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LETTER FROM THE CO-CHAIRS

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

A CHILDHOOD REFLECTION

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THE TALES WE TELL

A CONVERSATION WITH SAHIL JAIN

WHY YJA IS SO IMPORTANT TO ME

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STUDYING IN TEL AVIV 'ISRAELI' FUN

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

LETTER FROM DIRECTOR OF FUNDRAISING

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YOUNG MINDS

Table of Contents

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RETREATS: WEST

RETREATS: SOUTH

RETREATS: NORTHEAST

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RETREATS: SOUTHEAST

RETREATS: MID-WEST

RETREATS: MID-ATLANTIC

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HOUSTON MENTORING PROGRAM

A NICHE OF MY OWN

SOCIAL MEDIA: INHERENTLY UNJAIN

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Letter from Co-Chairs weekend experience for hundreds of youth. At the retreats, attendees had the opportunity to interact with other youth from across the region and engage in educational sessions, social exercises, icebreakers, team-bonding activities, and much more!

Jai Jinendra, We hope everyone is successfully making it through finals, AP exams, and work deadlines! As summer approaches, YJA is looking forward to continue putting together events and projects that bring young Jains together. Our Executive Board has been coming up with new ideas and creative solutions to provide young Jains with unique social, service, and educational opportunities. With the Convention only two months away, our Convention Committee is also hard at work planning out the logistics and details of the July 4th weekend. One such event that brings young Jains together year after year is the annual retreat, which takes place in each of the six regions from February to March. This year, our six Regional Coordinators worked for over four months to put together an unfor-

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Year after year, attendees come back to us about how much they enjoyed retreat, what they learned, and the friendships they have forged. In this issue, you will hear from numerous attendees about their time at retreat and what they gained from the experience. You can also read about the Regional Coordinators’ experience in the planning and execution processes of the retreats and their memories of the event. Of course, none of these retreats would be possible without the generosity of our benefactors and sponsors. Your support towards the retreats has impacted hundreds of young Jains from around the country, and their appreciation and enthusiasm is reflected greatly in this special issue of Young Minds. We hope you enjoy this issue of Young Minds. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope to see you sometime soon. Happy reading! Dharmi Shah and Siddharth Shah Co-Chairs, 2017-2018


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Letter from the Editor Retreats can be a beginning. Vatsal Gandhi attended his first YJA Retreat during his sophomore year of college. “This gave me my first real exposure to YJA, one which I thoroughly enjoyed alongside my first time skiing, a brutal but memorable experience,” he says. As Prapti Ghiya, our South Regional Coordinator, has shared, “Jain youth that attend YJA retreats are much more likely to stay involved in the Jain community.”

Jai Jinendra, Dear Young Minds readers, As the seasons change, we’re excited for Convention season but nostalgic to see Retreats season pass by. Over the past nine years, YJA Retreats have been a central and defining experience. Youth from across the region come together for a weekend of fun, learning from each others’ experiences and different perspectives on Jainism. Retreats feature educational sessions, Jain speakers, group discussions, games and bonding with new and old friends alike. Apart from this age-old formula is the unique group of people and sessions planned that form a memorable, unique experience.

As Mika Jain shares in "A Childhood Reflection", “[her] Jain family that once lived in a cozy home in Atlanta is now spread out in New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, but [they] are using all the tools to stay connected and immersed in each others’ lives.” As Seema Jain, the founder of YJA shares, “Jainism is evolving with the younger generation.” As the definition and experience of being a Jain in America changes over times, Retreats provide a space and intentional community to reflect on what it means to be a Jain today and how our values compare with those of our family, Jain peers, and non-Jain peers. Questions and spectrums of answers regarding our ethics challenge and guide us in our day to day lives. I hope that you have enjoyed Retreats season and enjoy this issue of Young Minds! Rachna Shah

Director of Publications, 2017-2018

To retreat means to pull back away from something or someone. Yet Retreats are also places where Jains are brought together.

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“She’s like…super Jain. Her family doesn’t eat any meat and they all meditate.” This is how I was introduced to people growing up. But in reality, I grew up in an ordinary, Indian-American family.

dedicated members! It was incredible to meet so many Indian-Americans in such a tiny college town, and that’s where I met my now fiancé, Karan.

In the Jain family household, my parents taught my sister how to value life -- through respecting all living beings and practicing ahimsa. As in most Jain families, my parents would scoop up small insects with a newspaper and toss them outside instead of using Raid spray. My dad would light at least fifty candles for Diwali and place them all over the house, despite being only one of two Indian houses in ourneighborhood. My mom would help me bake eggless cookies for my friends’ birthdays, reminding me that if given with love, even eggless baked goods would be appreciated. When I had friends over from school, my mom would offer them Indian food (at least three times during the play date), while at other friends’ houses we would go straight to the basement and eat pizza. And of course, as a Jain kid, I attended Jain Samaj and practiced Kathak dance for thirteen years. I loved my culturally Jain upbringing, as long as it stayed separate from my schooling experience.

