youngminds a young jains of america publication
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.
णमो लोए सव्व-साहूणं
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.
एसो पंच-णमोक्कारो, सव्व-पाव-प्पणासणो
Ēsōpan̄chaṇamōkkārō, Savvapāvappaṇāsaṇō This five-fold bow (mantra) destroys all sins and obstacles,
मंगला णं च सव्वेसिं, पढमं हवई मंगलं ।।१।।
Maṅgalā Ṇaṁ Ca Savvēsiṁ, Paḍamama Havaī Maṅgalaṁ and of all auspicious mantras, is the first and foremost one.
Discovering Ahimsa Through Art
Comic & Crossword
Pitch Perfect: Jains in Action Hackathon
Pivot, Pivot, Pivot! The Story of YJA Day
Reflections on Think Like a Monk
staff— Editor-in-Chief Vishwa Shah Staff Writers Juhi Shah, Sakhi Shah, Shruti Jain Editors Ashna Bhansali, Janvee Patel, Suryaraj Jain, Vatsal Gandhi, Vidhi Piparia Comic Esha Peer (artist), Jainik Shroff, Akash Jain Crossword Miten Shah, Nishi Shah DIY Guide Parita Shah, Purva Shah, Rahi Shah Education Corner Harshita Jain, Bhuvni Shah (artist) Advisors Satej Shah, Mishi Jain, Pranay Patni Cover Harshita Jain and Neil Jain
icymi— National Dinners were a hit! Read more about how they went here. We also released an issue of Younger Minds earlier this month. It’s our publication for kids aged 5-13. Check it out here! Keep up with all things YJA with our newsletter. Subscribe here!
issue highlights Find the hidden scrabble tiles around the issue! They form a crossword clue... A Christian artist who dedicated his life to Ahimsa & peace >> pg 12
Our first comic >> pg 16 Ran out of masks? Our DIY guide might help >> pg 24
so, what’s gusto? Gusto means enthusiasm, zeal, or ze t. This issue focuses on a few examples of gusto this year: from sanghs, individuals, and the Y JA community. Though the theme was inspired by the enthusiasm the Jain community has shown to continue our spiritual growth in the face of the pandemic, I hope you take this chance to revisit all the things you were passionate about this year.
THE EPITOME OF GUSTO “Today is life—the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today.” - Dale Carnegie Dale Carnegie wasn’t the first to say this; Shah Rukh Khan sang it in Kal Ho Na Ho, millennials have been hashtagging YOLO, and the Romans said Carpe Diem. What all of these proverbs (perhaps intentionally) exclude, however, is what it means to make the most of life, to live it to the fullest. But Carnegie also has another quote: “Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” Here, he expands upon what makes one feel like they’re truly living: it’s when their entire existence is beating for something, allowing their energy to flow so that they feel alive. Though the authors of such quotes always leave the question of what one’s ultimate goal is (I suppose that’s what all great philosophers have sought to answer), we may be able to reach into Jain philosophy for clarity here. At face value, it seems like gusto is antithetical to Jainism. After all, gusto suggests that one must be enthusiastic about something. And when we are enthusiastic, we are attached, which lead to the four “passions,” or kashayas: the root to our unhappiness. For any action I take with gusto, I may lash out in anger when things go awry, tread a deceitful path to fulfill a goal, inflate my sense of pride upon accomplishment, and even continue to yearn for more even once I’ve reached my initial goal. (Read this issue’s education corner on pg. 8 to learn more about the four kashayas.) However, people with gusto can also teach us a lot: how to be robust in the face of adversity, empower those around them, and be strong leaders and followers. When I first thought about arranging this issue, I searched for stories of people who cared deeply about a particular cause. Initially inspired by the enthusiasm in our community in spite of the pandemic, with pathshalas going virtual
letter from the editor
and a canceled convention taking the shape of YJA Day, I sought to share that gusto; it’s contagious. As you read the featured stories and experiences in this issue, and I hope you’re inspired to flow with their energy and direct it where you see fit. Yet after reading and reflecting on the stories in this issue, I realize I had slightly misconstrued the definition of gusto—it doesn’t defy Jain principles. In its purest form, it doesn’t need a subject—you don’t have to be enthusiastic about something. In other words, it doesn’t necessitate attachment: moh or parigraha. So if one can detach themselves from the outcome of the event, yet participate with full gusto, that’s when they’ll truly be making the most of life, of the moment. This feeling isn’t exactly foreign, either; you’ve likely caught a glimpse of it while doing something you truly enjoyed. The experience is often marked with a complete loss of sense of time—I first recognized this state of flow while playing violin in middle school. If we can be autotelic, sourcing purpose and drive from within ourselves, we’ll naturally exhibit gusto in all we do while feeling internal contentment. Here’s to another year filled with gusto: the kind that allows us to grow from setbacks, as you’ll see throughout the issue. I hope to bring the best of our community to you all through Young Minds this year— and for that, I’ll need your support. Your readership guides our future decisions: what kind of content we publish, how much, and how often. If you’d like to share any feedback or have a story for a future issue, please let us know at email@example.com.
With #yjalove, Vishwa Shah
Director of Publications 2020-2021
Mishi Jain Co-Chair 2020-2021
Pranay Patni Co-Chair 2020-2021
letter from the co-chairs
Jai Jinendra, What a year it has been. It’s safe to say that none of us could have imagined that 2020 would have looked like this. In the wake of the pandemic, YJA had to make the difficult decision to cancel the in-person 2020 YJA Convention in Dallas, TX as well as three in-person regional retreats. These challenging circumstances, however, provided us with a unique opportunity to reflect on and transform how we engage with our audience in this new, digital world. As we look forward, we are hopeful. The new 2020-2021 Executive Board is eager to continue the 2020 YJA Convention’s call to action: “Progressing with Purpose.” In just the first three months of our term, we have launched innovative spins on some of our flagship events and initiatives. Beginning with everyone’s favorite National Dinners, given that we could not hold them in-person at restaurants, our Regional Coordinators creatively planned the first-ever region-wide live cooking sessions. Led by regional chefs on Zoom, these National Dinners encouraged YJA members to follow along and make delicious vegan and Jain recipes followed by our term’s first National Game Night. Later, for Giving Tuesday, we launched a new, campaign-based format for our fundraiser, through which any YJA member could create their own campaign to raise money for YJA. As the fundraiser wrapped up, we were taken aback by the outpouring of generosity—85 campaigns, 600+ donors, and one community. Thank you for uplifting our community during this challenging year. Thereafter, we hosted our annual National Thanksgiving Jaap to pray for the millions of
turkeys who were robbed of life alongside 20+ Sanghs and over 115 families. And most recently, we launched our “Season of Seva” campaign, which provides opportunities for Jain youth to give back to the community, this year with a focus on disability rights. As we look forward to the rest of the year, we are buckling down and focusing on what makes YJA feel like home: our community. Our Executive Board is committed to increasing our seva (service) efforts, strengthening relationships with Jain Sanghs across North America, and further cultivating our tight-knit community in a safe but creative manner. Have ideas on what you’d like to see YJA do this year? We are all ears! Share your ideas here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most importantly, we hope you enjoy this incredible issue. The theme for this Young Minds issue is “Gusto.” With stories from people ranging from a pathshala student turned teacher to a Christian artist who dedicated his life to Ahimsa, and of course, our first comic, it’s full of inspiration and creativity. Before we close off, we wanted to thank the outgoing 2019-2020 Executive Board for a phenomenal year. From quickly adapting to the pandemic, to executing a phenomenal YJA Day, we are deeply grateful for the ingenuity and resilience they showed. YJA could not have accomplished as much as it did this past year without their unwavering dedication to this organization. We look forward to building on their successes this upcoming year.
