


The 2018 Public Relations Committee created multiple Darshan Shah

iterations of each design that attendees saw in order to ensure it was some of the coolest content a Convention has ever had. This included Convention logos, social media graphics for events, and more. The Committee also hired professional photographers

Mayuri Jain

and videographers who captured awesome footage of Convention, which attendees and future CC alike can view for the first time ever.

Sehal Shah

Public Relations Committee



Anish Doshi

added scannable QR codes to each attendee's name badge populated with his or her social media information to facilitate making and maintaining connections during and after Convention. The Committee also incorporated an LED wall behind the main stage for the first time ever to enhance

Avni Nandu

daytime and nighttime events! They also coordinated with the YJA App Subcommittee to determine the best ways attendees could use the YJA App at Convention in order to improve every attendees' YJA 2018 Convention experience. Mahima Shah

“The app kept me updated the entire weekend and helped make breaking the ice easier with the QR code feature. Excited to see this much innovation at YJA!� - Vineet Shah, Maryland

Sidhant Gandhi

Registration and Technology Committtee 17

Convention Committee

The 2018 Registration and Technology Committee


Security Committee

Mansi Shah

The 2018 YJA Security Committee brought about considerable change from past Conventions. This was the first time they allowed attendees to purchase drinks from Starbucks and they also created a formal procedure for tracking and recording all security related incidents that occurred. Furthermore, this

Simmi Nandu

Convention Committee has already begun working towards putting together a more progressive dress code to implement for future Conventions.

Sunny Shah



Convention Committee

Site Committee

The 2018 Site Committee focused on creating a menu that was not only delicious, but also sustainable and Mishi Jain

vegan-friendly. This year, they are proud to say that about 90% of the meals were vegan, showing our

commitment to Jain values and compassion for animals. From churros to a yogurt bar, every item on the menu was carefully selected and tasted. They hope that the Saejal Chatter

trend continues, and that the 2020 YJA Convention becomes the first Convention to have 100% vegan meals!

Vishal Mehta



The 2018 Social Programming Committee combined Charmi Shah

the formal's dinner and dance to make a reception. This brought the night together, adding to the elegance! The Committee also replaced the usual carnival type mixer with a dance competition style mixer that helped build regional pride.

Julie Mehta

They officially made meetups become a Rec hour activity so that attendees could participate in meetups without missing out on other activities.

Pranay Patni

Social Programming Committee



“Knowing that you have a group of people who understand you, support you, and will always be there for you is something that I am incredibly lucky to have."



#YJAObsession It’s been a few weeks since 750 Jain youth came together in Chicago for one unforgettable weekend. Convention feels like it’s been months ago, but at the same time it feels like it was just a few days ago. When I arrived back home in Los Angeles post Convention, I tried to explain to friends and coworkers what exactly YJA is. They had heard me talk about it (and basically nothing else) for the last 8 months, but the extent of what they understood was that I spent most of my evenings on Google Hangouts with other board members from across the US. And then they saw the photos and videos from throughout the weekend. Of our amazing Keynote speaker, Nikita Mitchell, who reminded us of the importance of community. Of our 129 session speakers, ranging from attendees, to Jain scholars, and even the local Congressman, who all shared their insights and facilitated thought-provoking discussions on a diverse range of topics. Of our absolutely amazing social events that looked like one big fun party (that LED wall though...). And of the endless memories of the casual moments in between - meeting new friends in the registration line, lunchtime conversations, and looking deliriously happy at the all-nighter. Describing my Convention experiences over and over again made me think about the impact this event and organization has had on me in four short years. In 2014 I attended my first YJA Convention in DC. I met some new people, but I spent the majority of my time within my comfort zone of LA area friends. In 2016, YJA was coming to my hometown and I couldn’t not be involved, and so I joined Convention Committee as a JNF Co-Lead. The 2016 Convention experience was unlike anything I’ve been a part of before and I thought I had my fill. But I couldn’t stay away and found myself

back on board for round two in 2018. The last 8 months have been a whirlwind, but seeing everything come into place in Chicago made it 100% worth it. I saw old friends who have been going to Conventions for years, back in their comfort zone of being surrounded by the #YJAlove. I saw first-time attendees who maybe arrived nervous and a bit unsure of what to expect, but by the end of the weekend were sad to leave and excited to get more involved. All around, I continued to see the sense of community that defines YJA for me. Knowing that you have a group of people who understand you, support you, and will always be there for you is something that I am incredibly lucky to have. Don’t get me wrong, I love my non-YJA friends. But there’s something special about the bond you share with YJA friends that is unlike any other relationship. It’s hard to believe my life without YJA these days - in four years so much of my day to day has been ingrained with this organization and its members. These are the friends who I text and Facetime with on a daily basis, they are the friends I will go and visit in different cities when I’m traveling for work, and they are the family who I know will have my back no matter what.

