July 2016

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Young Minds Young Jains of America | Established 1991

Jai Jinendra! As we celebrate YJA's 25th Anniversary, we reflect upon how far we have come as an organization. In July of 1991, a small group of young Jains established a vision to promote the teachings of their religion across North America. The foundation they set has grown and prospered over the years, and today we thank them for starting something that has positively impacted thousands of lives. The 2016 YJA Convention was a perfect symbol of how far the Jain youth community has come over the past 25 years. With our theme, Young Jains: Agents of Change, we showed each other that in addition to being catalysts for change within our own lives, we have the power to create change in the world around us. We all went home with a greater understanding of using Jainism to promote social justice in religious, professional, and social settings. Looking ahead, we would like to remind everyone that YJA has so much more to offer than just the convention. Along with local and regional events, we have been working on multiple projects throughout the year, such as educational webinars, YJA Forums, our College Chapters Project, and more. We encourage all of you to get more involved, and for those of you who would like to hold a leadership position, we highly recommend that you apply for the 2016-2017 Executive Board! As always, we thank our Board of Trustees, JAINA, our donors, volunteers, and Jain sanghs nationwide for their endless support! Sincerely, Puja Savla & Sunny Dharod YJA Executive Board Co-Chairs July 2016

Summer Issue


2016 YJA Convention

From the Editor: Dear Reader, Although July is almost over, the vibrations from the 2016 YJA Convention continue to resonate deeply and spread widely. Four weeks ago 650 hearts grew, and as we complete the second half of the year, I hope we inspire hundreds more. In this issue meet millennial young Jains - your peer movers, shakers, and thinkers. YJA extends far beyond a biennial event, and particularly for those unable to attend, flip through this issue and join in on reflection and introspection. The 2016 YJA Board sought to reimagine the boundaries of YJA, and I believe the collective sentiment is one of ringing success. To the entire board, thank you for your unwavering dedication. We made it. To all volunteers, thank you for your continuous support. And most importantly, to every YJA member, thank you for contributing your time and interest. You all are the true stars. As I complete two terms on board, I would like to take a moment and encourage you all to apply. In two years I have travelled the nation and found a community who gives selflessly, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Join the family. Always seeking to inspire, Saejal Chatter Director of Publications youngminds@yja.org


Namokar

Mantra Ṇamō arihantāṇaṁ
 I bow to the arihants, destroyers of their inner enemies.
 
 Ṇamō siddhāṇaṁ
 I bow to the siddhas, the liberated souls.
 
 Ṇamō āyariyāṇaṁ
 I bow to the acharyas, the religious leaders.
 
 Ṇamō uvajjhāyāṇaṁ
 I bow to the upadhyays, the religious teachers.
 
 Ṇamō lōē savva sāhūṇaṁ
 I bow to all the sadhus and sadhvis, those who have renounced the worldly life and follow a path of simplicity.
 
 Ēsōpan̄chaṇamōkkārō, savvapāvappaṇāsaṇō
 Maṅgalā ṇaṁ ca savvēsiṁ,
 paḍamama havaī maṅgalaṁ
 This five-fold bow (mantra) destroys all sins and obstacles, and of all auspicious mantras, is the first and foremost one.

YJA Board in Action


Agape An Experience That Taught Me About Respecting Others' Perspectives: The way you perceive other people or how you perceive other people to view you could change how you see reality. -Monika Jain