2 TRUTHS AND A LIE Both chairs have been Regional Coordinators, Director of Project Development, and on two Convention Committees The chairs attended rival institutions Both Mishi and Pranay have a strong distaste for all condiments Answer on pg. 16!
With #yjalove, Mishi Jain and Pranay Patni
What can we learn from a gust-o of wind? Read through this issueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Education Corner to learn more about the elements, how they compare to the four Kashayas (or inner enemies), and how we can approach them to come closer to our true, inner selves!
deceit vs straightforwardness
anger vs forgiveness
greed vs contentment
ego vs humility 9
Moving through all kinds of currents, air comes in many forms. Smooth and direct winds are predictable and typically beneficial. Misdirected and manipulated winds, however, lead to chaos and damage of all kinds. Tornados and hurricanes are just a couple of the devastating forms that air can take.
In the same vein, when we are manipulative, our relationships are marked by distrust. To cultivate trustworthiness and be reliable in the eyes of others, we must instead practice straightforwardness.
advice from an avatar “it’s easy to do nothing, it’s hard to forgive.” —aang, episode 3.16 “the southern raiders”
Naturally, water has an uninterrupted, balanced flow… self-sufficient, almost. In its purest form, one’s mindset is a steady stream of thought symbolizing peace and contentment. However, in the presence of increased rainfall or melting ice sheets, those streams become rivers that can swell, often leading to floods.
When we focus on just our needs, our mindset mimics a flowing stream. However, when one becomes greedy, that steady stream overflows, resulting in floods and subsequent destruction. Greed is the root cause of all four Kashayas, so we must keep our wants in check by practicing contentment.
Energy is quintessentially tied to fire. When energy is focused, its flame can be helpful, producing light, heat, and warmth. But when that energy is misdirected and grows uncontrollably, a roaring fire ensues.
It is often for small reasons that our energy transforms into anger, just as a forgotten ember can spark a forest fire. When in this state, one might find themselves lashing out and spreading that negative energy to those around us. In such moments, one must seek to return to their calmer self by realizing the importance of forgiveness.
advice from uncle iroh “pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. true humility is the only antidote to shame.” —iroh, episode 2.09 “bitter work”
The earth serves as a foundation for life. Only when one’s roots are strong does one flourish and grow unboundedly. When one fails to respect the earth and tend to its needs, it becomes dry and loose, unable to keep all that is planted in it upright. Similarly, if one is grounded in the right principles, spiritual growth occurs. A healthy foundation consists of the teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir and of Maharaj Sahebs. At times, we may feel that we know more than our teachers or treat them with disrespect. To maintain our foundation and experience spiritual upliftment, we should remember to be ego humble and enter all learning opportunities with an open mind, appreciating our gurus for their vast knowledge.
“I have little life, time is very precious.”
Born and raised in Secunderabad, Telangana (then Andhra Pradesh), Mr. Ignatius Joseph has accomplished much in his life. From being a corporate employee in Riyadh to speaking at a UNESCO conference, he has experienced a wide variety of environments. For the last 25 years, he has made it his mission to further peace, harmony, and Ahimsa in the world.
Discovering Jainism Day in and day out, on his 2.5km journey to school, a four-year-old Ignatius Joseph would silently observe a group of people clad in plain white cloth as they walked barefoot on the side of the highway. Every day, as he passed by them, he would look over his shoulder with awe, curiosity, and confusion. It puzzled him—why did these people walk in the same place every day? And why were they not wearing shoes? His innocent mind could only draw one conclusion here: they must be poor, maybe fakirs. A few years later, now in 2nd grade, Joseph discovered that these white-clad people were ascetics, not vagrants. He also learned that they would go for bhiksha (to collect alms) to the homes around him, but not his own. Wondering why, he found out that they were Jain monks, and that they would skip his home upon noticing that his family was Christian. Fast-forward 25 years, and Mr. Ignatius Joseph had become an artist. Inspired by a quote from the Bible, “the path to righteousness is a narrow and uphill task, few will reach this
(Rumi) Scientific and Spiritual Approaches (2017) Presented a paper on Evolution: Scientific and Spiritual Approaches at the 9th International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action.
goal of Peace” (Matthew 7:13-14), he painted peace paintings. Once, he wanted to paint two people of different religions together. As he pondered whom he should paint—a Hindu, Muslim, Christian—he had an epiphany. Why not a Jain monk, like the ones he had so curiously observed as a child? An avid painter
the path to righteousness is a narrow and uphill task, few will reach this goal of Peace | Matthew 7:13-14 of oil and acrylics, he wanted to combine the two, metaphorically combining religious philosophies, to demonstrate the harmony the
DEC 2020 world could live in. With this goal in mind, Mr. Joseph sought out a Jain monk. The curious child within him resurfaced as he asked an avalanche of questions to Sadhvi Prathibaji, who responded with a mountain of knowledge. He learned of the five Mahavratas: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness), Asteya (non-stealing), Satya (truth), and Brahmacharya (celibacy). The first one piqued his interest, and Ahimsa would come to live in his heart permanently. Thinking back to the sadhus and sadhvis he had previously seen carrying some bags, he asked: do you not carry food in those bags? The sadhvi clarified that no, it was not food. Rather, they carried the bowls and utensils
Since then, through his work and interactions with a few different Jain munis, he’s adopted samayik (meaning equanimity, it is the vow of concentration) into his routine. Mr. Joseph has also completed bhikshudaya (also paushad vrat, form of tap, or self-restraint, where you live like a monk for a day) three times, and he has observed various types of fasts in the past, never missing Paryushan.
Peace Paintings and Activism Art was not Mr. Joseph’s only profession. Before becoming an artist, he worked at a company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His first Christmas there, he realized there were no Christmas cards for him to mail back home; Saudi Arabia was an Islamic state. So he decided to make the cards, thereby discovering his interest and skill in art. What kindled then became a steady, burning desire to spread peace through art.
Jaghutto Veera (Riseup Youngsters) Attended Kachiguda Chaturmas, where he painted his interpretation of Gautam Muni’s words. Also pictured: Vinay Muni Maharaj Saheb, Sagar Muni, and the President of All India Jain Sangh.
in which they received bhiksha. Curious, Mr. Joseph asked to see them. Immediately after he touched the bowl, he realized that he may have caused some offense or harm to the rules and requirements of the sadhvi’s life, as he was a non-vegetarian. At that moment, he looked down at the wooden bowl in his hands. As it stared back at him, he felt like the best thing he could do to atone was become a vegetarian; from that day on, he became one. A vegetarian was born and his doubts were relinquished.