Karan’s family is traditionally Hindu and has the same values that I was raised with in my Jain family. He grew up eating meat, but upon moving to Los Angeles he became pescatarian, and eventually fully vegetarian. He and I have navigated our Hindu-Jain relationship together with its similarities and differences. The differences are not related as much to religion or the regions of India we are from, but rather from the career paths we have chosen and how that affects our day-to- day lives. Karan is a software engineer, working with lots of fellow Indians and building the future of aerospace in his everyday work. Meanwhile, I have taken a path less traveled by Indians in Generation Y but albeit motivated by Jainism – teaching in low-income charter schools and tackling the inequities of education.

Growing up in Atlanta, I was equally exposed to my Indian heritage as I was to southern American culture. I attended football games with barbeques, traveled to Hilton Head and Savannah with friends from school, and went to a private school that required leather shoes with the school uniform. I delicately avoided the barbeque and would seek my mom’s guidance on how to navigate uniforms with leather products. I tried to keep in mind ‘Aparigraha’, or non-attachment, when I went on trips with my friends’ families. I made it through the years in my majority white-school but also stayed true to my cultural roots. Eventually, I landed at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign – cornfields of the Midwest – and found sanctuary in the Indian Student Association. There was even a Jain Student Association with five

‘Satya,’ the Sanskrit word for truth, pushed me to bring my values into my work and challenge the status quo of what high-quality education looks like in this country. The next chapter for me will involve making long-term decisions about life, career, family, and where to settle down. My Jain family that once lived in a cozy home in Atlanta is now spread out in New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, but we are using all the tools to stay connected .and immersed in each others’ lives. The inevitable ups and downs of adulthood and being far from family is, of course, stressful at times, but the Jain philosophy my family preserves is what keeps us connected.

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The Tales We Tell By: Abhijith Ravinutala

Stories make us. Since we were children, stories have clued us into our culture, history, and role in a family. We know that we belong to a certain group of people who live life a certain way, because stories enable connection. We connect to a tradition that gives legitimacy and depth to our ways of being. In American schools, we grow up learning that we’ve stood for freedom since the time of pilgrims and the Revolutionary War. We also read (despite painful annotation requirements) the stories of Odysseus, Romeo, Hester Prynne, and Hamlet to find out what those stories teach us about the world we inhabit. But what about our Indian stories? Where do we learn the stories that define us in terms of our own cultures and our own languages? For instance, many of us may hear stories of the Rāmāyaṇa from elder family members, a few of us have read comic versions or seen it on TV, and fewer still have ever read the actual story. Yet, we cannot deny that we come from a separate culture than the Hamlets of the world. It is time for us to supplement our Western education by reading and loving the Indian stories that

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on the present day. Sometimes, it’s tempting to give up the trek and to say that these stories are irrelevant. But when I push forward through the dark and really understand the interpretative breadth of each tale, I reach the snow-capped peaks on top. I reach an understanding that in their time, these ancient stories were fighting to change society’s thinking. By understanding what change they were trying to make in their time, we can retrieve some meanings for our modern context. A great example of this, connecting meanings through time, can be found in the early Jain Rāmāyaṇas.

have defined our cultures for generations and appreciate how they can define us in the future. In recent months, I have developed a growing appreciation for the stories our ancestors told and for the value of becoming closer to them in the modern day. Stories from India and other regions of South Asia have a different eloquence and a different poetry and pain than the stories I read in school. Literary flair, with clever plays on words and complex allegory, goes hand in hand with spiritual depth. Every written teaching from a guru or holy figure gives me pause – time, at last, to sit and reflect on the cultural lessons I’ve taken for granted and examine them anew in full context at their origins. As a result, I’m able to question what it means to believe in an ātman or a jīva, and how I live my life differently by that belief. Reading through these ancient stories can be a trek through the mountains of time, yet at times I find myself walking in darkness. Each step and idea, seems to be outdated and obsolete, with no light to shed

In the Paumacariyam1, a Rāmāyaṇa written by the Digambara monk Vimalasuri in the 3rd-5th centuries CE, the author flips the traditional narrative by placing an emphasis on renunciation and ahimsa. The story starts with an introduction that frames previous (Hindu Brahmin) Rāmāyaṇas as silly, “not worthy of belief by the wise.” Rāma, previously a warrior-king, becomes a passive character and monk, while his wife Sītā also becomes a nun. Rāma’s brother, Lakṣmaṇa, takes the role of killing the villain Rāvaṇa, who is not a flesh-eating demon in this version, but a regular Jaina with magic powers. Both characters are sent to hell for being violent. Clearly, the story is fighting against the dominant Hindu Brahmin ideas of the time: the hero is a monk practicing ahimsa, the heroine has equal agency and power to transcend society, and no characters partake in eating flesh. Even in the 4th century, then, Jain monks were using stories to tell their community what it meant to be an ideal Jain, and what roles Jains could play. Times change and stories adapt. The early Jain Rāmāyaṇas were actively forming a Jain consciousness that was defined against dominant social mores of the age. Today, we can undoubtedly appreciate the rebellious nature of these stories and retell them with our own intentions for shaping society. The questions to ask, just like early Jain authors asked, are: what kind of stories do we want to tell? What kind of people do we aspire to be?