Neelam Savla 2018 Daytime Programming Committee Co-Lead

If you’ve been to previous Conventions, you know what I’m talking about. If this was your first one, we hope you had an amazing time in Chicago!  If you’ve never been to a YJA Convention, we can’t wait to see you in 2020. And to everyone, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, let me know! I’d love to talk more about my #YJAObsession over some delicious vegan donuts. :)



How a Small Seed Can Grow Into So Much More It all started with a small idea planted in our minds 2 years ago. It was the type of idea that seemed too big for a group of high schoolers to pull off, but one with promise of something spectacular; it was something you just couldn't let go of until it was a reality. With the magical memories fresh in our heads and withdrawals setting in after the 2016 YJA Convention, my friends and I talked about how great it would be if we were able to bring YJA back to its home in Chicago. With little hesitation, we set off resolute in our mission to put together an amazing bid packet. It took weeks of researching hotels, receiving pledges, making phone calls, and meeting with our temple’s Executive Committee to get some traction. And amidst Taco Bell runs, late night calls, and competition from other cities, our dream was steadily becoming a reality. It is still a blur for me; however, somewhere between the lines of optimism, hype, and hard work, we found out Chicago was going to be the host city of the 13th YJA Biennial Convention. Soon thereafter, I was elected to be a co-lead on the Adult Volunteer Coordinator Committee to build a volunteer team for the Convention and be a liaison between YJA and JSMC. These last eight months on Convention Committee have been the time of my life, and the hundreds of hours spent on Google Hangouts and Slack have been well worth it. Looking back, I can effortlessly think of a million reasons why I loved working as an Adult Volunteer Coordinator on this greater team and mission. However, there are a few that stand out. First and foremost, the support and excitement at JSMC has been a constant. Everyone we have met at the Derasar is excited and incredibly selfless in their pursuit to help our organization: people donate, register to volunteer, and lend their support without a second thought. I consider myself so lucky to have been able to help bring 23

the Convention back to Chicago and used my role not only to get to know my local Sangh at a completely different level but also to cultivate meaningful relationships between YJA and JSMC. Equally as important are the people I have worked with. The 36 other Convention Committee members have made all the difference in my experience. When we had our first Board Meeting in January, many of us walked into the conference room as strangers. However, after months of planning together, many obstacles, karaoke nights, inside jokes, and even more Taco Bell runs, we’ve become a family. As a younger CC member in our family, I am grateful to have learned an incredible amount from some of our veteran boardies, which has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. As my term comes to an end, I taken got the chance to reflect on the journey that brought me here. I have come to realize that one small idea and action can make all the difference in the lives of so many. For me, it was the objective to help young Jains connect with Jainism in America, specifically in my hometown of Chicago back where it all started in 1994. It is weird to think how us taking one small step has opened up so many doors. Now, I challenge you to do the same: find something that you want to invest your time in, put in the effort, and you will collect the dividends. After reconnecting with your roots at the 2018 YJA Convention, it could not be more fitting to plant your seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into something amazing.

Miten Shah 2018 Adult Volunteer Cooordinator Committee Co-Lead


“ 24


Reconnecting With Our Roots YJA Conventions are organized and hosted every two years for over 700 Jain youths, aged 14–29, from across the globe. Each Convention is organized by a team of 30-35 individuals – students and young professionals – from across North America. The goal of each Convention is to create a space for Jain youth to be inspired: it is a unique opportunity for us to explore and deepen our understanding of our faith by learning from our peers, leaders in our community, and a diverse range of guest speakers.

