January 2017

Page 1

Young Minds

January 2017




& NEW: ONLINE PATHSHALA Photo caption: Vardhamana (Mahavira Bhagwan) renounces all worldy life in search for nirvana.


YJA Retreats:

Sign up for the 2017 YJA retreats for your local region! Information inside.



WELCOME! CONTENTS: JANUARY 2017 letters 3 Co-Chairs



4-5 Prayers 6-7 The Next Generation, Giving Tuesday Update 8-9 Beyond the Art: The Future of Jainism 10-11 Clothing drive update 12-13 Veerayatan Spotlight, Communities 14-15 College Chapter, New Year’s Resolutions 18-19 Vipassana: Liberation by Imprisonment? 16-17 YJA Retreats & Online Pathshala, Resolutions in 2017 20-21 LR Shoutouts

YJA Northeast at Desserts and Dharma (Chestnut Hill)


Clothes donated to the Jain Fellowship of Houston!


MESSAGE FROM YOUR CO-CHAIRS Avish Jain & Hetali Lodaya | EMAIL: chairs@yja.org

“All living things love their life, desire pleasure and do not like pain; they dislike any injury to themselves; everybody is desirous of life and to every being, his life is very dear.” “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” - Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara. Jai Jinendra Readers, Happy New Year! We hope you were able to spend the holidays with family and friends, and in the communities close to your heart. In this issue of Young Minds you’ll hear from some of your fellow YJA members about different ways, big and small, that you can give back, speak up, and get involved with causes and groups important to you.

periences at retreats - three days of outdoor adventures, discussions on Jainism, and endless rounds of games (okay, we admit it, mostly Mafia) lead to lasting memories and friendships.You don’t want to miss it!

You’ll also see some articles in this issue on reflection, resolutions, and looking forward into the new year with purpose and vision. We’re doing the same as an executive board! We’re incredibly excited about everything YJA is going to do this year - we One of the most important ways we build our YJA can’t wait for your participation and, as always, welcommunities is through our yearly Regional Retreats. come your feedback at chairs@yja.org. Let’s keep Whether you’re a retreat regular or have never working together to make YJA the best it can be! been, we encourage you to save the date for the one closest to you and read more about each individual region’s location and activities on our website. Many Yours, people have their first and most formative YJA exAvish Jain & Hetali Lodaya



EDITOR: Salil Ojha youngminds@yja.org

Young Jains of America is the youth arm of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America.

writers Salil Ojha, Washington, D.C. salil.ojha@yja.org Sapna Jain, Atlanta, GA sapna.jain@yja.org Mansi Shah, Mid-Atlantic LR Jigna Adhuria, Mid-Atlantic LR Rachna Shah, Mid-West LR Rea Savla, West RC Anjali Doshi, Dir. of Education Juhi Shah, Mid-West LR Sparsh Jain, West LR

Ashok Domadia- President Gunvant Shah- First VP Rita Sheth- Treasurer Shobha Vora- Secretary



Ṇamō arihantāṇaṁ Ṇamō siddhāṇaṁ Ṇamō āyariyāṇaṁ Ṇamō uvajjhāyāṇaṁ Ṇamō lōē savva sāhūṇaṁ Ēsōpan̄chaṇamōkkārō, savvapāvappaṇāsaṇō Maṅgalā ṇaṁ ca savvēsiṁ, paḍamama havaī maṅgalaṁ

To Arhats, the perfect souls embodied, possessed of infinite cognition, knowledge, happiness, and power; To Siddhas, the perfect souls in Nirvana, formless and bodiless, free from all karmic attachment; To Acharyas, the masters of adepts in spirituality; To Upadhyayas, the adepts, guiding the scholar-ascetics, and To all Sadhus, the ascetics devoted to the contemplation of Self, I Make obeisance humble and Place at their worshipful feet this Feeble exposition of their profound teaching.


Michchhami Dukkadam To All Khämemi Savve Jivä, Savve Jivä Khamantu Me Mi Mitti Me Savva bhuesu, Veram majjham na Kenai. Michchami Dukkadam

खम्मामि सव्व जीवेषु सव्वे जीवा खमन्तु में, मित्ति में सव्व भू ए सू वैरम् मज्झणम् केण इ सब जीवों को मै क्षमा करता हूं, सब जीव मुझे क्षमा करे सब जीवो से मेरा मैत्री भाव रहे, किसी से वैर-भाव नही रहे

Jain Tirth I forgive all living beings. May all souls forgive me, I am on friendly terms with all, I have no animosity toward any soul. May all my faults be dissolved.