The night he returned home after resolving to be a vegetarian, he thought why couldn’t his art also represent Ahimsa? Thus was born his artistic style, coined “Ahimsaism.” Through his art, Mr. Joseph seeks to convey ideas of peace, nonviolence, and compassion in the world. Examples include pieces commenting on anti-terrorism, ragging (hazing) in colleges, environmental efforts, and non-smoking campaigns. In addition to these, he has also painted timeless works of art featuring Mother Teresa, Acharya Tulsi (leader of the Terapanth Jain Sangh - Jain Vishwa Bharti), and Rumi (poe-t and Sufi mystic). This art style features five key features: » Is created without brushes to keep off any animal products, instead using cotton cloth » Is mixed media—oil and acrylic on canvas, representing harmony on the canvas, symbolic of the same harmony that can come with diversity in religion if we live & let live » Always features a white pigment, the color of peace
youngminds “News Peace to the World” I have been to the North I have been to the East I have been to the West I have been to the South I bring you tidings of great joy, from four corners of the World, News, News, I, News, News, Water receded, life spurts, so cute and pleasant My dear species, my dear friends Lets relinquish our foe and renounce violence. Come out my dear friends, lets celebrate our new future of HOPE, emphasizing in living, sharing, feeling and playing. Let Humanity be our religion, irrespective of faith, race, class, caste & region. Let PEACE endure in the whole world and rule every citizen’s heart mind and soul
Includes an illusion effect, done using different methods like scratches from a pallet knife to highlight the theme of the painting Has a written accompaniment (poem, short story, or write-up on an eye-opening topic) that correlates with the visual language of the art
To bolster the spread of his message, Mr. Joseph often gives talks or holds workshops in colleges and universities. He has inspired several students through his seminars and exhibitions to create art on their own.
Recognition Through his works, Mr. Joseph has been recognized by numerous people. Here, we’ve included a brief summary of his accomplishments:
82nd Congress Plenary At this meeting for all political leaders in the Indian Congress Party, Mr. Joseph was invited to exhibit his Vegetarianism & Ahimsa Peace paintings. The exhibition was opened by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Congress President and Vice President of Andhra Pradesh. UNESCO World Peace Conference, Pune Here, he presented Ahimsaism to the global community at the Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prayer Hall, Pune. He spoke about how the visual language is a universal language, where people of varying levels of education, religions, and political affiliations may come to understand. He spoke about how Jainism has upheld Ahimsa as a suupreme value (Ahimsa Paramo Dharma) and observed it
through thought, word, and action, even today. Interaction with Paras Muni A very highly regarded and followed orthodox Jain muni, Dr. Paras Muni, graced Mr. Joseph with his presence. As uncommon as it is to have a Jain monk visit a Christian artist, he viewed the paintings and blessed Mr. Joseph for his mission on Ahimsa and peace. Seminars To spread positive messages, he also created a 3-day seminar program for youth and adults, involving NGOs, companies, MLAs, religious leaders, etc. This program promoted hygienic culture to help eradicate mosquito-borne diseases through awareness and a painting competition based on Ahimsaism. This project was lauded by the Modi administration and incorporated with the Swacch Bharat (Clean India) campaign. He has also organized workshops for anti-terrorism campaigns in Kerala, non-smoking efforts, and food security at schools around India (and even Nepal!).
In February 2020, the United Nations recognized Mr. Joseph for his teaching methodology (chosen from among 16,000 NGO entries) for being innovative and cost effective. His program was implemented through the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) to train differentially abled students.
Paintings with American Context Though residing in and primarily operating in India, Mr. Joseph has not limited his scope. His exhibitions on 9/11 reflections and gun culture were inspired by current events in the United States. When Barack Obama became president, Mr. Joseph was reminded of the dream MLK so profoundly voiced. And with MLKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unfortunate death on 4/4/1968 and Obama being the 44th president, Mr. Joseph was inspired to make this painting. His impact has been recognized by several religious and political leaders in India, most notably former president APJ Abdul Kalam, Shri Paras Muni, Acharya Mahapragya, and Sister Nirmala (successor to Mother Teresa), and other religious leaders.
St. Mother Teresa Sainthood Celebration Depicts Mother Teresaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s faith and devotion to serving the poor, with a white flame representing peace in oneness. The only painting from outside of Kolkata accepted to this exhibition opened by the Governor of Kolkata.
13 15 16 18
Across 26 2. Wife or a 2020 YJA Co-Chair 9. A bone that connects to your shoulder 10. An economic downturn 12. Enthusiasm or being eager for something 13. National animal of Scotland 14. Longest river in the world 15. To go really fast or where we say “aunty, you’re on mute” 18. The process of two companies becoming one 19. Good luck out there! 20. “Appa, _____” -Avatar 21. Name for someone who is the very best at what they do 23. Despicable Me villain 25. How every Jain ends their Taco Bell order 26. Harry Potter’s best friend
1 4 5
PLAY THE CROSSWORD ONLINE!
Down 1. Unscramble the scrabble tiles in this issue! 3. Capital of the United Arab Emirates 4. _____ College 5. Possibly the first vaccine hero 6. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jaa, ____, jaa, jee le apni zindagiâ&#x20AC;? -DDLJ 7. The Lion, the Witch, and the ___ 8. Divided East and West Germany 11. Diana Prince alter ego 16. Aubrey Graham alias 17. The football team that can fly 18. An element that is liquid at room temperature 22. Mahavir Swami attained Nirvana here 24. Ke$ha song or the cooler, newer version of Vine 27. Ages and ages Answer from pg. 7: #3 is the lie!
pitch perfect jains in action hackathon Jains in Action, which has organized and run social impact-focused pitch competitions at YJA and JAINA conventions since 2016, ran a virtual hackathon for high school and college students this fall. Spanning 11 weeks and 39 participants, it provided entrepreneurship and leadership training culminating in a pitch competition on September 19, 2020. .
o’clock. 30 minutes until meeting time. I told my family that my call would end in an hour—at 10:30 pm—unassuming of all the brilliance, laughs, and ideas that were to come. There is nothing more rewarding than building a new family, and Team 1 became one. Our scheduled one-hour calls lasted upwards of two, with us often losing track of time and ending at midnight. Working in a team is wonderful; not only do you learn how to deal with others, but you learn immensely about yourself as well. Growth is inevitable. On a personal level, Jains in Action (JIA) taught me how to approach problems. It taught me to dream big for ideas and solutions to impossible problems, not allowing money and practicality to hinder creativity. And we stuck to that, attacking really big problems: climate change and recycling, South Asian mental health, nutritious food for low-income families, and more. Just as you may, I have an ample amount of team experience. Then what was so special about Jains in Action? That’s the crux of it all, isn’t it? Allow me to explain. This entrepreneurship-style hackathon was centered around the user, not the actual solution. How does that make sense you may ask? An idea may be the greatest, most innovative solution but is worthless if no one uses it. Thousands of businesses and products
failed for this exact reason, but those that didn’t ignore this aspect succeeded. InstaPot, Amazon, Netflix, Uber, PayPal, Airbnb—do I need to keep on naming? These brands became household names because they had a solution addressing (and exceeding) the needs of the consumer. Jains in Action taught the participants this. But how did we accomplish this goal of our hackathon? We took user feedback, an invaluable piece of data. We asked our family, friends, peers, group chats, discords: everyone. A data and feedback driven product creation. Storytelling, creating a narrative, and immersing your audience in your solution are some things you scarcely learn anywhere. With a team where you make a product or a
IA was a transformative experience that allowed me to express DEC my 2020 creativity and turned me from a newcomer into a true YJA member. With the added responsibility of being a Liaison, my project team’s correspondent, I learned many big lessons and small nuances that made me a better problem-solver, which I look to continue practicing in my career. I was hesitant at first and enrolled in the event last-minute, which turned out to be a wise decision. At first, I was following directions from the JIA leaders. Soon, I was attending the first session about design, where I learned brilliant techniques to identify important problems that needed to be solved. Eventually, I bonded with a group of strangers who became my team. Over time, this team became a special unit committed to excellence.