1994 Chicago, IL

2002 Mahwah, NJ



YJA Conventions are divided into three main tracks: • High School (ages 14-17) • College (ages 18-21) • Jain Networking Forum (JNF) (ages 21-29) Attendees are able to select their track based on their age and current status in school, ensuring they have access to sessions and activities most relevant to them. Each Convention’s Daytime Programming and Social events tie together the overall theme, and the unique experiences and memories of Convention result in lifelong friendships and communities. By interacting with attendees of all ages, youth get to see how Jainism is a source of support and guidance in various phases of their life. The biennial YJA Convention is an incredible opportunity to meet Jain youth from around the world. Though Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world, the Jain community constitutes a religious minority in the homeland of India with 4.2 mil-

lion adherents. There are small but notable immigrant communities in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States. Being a minority in its home nation makes Jainism a minority within a minority in the United States. Though small in numbers, the Jain community continues to make a positive, measurable difference in society. Education and knowledge have historically proven to be one of the cornerstones of Jainism. In fact, Jains have the highest literacy rate of any religious community in India at 94.1%. Being able to participate in a forum targeted towards Jain youth is exceedingly rare, and the 2018 YJA Convention provides just that. Attendees will learn more about Jainism and how to impact their communities with the knowledge and relationships gained from this event.

2016 Los Angeles, CA

2018 Rosemont, IL



Board of Trustees Executive Committee

Chicago, Illinois


Atul Shah

Chairman of Board of Trustees


Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago Founded in 1970 1,800 families, the largest membership representation of the Jain Centers in North America. Recently celebrated its 25th anniversary!

Executive Committee Dilip Shah, Vice President Piyush Gandhi, General Secretary Jagat Shah, Jt. Secretary Sunil Shah, Treasurer Dinesh Shah, Jt. Treasurer Pragnesh Shah, Membership Secretary Dr. Pradip Shah, Education Secretary Himesh Jhaveri, Religious Secretary Upendra Dalal, Food Secretary Raj Shah, Jt. Food Secretary Hitesh Shah, Facility Secretary Meghna Shah, Youth Secretary

Vipul Shah

President of Executive Committee

Hitesh Shah Vice Chairman of

Board of Trustees



Chicago, Illinois Reconnecting



Chicago was the host city of YJA's first Convention and where YJA itself was born. In the next few pages, we'll highlight what we love about Chicago.

with Our Roots...



#foodie More than 7,300 restaurants. 3 million people. Check out the food scene!


Lou Malnati's

The Chicago Diner

A thin crust of pizza dough is laid in a seasoned deep-dish pizza pan and raised up on the sides. The ingredients are placed on a Chicago style deep-dish pizza in the opposite order of a thin crust pizza. The first ingredient is thick slices of mozzarella cheese that are placed directly on the dough. The pizza is then topped with a tomato sauce.

Chicago Diner offers creative veggie, vegan, and gluten-free dishes in a comfortable space lined with old-fashioned wooden booths. Brunch, served till 3 PM daily, is very popular, with offerings including vegan biscuits and gravy, a veggie Monte Cristo, and an award-winning veggie Reuben.


More than 250 menu items

Chicago's top food places

India House

Native Foods Cafe

The founder of India House, Jagmohan Jayara, has always wished to serve society with food that touches the soul and brings to life the Indian culture. To fulfill his dreams, he opened up India House Restaurant in Schaumburg, Illinois in 1993.

The Cafe's food is made fresh daily—from homemade tempeh and seitan, to Native Cheese, to sauces and drinks, dressings and desserts too! Its entire menu is 100% plant-based as they strive to create a compassionate dining experience serving up homemade meals that are good for you, your family and the environment.









Jain Networking Forum

N J F 36


Jai Jinendra! Neesha Daulat, Avish Jain, and Michelle Shah, the Jain Networking Forum Committee Co-Leads are so excited to share a recap of the JNF events at the 2018 YJA Convention weekend! Day 1, July 5th Once attendees arrived to the Westin Hotel, they were checked-in by the JNF co-leads, given some awesome souvenirs, and directed to Not Your Typical Icebreakers while they waited for their room to be ready. After participating in the icebreakers and meeting some #JaiNFabulous, new #JaiNFriends, attendees got ready for the evening events, which included a delicious Mediterranean dinner, opening ceremonies and Netflix and Skillz Talent Show. After the talent show, JNF attendees participated in whadaYJAknow: Trivia Night Mixer, during which teams got to put their knowledge to the test answering various questions about sports, Chicago, Jainism, and Bollywood!