Palitana, the most significant pilgrimage site for Jains. Over 900 temples adorn these mountains in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, India.




Imagine coming to the United States as a Jain three or four decades ago - no mandirs, no derasars, no pathshala, no Jain educational resources. What would you have done to try to ensure that something so important to you lived on in the next generation? As Jain youth in this country, if we have been raised with a certain set of beliefs, values, and customs, it is often because we were fortunate to have a support system and structure for us to grow up with this influence. In other words, many of us know about Jainism and understand it because our parents saw a need to create structure - or else risk losing their traditions. Thanks to our parents and their broader communities, we now have JAINA, YJA’s parent organization, that binds Jain centers together. YJA has made steep progress since its founding, and continues to engage youth through Regional Coordinators and Local Representatives. We’ve come a long way. As time goes on, the responsibilities will transfer to us. Take a look around your mandir or derasar one weekend. You will likely see that most of the work is done by adults; perhaps even your parents help out in some manner to further the activities of the derasar. At my derasar, the Jain Fellowship of Houston, the parents and adults are responsible for nearly everything: from education and teaching, all the way to cooking and maintaining the property and idols. I often wonder whether this stewardship will continue in the same way in years to come. How many of us end up coming back to the mandir when we get older? For many of us born here, a lot changes when we go to college. We often become separated from the communities we have been brought up in. And while community is essential, it is not always the cornerstone of Jainism. To me, what strengthens and maintains a sense of community is not a focus on just our identity as Jains, but rather on our understanding of our faith and of our beliefs. Raised by my mom who is Jain and dad who is Hindu, I was lucky to understand both. I attended a Jewish middle school and a Christian high school, but attending Pathshala every Sunday from K-12 and then doing the Jain Academic Bowls at JAINA conventions

was where I truly understood my beliefs and how they defined me. I will forever be grateful to my teachers at the Jain Fellowship of Houston who helped me understand myself through the lens of Jainism. Spiritual experiences are hard to come by, and developing that interest in Jainism can be tough, especially when there are many forms of entertainment around us. For one, things like the JAINA Youth Activities this upcoming convention are a great way to get The involved. First I can say that my Pathshala years were whereThanksgiving I learned the most, since my parents pushed me to compete in at Plymouth JAB. It’s been harder now, having finished pathshala and by Jennie Agusta being busy with life. But I know this is not an Brownscombe, excuse for 1914 me - one must take the initiative at some point to understand Jainism, just as your friends of different faiths must do as well. The JAINA E-Library (http://www.jainlibrary.org) has been a great project to date. Registering on the site is free and it contains everything about Jainism you could possibly want to know about. I’d recommend you start with reading “Jain Tattva Parichay” (http://www.jainlibrary.org/book.php?file=007761) - it’s not too long and easy to understand. If you were at YJA in 2016, you have received a USB drive with some useful PDF’s to which I’ve linked here in a Dropbox folder (goo. gl/SpzIFz). You will also read in this issue about YJA Pathshala, a new initiative by Anjali Doshi, our Direction of Education in hopes of bringing Jainism to your computer. Much of society believes religion to be the subject of study later in life. We praise proficiency in computers and language, but a child interested in studying religion is often ridiculed. This 2017, I encourage you to spend 10 minutes a day on Jainism. After all, your soul is the only thing that you will carry with you into your next life. With Love and Micchami Dukkadam, Salil Ojha YJA Director of Publications


Fundraising Notes and Updates! Jai Jinendra everyone! Thank you all for your #GivingTuesday donations! We were able to raise a little over $4,000 which will be used for the upcoming regional retreats. As we start off 2017, think about what YJA means to you. Have you learned more about Jainism? Made new friends? Attended a regional event? How would you value that? $1? $5? $20? We’ve recently launched our recurring donation form so you can automatically donate to YJA each month - at an amount of your choosing! YJA is also selling ~vintage~ blankets! Just in time to wrap around yourself at an upcoming retreat to keep your warm (even though global warming is keeping us all warm.) $10 if you can pick it up from an RC, $15 if you’d like it shipped to you. If you’re interested, e-mail me @ fundraising@yja. org - supporting a great cause and avoiding frostbite all at once. What more could you ask for? As always, if you have questions, comments, or want to hear (or share) a fun joke, don’t hesitate to be in touch! Sincerely, Sapna Jain YJA Director of Fundraising jj