Once things started rolling, I attended more instructional sessions about brainstorming and storytelling to acquire solution, you normally valuable skills and present a compelling solution for the just make a presentation hackathon. I also regularly checked in with teammates to that shows off your product. ensure the team could meet its goals. We had considered That’s not the most efficient, many ideas, but we reached into our Jain roots to come most impactful way of up with the idea of Vegible, an app that would encourage presenting. Creating a story, people to practice their diets! It would reduce uncertainty however, is. Showing how about the ingredients in food products by scanning and your solution can be used from reporting whether the item is fit for consumption based the user’s perspective, not the on a user’s diet. creators. Pitching is an art that I learned from JIA, something you By the time we reached the presentation day, we had rarely find elsewhere. proof-read and revised our slides more than twenty times. After watching others present, we held our JIA is an experience I will never nerve while presenting our ideas and answering the forget. The amount of things one judges’ tricky questions. Our efforts were rewarded learns is unprecedented, unbelievable, with a Team’s Choice Best Team award to conclude unmatched. The invigorating chase an exciting event. after a solution. Do it, it’ll change you. - Rut Mehta | Watch OppX’s Pitch
Surprisingly, my hackathon journey ended there. Our vision couldn’t come to fruition since our workloads increased after the academic year began. More importantly, I am glad I could absorb the entire experience of delivering a pitch and the journey from an idea to a solution. The next time I face an inconvenience, I will solve it rather than complaining like I used to. JIA completely changed my mindset to embrace problems and do my best to make change. - Kathan Gandhi | Watch Vegible’s Pitch
On March 13th this year, along with the rest of the country, the Jain community had to rapidly adjust to the uncertain times. Sanghs across the nation reevaluated how they could continue to engage and serve their Jain communities during a pandemic. Despite many obstacles, two sanghs exceeded expectations. The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago (JSMC) and the Jain Center of New Jersey (JCNJ) both adapted to quarantine guidelines to continue encouraging the practice of Jainism in a safe manner. Both sanghs’ leadership restructured ideas, plans, and events. They started with a deep cleaning of the entire facility and began moving all activities online. One of the most significant transitions was shifting to an online pathshala program. Although they initially feared that attendance and engagement with pathshala would look very different virtually, both sanghs managed to keep a steady attendance, and this e-pathshala initiative was met with great success. Most of the students registered for virtual lessons, which demonstrated the dedication to continue learning about Jainism that the youth have adopted. Aside from pathshala, temple activities, such as puja (rituals), darshan (prayers), and celebrations also took on a virtual model. JCNJ and JSMC both maintained involvement, with JCNJ having about 300-400 people and JSMC having about 100-200 people viewing the virtual events. These sanghs also started using their websites more to create efficient sign-up sheets that helped coordinate who could enter the temple while maintaining social distancing guidelines, such as using 6-feet apart markers, wearing masks, and regularly washing hands or using hand sanitizer. After talking with JSMC’s President, Piyush Gandhi, we learned that JSMC’s board modeled after YJA’s approach in adjusting to the pandemic. They met with YJA members Miten Shah, Bansari Shah, Priya Shah, and Paras Shah over Zoom more times in the first three months than they normally would have in the entire year to ensure the right steps were taken for the safety of the sangh. To ensure physical temple access remains safe, the sangh began to provide masks to those who forgot. Piyush Gandhi also discussed some positives that have come with remote events. The Chicago sangh hosts lectures at regular intervals by well-known Acharyas and Maharaj Sahebs, and due to the lack of travel, JSMC has been able to hear from scholars in India as well. Every Sunday, pujaris (devotees) at
DEC 2020 JSMC conduct Aarti and Mangal Divo (prayers with a lamp) which is now available to all via Zoom, garnering 50-60 households’ attendance. While JSMC serves a fairly large audience, the scale jumps at the Jain Center of New Jersey—one of the largest sanghs in the country. Upon talking to the President of JCNJ, Jigar Shah, we came to learn about the decisions that had to be made to handle such a large Jain population. The JCNJ board began delegating work to separate task forces made up of a combination of board members and volunteers. These teams now coordinate the execution of large events and manage daily activities while ensuring that the derasar (temple) is equipped with the proper gear to prevent any contamination (spare masks and cleaning supplies). Furthermore, through their website, JCNJ has set up live darshan through which viewers can watch live footage of the derasar and do darshan safely from home. Darshan, while looking a little different, is now more accessible for people across the country and around the globe from JCNJ! In addition to live darshan, JCNJ is currently thinking of new ways to safely restructure past service events (like YJA’s Blankets and Bhavanas) to get the younger generations more involved from home. With the help of supportive Jain communities, both sanghs were able to delegate a board to handle the decision-making process, stay organized, and find new ways to get the sangh members (spanning all generations) involved while maintaining proper guidelines.
“The Jain ideas of non-violence and compassion play a big role in my voting process. Even in confusing situations, it is easier to make decisions when thinking about the option that causes the least harm.” Hemang Srikishan, 34 (Chicago, IL)
Let’s take a look around the country to see how a multigenerational group of Jains excercised their right to vote in the 2020 election.
voting through the jain lens
“I wanted my voice to be heard and the candidate with my values be elected.”
Sohail Daulat, 19 (Tucson, AZ)
“Exercising civic duty is one of many ways we can live in a country we’re proud of” Kush Shah, 18 (Cary, NC)
“Our diversity plays a role in deciding on candidates that support it.” Shital Shah, 49 (Suwanee, GA)
“Many political moves can be very violent and not reflect Jain values, therefore it is important for us to be educated about each candidate and considering that in their decision for who to vote for.” Shivan Golechha, 18 (Irving, TX)
this time, as a teacher.
’ll never forget my first pathshala class. I was in fifth grade, and my family had just moved to the Detroit suburbs. One Sunday, my dad (without really telling me where we were going) got me into the car and drove me to the Jain Society of Greater Detroit (JSGD). Before I knew what was happening, I had been given a blue bag with “Jai Jinendra” written on the side, a textbook, and a stamp card so I could earn something called Jain Bucks. Ten minutes later, he left, and I was sitting on the floor of a partitioned room in the JSGD basement with a bunch of other kids learning about the three jewels of Jainism. Despite the abrupt start, I found myself excited to meet other Jain kids—I didn’t go to school with any. In fact, I didn’t really know any outside of my own family. I was also finally getting answers to questions I’d had for a long Since the pandemic restrictions brought in-person pathshala to a pause, I’ve been teaching on Zoom.
time. What does this prayer that I say every day mean? Why do we have these rituals? Why do we fast during Paryushan, and what even is Paryushan? Most fundamentally, what does it mean to be Jain? Before pathshala, I don’t think I had a coherent answer to that question. I would tell people that it was “sort of like Hinduism and Buddhism, but different.” My pathshala experience gave me the conceptual grounding and tools to start developing a perspective on the role Jainism plays in my life. Five years later, we moved to North Carolina. There was no high school pathshala class, but I asked as soon as I had the opportunity: could I volunteer to help teach? I wanted to help create that space for reflection and learning for other young Jains. I am 28, and have now been teaching on and off for almost twelve years in three different sanghs—North Carolina, Austin, and Metro Detroit. I most often get paired with high school students—I think the hope is that they’ll connect with me in a way that they don’t always with older teachers.