Day 2, July 6th The first session for all JNF attendees at 9am was JNetworkingF, our unique combination of speed networking with four levels (speed dating-serious, speed dating-casual, friend dating, and professional networking). Afterwards, JNF attendees participated in some other awesome sessions. During Rec Hour JNF attendees had the opportunity to Continue the Conversation at our JNF-only networking event with speakers or relax and hangout in JNF Lounge before getting ready for dinner and Garba in the Galaxy. After garba, JNF attendees went to the All of the Lights: Post-Garba Mixer and jammed out to the music of the Chicago celebrities.



Day 3, July 7th JNF attendees started the morning by attending sessions of their choice. After watching the JAB and JIA finals and having lunch, they transformed into JNF Superheroes during our Calling All Superheroes: Community Service Event, during which they decorated t-shirts for patients at local children’s hospitals. The last session of the day was our JNF Keynote Address by Ashwani Jain, a Montgomery County politician! His talk touched on his optimism, resilience, and faith in Jain principles during his political campaign. After sessions, attendees were free to hang out in the JNF Lounge or get ready for JNF’s Formal Dinner: Enchanted Garden!




Session H

In Jainism, one promoted value is self-reflection. Some Jains reflect on their actions using Pratikraman, while others use various forms of meditation--I use art. In a quiet moment with some art supplies, art can be used as a way to reflect on a stressful day or as a moment to calm down the mind while sharing emotions on paper. The Jainism and Art session was a simple reflection of how a simple paint night, with a few supplies, can be a form of self-reflection while also creating beautiful artwork. --Puja Savla, Speaker



m and Art




Anekantvad, defined (me) Taking the time to understand the “third” core tenet of Jainism

Vishwa Shah


t #YJA18, Nikita T. Mitchell gave a wonderful keynote. "Your faith is rooted in compassion. Shine that light." While sharing her story, she asked us to reflect on and share a defining moment for our faith. For me, I thought back to the couple distinctive turning points in how I approached Jainism and where I concentrated my efforts: my journey in understanding Anekantvad. The Three A’s If you went to pathshala as a kid or did some research into Jain theory, you were likely introduced to the three A’s (and their common translations): • Ahimsa (non-violence) • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) • Anekantvad (non-absolutism, multiplicity of views) These are regarded as the core tenets of Jainism — what you might say in an elevator pitch when describing this way of life, and the ideal basis for our thoughts, actions, and the evolution of our faith in the modern day. As a kid, I was given the above translations as definitions. Through examples, non-violence and non-possessiveness were easy enough to convey — explaining our vegetarianism and care for living things as nonviolence, referring to material and social relationships as possessiveness. Non-absolutism, however, much less so — how do you exemplify absolutism to a 10 year old? Asking people (scholars, uncles, aunties, you name


it) whose first language was not English only exacerbated this dilemma, without anyone realizing the disconnect they were fostering. For the most part, the alternate translations I got were tolerance, or at most, open-mindedness. Absolutism outside the scope of Jainism It took me until middle school government class to extrapolate what an absolutist government (one given unlimited central authority) was to begin to understand absolutism, and eventually 11th grade Theory of Knowledge to encourage my analysis of the implications of that philosophy on our thought process and outlook. Discussing absolutism versus relativism, the related paradoxes, and the impact of adopting either philosophy on culture and how people approach subjects strengthened my parallel understanding of the concept in Jainism. It further raised my confidence that Jainism was even more of a way of life than a religion; it began to influence how I talked to people, and more importantly how I listened to them. It led to a mentality shift of not just respecting contradictory views: rather, I sought to invest myself in their context, to truly understand how people perceived their realities. Less arguments, better compromises, stronger negotiations, and a slightly cooler temperament followed. I’m still a long way from being “ideal”, but I’m definitely in a better position than I was before. Through numerous conversations with my parents, friends, and knowledgable Jains, I’ve gained an even greater awareness as to what Anekantvad entails: • Existence of parallel, perhaps seemingly contradictory truths • Existence of partial truths • Pluralism • The significance of context to any statement