Observing the pain of mundane existence, one should not act with violence -- Acharanga Sutra, Mahavir Bhagwana




I was met with mixed emotion this past summer when I came across a sculpture

of Bahubali, Jain saint and son of Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was proud to see Jain art displayed so simply yet majestically among other Asian artwork. But I was also a little confused-- artwork is to be observed, but idols are to be worshipped. I left the exhibit wondering whether it was acceptable to take part in an appreciation of artwork without religious worship in mind, since the mere idea of walking around a museum often leaves observers with no choice but to wear shoes, leather articles, and many other typically forbidden items. We would never bring those things into our temples, but since we’re at a museum exhibit, it’s ok, right? I’m not really sure. The experience made me take a step back and think about the timeline of Jainism from a broader perspective. Jainism is known to predate Buddhism and rivals Hinduism as the oldest surviving religion. Tracing as far back as the the third or fourth millennium BC, there is believed to be one major period of decline in medieval India until around the 19th century. But where are we now? Is the existence of a Jain diaspora contributing to another period of decline? Many would say the religion still flourishes today, and while I can see how that is true, I have a much harder time believing that Jainism will continue to prosper in thirty years in the same way that it prospers today. This uncertainty stems from an honest evaluation of myself and my generation of young Jains, specifically young Jains in America. We are an eclectic group of individuals. Some of us go to the temple regularly, some of us do not. Some of us strictly follow a Jain diet, some of us cannot. Some of us tell ourselves we will do anything it takes to maintain our Jain values and traditions…but most do not. Growing up in America means living with a culture that will clash Jain values in some way or another. It’s difficult to do both. So most of us decide to sacrifice some aspect of the religion in order to balance American culture simultaneously. Our parents who grew up in India didn’t have to worry about this culture clash because lifestyle there generally supported religion, if not cultivated it. While it is very much possible to pursue a strict Jain lifestyle here in America, I think many of us choose to follow only certain aspects of the religion so that we can accommodate the realities of living in this country. The future of Jainism lies in our hands, but I don’t think we’re prepared for the weight we are being asked to carry.

09 The first and probably most likely reason for this reshaping comes from interfaith marriages. Those of us with Jain parents most likely come from a long lineage of Jain worship. Our parents learned from our great grandparents, who learned from their parents, and so on. But what if your parents represent two or more faiths? You will grow up learning one religion, both religions, or no religion at all. Your life experiences will probably determine what religion, if any, you identify with more. Interfaith marriages are symbolic of the pure and unconditional nature of true love, of a genuine understanding between two people who may have come from very different backgrounds.Yet it’s important to note that their growing popularity has the potential to erode parts of Jain tradition. Gautam Swami and St. Peter, both disciples of prominent religious leaders, helped carry a message for major world religions. But to equate both as just “disciples” means leaving out the details that give each collection of beliefs its true meaning. This isn’t to say that interfaith marriages will always lead to a decline of Jain tradition. They most likely will, however, alter the platform upon which Jain ideals are passed on from generation to generation. Second to interfaith marriage is the prevalence of culture over religion. From the rise of traditional Indian dance teams at universities around the country to eager participation in Holi and Diwali festivals, culture seems to prosper much more fervently than the religious history associated with it. This stems from a general lack of desire to gain more understanding about the religion combined with the added difficulty of studying religion, when students are already balancing coursework with their lives. Culture on the other hand, is easily diffusible. Indian dance, food, and heritage is much more visible in all aspects of young people’s lives simply because there is more interest in doing that which appears likeable. Jain literature may be easily accessible, but cultivating a genuine desire to both study and understand that material is a major challenge for the future. We should continue to take pride in our festivals and holidays, but we should also take the time to think about its religious significance. We should not blindly observe a ritual, but instead should realize that it fills an important cultural and moral space. Culture and religion go hand in hand, and tipping the scale in either direction is ultimately a threat to both. Jain ideals remain the same, but the ways in which we express those ideals are dependent on new cultural influences that simply did not exist fifty years ago. “ONLY THE Rather than worry about the erosion of Jainism, we should react to those influencesHAS so as to ensure a bright and prosperous future. Parents must continue to ONE WHO play an active role in passing on Jain values to the next generation of youth. Jain TRANSCENDED centers and temples must continue to provide educational programs, such as FEAR CAN classes, and allow for youth to apply what they have learned beyond Pathshala the scope of such programs. Collectively, we must take responsibility for preservEXPERIENCE ing the rich history of Jainism for future generations of young people in America. EQUANIMITY” As proud as I am to see Jainism displayed in the halls of world-renowned museMAHAVIRA, SUTRAKRTANGA ums, 1/2/2/17 the knowledge that comes from our religion cannot be limited solely to the boundaries of those walls.