I spent this Fourth of July as I have been spending almost all my Fourth of July’s since I can remember: sleep-deprived and eating chutney sandwiches while surrounded by 600-plus Jain people, most of whom I am related to. This year’s Jain convention, "Young Jains of America: Agents of Change," was hosted in Los Angeles. And I’m not quite sure what the reason was, but I was more excited, yet anxious, about this convention compared to the other conventions I had been to. Maybe it was because my sister and I were put in different age groups so I couldn’t tag along with her. Maybe it was because half of the YJA board was comprised of some of my best friends, and I knew how much work had gone into this. Or maybe it was because there was some low-key pressure that I was expected to come out of this convention with a future husband. Who knows? But in the end, it was an incredible weekend. I had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends while making new ones. During the day, I sat in on lectures educating me on my religious and professional futures, while by night I was tearing up the dance floor during garba or the formal. Following the tradition, on the very last night of the convention, the attendees pulled an allnighter (or at least until 6:30 a.m.) to spend time and play games with each other, making newfound friendships even stronger. Around 7:30 a.m., my phone buzzed with a text from my mom: “Moni. R u up?” Well, now I was. I responded, “Yup Mom, just waking up. What’s the plan?” My mom and I both had the same flight back to Houston around noon, and then she would go to Memphis from there. But my sister had left earlier that morning, and texted my mom a status update. Apparently, LAX had received a tip about a threat from ISIS and all security precautions were elevated. How ironic, since it was the Fourth of July — and even more ironic, it was the day that 600-plus brown people were flying out of that airport. I rolled out of bed to quickly wash my face and pack up my bag before heading down to breakfast and meeting up with my mom. Because of the potential threat, security lines were most likely going to be a lot longer, so we needed to get to the airport earlier than originally planned.

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I was a little nervous flying out that morning. It was paranoia and an irrational fear, but part of me felt like there was a high chance I would get stopped in the airport for a “random screening.” And my mom actually was stopped in security, but it was because the embellishments on her traditional Indian clothes made the monitor light up red like the “Operation” game. One of the sessions I attended at YJA that weekend was about multiplicity of views, also known as “Anekantvad.” The essence of this Jain value is that no single viewpoint is the complete truth; it takes a diversity of perceptions to better understand the reality. A classic example of Anekantvad is the story of the six blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind men feel a different part of the elephant, claiming their description to be the most accurate. For example, one man feels the elephant's leg and says the animal is like a pillar while another feels the ear and says the elephant is like a hand fan. While each individual observation is correct in its own way, one must encompass all the perspectives to get a full picture. In the same way, I had put myself in a single viewpoint: I was defining myself by the color of my skin and assuming people were making a judgment about me based on that. In a society surrounded by so much violence, we can’t afford to be harmful toward ourselves as well. Just as we must keep an open mind about other people's values, we shouldn't limit our perception of how the world sees us. That sideways glance from the security officer could’ve been because of the bags under my eyes, or the limp in my stride from the blisters on my feet. Whether it’s a post on Facebook, a story in the news, or even a personal encounter, take a second before jumping to a conclusion regarding the topic. Misunderstanding and lack of communication are some of the roots in the violence we are witnessing today. You can formulate your own opinion, but also acknowledge the other person’s perspective. You never know what you may learn.

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Agents of Change – Breaking the Trend that is Disconnecting the Next Generation of Jains in North America

2016 YJA Agents of Change Winning Essay - Sunny Jain As we dive deeper into the 5th ara of the cosmic wheel, a world where elements such as compassion, trust, and faith are overpowered by the four kasayas of anger, greed, ego, and deceit, the importance of unified and tightly knit Jain communities around the world is more apparent than ever. As a Jain born in the Manushya Gati, we have been bestowed with the knowledge and human capability to facilitate meaningful change and help others around us. Just as Newton’s Third Law states that every action has a reaction, even the smallest act of kindness can significantly impact someone’s life, and in turn even create more Agents of Change. My story follows the footsteps of your archetypal American born Jain, who halfheartedly participated in Jain youth events and community functions before completely disconnecting from the c o m mu n i t y u p o n e n t e r i n g college life. Of course, this wasn’t something I was particularly proud of. Every week would be a reiteration of the previous week, in which I’d declare an ultimatum to get more involved at Dehrasar – only for it to backfire, whether it be an upcoming exam or the sudden need for more sleep on a Sunday. Visiting Dehrasar once a week would evolve into once a month, until it conceded to “showing face” on Mahavir Jayanti and randomly selected Sundays where I would “get my Darshan in” before making my swift escape. Sadly, I wasn’t the only one. What makes so many of this generation disconnect from the Jain community like I had done at their age? Is it the absence of English-oriented lectures and community events, creating major communication barriers for American born and English speaking Jains? Is it the lack of Jain Fellowship and Youth activities in their area, which provide fantastic opportunities to meet other Jains their age? In the pursuit of catering to the needs of the general Dehrasar population, is there a lack of focus on this often forgotten demographic of Jains between the ages 18 to 30? It may very well be all of the above reasons and more; however one thing is certain, there is a missing sense of community. Building a sense of community is the string that unites Jains of different ages, interests, and backgrounds towards a common goal, our Dehrasar.