Anekantvad: implications Here’s my definition of Anekantvad— Anekantvad means that people can hold different, even seemingly contradictory views, and both still be right in their own frame of reference. This has some far-reaching implications. Existence of parallel and partial truths allow people to “disagree”, yet understand of each other’s views. The phrase “agree to disagree” somewhat reflects this sentiment. This is where the context dependency comes in; understanding the circumstances of a statement are what give it partiality. I’d like to emphasize here that agreeing to disagree with an “opposing” position does not imply tolerance, but rather an understanding (or almost an appreciation of) a difference. I don’t think Anekantvad necessarily implies that everything is right; rather, truth is likely abstract, and very context dependent. This fits in with the idea that intentions take precedence on actions in karmic philosophy. Everything written in our scriptures was said with some intention — some bhav — in the past. Some of those things may be evolving now, and while the underlying truth remains, it may be represented differently in today’s world. An example of this would be the dairy industry now — while milk was encouraged in the past, we’ve noted as a community that it may no longer align as closely with our core value of Ahimsa (non-violence). As a result, many Jains (and non-Jains alike) are moving towards veganism.

Perhaps the truth is whatever encourages spiritual progress. Perhaps it’s what makes the most sense given a context. Perhaps it is what is best for that jiv (soul). And maybe, it’s all of these and more. After all, if it’s what’s best for the jiv, then it’s up to that jiv to decide what to believe in that sets itself up for success. From my experience talking to people, from Jain scholars to fellow peers at YJA, I’ve often noticed Anekantvad marginalized. It may take a little more effort to understand and internalize, but from my experience incorporating it into my thought process, it has made a massive impact. Not only have I become a better person and more holistic communicator, but also a better problem solver at large — something crucial for my profession as a software engineer. It’s a marketable skill, if you do it right. And foremost, it has made me happier. Life’s all about finding the right angle, and thinking about the world with a multiplicity of views lets you find the right view for the occasion. If you ever just want to talk about Anekantvad and/or Jainism, feel free to hit me up! I’m always up for a good conversation. Quick movie recommendation: Arrival. If you’ve already seen it and don’t realize why I’m recommending it, shoot me a message :)

A common illustration of Anekantvad: imagine 6 blind people all interacting with different parts of an elephant. Not knowing what it is, they might all guess they’re touching various objects depending on what part of the elephant they sense. None of them are objectively wrong, per se, but they are only in a position to view a partial truth.


A common illustration of Anekantvad: imagine 6 blind people all interacting with different parts of an elephant. Not knowing what it is, they might all guess they’re touching various objects depending on what part of the elephant they sense. None of them are objectively wrong, per se, but are only in a position to view a partial truth.


Nikita Mitchell Keynote Speaker

QUOTES FROM THE SPEECH "Success is a community act." "It's about teaching our other pe ople and our community about who we are and developing empathy so that we can relate to them and they can relate to us." "If it doesn't exist and the world needs it, then you got to go create it."



Ashwani Jain JNF Keynote Speaker

"Ashwani Jain's message of resilience, optimism, and Jain perspective really resonated with me." --Natasha Daulat "Ashwani Jain’s keynote address was very inspirational and emulated what the keynote speaker for Convention should have accomplished. Not only was Ashwani very charismatic, but he truly had all the attendees actively engaged. The topic of his speech on resilience is one that resonates easily and I found he was extremely receptive to questions and talking after his speech." - Anonymous


French Vanilla A longtime family friend offers me ice cream at a New Year’s party. “It doesn’t have eggs,” she promises me, stopping the question on the tip of my tongue. Normally, I’d check for myself, but I decide to trust her. She’s known my family for ten years, and I don’t want to offend her. My dad sees me eating ice cream and takes some himself, indulging the incorrigible sweet tooth that runs in our family. A few bites later, however, his instinctive suspicion returns, so he picks up the carton to reassure himself that the ice cream is fine to eat. When he calls my name, I don’t need to turn and see the carton in his hand or hear the rest of his sentence to realize what had happened. The more carefully you stick to your beliefs, the more sickening the pain of each transgression. My vegetarianism has always been a core part of my identity, forged in no small part from the paralyzing experiences of having to hungrily deny a guilty-eyed host or waitress every time I was offered food, the frustrating sensation of having to repeat to wide-eyed, incredulous classmates that I wouldn’t die if I ate meat, but was vegetarian out of choice, the awkwardness of having to frame every conversation about food through a restrictive lens that people didn’t want to understand.