YJA’S FIRST CLOTHING DRIVE! With your help, we were able to collect over 7,000 clothing articles for YJA’s first Interregional Clothing Drive! Throughout the two weeks, we had jeans, sweaters, gloves, Indian clothes, and much more donated to help those in need for this winter season.YJA was given this amazing opportunity to donate to over 25 centers around the nation, such as Helping Hand for Relief and Development, Ronald McDonald House, and homeless shelters! Thank you to all the volunteers who helped us count the clothes and dropped them off to the donation centers. In addition, congrats to the South region for having the most donations and winning the competition! #YJAGivesBack






Have you always wanted to volunteer, but never found the time? Did you consider trips like Habitat for Humanity and volunteering trips abroad in high school and college? Some of us have worked for nonprofits such as AmeriCorps or Teach for America after graduation. Like a lot of us in our late teens and early twenties, my itch for volunteering almost led me to opt for a one year unpaid stint in a women’s shelter after graduation. I have found that fortunately, volunteering does not have to stop, whether you are in high school, college, or working. Even if you are facing hard times, giving your time to serve others will have positive benefits. No matter how busy you are, it is the perfect supplement to any schedule. Growing up, attending a Catholic high school and Jain Pathshala taught me a lot about giving back. Mahavir Bhagwan’s compassion, or karuna, is a characteristic that we hear of often as Jains. I believe compassion and volunteering go hand in hand. Despite having been taught it, I only understood what it meant to give back after graduating from college. Learning does not only have to happen in the workplace or in school. I promised myself to volunteer with an organization once a week for three hours for a year. My boss was understanding, and allowed a change in my work schedule to do so. Now it has been almost 3 years! I look forward to volunteering on Sundays and learn so much from other volunteers.Yes, it is not always easy, and some days the idea of staying in bed and sleeping will sound more appealing.The key is not to give up on the commitment. The experience that comes from learning to commit and volunteer for a year will not come from meeting family and friends or relaxing at home. When deciding on where to commit, ask yourself, where do your passions lie? Education for youth or adults? Protecting the environment? Giving time to the elderly or volunteering at a nursing home? If you are not sure, think about any experiences and extracurricular activities which you really enjoyed in school. Also consider, what age group do you work well with or what age group have you not worked with yet? Where could you volunteer that it would also have a personal meaning for you, i.e. derasar? Are you giving back every day or at least once a week? If you are able to, volunteer locally. It could be giving back at your derasar as a volunteer, or tutoring children at your local school. If weekly is not something you are able to do due to being away for school, It could be a once-a-year volunteering trip to India or even planning a local film festival. Any time given to volunteering in person is invaluable to you and the organization. As a volunteer, be at the organization’s disposal and respectfully help in every way possible. Go all in without any expectations. The only hard part is starting. Ask friends and family if they know of any local organizations that could use extra hands. Otherwise, research online. Considering our topic, I would like to spotlight a Jain non-profit organization.Veerayatan, one such leading Indian organization, has three main branches/locations:Veerayatan International,Veerayatan Bihar, and Veerayatan Kutch, and a threefold vision of Seva (Humanitarianism), Shiksha (Education), and Sadhana (Inner Development). Started by Acharya Shri Chandanaji in 1973,Veerayatan Bihar is run by Sadhvis along with the support of the Jain community. The organization empowers others following their three main goals; for example,Veerayatan runs elementary and secondary schools in Kutch and Bihar, India, which provide education to those in need. In addition, they have many other programs as well. If you are interested in learning more about this organization, check out their website and the Veerayatan Volunteer Program (VVP). Information is here: Contact information: volunteer@veerayatan.org | http://veerayatan-intl.org/information-2/