Without a sense of community, people are less motivated to get involved, cliques begin to form among different age groups, and more troublingly, people feel lost and aren’t able to find their place in the group. Their Dehrasar doesn’t feel like “home,” as it should. It wasn’t until many years later when I realized that even someone like myself could be an Agent of Change, through something as little as Every Jain has a role supporting our local YJA to play in building this and Jain Fellowship events sense of community and encouraging others to get involved, whether it be Ultimate Frisbee and the YJA Regional Retreat, or religious oriented events such as Chaitya Pariparti. By setting an example for the next generation, I defy the norm that life after high school necessitates disengaging from the community like I had done their age. No matter your age or background, every Jain has a role to play in building this sense of community, just as I have done through something as little as getting more involved and encouraging others to do the same. As Agents of Change, we are the ones who can facilitate real change and build a foundation for our youth, those who represent the future of our Dehrasar, community, and religion. The next time you see a new face at Dehrasar, whether adult or child, actively go out the way to make the new person feel welcome, feel valued. Even if it requires breaking out of your own comfort zone. Build a genuine relationship with this person, and perhaps exchange contact information, so that they will return and one day do the same for someone else. As an introvert, I know all too well how difficult it can be to meet new people and assimilate into a group of people you don’t know, especially if they aren’t your age. As Jains living in an era shaped by forward thinking and progressive ideals, we must collectively rethink the way our communities are socially structured and how we can create an environment that is more welcoming and inclusive for Jains of all ages. I call on all my fellow Agents of Change to lead by example, to break this pattern that is disconnecting our generation, and to encourage others to do the same. Together, we are the future of Jainism.

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2016-2017YJAExecutive Board Applications are LIVE! ______________________________________

“Being on board is an incredible way to meet fantastic people, make friendships for a lifetime, improve your professional skills, and learn more than you have ever before.” -Mishi Jain, South RC 2014-2015, Director of Project Development 2015-2016

“I came into this knowing some of these amazing people, barely knowing most, but came out with a family consisting of incredible individuals from around the country.” -Adit Shah, Director of Finance 2015-2016

“There is something special about being a part of a team like this, and it’s not something I want to even try explaining. It’s a wonderful surprise I want all future boardies to experience all on their own. All I hope is that you cherish each of the relationships you build just as I have.” -

-Simmi Nandu, South RC 2015-2016

“Easily one of the best experiences of my life.” -Avish Jain, Director of IT 2015-2016

______________________________________ Visit yja.org/elections to download applications and view election details. Co-Chair Application Deadline: August 1st, 2016 Regional Coordinator and Director Application Deadline: August 8th, 2016

Come join the #yjafamily!

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The Inconvenience of Love Karishma Shah | www.inretrospekt.com

Since I can remember, I have always felt that the reason for most problems in the world is due to the lack of love and care. Growing up without any parental affection, emotional attachment or sense of security can cause a variety of emotional and mental issues such as a detachment to others, feeling of seeking revenge, self-pity and more. Often, the reason that someone has anger issues, executes an act of violence or is closed-off from others is rooted from that emotional deprivation. The environment we grow up in impacts our decision-making and emotional behavior later. Since we were born, we needed the touch of our mother, the individual care of parents and the assurance of knowing that someone is protecting us. These actions alone help in the development of our mind and body. Therefore, the absence of these actions inhibits such growth. The way our parents treated us is the way we know how to treat others. If our parents were constantly yelling at us or were absent from our lives completely, that often affects the way we react to future situations, though, obviously there are exceptions. Children who are physically or mentally punished or abused through anger are more likely to become violent themselves. For example, common traits of violent people are: dysfunctional home environment, childhood abuse and lack of friends, to name a few. I was lucky enough to grow up with very understanding parents who not only stated the values that Jainism preached, but also explained the reasoning behind such values. Because of this, I continue to follow the path of Jainism and its teachings: value of life, non-violence, understanding different perspectives and more. Recently, I attended a biennial Young Jains of America (YJA) Convention where I attended a session hosted by an intelligent and eloquent kindness advocate, Houston Kraft, who spoke about the importance of kindness and love. Kraft had mentioned a few things that I personally believe in so deeply. He stated that there are two things that are true:

1. Every single living being deserves to feel they belong here. They deserve the feeling of acceptance and love. 2. We are all capable of making others feel loved. What I took from it is that each person here on this Earth is the same as you and I. They were Every single living born, they live and they being deserves to feel w i l l d i e . T h e y a r e they belong here. capable of growth, emotion, happiness and pain. They feel and we can make them feel. They have a heartbeat and a soul. We are all connected in this strange universal way. Yet, many times there is a total disconnect. When I was in in India in January 2014, I visited the city area where it was packed with hundreds and hundreds of people who were all there to shop. It was so busy, in fact, that you could barely get some steps in before bumping into a few people. I was warned ahead of time to keep my belongings close to me as pickpocketing was very common there. The day I went was the day a really big Bollywood star, Amitabh Bachchan, was in town. I was already in the area he was so I thought why not go take a picture of him? The crowd was outrageous and going berserk over him while the local police were pushing and hitting everyone to maintain distance. I went a little closer to take a quick photo of him on my phone and the second I did that, I looked down at my purse and it was open. My newly bought Nikon camera and wallet were gone. I panicked. I had never been pick-pocketed before. I didn't think it would happen to me and I was in so much shock, not because my camera and wallet were stolen, but because the trust I had that someone wouldn't do this to me was betrayed. The family I was with all said the same thing - people are like this, what did you expect? And yes, they may have been partially right, some people are like this but one lady was most definitely not.

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This older lady whose family owned a shop down the street saw me bawling. She held my hand and led me through the crazy, wild crowd to her small, rusty utensils shop. She told me to sit on her wooden stool as she fetched me water to wash my face. She gave me words of encouragement for 30 minutes and did everything in her power to make me, a random stranger crying in the streets, feel better. One thing in particular she said to me hit home. It was something I learned through Jainism but had difficulty practicing in my daily life. She said maybe that robber needed the money more than I needed it. And that statement made me ponder. She was right - maybe he needed it more than I did. Maybe he was desperate. Or maybe he was never taught right from wrong. These thoughts gave me a whole new perspective on the situation. Jainism emphasizes the importance of “anekāntavāda” or “many-sidedness”. The concept of anekāntavāda is simple: each viewpoint is only a partial perspective of the whole truth. From my viewpoint I may be correct and from his, he. The older lady’s simple, yet insightful, statement helped me put into practice a difficult concept that changed my outlook and in turn, calmed me down. We don't live in a perfect society. We have a lot of issues we hear about and deal with daily. But if we all started showing a little more compassion towards one another and made an effort to understand one another, the overall problems would reduce. This older lady uplifted me and provided me clarity in just that one act of kindness and to this day, I remember the compassion and care she showed me so clearly. Throughout our lives, we see the homeless on the streets, barely surviving. We see colleagues who are easily set off. We see a classmate who spends his lunchtime alone. We see a stranger crying silently in the corner. We see friends unwilling to open up to us. We see resentful people on the news who execute some act of violence. Kraft stated the issue with this world is that we have patience when we have time. We love when it is convenient. We respect others when we agree with them. We do what we do when it is convenient for us. We stop and talk to the homeless when we are waiting for the streetlight to turn green. We understand the angry coworker when we ourselves are in the mood. We approach the crying stranger only when it is comfortable for

us. We try to press our friends about opening up about personal issues when we have time to listen. We understand the violent actions only when we have some p e r s o n a l experience with it. We exude love and care if and only when it is convenient to our own time and schedule. Otherwise it is an inconvenience. We remember only a small fraction of our day to day scenarios, and in the long term, only retain an even smaller percentage of our entire life. The memories we are more likely to remember are the ones that make us feel a strong emotion - pain, embarrassment, anger and love. To us, asking a friend how they are or making the effort to approach the crying stranger may seem like a small, insignificant gesture, but to them it could be a part of the fraction of memory they cling on to. With love and compassion comes a commitment to surrendering your own time, happiness and convenience but in the end, it is worth it. Sometimes people just need to know there are others out there on their side rooting for them. Love is powerful. It has the ability to mend even the most broken and lost souls. And the best part Love is powerful. of about it is that we all have the capability to provide it. It is within us to feel and make others feel this strong, beautiful emotion. As Kraft concluded in his speech: love when it is the least convenient. It will make the world a better place to live in for all of us.