The vanilla ice cream, once cold and sweet, turns to napalm in my stomach--a hungry, angry flame that refuses to burn out, threatening, ironically, to consume me from within. In a society where it is already hard to talk openly about religion, it is even harder to speak about Jainism. Who are we to talk of non-absolutism in a world of alternative facts and fake news? Why lend any credence to our theory of karma when it is part of the same metaphysics that tells us our universe is geocentric? How can we extol the virtues of celibacy when our scriptures and stories routinely exalt men who married multiple wives, or vilify materialism in the face of the suffering of our country’s poor? The world we live in is different from what it was like when our traditions were first written down, so much so that every inconsistency chips away at our beliefs and our will to adhere to them. What, then, are the roots of our religion worth? The mostly silent car ride home gives my dad and I a chance to reflect. We’re not the most emotional people, and for a moment I find it strangely silly about how upset a few bites of ice cream have made us. It strikes me that the depth of this reaction is perhaps a testament to the strength of our belief, that our religion at its core is not one about karma and penance, rules and regulations, or good and evil. It’s about absolute awareness of the consequences and implications of our actions, and our unyielding determination to live our lives accordingly.

Siddharth Challani (East Windsor, NJ) is the First Place winner of the 2018 YJA Convention's Essay Content.



From participation to administration The story uncovering the experiences of a JAB Participant who later served on the JAB Admin Team.



March 28, 2016 – Fingers whizzing across the keyboard, I fervently type away at my final term paper. With only two sentences standing between me and a hearty good-night’s sleep, I internally dissect my entire educational career, searching for an acceptable phrase to conclude my piece with. Just as I begin keying in the last few words, an email notification pops up in the top right corner of my screen, an email from: “Hmm, YJA Daytime Programming committee, what could this be for?” I wonder as I click the small bubble. Instantly, the screen redirects to a full-size email, listing questions such as “What does Jainism predict about the future of the Earth? Ever wonder what you're supposed to be thinking about during Pratikraman? If you want to learn the answers to these questions (and more), sign up for this year's YJA Jain Academic Bowl (JAB) competition!” These catch phrases were enough for me to feel excited about learning more about Jainism and refreshing upon a lot of the stuff learned in pathshala over the years, and so I signed up. On April 24, 2016, I received an email from the JAB Administrative team stating: “Jai Jinendra! Congratulations! You are one of the lucky 16 competing at the YJA Jain Academic Bowl in July and we hope you're really excited - it’s going to be a fun, engaging way to delve a little deeper into Jainism and meet others who are also looking to do the same!” Hesitantly, I took the JAB Preliminary Quiz along with having the fear of feeling/sounding dumb, just to realize from our first hangout team call led by Siddharth Shah that JAB seemed more fun, and nothing like what I was stressing about. After receiving the JAB manual in the mail, I felt like I did not even know 10% of the total content, but that

is what motivated me to make reading the JAB manual a little everyday a routine until Convention. Like me, all of you guys have participated in some sort of competitive Quiz Bowl at some point in your lives. What distinguished JAB from any other regular buzzer game was a sense of accomplishment unlocked through discovering new facts about Jainism every step of the way. The feelings of “wow”, “that makes so much scientific sense”, “following this truly makes me a better person”, “our religion is so rich” etc. became a daily ritual, and those empowering sensations motivated me to read the JAB manual, more than the competition itself did. July 2016 – 12:30 pm was when my team competed in the semi-finals. As much as people would like to imagine the inherent pressure of “competition”, the moderators and the audience are so supportive and encouraging at the JAB at YJA that you forget the sense of “competition” and just really get engrossed in the game. One key advice from my experience in the semi-finals is that more team coordination is equally as important if not more as the knowledge the team members possess all together, because it’s really a game of timing and coordination, as much as it is of knowledge. I will keep the experience of competing in front of almost 700+ attendees during JAB Finals a suspense, because it really is thrilling! Switching gears and speaking from the other side of the story - my first experience with JAB at the YJA Convention in Los Angeles, CA in 2016 inspired me to be more involved in making JAB happen, and not just happen, but making it happen so it is memorable and inspiring for its participants. Receiving an email to be part of the sub-committee was the best way to get involved on the administrative part of JAB. (Thanks to all those YJA emails!) The memories of the first JAB call and the first brainstorming Google document is still very 48


vivid in my mind. From countless calls to creating the content summary, game rules, PowerPoint slides, questions, and making JAB interactive for the audience really taught me how much time, energy, efforts, and creativity goes into it. The experience helped me envision how much more difficult it would be to not only organize, coordinate, but also ensure that everything is perfect when it came to making the entire YJA Convention happen.