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A Conversation with Sahil Jain Sahil Jain is a diplomat for the United States. He began his time at the U.S. Department of State in the Office of Israeli-Palestinian Affairs. Subsequently, he joined United States Agency for International Development assisting with the launch of the Global Development Lab Bureau. He then returned to the Department of State, where he is currently covering Hague Convention Treaties. Sahil was awarded the U.S. Department of State Charles B. Rangel Fellowship, a U.S. Department of State Benjamin Franklin Award, and several Meritorious Awards. He has consulted members of Congress on foreign affairs and holds a degree in international relations from Syracuse University and a Master’s degree from The George Washington University. Sahil is a native of Northern California and speaks Spanish, Punjabi, and Hindi. Growing up, how did your family influence you? In every way imaginable. I grew up watching my family overcome economic and cultural obstacles, which inspired me to set high goals for myself. Watching my father, till this very day, working twelve hour days taught me the importance of hard work and determination. My family led by example and instilled in me the importance of succeeding in school. Most importantly, after seeing my family overcome their challenges, I grew up witnessing a living model of the American Dream and grew a deep desire to give back to a country that’s given us so much. How did you find your way into the world? In what ways did college prepare your job today? My personal journey led me across the country to the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could adapt to a culture different than my own. So, I chose to study abroad in Europe and in South India. Throughout my undergraduate career, I continued to learn lessons about acceptance, hard work, leadership, and scholarship. In two years, I 10

obtained my degree in International Studies from Syracuse University and became the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. When it came to deciding my career, being overseas made me realize that I wanted to conduct diplomacy for the United States. After learning about diplomacy in college, I was committed to becoming a part of the Diplomatic Corps for the United States. As a U.S. diplomat now, I’m able to work in an embassy through a crisis, help Americans overseas, protect our borders as the first line of defense, give opportunities to people all around the world to come to the United States (just like my father), and be the face of the United States. What has been your favorite journey so far? I’ve been through Port-au-Prince’s streets in an armored vehicle, in boats through Amsterdam, and surfing on Peruvian shores. However, to me, I think coming back home to California is always a treat. I get to spend time with my family and not to mention it has the best restaurant in the world: my mom’s kitchen. What kind of impact can international studies have in today’s world? I strongly believe that the impact made in public service comes from conscious citizenship, which is something that I’ve seen within the students of international studies. International studies allows students to do effective policy evaluation with issues that one can explore in the classroom. So, to put it bluntly, the impact of international studies could change the world! The views and opinion I express are my own and do not in any way reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or any agency/officials of the U.S. Government.


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"I think the concept of ahimsa, or the principle of non-violence, was infused in me through growing up in a Jainist family. The concept of ahimsa, I think, led me to a career in diplomacy. At the end of the day, I hope to use diplomacy to promote peace and prosperity around the world."

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Why YJA is So Important to Me By: Seema Jain

I am affectionately labeled as an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). My parents came to the USA in the 1960s. Like all Indian parents, they wanted to make sure my younger brother and I had our Indian values, religion, and culture instilled in us as we assimilated with the American culture. We went to India every other summer to visit our grandparents and extended family. My father was a leader in the Jain community and started our local sangh chapter in Dayton and Cincinnati Ohio. We participated in pujas at the temple and Indian culture programs during Diwali. But most importantly, my brother and I had to explain to our American friends why we were vegetarian (back then it was challenging to be a vegetarian‌who would have thought it would be a trend now!) and why we could not date. My marriage was semi-arranged, and I was married just before my 22nd birthday. For many of you reading this article, it must seem like a very young age. In hindsight, I am very grateful to my parents for encouraging me to get married at a young age, as I had plenty of time to know my husband before the pressure for having a kid would start. We finished our MBAs and traveled before settling down to start a family. My advice: get married at a young age and don’t be so hesitant if your parents introduce you to someone. After all, who wants your happiness more than your parents? I was 25 years old when we held the first YJA convention in Chicago. As a Co-chair, I knew that our most important task was to ensure that parents would entrust their children with us for the weekend. This would allow us to further our interests in creating an organization where Jain youth could come together to discuss 12