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/ #YJA16: Agents of Change



/ YJA16 Convention Recap - Milan Jain “Where are you going?” a shrill female voice pierces through the air. I suddenly stop mid-step and plant my foot hard on the static carpet. Then, in my best Hrithik impersonation, I slowly turn my head 90 degrees to the point where my chin lines up with my shoulder. “Upstairs,” I ambiguously enunciate. Silence. “That’s what I thought,” I mutter as I continue my essential pilgrimage to the ‘Dessert Room’ to facilitate my icebreaker. Imagine being in one place with 650 young adults who you have absolutely nothing in common with.You’re all alone; maybe you know a couple of people here and there, but for the most part, you feel completely lost. Now imagine if you could connect with all of these people through just one element. Seems pretty daunting right? Shockingly enough, it’s not impossible.Young Jains of America (YJA) connected over 650 Young Jains across North America, showing each individual they had one thing in common- their way of life, Jainism. Many Jain youth recently experienced this whimsical feeling of unity throughout the past 4th of July weekend in sunny Los Angeles at the 12th biennial YJA Convention. For those of us fortunate enough to attend, I think it’s a fair mutual consensus that this convention was the best one yet. Through a variety of phenomenal activities ranging from interactive sessions all the way to breathtaking social events, it was very clear that the YJA board and organization as a whole spared no time or expense to make sure that all attendees ultimately connected with their religion, all the while truly initiating their paths to become agents of change. “And now, close your eyes and imagine you’re stranded alone on a desert,” a smooth voice articulates.You, as well as a group of 40 other young adults, reluctantly yet compliantly close your eyes. This is an accurate depiction of one of the nearly 120 sessions that took place at the YJA convention. A variety of speakers were brought in from all over the world, speakers who covered topics including what Jainism means to them, how they’ve invoked their inner spiritualities, and even how they managed to abide by Jain ideals while studying in college. Being a junior in high school at the moment, sessions like these were exceptionally inspiring to me, because not only did they allow me to connect with Jain students from different schools throughout the nation, but they also showed me that it’s possible to maintain a successful Jain lifestyle even when you’re not living at home. Through interactive activities and role playing, Jain youth as a whole were able to experience a first-hand account of what it truly means to call themselves a Jain. Bhangra! Fashionista! Dirty South! All of these words flashed through attendees’ minds as they hungrily watched the talent show take place before them. Restless energy pulsed throughout the room as the participants expertly performed their vibrant routines. At the end of every one, deafening shrieks brought life to the room as attendees threw their hands together and applauded and cheered for their fellow Young Jains on stage. As the performances progressed, the YJA board ingeniously planned out for the era to progress as well through the form of an exuberant video, which showed the major events of the time frame. All in all, whether it be the “Dirty South” brilliantly coordinating their dance steps or the boys from “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Bhangra” stomping their feet to a catchy dholak beat, it was very clear that the 13 “Decades of Bollywood” Talent Show will forever remain a revered aspect to this successful convention.