Regardless of who I’m teaching, however, there are some basic approaches that inform my teaching philosophy:
Have a plan—and be willing to let the plan go. All of my classes start with a basic agenda and time estimates: the information we’re going to cover, any group activities we’re going to do along the way, a space for recap and reflection, and then homework. This helps students know what to expect and keeps me on track, too. That being said, if the conversation goes on a tangent because there is something in particular students want to talk more about, debate, or learn more about, I let it! At the end of the day, there is no syllabus we have to follow or curriculum we have to complete. What is most important to me is that we are talking about things they want to explore. Connect to the real world. My least favorite pathshala classes growing up were ones where we learned something without talking about why it mattered or what it meant for our day-to-day lives. So when I teach, I try to make some kind of
I like to use pinup.com as a tool for collaboration in class. Students can write their reflections, thoughts, and notes on sticky notes for everyone to see, the same way I would on a whiteboard during our in-person classes.
connection to the real world. Right when the COVID-19 pandemic started, we had a class on the 4 auxiliary bhavanas: maitri (friendship), pramod (appreciation), karuna (compassion), and madhyastha (neutrality). We read an article on Italian citizens singing from their balconies, a tweet about thanking teachers, and an article about grief and having compassion for ourselves when our routines are disrupted, looking at ways these bhavanas could help us through the real crisis that we were all living in. If I talk about a Jain principle like tap (fasting), I make sure to give examples of ways that my students can put that into practice that make sense to them—fasting isn’t just about food, it can also be giving up Instagram for a day. My hope is that this opens their minds and allows them to think more critically about the place Jainism has in their everyday decisions.
Let every voice be heard. My second least favorite pathshala classes growing up were when the teacher just talked to us the whole time. I always make sure to incorporate small group activities and discussions into class. This serves two purposes. First, it makes the lesson active; it requires the students to reflect or think critically or make connections. Second, it allows more people to speak—not everyone is going to raise their hand during a class, but if I say “turn to your neighbor and discuss this for one minute,” it creates a safer space for students who are shy to speak up. Sometimes they even end up volunteering to share with the class after they’ve had the opportunity to try it out in a smaller group. My goal is to make sure that everyone finds ways to engage with what we’re doing.
If you’re a young Jain looking for ways to give back to your local or home Jain community, I can’t recommend volunteering to teach pathshala highly enough. Even if you can’t go regularly, volunteer to guest teach a class on a particular topic that is of interest to you. If you’re nervous about the teaching itself, there are lots of resources out there (like YJA Pathshala or the Jainism 101 videos) to spark inspiration, and pathshala teachers across the nation are incredibly collaborative and willing to share lessons and materials. The experience of seeing and hearing from someone close in age to them will mean a lot to those students— and I expect you’ll learn something from them, too. - Hetali Lodaya
Caught without a mask? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick hack you can use as backup.* *We encourage you to follow CDC guidelines. This is for backup.
Lay the bandana or the piece of fabric you are using flat. Fold the top and bottom inward to meet in the middle. Then, fold the bandana in half again. There will be four layers of fabric.
and to have some fun with it, try embroidering it!
thread the needle
just kidding. thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more to it than that, and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll show you how here!
Use two hair ties to create ear loops. Slip one hair tie over each of the ends. Slide the hair ties a few inches toward the middle of the folded bandana.
Fold the ends of the bandana in to meet in the middle. The ends should overlap slightly, so you can tuck one end into the other. 25
ST U R
RU T S
What does your Jain Sangh & community mean to you? For me, one who is blessed with the opportunity to be living the American dream, belonging to and staying connected with a community means everything to me. Besides the networks of personal connections and work colleagues, I believe it is important that each of us find other diverse communities that we can be part of, support, adopt, and even lead. YJA is one of those communities that excites me because it is active, smart, intuitive, evolving, creative, caring, passionate, and more. I have had a similar experience with the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago (JSMC) when the membership gave me an opportunity to lead as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 2008 and 2009 and then again as a Trustee from 2011 to 2015. JAINA is another favorite community of mine that I have enjoyed working with in multiple roles and capacities. One of my motivations, besides contributing to the extent I can, is getting to know and cultivating lifelong friendships with so many profound individuals at all levels: regional, national, and global.
How has your practice and understanding of Jainism evolved over your life? I am a born Jain. I put my faith in Jainism as a religion, primarily for its values. My knowledge and understanding of Jainism stem from my fundamental belief in humanitarianism as the world order religion. However, my involvement with Jainism further grew with inspiration and mentorship from (1) my wife and soulmate, Ginni, who is actually born Vaishnav, but practices equal if not more Jainism in her daily rituals, (2) my Dad, Shri Manubhai Doshi, who is one of the North American Jain Scholars, and (3) being actively involved and working with my Board of Trustees and Executive Committee colleagues of the Chicago Jain Center as well as JAINA. I have core convictions for and am a firm believer in the Jain Way of Life and a proud parent knowing that our both children, Sagar & Sonia, also believe in and practice the same. I also maintained my Jain values and principles during my entrepreneurship days in setting up and running my business entities, in which I placed ethical conduct and honest dealings above everything else. In the past 40+ years here in Chicago, I have witnessed Jainism evolve and mature, however, we have kept it predominantly confined to our temples and communities. It is time to take Jainism on a roadshow, educating the mainstream by showcasing Jainism and its values and principles!
What motivates you to work with YJA? Many would consider that working with YJA is one way of giving back to the community we live in and to which we are grateful for the opportunities; TRUE. It is also a wonderful outlet for giving and mentoring! However, the secret is that in doing so I feel more energized and inspired by the mannerism in which the YJA delegates represent, conduct, and apply themselves. Every conversation reminds me of how talented, committed, considerate, and passionate our young generation of Jains are and how each of them has learned the art of juggling responsibilities. Striking a student-life/work-life balance at such an early phase of life is not as easy as they make it seem. A recent example is a hugely successful fundraising drive that YJA curated and launched–virtually of course; commissioned 80+ campaigns using its web-based application tools and exceeded their fundraising goals within a couple of weeks! The creativity with which the YJA team approaches and solves user requirements puts YJA on top of my list of organizations that I believe will continue to grow and evolve. YJA is posed to be not only a resourceful outlet in contributing to the diverse needs of a new generation Jain but also a platform for projecting the voices and messages of Jain values to the entire U.S. community.
What's something you're grateful for this year? Over the years, I am grateful for the blessings that we have stayed healthy and for the opportunities and resources that have helped build these incredible memories of cherished moments with my first family as well as with many other families, friends, and colleagues. Amidst the pandemic, I am especially grateful for the continued good health of everyone around me. With a restrictive lifestyle as the new normal, I remain grateful for the technology platforms that are providing virtual and remote connectivity to all across the globe, and for a sustained work-life balance that many are able to strike, including the new parents who are capturing magical moments in a time of life that otherwise would have quickly passed by or been missed.
The YJA Board of Trustees (BOT) is comprised of four individuals who serve two-year terms. BOT members offer invaluable guidance and support to the current board, and we thank them for giving back to the YJA community! You can reach the current trustees at email@example.com.