“Community” is a word that refers to organizations, but also to the people within them that influence a person during their life. To me, it feels as though many of us today tend to pursue an insular mindset of community and do not reach out to the people around us like we used to. We have begun to engage less with our neighbors and local community members. Thus, communities have grown estranged. Caught up in the stifling haze of an ever-globalizing world, many of us have become unintentionally isolated. Thirty years ago, our networks were more significant, often with our neighbors, family and friends. Nowadays, our social bonds are beginning to grow estranged. This should not be the case. Our networks allow us to be the best versions of ourselves, enriching us with experiences and knowledge. Physically living within a community is not equivalent to being a part of it. To be part of a network, relationships must be formed. Social bonding is required and individuals must come together to help each other in times of need and hardship. United by a common goal or value, we can consolidate our diverse views and experiences to bring about the change we want to see in the world. Jainism espouses the message of compassion and consideration through collaboration on a local level. As the holiday season approaches, it is easier than ever to remember and reclaim the value of community and to carve a niche within yours. Meeting and networking within your community will make a difference in your own life as well as their lives. One of the leading reasons for a lack of community involvement is not knowing how to get involved.You can volunteer at a local temple, serving Paryushan meals or helping program an event. Many temples are affiliated with community-based organizations. For instance, in California, the Jain Center of Southern California is associated with the Anekant Community Center, which provides health services in India. Some communities have homeless shelters, food pantries, libraries, art galleries, and various youth organizations that are always in need for help, especially around the busy holiday months. For much the same reason, you can start a book or clothing drive. Often forgotten, however, are local events. Purchasing locally owned produce and supporting small businesses are great ways to show your support and commitment to your community. If politically inclined, you can run for a position on your town’s board or get engaged in local civics. If you have a specific interest or skill, let your community benefit from it, no matter how impractical you may view it to be. After all, the opportunities for civic engagement are endless. They range from writing, to volunteering, to donating- whatever is best suited to you. The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago in Bartlett, IL and the Jain Society of Greater Detroit in Farmington Hills, MI often organize inter-faith dialogues and health fairs that you can partake in. A few notable organizations in the Midwest community are: Feed My Starving Children (IL and MN) and Care for Friends (IL). Some larger organizations are WaterAid America (centered in New York) and Habitat for Humanity.You can even use sites such as volunteermatch.org that match your specific talents and abilities to opportunities near you. If you find yourself unable to donate your time, you can still provide other resources such as old books or clothes. No matter your age, time commitments, or other limiting factors, I suggest that you consider giving back to your community. To avoid becoming isolated, we must actively take a step into our communities. We can inspire change, action, collaboration, and to bind together our fellow Jains one day and a time. The strength of new friendships is potentially the best gift you’ll receive this holiday season.



I met Niharika in my Thursday evening lecture in the second month of college. As I pulled up her Facebook profile on my phone to add her (after less than an hour of meeting her - I was a college Freshman after all), I couldn’t help but let out a wide smile upon reading her last name, “Jain.” My over-enthusiastic response to her name reminded me how much I missed the Jain community and mornings of reflection at the derasar I had grown up with. Niharika and I quickly bonded over this mutual feeling, and by the end of the lecture, we had resolved to build a similar family at our school, UC Berkeley. We spent the next several months searching for other Jains at school, scouting for “Shahs” and “Jains” on our class Facebook groups and embracing our boldness in sending dozens of messages reading “Hey! Are you Jain?” to then strangers (thankfully, most recipients found it endearing). As we continued reaching out to people, we began the process of understanding what this group should be. Would it be a purely social club? Or a space to learn about Jainism? Or an outlet to practice the tenets of Jainism, such as seva (community service)? Drawing from the example set by YJA, we decided it could be all three and more. At its core, we wished for UC Berkeley Jain Students Association, like YJA, to be a support system to help us realize our values, celebrate life, and make the world a better place. We held our first meeting last fall. We were nervous! Despite sending out numerous messages, plastering social media with our event, and begging our friends to come, we were unsure of the final turnout, whether this was something truly desired by our classmates. We were overwhelmed by the response - over twentyfive people attended our first meeting, and even more were interested in getting involved! Since then, this group of students has blossomed into a family, a family that has done garba together, enjoyed dinners together, celebrated an interfaith Diwali together, learned about Jainism in discussions and lectures together, spent countless nights playing cards together, and grown stronger, together. I am so grateful for the home I have found and the lessons I have learned about Jainism, values, ethics, politics, sports, the game of mafia, dance, and life in each of these individuals. I look forward to welcoming new members to our family and creating a space united in bringing positive change. Interested in starting a YJA College Chapter at your university? Email projects@yja.org to learn more!