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individuals. I am blessed to have great communication with my children (at least I think I do – perhaps we should ask them) and remind them that I grew up in this country, so I am aware of what happens in high school and college. I ask them not to lie to me and for the most part, I think they are honest. The irony is that the more open we have been, the more apt they are to make smart choices. When you give a child freedom, half the ‘fun’ is gone because they have nothing to rebel against I have seen plenty of families who were so strict with their children that when the kids go to college, they went a little wild! My husband and I are atypical Indian parents. We may not like all of our children’s decisions, but we would rather know the truth than them lying or hiding from us so that we can guide them. Even when they make mistakes, they should know I will always listen and consider Anekantvad and look at their viewpoints.

religious, cultural, and social issues and find common best practices. Watching this organization grow for the past 20 years, I never could have imagined that the Convention would come full circle back to Chicago. Today, my three children (ages 22, 20, and 17) are old enough to attend the YJA Convention, and my nieces and nephew are on the YJA Board. My dream of ? came true, and I am thrilled to see how YJA has thrived over the last few decades. Of all the convention planning, my favorite memory involved the working sessions at my home in Chicago. As the ping pong table became a makeshift conference table, all the initial ideas, which have become the foundation of YJA, began to formulate. Now, as a parent, I understand what my own parents went through when raising my brother and me, instilling the same values of my upbringing in my children’s growth. I am blessed that my children understand the basic principles of Jainism, the three As (Ahimsa, Antekantvad, Aparigraha), and AGED (anger, greed, ego, deceit). Most importantly they have good souls and arekind, caring, and respectful

Jainism is evolving with the younger generation. In order to preserve our religion, we must adapt to practical or reformed Jainism. Just as YJA has branched out to incorporate more diverse or controversial sessions and encourages conversations on how to take Jainism further, parents should participate in similar dialogue with their children. For open communication within a family, it is important to engage in healthy discussions on ANY topic (drinking, drugs, parties, relationships, LGBTQ+, politics, abortion, etc.). My advice to the young generation: make smart choices that uphold our core Jain principles and have good communication with your parents. Don’t be afraid of them. And parents, be willing to listen to your children and respect their viewpoints too. Every child will make mistakes and it is our duty to guide them and be there for them.

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As a student at New York University (NYU), one of the most common questions I get is, “So, how amazing is it to live in New York?” Call me biased, but New York City is my favorite city. Going to school in New York gives me the chance to live and meet new people in one of the most diverse and exciting places in the world. Ironically enough, though, my favorite semester in college so far was the one semester that did not take place in New York; instead, it was the semester I spent abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel in the spring of 2017. What began as a decision to supplement my academics and study abroad in college became a thought provoking experience that caused me to reevaluate my entire worldview. I chose to go to Tel Aviv because it seemed to be the only global site offered by NYU that offered classes for my major and would give me the opportunity to continue studying the Arabic language. Little did I know, that the semester would become so much more than just four more months of college. Starting from when I submitted my application to study abroad to finally leaving Tel Aviv with a Facebook feed full of new friends and a camera roll full of memories, every second was a defining part of my experience. NYU Tel Aviv has a thorough orientation for its students: the staff introduces students to the Hebrew language, to the culture of Tel Aviv, and to food native to the region. Being vegetarian abroad isn’t always easy—finding tasty food that isn’t just salad is difficult. Israel, however, due to various Kosher rules and options, is a mecca for vegans; foods like falafel and hummus became a part of my daily diet. In fact, not only was Israel vegetarian friendly, but its people were also very excited to see an Indian person among them—a local dosa restaurant became my go-to for Indian food, and I was constantly stopped in the Shuk, the market, by merchants who asked me if I knew who Amitabh Bachchan was. The people and the NYU Tel Aviv staff were extremely welcoming and did all they could to assuage everyone’s qualms about being abroad. But there was more to our orientation than just seeing the city; there were also trips throughout the semester to different parts of the country. While the

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trips we took were designed to be educational, there was also an element of fun interwoven into each itinerary. The first trip we took, just a week into the semester, was to Masada, an ancient fortress that was once the site of palaces and sieges. A tour guide led us around the ruins and narrated the background of the site, which centered around King Herod and his kingdom from Biblical times. The entire time we were there, the only thought I had was that there is so much history that high school social studies classes do not cover in the United States. I barely knew any of the stories the guide was talking about, and if I had heard of them, it was from a more Western perspective. This educational aspect of the Masada trip was coupled with a dip in the Dead Sea. As the saltiest body of water in the world, sinking in the sea is virtually impossible—everyone and everything floats. When taking a swim in the sea is combined with a mud bath in the mineral rich mud found around the sea, it’s safe to say that the Dead Sea is one of Earth’s natural spas. Other trips NYU offered throughout the semester included a visit to Nazareth, where Jesus is said to have grown up; a trip to the Galilee, the northernmost region of Israel bordering Lebanon and Syria; an overnight in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and the birthplace of three major religions; a stop in Eilat, Israel’s resort city; and of course, the international trip to Jordan. For me, the trip to Jordan was the best excursion of the semester. Not only did I get to cross off seeing Petra, a wonder of the world, from my bucket list, but I also got to use the Arabic I was learning in college in real life conversations with native speakers. Naturally, there was more to the semester than just trips—while it’s true that semesters abroad are more relaxing than semesters at home, there are still academics involved. The classes I took were related to my major, politics, and gave me a more specialized education focusing on the Middle East. Along with my politics classes and my continued study of the Arabic language, I also interned at YaLa Young Leaders, a local non-profit. YaLa is a social media based movement that connects youth from around the Middle East and North Africa to engage in discourse and become voices of change and peace for the future.