Even then, I did not think twice before going out of my way to have a separate hangouts call with that one person to make sure I provided all the information that he needed to be on the same page as the other team members. I think, maybe, I would not have done that if I had not seen Foram and Parshva constantly going out of their way, accommodating everyone's schedules, and taking the time to make sure everyone on the JAB admin team was updated!

Though committing to being part of the JAB Admin team was exciting, during the past couple of months, it became difficult to make the JAB calls due to exams, work, extracurricular commitments, but big shoutout to Foram and Parshva (the Co-leads of Daytime Programming for YJA 2018) for being immensely cooperative and understanding. More than that, they had even gone out of their way to have separate calls with me and some other people on the JAB Admin team who wouldn’t be able to make the call during its scheduled time.

When I had to lead the preliminary JAB call by myself for the first time, I was extremely nervous. Even coming up with questions seemed difficult at first because I was not sure of the expectations, and getting everything done by the deadline felt like a struggle at times when there were a lot of other things that I felt overwhelmed by. However, what truly made my experience fulfilling, meaningful, and worthwhile was constantly being surrounded by like-minded, understanding, supportive, and caring people who make seemingly time-consuming work, fun and enjoyable! Even just through the weekly hangouts call and working with a partner on JAB rounds started feeling like a sense of community.

The way Foram and Parshva led the JAB Admin team was beyond remarkable and admirable. Their actions were so inspiring that when I led my second JAB call with my team, there was one person who could not make it to the conference call when it was scheduled. It was almost midnight if not past midnight by the time we ended the call and I had to be up by 4:20 am the next morning for my internship.

Being able to contribute by helping the participants, in the same way I was helped and encouraged as a JAB participant two years ago, felt truly rewarding. It not only helped me enhance my multitasking, prioritizing, organization, and management skills, but also gave me an unprecedented opportunity to connect with like-minded people, and build a greater sense of community. If I were to redo it, I would do it all over again, but just better - I have truly evolved throughout the journey from being a JAB participant at YJA 2016 in Los Angeles, CA to being part of the JAB Admin Team for YJA 2018 in Chicago, IL. Darshi Shah YJA JAB Admin Team 2018 YJA JAB Participant 2016



My YJA Experience I must admit from the very beginning that this was my first YJA Convention EVER. Yes, yes, I know! And what an experience it was! As the Convention commenced, I witnessed droves of our youth waiting in the check-in line, excited to be part of the weekend, seeing their friends and getting to meet new people. I observed the committee members on top of their game, not letting any minor detail slip from their attention. Throughout the Convention, I met many of the Adult volunteers on the various floors of the hotel, securing each floor to account for every attendee. With kids under the age of 18, security had to be extremely tight and rules had to be enforced without partiality. The convention was beautifully executed by everyone involved in every facet of it. As a speaker, many members of the organizing Committee always ensured that we were taken care of, inquiring how the food was, whether we needed anything extra to make us comfortable or how my experience had been going.

My solo session was titled “What’s Your Story?” The session was about how we have the power to write our own story with knowledge of the basic elements involved in communicating with our soul, with the cells in our body that record every experience at every moment. Going into this session, I was in the dark as to whether this topic would be engaging to a youth audience. To my pleasant wonder, many attendees asked deeper questions on how they could move past certain blocks in their lives and how to identify when these blocks show up in our lives. This gave me affirmation that there are youth in our communities asking the deeper questions and seeking meaningful answers in their lives.

Varun Gandhi Speaker and Attendee

Love and Abundance to you! Dr. Varun Gandhi

I was involved in one solo session, an entrepreneur panel and with Sheenika on a relationship panel and as the facilitator of the serious speed dating. The response from each of these sessions was extremely pleasing.



Solving Problems the Jain Way Anjali Doshi and Hetali Lodaya JIA Admin Team

Develop a creative, forward-thinking, community-based solution to a pressing problem we face in our local Jain communities.


Six teams of five YJA attendees, each team led by a dynamic YJA peer mentor, were given this challenge two months before Convention. They spent the weeks before Convention identifying and researching real, pressing problems within their own Jain communities and creating viable solutions. As they progressed through numerous assignments, working together remotely through Google Hangouts, Slack messages, GroupMes, WhatsApp groups, and more, they learned about the human-centered design process, gaining valuable skills that apply across careers, jobs, and subject areas.