MAKING ACHIEVABLE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS BY ANJALI DOSHI, YJA DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION The New Year recently passed and many of us are making resolutions for the upcoming year. Whether they be academic, career, health, relationship, or in other categories, these resolutions are often far-reaching goals that we’d love to accomplish.Yet often we rarely carry out our New Years’ resolutions and even forget about them after January ends. So how can we apply Jain ideas to make achievable resolutions and stick to them? According to Jainism, there are five causes for anything that occurs: time, nature, fate, karma or actions, and self-effort. These causes can affect our ability to carry out our resolutions, so we can take note of them when making the resolutions in the first place. Time, or kal, encompasses the idea that certain things will occur at certain times. If a degree takes three to four years to achieve and I am in my first year, for example, resolving to graduate in the current year would not make sense. Instead, I could resolve complete certain requirements for graduation, such as a certain elective or declaring a major. Nature, or swabhav, implies that the nature of things affects what occurs. Therefore, goals should take into account what is reasonable and feasible based on our own natures. I cannot resolve to grow five inches by the end of the year--it’s simply not possible for me to grow at will. The concept of fate (niyati) reminds us that some part of what we can accomplish is not always up to us. I may resolve to run a marathon this year, but unexpectedly injure my leg before I can do so. When making resolutions, we should keep in mind that we cannot control every factor, and not be discouraged if unexpected obstacles come up. Karma, or the results of our past actions, also affect our situations. Though we can’t know what karma we have and when it will affects us, we can focus on gaining good karma for the future and eliminating bad karma by following Jain principles. Resolving to volunteer as a tutor, for example, can help remove our knowledge-obstructing karma, but resolving to take someone else’s textbook so that they cannot study can cause us to gain this bad karma. Finally, self-effort, or purusharth, directly causes us to achieve goals, while the lack of it prevents us from attaining it. Resolving to get in touch with a friend who has moved away, for example, is nice in theory, but can only be achieved by actually picking up the phone or sending a message. Any resolution we make must be accompanied by our own effort and hard work in order to achieve it. In summary, as illustrated by the 5 Causes, our goals should be reasonably achievable and take into account the time needed. We should be prepared for unexpected obstacles and not get discouraged when they occur. Our goals should not violate Jain principles and should involve positive deeds. Finally, in order to accomplish our goals we must put forth consistent willpower and effort from January through December. What resolutions will you make?


2017 RETREATS & YJA is composed of a network of 6 regions throughout the United States. Each year, individual regions host a weekend retreat to bring the great minds of Jain youth together.YJA regional retreats are both a social and spiritual experience, where Jain youth meet to collaborate on their views on Jainism and living a Jain lifestyle. Our aim is to provide a fun, yet educational experience, from which each Jain youth can walk away feeling enriched and with a handful of new friends. Each retreat follows the same general structure but has some variations based on the location and theme of the retreat. Each retreat has Jain speakers, great Jain food, social and educational sessions, group discussions, and bonding with friends. Information specific to each region can be found below and you can click on the underlined title above to go to the YJA Retreat website.

February 18 - 20 Mid-Atlantic Region


Location: Pigeon Forge, TN RC: Neehar Gandhi


Location: East Stroudsburg, PA RC: Dipal Savla Email: midatlantic@yja.org April 14 - 16 Northeast Region Location TBD RC: Pankti Tamboli Email: northeast@yja.org February 17 - 19 Mid-West Region Location: Alto, MI RC: Anand Shah Email: midwest@yja.org March 10 - 12 South Region Location: Seguin, TX RC: Siddharth Shah Email: south@yja.org March 17 - 19 Southeast Region

Email: southeast@yja.org March 17 - 19 West Region Location: Badger, CA RC: Rea Savla Email: west@yja.org


This year, we’ll be launching a low-stress, low-time commitment online Pathshala course for ages 14-29 taught over several months, covering topics from Jain philosophy and rituals, to Jain history and culture, to practice in the modern day. Anyone who cannot regularly attend Pathshala, or even those who do attend Pathshala but are interested in supplemental materials, is welcome to take part--no prerequisite level of knowledge required! To get on the mailing list, simply fill out this short form (https://goo. gl/bTLWIC)