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Interning for YaLa gave me the chance to also participate in these conversations and hear stories from my peers from around the region, something I would never have been able to do without this internship or study abroad experience. My classes in Tel Aviv helped me learn the textbook explanations of the issues surrounding the Middle East, but my experience at YaLa helped me put real life examples to the topics I was learning about. Part of the reason my semester abroad was so exciting was because the classes were so small and personal—my largest class had only six people in it—so the students and professors got to know each other quite well. Israeli society is extremely informal, so much so that one of my professors took us to brunch on our last day of class so we could do our final presentations at a cafe instead of inside a classroom. We referred to the faculty by their first names, and my professors and I now have more of a friendship than a typical student-teacher relationship, and shared moments with them that are virtually unheard of in the United States. In fact, what university administrator in the US would invite students over to his house for a Seder during Passover? What boss from an internship here would invite interns to a Mimouna, a dinner hosted by Moroccan Jews after Passover, at her home? What professors at American universities would have dinner with their students before starting the semester and come to karaoke after the semester was over? The friendliness and welcoming nature of the people of a region that is so grossly misrepresented in the media today led to a shift in my plans for the future. Western media tends to falsely demonize entire groups of people in the Middle East, and this leads to misguided beliefs and strained relations between Americans and the people there. Seeing this, my goals became more defined to focus on international relations, specifically those of the Middle East. Although my experience in Tel Aviv was one of the best trips and semesters I’ve had so far, living in a country that doesn’t primarily speak English can be difficult. Having to observe Shabbat and 16

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get around in a city that essentially shuts down from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday can be frustrating. Remembering the different rules of respectfully visiting mosques, synagogues, or churches can be confusing. But the worst part is having to leave all of that behind and come back. Living in Tel Aviv helped me become more independent and introduced me to people and places that I would otherwise never have met, and I still miss and think about them daily. I’ve kept in touch with my professors and peers from Tel Aviv, and the classes I have been taking since I have returned reflect the passions I developed over there. What they say is true: sometimes you have to get lost in a different place to be able to find yourself. My experience studying abroad in Israel definitely did that for me. ...

A photo of the Dead Sea, bordering Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.


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The Best of Both Worlds By: Vatsal Gandhi I spent the first 17 years of my life in South Mumbai, within a tightly knit, mostly Gujarati-Jain community. Although there are a lot of Jains spread out across the city and its suburbs, the Jain community in South Mumbai is a small group, well-to-do and fairly religious. We had a beautiful temple within the boundaries of our apartment complex and another historic temple a mere five-minute walk away, both complete with all forms of facilities: Upashray, Ayambilshala, Pathshala, etc. As a result, I grew up watching and learning about various aspects of the Jain religion. While studying ancient Indian history in school, Jainism came up as a parallel religion to Buddhism; we learned about their origins, beliefs, and similarities. This helped me put the teachings obtained at home and at Pathshala in perspective. While the former focused on day-to-day activities and scriptures, school gave me the big picture philosophical background of the religion: the values of non-violence, non-attachment, celibacy, and truth. Holidays like Paryushan, Mahavir Jayanti, and Diwali were a big part of my life growing up. They were grand affairs that involved countless visitors, lots of food, and massive amounts of money spent. Everyone would dress up in their best attire, following strict rules of penance and showing complete devotion to the Gods. But as I grew older, I did not always want to abide by the rules, and there were times when I questioned a lot of the rituals. There were certain practices that didn’t make sense to me, such as gender-based restrictions and the induction of children into diksha. Money played a frustratingly influential role in religious society, contrary to my