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Long Grove, IL CEO, Protocol Link, Inc. Former JAINA Treasurer Former Chair of JAINA LRP Committee » Former JSMC Chairman of Board of Trustees 27
the story of pivot YJA Day 2020
Every two years, YJA holds a Convention bringing together nearly 1000 Jain youth (ages 14-29), dignitaries, and speakers from around the world. For 2020, we were incredibly excited. This perfect number—one that stands for perfect vision—led us so naturally to the Convention theme: Our 2020 Vision: Progressing with Purpose. Yet the world had different plans for us; with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping in and forcing us to consider our commitment to the safety and health of our community, continuing with our original, elaborate plans quickly went back to a dream. Instead, we hit many firsts: navigating contract cancellations, restructuring our 41-person Convention Committee, and giving birth to a new concept: YJA Day. The entire process was a winding roller coaster ride, and at its helm were four incredibly dedicated individuals: our 2020 Co-Chairs. Join us as we talk to them about their experience. What was going through your head when the whole country essentially went into quarantine?
were simultaneously months into the planning process for (and just 3-4 months away from) holding an 800-person Convention in Dallas, not to mention the three remaining regional Parshva: There’s two big things that go retreats across the country. Where was that line through your head at a moment like that. I between the optimism that we could still hold remember the first questions that started our flagship in-person running through my events for our youth head were along the Where was that line between the and the possible risk to lines of “Could I have attendees, volunteers, optimism that we could still hold caught the virus? and speakers’ health and our flagship in-person events for Should I be going safety? Looking back, home to my family like our youth and the possible risk to it’s easy to tell that it everyone else is? What would’ve been better to if I have it and I spread attendees, volunteers, and speakers’ take the more prudent health and safety? it to them accidenapproach, but at the tally?” However, we time there was s o much
DEC 2020 uncertainty and hope that maybe we could resume normal life soon. Can you walk us through the experience of making the decision to go virtual? What were the variables to consider? Was there internal disagreement? How did you negotiate in a time of unprecedented uncertainty? Avish: The decision essentially boiled down to one question: can we safely hold this Convention without putting a single attendee in harm’s way? All of us were generally on the same page that if we could not firmly answer that question with a yes, then we would either postpone indefinitely or cancel the event entirely. As simple as that question may seem, there were multiple factors involved including the hotel layout, COVID-19 case counts and projections, travel restrictions, utilization of the Convention Committee, and community sentiment. We had weekly calls from March-May with our Board of Trustees and a group of external advisors who were subject matter experts in areas we needed recommendations. At times we definitely had different opinions on the best ways to negotiate and execute; however, we always had the best interests of our community in mind. Some people did reach out during those initial weeks and suggest we should cancel right away. Navigating community engagement and trying
to process everything that was happening was not easy, especially when there was an incredible amount of uncertainty; no one truly knew in March/April (after talking with public health experts) what the situation would be like in July. As the certainty rose in mid-May that the pandemic would continue through the summer and well into the fall/winter, that’s when we fully transitioned to a virtual setting for YJA Day and decided to part ways with the in-person Convention. What did you hope to accomplish with YJA Day and do you think you were able to achieve it? Simmi: When we shifted focus to figuring out “what comes next” for our committee and all the effort we’d poured into Convention planning, we found ourselves with an opportunity to leave an impact on our community in a way unlike ever before. Transitioning over to a virtual environment enabled us to spread our reach farther and engage more people than we’ve ever been able to. The summer saw a reinvigorated BLM movement and a concurrently worsening pandemic, all as we began to formulate our vision for YJA Day. I hoped that we, as a spirited and re-energized arm of the organization, could take what the world was giving us and utilize YJA Day as a space for our community to come together, reflect, and explore very real issues facing our generation. YJA has always sought to provide excellent session speakers at our biennial Conventions, but now we had the chance to extend the invite to a potentially massive audience—over 1,100 people as it turned out! With a wide range of session topics, including the pandemic, interfaith, social and environmental justice, and the coexistence of religious and LGBTQ+ identities, we provided a platform for speakers to connect with our audience on discussions relevant to their collective experiences as Jains
youngminds in America and across the world. And of course, it would be remiss if we didn’t talk about how we managed to keep the convention spirit alive
The resilience and togetherness that our Convention Committee showed throughout the most difficult times, and the sacrifices they all made despite knowing that we were not going to have a Dallas convention— that’s what I’m most proud and thankful for. with our YJA Convention hotel-themed escape room and the YJAWorld Community Showcase & Mixtape. All in all, YJA Day was everything we hoped it could be, and more. What are you proudest of from this past year? Vatsal: Our Convention Committee had people of all ages and backgrounds. We had 18 year-olds for whom this would’ve been a first experience and 25+ year-olds for whom this would’ve been the last. When we decided to cancel the Dallas convention, we weren’t sure how they would react and how motivated they would be to continue working towards the virtual convention. Not only did our entire team stay strong throughout the cancellation process, but they also came back even stronger during May and June to help plan some amazing weekly virtual events leading up to YJA Day in July. The resilience and togetherness that our Convention Committee showed
throughout the most difficult times, and the sacrifices they all made despite knowing that we were not going to have a Dallas convention—that’s what I’m most proud and thankful for. Describe your Convention Committee experience in one word. Simmi: Family; These 41 dinguses (what we lovingly called our committee members) are the most resilient group of people I’ve ever worked with, and I’m lucky to have gotten close to them. They’ve taught me so much about life and living, I’m endlessly grateful for the time I got to spend with them. Parshva: Trust; With so much uncertainty along every step of the way, trust was the only way we were able to make it through this arduous journey. The four of us needed to trust not only our 41-person team to stick around for this new experience but also each other and ourselves that we could make the right decisions and pivots at each step of the way. Vatsal: Unforgettable; Yes, a Convention in Dallas would have undoubtedly been a memorable experience for all of us. But what we went through together this past year as a team, as an organization, and as a community was absolutely unforgettable. Avish: Magnifying; as it’s often said, “everything is bigger in Texas.” Before the pandemic, we were trying to push the boundaries with regards to Convention attendees, creative schedules, food logistics, an exquisite ballroom atmosphere, etc. Once the pandemic hit, the magnifying mindset didn’t change but simply pivoted. Many things that normally
DEC 2020 wouldn’t have been explored were magnified to great lengths—fully remote work, all-virtual programming, experience building while not being able to be physically together, etc. It was an incredible opportunity and experience to define, build, and iterate multiple new things for this organization while still staying true to our values and members. Looking back, I’m so proud of the team’s ability to keep pushing on the original mission, while pivoting so well to adapt to a new reality for our beloved community. What did you learn about your own leadership style this year?
Committee kicked into full gear, it definitely took our commitment up a notch. Because every decision, every social media post, every announcement needed the Co-Chairs’ involvement, review, and approval, it was crucial to make ourselves available as much as possible. There were times when these review requests came in the middle of the day due to others’ availability, and then there were times where we had to go through lengthy decision-making calls late into the nights, all of which required
The four Co-Chairs, pictured with blankets printed with photos of their YJA memories. They were gifts from the team to their leaders!