If you were at the YJA convention this year, you’d understand what the word “agape” means. For those of you who couldn’t attend, quite simply put, agape means selfless love. Who else was more appropriate to share this message than keynote speaker Houston Kraft? Through a multitude of engaging anecdotes and act-outs, Kraft showed all YJA attendees what it truly meant to have love for something. Along with enriching us attendees through his morally inspiring storytelling, Kraft also managed to start a social movement.You have no idea how many times in the span of four days I’ve heard a guy trying to finesse using that one “A-word.” Along with that though, Kraft also gave reference to the essential concept of Ahimsa, a concept that’s quite overstated yet underplayed in today’s modern era. Through all of his efforts, all youth gained another perspective on what it means to be a true agent of change. If you’re like me, I’m sure you still have one universal question looming in your mind- how was the food?! Tragically enough my friends,YJA was basically a condensed paryushan; four days without Taco Bell. That’s alright though. I’m very confident that if you were at the YJA convention, it will be the only place you’ll find this year that can cater Jain forms of Mexican, Italian, and even Punjabi cuisines. As if that’s not enough, the hospitality team went above and beyond by ensuring that gourmet snacks were readily available throughout the day. Whether it be vegan popcorn or even handcrafted chutney sandwiches, all YJA attendees had the bliss of operating on a stomach full of Jain-friendly delicacies throughout the entirety of the convention. Lavish tapestries to the left. Elegant decorations to the right. Music blaring all around. Welcome to “Maharaja’s Court,” this year’s YJA formal dance. Attendees had the chance to dress up elegantly, donning Indian reception attire, to celebrate the last night of such a memorable convention. The dance floor was clogged up with people of all age groups bonding over good music and a jovial ambiance. Whether or not one could dance, it was very evident that all of the youth had a fantastic time bonding with their fellow agents of change at the “Maharaja’s Court” formal dance. Following the formal was one of the highlights of all YJA conventions- the infamous all nighter. It was quite the show watching people struggling to stay awake by taking part in a variety of activities one shouldn’t be doing at 4 AM- binging on Cheez-its, playing ninja, reciting the alphabet backwards, and so the list ensues. Personally speaking, I find myself as more of an interactive person no matter what the time or place. With that being said, I took the liberty of walking around the hotel handing out vegan popcorn from a massive metal bowl to my fellow convention attendees. I feel this expedited my status as an agent of change because in the end, I did change the amount of leftover popcorn we had! I’d like to take a moment to give a huge thank you to the YJA board. Through their intricate planning and precise coordination, the convention as a whole maintained steady flow. The food was appetizing, the souvenirs were next to priceless, and the night-time social events were nothing short of memorable. Along with the board, I’d also like to express my gratitude to the Jain Center of Southern California. Throughout the convention, adult volunteers from the JCSC worked long and grueling hours to make sure attendees could enjoy a safe and proactive atmosphere.YJA has played a crucial role in my life; it’s allowed me to connect with people from all throughout the country who share a similar lifestyle with me. The future of this organization is definitely radiant, as more and more Jain youth are starting to understand all the merits of attending a YJA convention. Just as I place one foot on the escalator, another voice hollers, “Stop right there young man.” This one is more deep, more stern, more resonant. I stopped moving right there, except I really couldn’t; at this point, I was on the escalator. “It’s kinda hard at the moment,” I briskly reply. “Why’re you going up there anyways?” the original shrill voice inquires. Hmm, that’s a good question. “To Meet. Every. Last. Agent,” I answer. Mission accomplished.


Agents of Change

We hear #YJA16 was the best convention yet! Reminiscing about the best weekend of the year or unable to attend? Check out some attendee reflections below when asked about their favorite part of convention!

“My biggest takeaway from YJA was Houston Kraft's message of treating love as a conscientious choice rather than just as an instinctive emotion. It is important to choose to express compassion to those around us; we never know who could use a little agape in their day.” - Siddharth Shah,TX “Getting to see all my friends and hanging out with them in sessions and events.” - Salil Ojha,TX “Hanging out with the amazing daytime co-leads of course. But also being able to be a part of and help organize such amazing events was really a privilege. Every time someone came up to me to tell me they liked JAB, or ethics, made me feel like we really made a difference.” - Anish Doshi, CA “The sessions this year were fantastic, I came out not only as a better Jain but a better person!” - Bonita Parikh,TX "My favorite part was the dancing, but I really liked meeting people from all over the place.” - Bhumika Jain, MI "My favorite part was Houston Kraft's keynote. I really liked the idea that we only remember 1% of everything we do. It puts into perspective how important something can be in the moment, but not in the long run." - Bansari Shah, IL "I really liked the keynote and the daytime sessions because I really felt like I came out of them learning something I didn't know before. I liked making new friends and catching up with old ones!” -Juhi Nahata, MI "Meeting old friends and making new ones that we can connect with even more and potentially see during the school year because of college and dance teams!" -Rishabh Kodia, MA “Houston Kraft's keynote speech! Hearing him say that loving fearlessly is a form of ahimsa to him- that really resonated with me!” -Ruhee Jain, PA

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