liking. At the same time, there were a lot of principles and teachings that I appreciated; ideologies like non-violence, truth, and non-attachment are relevant in their purest form even today. In the end, whether or not I wanted to be part of this culture, it was almost impossible to completely detach myself from the environment. Then, at the age of 17, I came to America. About to spend four long years in college a couple of hours outside Chicago in the middle-of-nowhere. My parents were undoubtedly and understandably nervous about what would happen to me. At that tender age, it is easy to forget one’s roots, to get lost and stray away, willingly or unwillingly, from an inherent value system. But this is when your culture can be your companion or, in some cases, come to your rescue. The Jain society in the US has done exactly that for many of us. Many of my classmates in college and colleagues at YJA have come from halfway across the world to pursue a better education or career, and having this community around us has definite benefits. I have lived in the US for eight years now, and being an active part of the local Jain community has not only provided me with a sense of belonging but has also allowed me to stay connected with the world I thought I had left behind in Mumbai. I attended my first YJA Retreat in Wisconsin in my sophomore year of college, wherein we spent a weekend at a ski resort sharing ideas and knowledge about our faith. This gave me my first real exposure to YJA, one which I thoroughly enjoyed alongside my first time skiing, a brutal but memorable experience. I attended my first Convention in Tampa, FL that same year, wherein I networked with inspiring Jain youth from all over the country, participated in enlightening and thought-provoking sessions about our religion and way of life and learned how I could make an impact in my community in the US. Most recently, I attended the 2018 #Midbest Retreat in the Indiana Dunes, reconnecting with a lot of people after I had missed the last few retreats. I also make it a point to visit the Jain Society of Metropolitan

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Chicago (JSMC)’s temple in Bartlett during the year, especially during Paryushan. My various experiences with YJA and JSMC have been significant, fruitful, and enjoyable and, over time, have helped foster lifelong friendships and relationships. The most rewarding and insightful aspect of my experience has been the approach with which we discuss and teach our faith, especially to the younger generation. Youth are taught to think about aspects of modern society through a lens of a Jain way of life. Not only does this provide logical ways of living that we all can follow, it is also easier to do so in a country devoid of direct access to a community so immediately available in India. This occasionally comes at the expense of some modifications to traditional practices but a new, smart, and unique approach to a centuries-old religion is imperative to spread its message and ensure its continued success. This modern approach may have come out of necessity to an extent, but I hope it continues to attract more youth and encourages them to stay involved in Jainism. I do not wish to pit my two experiences with Jainism, in India and in the US, against each other. Instead, I want to appreciate and be thankful that I have had this opportunity to experience both sides of the same coin, extract the best parts of each, and become the best Jain that I can be. My parents (both sitting to the right) visiting the JSMC Temple in Bartlett, IL.

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APR 2018

Letter from Director of Fundraising by Monika Jain

One important aspect of #retreatseason is gaining local awareness and support for upcoming Retreats. It provides an opportunity for non-retreat attendees to give to and foster connections within the YJA community. Fundraising for a retreat is not just about getting money to provide meals and transportation to make sure the event breaks even. Simply spreading the word about retreat and forwarding the registration to a few friends counts! As Director of Fundraising, it is my responsibility to work with the Director of Events and each Regional Coordinator to verify budgets and to think of creative ways for donations. This can include monetary funds, meal sponsorship, providing snack and supplies, or even offering to drive attendees to and from the retreat location. This year’s RCs have done and incredible job with engaging the community and reaching out to sanghs for youth participation and donations. Even regions with historically low retreat attendance have reached record highs for registrations and/ or have sold out! In the end, YJA retreats are not just about a weekend for a bunch of Jain people to get together and spend time with each other. It’s an opportunity for reflection, awareness, discussion, and above all, friendship. YJA retreat families carry on for years, even after people have moved out of that region. Bonds are made and later strengthened by involvement in local YJA events and the YJA Convention. So, for those of you who contributed to any of the 2018 YJA Retreats, we greatly appreciate your support. You are one of the driving forces behind the successes of our Retreats and you allow the hard work of our RCs to come to fruition. And for those of you who are looking ways to give back and get involved with YJA, feel free to contact me at fundraising@yja.org. Even donating some of your time can make a meaningful contribution. I highly encourage that all of you attend at least one YJA Retreat; you never know who you may meet and what you may learn, about others and yourself. One final congratulations to the 2017-2018 YJA Regional Coordinators: Charmi, Mansi, Pranay, Aastha, Prapti, and Rishab.

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West Retreat Feb. 23-25, 2018 What does it take to put on a successful YJA West Retreat? If you had asked me that question a month ago, I honestly wouldn't know how to answer. But apparently the answer is not that hard: 30 avocados, 2 boxes of Codenames, a bhangra workshop, and of course, a group of the most positive and driven people I've ever met. From the minute we walked in the door, the atmosphere of the retreat house was filled with positive energy that fueled insightful and meaningful conversations throughout the weekend. From a discussion on how to increase the presence of YJA in the West region as a whole to conversations on topics such as Jainism's application in the workspace or our personal stances on various topics in science, every session we had helped us learn from one another and built what I would truly call a family." Pranay Patni, 2018 West Regional Coordintor

Anokhi Saklecha, first-time attendee

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Never having attended a YJA retreat before, I was a bit nervous going in. However, I can confidently say my experiences at West Retreat exceeded any and all expectations that I had. From the get-go, we began playing icebreakers and activities that formed immediate bonds between the 26 attendees. During the day, we participated in introspective discussions about the applicability of Jainism in our everyday lives. Watching everyone come together and passionately relate their perspectives and beliefs was eye-opening. In just two days, I gained more knowledge and appreciation for Jainism than I thought possible, while also watching complete strangers become long-lasting friends. The 4am mafia games, delicious enchiladas, and hilarious debates (what goes first, cereal or milk?) made this retreat a truly unforgettable experience, and I know we’re all looking forward to the next one!