Parshva: One of the biggest lessons I took away from this year was that being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean setting a working style that works for you and shaping others to fit the mold that you’ve envisioned; rather, it requires adapting to the various working styles of those around you while also maintaining your own vision of the end goal. Each committee, and each member, had a different dynamic in how they worked together, interacted with others, and accomplished deliverables, and I found that much of our job was helping to translate and bridge those various puzzle pieces together across the various committees. Finding ways to adapt our own leadership styles was often difficult, but it produced some of the best opportunities for personal growth and development. What were some of the personal, professional sacrifices you had to make to do your job to the best of your ability? Vatsal: I have always said that being Co-Chair felt like having a second job. Having served on the Executive Board as a Director before, and then serving strictly as an Executive Board Co-Chair for the first couple of months of the 2019-2020 term, I had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. But once the Convention
numerous sacrifices. While we were respectful of each other’s professional and personal lives, it did require us to sacrifice our evenings, weekends, and sometimes even early mornings for YJA so that we could keep moving forward with the planning process. And even though this often meant less time for us to spend with friends and family, I would not hesitate to say that the sacrifices we made were every bit worth it. What are some lessons you learned from each other? Simmi: The four of us, myself and my three Co-Chairs, have been to hell and back this year, probably multiple times if we’re being real. And with every hurdle faced, they’ve each taught me something about leadership in the moments that I’ll carry with me forever past this experience. Avish taught us the importance of patience; sparing just a few extra minutes, sometimes hours, for fine-tuning often saved us from making costly mistakes. Our output this past year was phenomenal on so many levels, and much of that was only possible
youngminds after much diligence, attention to detail, and never settling for anything but the very best. Vatsal was cool as ice in some of the tensest moments, and the impact of his collected composure ensured that we always put our best foot forward and did right by our committee members and attendees. Beyond that, he demonstrated how a situation gone awry can be brought under control by refocusing on the right priorities. Lastly, Parshva taught us the importance of lightheartedness and nurturing a fun, enjoyable environment for everyone to do their best work and be the best version of themselves.
I’m so grateful to have been one of those four bases in this DNA molecule where its bond will truly never break. Vatsal: When we formed our Convention Committee in December of 2019, one of the immediate thoughts in my mind was how I was going to add meaningful value to our team. Not only was this my first Convention Committee, but my Co-Chairs collectively had enough Executive Board and Convention Committee experience between them that
you’d need two hands to count all the boards. Needless to say, I was in awe but also nervous at the same time. What I hadn’t anticipated however was how much of a fun, amazing, and enlightening experience the next few months would be. I learned so much from my fellow Co-Chairs about the organization and our flagship event while I tried to contribute with my fair share of experience as a past attendee and as an “outsider.” Avish taught me how to be a sheer professional, paying attention to detail and showing prudence with our approach to the planning process. Simmi taught me how to make and maintain good personal relationships, all the while getting work done responsibly and with accountability. Parshva taught me about efficient, effective, and intelligent management while also cultivating a culture that was so enjoyable to be a part of. Altogether, these three people taught me so much about Jainism, leadership, teamwork, and above all, friendship, and I am forever indebted to them for this experience of a lifetime. Avish: Over the course of the nine months, from day one until we put up our hats, each day presented a new learning experience through from the work, the situations, the people who surrounded us, or the random curveball that was thrown at us (think: the dumpster fire that is 2020). Even though we annoyed each other in more ways than one can imagine (take a moment to think what might happen when you spend an average of 15+ hours per week after the regular workday with the same three people on Zoom before Zoom became a household name), it’s an experience I would not give back for anything, and we left our impact on each other in multiple ways—many of which we may not even realize to this day, months later. Parshva continuously reminded me of the importance of creating an energetic, fun environment and adapting our own role to cater to each team member’s mindset and strengths. Vatsal was the one who didn’t blink an eye under pressure and taught us how to stay focused on our overall goals of serving our community. Lastly, Simmi brought every
DEC 2020 drop of sweat and tears humanly possible to the table with whatever task, role, and conversation she participated in and made sure we all did the same to make the best of any situation. All in all, even though in these days of retirement where we are no longer be spending hundreds of hours together on Zoom until 3 AM (ya know… arguing about whether we should post at 2 PM or 2:30 PM) or vigorously conversing on Slack (queue: “threadbot” @Parshva), the learnings that transpired will stay with us long after we only have gray hairs, and I’m so grateful to have been one of the four bases in this DNA molecule where its bond will truly never break. Parshva: It’s hard to start in one place because the four of us constantly developed throughout the year and learned from each others’ successes and failures in changing the way we approached every situation, but I’ll pinpoint a few of the lessons I think truly changed my view of leadership. From Vatsal, I learned that it’s the personal relationships that make the difference—it’s easy to get caught up in tunnel visioning only on deliverables and deadlines,
but spending the time to truly get to know each and every person you work with on a personal level makes a big difference in the culture and environment, and that was one thing Vatsal managed to do so naturally day-in and day-out. From Simmi, I learned that passion for what you are doing results in the most impactful experiences. From even before day one of the planning process, I’ve seen Simmi pour every ounce of her being into every task, big or small, she took on, whether that was planning a small retreat or an incredible social event at the Convention, and the inspiration this has on others around her was incredibly evident. Lastly from Avish, I learned that if you haven’t got a haircut for three months, wearing a cap is an easy way to hide it (just kidding, sorry). Avish showed me how even in the most stressful and emotional situations, taking a step back to breathe, think rationally, and take time is incredibly important and results in better outcomes. Overall, these three Co-Chairs showed a 22-year old kid that no matter what obstacles we faced, this friendship is a bond that will truly last a lifetime.
Talking to these four wonderful people about their leadership experiences was both enlightening and heartwarming— after all, they were my @cochairs (that’s how we paged them on Slack anytime we had a question, or just wanted opinions… and we did that a lot) for eight months while I served on the Daytime Programming Committee. If anything, I’m even more grateful for their support, friendship, and advice. See you in 2022—hopefully! - V i shwa Shah
Check out the Keynote Conversation and sessions from YJA Day at virtual.yja.org.
jay shetty’s think like a monk
Written by Jay Shetty, a personality known for his videos and podcasts on living a purposeful and spiritual life, Think Like a Monk scrambled up the charts—and I just wanted to see what the hype was all about. Though most wouldn’t guess from his outward appearance, Jay has spent time living a monastic life. Struggling to meet the status quo of an Indian household and fulfill the hopes and desires of his family, Jay was lost. One fortunate day, he reluctantly attended a talk featuring a monk by the name of Gauranga Das. He developed an instant curiosity that drove him to explore life at an ashram for the next four summers, and, later on, led him to make the life changing decision of leaving everything behind and becoming a Hindu monk. After three years of learning how to think like a monk, his guru told him that there would be greater value and service if he left the ashram and shared what he learned with the world. This book is one of the sublime results of this action, a shocking revelation for the modern world. Jay Shetty creates an immersive experience through personal anecdotes, quotes from renowned entities, and academic research to give his readers a lens into the monk world. Most of us reading his book wouldn’t take such drastic measures towards attaining peace and satisfaction. In the world we live in today, such a task is difficult to carry out—especially with our society’s picture of a good person: one who deserves to go to Heaven, Nirvana or the Good Place. In the process of modernizing and making everything “easier” to understand, I believe that the basic fundamentals of living a prosperous life have gotten lost over the years. Jay does a remarkable job to help the layman understand and practice how to live a better life—one with meaning and purpose. He acknowledges time and again that taking the leap of faith is not something the common man would prioritize, but he makes the starting point of one’s spiritual journey accessible. He says, “the greater your investment, the greater your return.” As I started reading Think Like A Monk, I was in awe after seeing so many parallels to Jain philosophy and our core beliefs. In Jainism, the purest form of the soul exhibits total bliss, ultimately achieving a state of inner peace. It is precisely this inner peace that Jay writes about, guiding us through a meditative excursion with three checkpoints: Let Go, Grow, and Give. Let me be your tour guide as we walk through his guided trail.