All across America,YJA regions are preparing to host interfaith events and discussions. A core part of Jainism is Anekantvad: the ability to understand multiple perspectives and opinions while maintaining your own. Be sure to check out where your region will be hosting them in the coming weeks on Facebook. Click below for info on the Mid-West interfaith. Other interfaith events will be posted soon on Facebook. Mid-West Interfaith



RESOLUTIONS IN 2017 BY JUHI SHAH: YJA LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE, MID-WEST New Year’s resolutions. A fresh start. A new beginning. Every 12 months we get a new opportunity to make a promise to ourselves. Sometimes, we realize that we’re making the same promise...for the fifth year in a row. This doesn’t mean we all have horrible luck or terrible self-discipline. In fact, as Jains, most of us have great self-control for giving up pizza and late snacks for eight or ten days every year. It just means that some promises are hard to keep, and that some habits are hard to let go of. Sometimes you slip up, but you shouldn’t have to wait months to try again. I think New Year’s resolutions are mainly just psychological, like when you tell yourself you’ll start studying at 8. Then at 8:05 you decide you have to wait another 55 minutes because 9 is a fresh start. I believe that resolutions should not be limited to a new year, new month, a new chapter in your life, or even a new beginning. I think change can happen at any minute of any day. For example, you could decide to not judge your coworker one day, or you could decide to eat carrots instead of chocolate pudding one day.You could decide to not yell at your sibling one day, It doesn’t have to be January 1st or your birthday or Diwali or Samvatsari. It could be any random day. As Jains, we strive to attain liberation and end this cycle of life and death. We don’t wait till we’ve reached a certain age requirement to start working towards this achievement. Our path to liberation is cumulative. There is no age limit or age requirement for nirvana. We strive for moksha every day in pretty much every lifetime. Similarly, we should be making “New Year’s” resolutions whenever we want. So, if you slip up that second of week of February, try again the third week. Don’t wait for another new year. We all do little things, like scooping up every house spider with a paper plate instead of stepping on it, in hopes of progressing towards liberation, or at least get another shot at it by being born human again. We do this by trying to be better human beings. Resolutions, trying again and again, will help us become the person we want to be. Probably not immediately, but eventually. One resolution at a time.





Imagine a building far away from the city, where you are instructed to meditate. Not for 10 minutes, an hour or even a day, but 10 full days.You are asked not to speak to anybody else, nor are you permitted to read a book, write in a journal, exercise, or even listen to music. All you can do is hang out at a private party inside your head. You may not be wrong if this description sounds like prison. However, this is what a Vipassana Meditation program consists of. For several years, my parents spoke to me about Vipassana – and how the experience is vital for me to go forward in life. Being the teenager that I was, I couldn’t see the point of it. After two years of constantly hearing about it, I decided to enroll to a 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Program in July this past summer. While others decided to relax and go on exciting vacations, I decided to spend some time between high school and college at a meditation camp. Little did I know that this experience would genuinely change the way I looked at the world - outside and within. Vipassana means, “to see things as they really are”. It is an insight that cuts through conventional perception to perceive mind and matter as they literally are: impermanent and impersonal. Although Vipassana has been pivotal to the Buddhist belief, it is not limited to Buddhism and can be applied by persons of any background. The technique works on the basis that all human beings share the same problems and that a pragmatic method which can eradicate these problems can be universally practiced. I started to make links between my experience doing Vipassana and my life as a Jain. ‘To see things as they really are’ is the same as Samyag Darshan in Jainism. Per Jainism, Samyag Darshan is the first step towards liberation; one cannot attain Kevaljnan without having Samyag Darshan. Jainism is founded upon 3 pillars, and so is Vipassana: JAINISM Ahimsa- Non Violence Aparigraha- Non Possessiveness Anekantvad- Non Absolutism

VIPASSANA Anicca/Anitya- Law of Impernanence Anatta- Non Self Uppekha- Equanimity

On our fourth day of meditation, we were introduced to the actual Vipassana technique- to observe every sensation in our body that manifests and disappears.Vipassana was the process of realizing the essence of life— that everything is transitory. The human mind often reacts to life situations by generating emotions of aversion, craving or delusion. The idea of the technique is to replace the nature of generating those emotions with being equanimous. Aparigraha and Anatta are almost interchangeable terms, since they both talk about the concept of not creating bondages with any object in our lives – animate or inanimate. Furthermore, the knowledge of Anekantvad and Uppekha helps us understand that everything in nature is Anicca (impermanent). Making such links between the fundamentals of Jainism and Vipassana made me learn something greater – that Jainism allowed me to gain the intellectual knowledge, while Vipassana allowed me gain experiential knowledge.