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APR 2018

Sessions Vegan-ing: Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 and 1/2 cups grated zucchini 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 3/4 cup white sugar 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 bananas, mashed 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat the oven at 350F/180C for 15 minutes. 2. Combine the all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix it. 3. To this add grated zucchini and the semi-sweet chocolate chips. 4. Combine the white sugar, vegetable oil, 2 bananas, and vanilla extract and cream it using an electric hand mixer. Add this mixture to the above dry ingredients and mix it well. You may add a little milk, if you feel that the mixture requires some more liquid. 5. Pour it in a greased bread loaf pan. 6. Bake it at 350F for 50 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. 7. Cool the bread in the pan for 30 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack. Wait for another 30-45 minutes before slicing the bread.

Blurred Lines: Jainism in the Workplace Scenario 1: Suppose you’re a public defendant and have to defend a client you know is probably guilty of the crime. Scenario 2: A bit more real for people who are in this room; as pre-meds, you probably have to go through dissections throughout your education process. What are your stances on that? Scenario 3: Suppose you are a consultant and get assigned to consult for a company that does stuff that doesn’t align with Jain values/ideals (example: OscarMayer), what do you do then?

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South Retreat Mar. 9-11, 2018 I have a secret to tell: this year's South retreat was my first retreat. Ever. You can imagine how terrified I was as my Director of Events walked me through the endless Google Docs involved – I had never been to a retreat before, and now I was going to plan one! There was plenty to do in preparation for the weekend, but having an incredible group of Local Representatives made the planning go so smoothly. And, before I knew it, the South retreat weekend was upon me. This year's South retreat was held at the gorgeous Four Cabins in Kyle, TX, with enough space for dance battles, Pau Bhaji cooking competitions, and deep talks to last through the night. Our group was a diverse one, made up of people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to learn from each other. Retreat was an unforgettable experience, and definitely one for the books. And now, I have a new confession– I can't wait for next

Twinkle Shah, first-time attendee

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Prapti Ghiya, 2018 South Regional Coordintor

Family. That’s what I found in Kyle, TX during the YJA South Region Retreat. Even though I had just met most of the people there, it felt like I had known them for a lifetime. Love blew in through the twin cabins’ breezeways during our Circle of Appreciation and our gigantic group hug. That air still hasn’t escaped my lungs. Thanks to our regional coordinator, Prapti Ghiya, each attendee carried home sweet memories that will last a lifetime. From Polaroid Assassin, the impromptu boys vs girls dance off, the Raas and garba workshops, the pav bhaji competition, the insightful sessions, and the music, everything brought us south Jains together—in a big family fully-fledged with uncles, aunties, parents, daughters, and sons! There’s no doubt that the south family will stick together forever.


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Sessions etabeD

TOPICS: Is it okay to marry someone who isn’t vegetarian? Are animal dissections in school okay? Are the educational benefits worth it? Is fake meat okay to eat? Should animals be used for commercial testing? For scientific testing? Do you think the death penalty should be allowed? Do you support physician assisted death? Should abortion be legal?

Mindful Meditation JOURNALING (15 minutes): List five small ways that you can share your gratitude today. What is there about a challenge you’re experiencing right now that you can be thankful for? How is where you are in life today different than a year ago–and what positive changes are you thankful for? Who has done something this week to help you or make your life easier and how can you thank them? What is something you’re grateful to have learned this week? SILENCE (5 minutes): Breathe in for 5 seconds Hold your breath for 5 seconds Release for 5 seconds Hold for 5 seconds REFLECTIONS (!0 minutes): How do you feel now? At what part of the meditation did you feel most relaxed? And what do you remember about it? What kinds of meditation do you do in your lives - what other forms of meditation do you know about? Would we benefit from meditating on a regular basis? How can we incorporate meditation into our daily lives?

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Northeast Feb. 23-25 The Northeast Retreat has truly been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. As the coordinator of the event I deep into understandig what it took to get to the event setup right from the inception to execution of the weekend. It truly is rewarding when you see people come to your event all excited , nervous and curious and leave with smiles, friendships and memories for forever. The retreat is honestly one of the best weekends that allows us to meet other young Jain in our region and also to make those everlasting friendships.