On July 4th, a day before the official start of Convention, many JIA participants arrived to Chicago early for 36 hours of intense hackathonstyle work time, punctuated with ice cream, icebreakers, and impromptu commercials for public speaking. A highlight of the JIA early programming was an engaging Q&A panel with the mentors, who shared honest, raw stories of their experiences with entrepreneurship and innovation. Teams arrived with just a basic idea of what they would present; working together, they iterated on their ideas and developed slides, did practice presentations well past midnight to mentors and admins, and woke up bright and


early the next day to present to entrepreneur Dipak Doshi Thursday morning. These efforts culminated in Semi-Finals Friday: all six teams presented, and three were chosen to advance. The Finalist teams presented and answered questions from a panel of judges in front of the entire Convention audience. The winning team, Maharajsaheb Messages, captivated the judges and audience with their proposal to create a platform for Jain youth in the West to ask honest questions of Jain

scholars and religious leaders, really engaging in dialogue with religious experts that Jain youth are often not able to access unless we travel to them. In the end, everyone involved with JIA, from participants to mentors to admins, was able to spend time thinking deeply about our Jain communities while learning, teaching, and practicing the principles of designing and innovating. We hope all involved enjoyed the competition, and can’t wait to see where these teams take their ideas moving forward!

Participants: Dhairya Dholiya Dhanesha Hemani Dhvani Mehta Jinali Shah Jubin Shah Kaivan Shah Ketan Kapasi Kriti Shah Naitik Soni Neha Jain Nicole Bohra Nikki Shah Paaras Modi Pranav Mody Pratham Mehta Rohin Kapadia Rupal Sanghavi Ruppesh Nalwaya Satej Shah Sean Gajjar Shailee Shah Sheily Shah

Shreya Udani Siddharth Kurwa Sohil Shah Twinkle Shah Urja Jariwala Vatsal Gandhi Vipasha Jain Yug Chauhan Mentors: Akash Shah Harsha Nahata Kunal Parikh Krupa Shah Priyal Gandhi Umang Patel Admin team: Hetali Lodaya Anjali Doshi


JIA: From the Ground Up



JIA 2018 Winner: Maharaj Saheb Messages By: Sheily Shah

As pathshala students involved in our Jain centers, we sometimes felt disengaged when learning about Jainism - and learned that other students felt the same way. Digging deeper, this issue stemmed from the fact that around 87% of youth had questions or doubts that weren't being solved by pathshala. We developed a strong interest to create something highly accessible and tech friendly to take a step to curb some of these doubts. After talking to many students, pathshala teachers and Jain elders, we realized that students had many questions and doubts about Jainism and its applications. They felt unfulfilled by the answers they were getting, viewing them as unapproachable and inconsistent. After talking to a young local sangh member, Rishi Zaveri, who spent time with a Maharaj Saheb, we realized that was the resource youth were missing. So, after a couple failed ideas, our team created a platform where youth could post their questions that we would then send to Maharaj Sahebs across India and the US. Then, we would post the answers back in a forum to share the knowledge. We prototyped this project with 30 questions and sent them to Maharaj Sahebs at Siddhayatan US in Dallas, TX who had agreed to work with us. Next Steps: We received a lot of good feedback from our prototype and plan to add functionality for various formats and to select specific Maharaj Sahebs. We will research limitations of sadhu and sadhvis and create a database for contacts and connections. We also hope to start the tech development for the platform as well as more user testing and prototyping. Most importantly, we hope to take a small step in reducing doubt in the Jain community. We hope students will ask questions out of curiosity and to strengthen their faith in Jainism instead of asking questions as "doubts" to poke holes - so that Jainism and the values it preaches can be spread to future generations instead of dismissed for "lack of proof".















Convention Crossword

ACROSS 4 Final JAB Round: Jain ? Feud 7 Montgomery County native 9 City of Rahm Emanuel 10 JNF Garden 11 3rd Floor Rooms 13 Jain International Trade Organization 14 JNF Community Service 15 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ & Skillz 18 State of JAINA 2019 19 Breakfast Room 21 First day dinner



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Above the Bottom Line Founder Final Release in Jainism Of Religious Diversity Where to stay in the Loop Icebreakers Yogurt-flavored music festival Stress: The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Effect Freedom, Law, and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Ten forms of _ _ _ _ _ _ Garba in the _ _ _ _ _ _ The Practical The Truth Behind the