Not only did I learn about how Vipassana links to Jainism, but also of the secular nature of the practice. As S.N. Goenkaji, a proponent of Vipassana in Burma, said: “The malady is universal; therefore, the remedy has to be universal. For example, when we experience anger, this anger is not Christian anger or Hindu anger, Chinese anger or American anger. Similarly, love and compassion are not the strict province of any community or creed; they are universal human qualities resulting from purity of mind”. While knowledge and critical thinking may be essential to growth, I have begun to understand that they are not adequate for a deeper transformation. Our education propagandizes us into believing that intellect is supreme. Body has often been perceived in a superficial way, for its health and wellbeing, but not as the physical recipient of all experiences. Furthermore, in our innocence, we constantly separate body and mind; but once we begin to observe them in duality, the real truth may emerge. Vipassana showed me that I could actually control my mind and its thoughts. It has the capacity to transform and enhance the human brain, character and deepen one’s understanding of Jainism. If you have never been to this “prison camp” before, I highly recommend it – it is a phenomenal experience.



SHOUTOUTS SNAPSHOTS INTO THE LIVES OF YJA LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. YJA could not operate without Local Representatives, who do so much for us every week at Jain centers across the United States. With every Young Minds release, we highlight a few of them and what YJA means to them.


Moulik Solanki LR: West YJA to me is a community where people can meet new people, share ideas, and work together to help others by demonstrating Jain principles with one another. My favorite part about being an LR is the opportunity to meeti people in my community and making new friends.YJA’s strength lies in our community and I envision YJA becoming a prominent force to create positive change in our communities.

Jubin Shah LR: Mid-West (Louisville, KY) My first convention was in New Jersey 7 years ago. Coming from a small, “up and coming” town, it was the first time I felt a sense of community within the Jain youth. Since then my favorite part has been all of the inside jokes such as, “Jai Tirthankars” and “Have to Patigiu”(now it’s over). Being a Local Representative has given me the opportunity to become a better Jain and to do my part to make YJA known to all as a group of influential thinkers who help pivot our communities towards a better future. I envision YJA getting a Buzfeed shout-out in the future for its continuous engagement. Till that happens, it is both your and my responsibility to make that happen.


Sapna Humar LR: Northeast (Toronto, Ontario) To me, YJA means being able to connect young Jains across North America and the world, and helping them learn more about their heritage, which I am able to do as a Local Representative. I’ve loved being an LR for YJA because I’ve really enjoyed integrating Toronto Jains into YJA and I’ve loved how it’s given me the chance to be more involved in the community. In the future, I envision YJA to be recognized and well known internationally as an organization that supports, connects, and educates young Jains everywhere, and teaches Jain youth our culture and values.

s month, we are also recognizing these LRs:

Ketan Kapasi LR: South (Austin, TX) YJA, as the nexus of Jains all across the country, has been my primary means to connect with Jains beyond Texas. I’ve been involved in various social and professional organizations over time -- but only YJA provides a foundation for me to relate with people of a similar cultural and religious background, and I cherish that. The love, friendship, and warmth of our community is what has kept me part of YJA for so long, and it is these qualities that I love most as an LR. YJA activities, whether they be local events or national conventions, all serve to further strengthen our sense of community, belonging, and purpose. Through these activities, YJA has great potential to not only support the bonds of our youth group, but also represent the message of non-violence in more robust and active ways. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead for YJA!

Sakhi Shah LR: Mid-Atlantic (Livingston, NJ) This is my first year being an LR and being a part of YJA, but it has carved a huge place in my life in this short amount of time. YJA brought me closer to my faith and it continually helps me see Jainism in a perspective outside of just prayers. The best part about being an LR is that it gives you so many opportunities to be a part of something great, whether it be a conversation or an event. Everything you do as an LR leaves you with a new lesson learned and a new outlook on an aspect of life. I think that YJA in the future will be a bigger group for the Jain youth to not only participate in the biennial conventions and regional events, but it will be a platform for young Jains to grow together in faith, morals, and life. This month, we are also recognizing:

Payal Mehta LR: Southeast


Stay Connected to Young Jains of America instagram: youngjainsofamerica facebook: YoungJains twitter: YJAtweets snapchat: TheYoungJains