Starting Point: Let Go For starters, you and I are pretty much strangers to one another, so let’s introduce ourselves! Who are you? Who am I? Most of us get stumped right here. But what is our true identity? We are so used to describing ourselves using an external, temporary attribute that isn’t really us. For example, “Hi, I’m Shruti Jain and I’m a Software Engineer” doesn’t tell you who I really am. That is my job role, and further, it tells you nothing about my true self: my soul. Jay recalls through an anecdote: He [Gauranga Das] says, “Your identity is a mirror covered with dust. When you first look in the mirror, the truth of who you are and what you value is obscured. Clearing it may not be pleasant, but only when that dust is gone can you see your true reflection.” It is our responsibility to remove these distractions that are fogging up the clarity of our true self. Maybe we work together and figure out how to remove these distractions. How hard can it be, right? Well, there is a clutter of emotions—both positive and negative—that we deal with especially in today’s day and age. For example, a lot of these emotions stem from the instant gratification or lack thereof from social media, in turn causing harm to our mental and physical health. Throughout life, we ride a rollercoaster of emotions, and through its course we collect what we know as karma—good (punya) and bad (paap). These emotions impede our dharmic progress, detrimental to our spiritual growth in Jainism. How do I prevent this? Jay shares a very practical approach to identifying, assessing, and acting upon the negativities in our life. To start off, audit your negative thoughts. Though it is near impossible to patrol our thoughts so as to make sure they are positive one hundred percent of the time, we must not undermine the importance of the following: » challenging ourselves to identify the root of the negativity » acknowledging whether it stems from within or the individuals around us » acting upon it while being mindful of the mental space and energy we allow for it to absorb Another practice Jay highlights is Ksama: Amending Anger - Seeking Forgiveness and Forgiving. Sound familiar? Michhami Dukkadam and Uttam Kshama are integral parts of our religious practice. Hey! Maybe we can refer to his exercise and write out forgiveness letters to individuals of all relations to us—new, old, and even those we aren’t close with anymore. He says, “The pinnacle of forgiveness, true sattva, is to wish the person who caused you pain well” (p.44). Oh, and friend, if I may call you that, don’t forget to forgive yourself too! Wait, Shruti. Sure, I can learn to forgive, but can I really forgive without knowing the root cause? That’s fair, and lucky for us Jay left us with some insight. He describes the root as that which prevents life, not death—fear. What’s your biggest fear? Well, before you answer that, here’s a thought: THE CAUSE OF FEAR: ATTACHMENT. THE CURE OF FEAR: DETACHMENT. And if that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s reminiscent of one of our core beliefs in Jainism—Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness. Attachments are some of the greatest sources of our pain. From here, it is just a
youngminds lifelong practice of mentally changing our relationship with all the items on our list with the ultimate goal of detaching from them and learning how to enjoy and value what is in front of us. All this talk about negative emotions and fears are sending shivers down my spine. Jay is definitely right to have us LET GO of the negativity! I think it’s time we take the reins to these emotions in our hands and navigate through the new opportunities that stem our way by uncovering the deeply rooted truths. We will use them to build a meaningful and happier life, ultimately realizing that true happiness is within; it is internal. We have to live life with intentions by having them permeate through our behavior. Be mindful! Wow only one-third of the way to our final destination! How are you holding up? Whenever you are ready, now that we have let go of so much baggage, it’s time to fill that void with some good stuff.
Next Stop: Grow A concept to familiarize yourself with when you embark on the second stretch is that of the monkey mind vs. the monk mind. Think of it as the monkey mind is the child and the monk mind is the pragmatic adult. Jay refers to the conflict between the two to help us understand the impulses that drive our decisions and actions off track and how we expect the monk mind to direct us to pause and assess the bigger picture. It is our responsibility to nurture and train our monk mind to gain more self-control and become more aware of the different voices inside us. Jay paints a vivid picture for us to better understand the influence of our 5 senses on our thoughts and actions depending on how present and developed our monk mind is. “These senses are responsible for our desires and attachments and have the power to pull us in the direction of impulsivity, passion, and pleasure destabilizing the mind” (p.152). He uses an analogy of a charioteer (the intellect) and his horses (the senses). In the first scenario, the charioteer is untrained and asleep on the job, so the horses have complete control of the reigns (the mind) and have freedom to lead the charioteer anywhere. The horses make their own judgements based off of whatever is around them, veering the chariot off the road “in the direction of temporary pleasure and instant gratification” (p.151). In the second scenario, the charioteer is trained, awake, aware, and attentive with the reigns to the chariot in his hands, carefully steering along the correct route. The horses, in this case, are completely controlled by the charioteer’s command. Do you think your monkey mind or monk mind overpowers the majority of the time? It’s okay, I need to learn to calm my monkey mind too! It takes identifying our dharma, establishing a routine, and taking control of our mind by destroying our egotistical mindset to cleanse our soul of its impurities. Dharma, in the context of this book, is defined as Passion + Expertise + Usefulness. Our dharma is within us already, it’s a matter of opening up our mind and curiosities to it. However, if
DEC 2020 we let our monkey mind thrive and take over, we make ourselves vulnerable to violence, close-mindedness, and greed. This is all a work in progress and can take a lifetime to achieve, but now that we are starting to dig deeper into our souls and how we can live a purposeful life, how do you feel?
Final Destination: Give We have reached the last stretch of our little excursion! With all the enlightening insight and practices we have learned so far, it is very important to practice gratitude, or genuine appreciation for everything in our lives, regardless of our progress in our spiritual journey so far. “Even if your life isn’t perfect, build your gratitude like a muscle. If you train it now, it will only strengthen” (p.211). There are so many ways to express gratitude, from simple words like “thank you” to taking part in a volunteer service to simply being kind to everyone, even strangers. Our lives are composed of the little events we experience, be it commuting to work, working on a class project, or going grocery shopping. The pleasure we receive from these events are dependent on the mutual kindness we give and receive to and from those around us. These acts of kindness go a long way in bringing forth the positive qualities in our life— compassion, resilience, confidence, and passion—and help us form meaningful relationships with ourselves as well as others. Beyond gratitude, service is the most direct form of giving and it is one of the most satisfying acts for our soul. It not only helps others, but also helps us. “When you’re living in service, you don’t have time to complain and criticize. When you’re living in service, your fear goes away. When you’re living in service, you feel grateful. Your material attachment diminishes” (p.269). “Service is the direct path to a meaningful life” (p.269). And with that we have reached the end of our tour through the guidance of Jay Shetty. Though many questions have been left unanswered, it is important to internalize the fact that these changes cannot happen overnight. Regardless, if you have made it till here and have enjoyed the content so far, I highly recommend you invest in this feel-good book as it has a lot of practical advice to offer through the flurry of examples and insights. This was just a surface level depiction of a handful of the many teachings you will encounter in this book! Good luck with your spiritual journey, my friend. - Shruti Jain
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