Aastha Kodia, 2018 Northeast Regional Coordintor

The Northeast retreat was one of the best weekends! I loved being able to connect with other Jains in such a fun environment. The discussions and debates we had were engaging and eye opening and I learned a lot. My favorite part was cooking vegan food with everyone! I can’t wait for next year

Shivani Shah, first-time attendee

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Session "Words of Wisdom" Starting over is incredibly difficult, but many of our relatives did just that. Today, immigration is a key aspect of the fabric of globalized nations. It is important that we acknowledge and appreciate this aspect of our identity, and use the strength of our religion/community to succeed in our own lives. Did you ever have a moment when you felt like you were alone as a Jain in this country? Do you think it's easier or harder to practice Jainism today than when you were growing up? How do you think social media has impacted our lives in our ability to follow Jain principles? What was it like expressing your identity to colleagues and coworkers? What were some challenges you have faced raising kids as Jain in a different environment? We often forget that our parents’ life stories have shaped our own, and with the multitude of voices in our society today, it is important that we are able to see all perspectives. Whether someone is a Syrian refugee, or a 6th generation American, stories are the common thread for all.

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Southeast Mar. 16-18 Southeast Retreat, as it almost always is, was a transformative weekend. 18 attendees entered, some friends, some strangers, some veterans, some YJA first-timers, and emerged, one YJA Southeast family. With sessions ranging from discovering the values of our identities, to understanding our environmental impacts and the privileges we are endowed with, each attendee left with a greater knowledge of Jainism, and had their viewpoints challenged, defended, and changed plenty of times throughout the weekend. The food was arguably the best part. Between tacos (and taco pizzas), bhel, and mysteriously disappearing fruit by the foot, no attendee left retreat hungry (and we had plenty to still go around!) With everyone pitching in to cook and clean up, time couldn’t have been more efficiently spent throughout the entire weekend. We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful venue in the house at the Providence Lodge in Lake Junaluska, NC. With a cozy home that was just minutes away from a beautiful lake, there was no shortage of outdoor activities, and attendees were able to enjoy hammocking by the lake and playing koh in the large backyard. This year’s Southeast retreat was one of the smaller ones. But quality prevailed over quantity: as attendees bonded over horror movies at 3AM and games of mafia and psychiatrist, everyone got the chance to meet one another and become friends, something you don’t always find at every retreat. It’s just a little something about the Southeast Region that makes it all happen.

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Rishab Jain, 2018 YJA Southeast Regional Coordinator


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Jai Jinendra! My name is Bhaumi, I’m 15 years old, and this was my first time going to a Southeast Retreat which was in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina this year. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better experience! I’ve learned so much more about Jainism and how it plays into our daily lives and fits in our modern culture. Just one weekend has made such an impact on me and my future! This retreat has exceeded all my expectations; I had a blast, and I’m so excited for the future retreats! To start out this amazing weekend, me and 5 other people filled a van and drove from Georgia to Lake Junaluska. When we arrived, we were welcomed in to the AMAZING log cabin. It was so roomy and cozy. I loved the vibe! As soon as the rest of the people came, we played icebreakers then went to downstairs to make dinner. We were split up into groups and given different jobs for making tacos. YUM!! We all sat down as a group and bonded as we ate. After dinner, our first session was by Rishab and it was called the Identity. We took a few minutes to list what we identify ourselves as (ex: daughter, Falcons fan, Jain, etc.). Then he took us through our list telling us to get rid of things that were not as important, ultimately leading us to our most important identity. It helped us realize who we are and what matters most to us. After this session, it was time for games! We played spyfall and talked all night. We barely got any sleep! Somehow the next morning we were able to wake up. We went for a morning hike and stretch as we watched the sunrise. It was gorgeous! We came be back got ready and ate breakfast (bagels, cereal, etc.). It was time for our next two sessions! Our first one was called Jainism and the Enviromment by Paakhee Shah. We discussed solutions to help the environment and be the best Jain we can be by proctecting other organisms. Our next session was Jain debates by Payal Mehta. We were asked controversial questions about Jainism and had to choose a side. Everyone debated over how they felt! It was eye opening to see how people felt. It was finally lunch time and we had bhel. Our next session was Jainism and the Law by Sapna Jain where we talked about our experiences during

the weekend thus far and our future plans. Then we went on an amazing long hike around the lake. It was great to be around nature and talk with the rest of the group. Our next session was a Privelege Walk by Salauni Shah. It helped us to figure out where we stand and how privileged we are. Then we had dinner where we made pizza and pasta. It tasted amazing! After dinner we hung out and played mafia and psychiatrist. The next morning we ate breakfast and did the circle of goodbye. This retreat was so eye opening and I’m so thankful. I made so many new friends and I can’t wait for next year. As for my future related to YJA, I’m going to Chicago in July. I’m beyond ready to meet more people and make more memories. My goal is also to become an LR in the future. Again, I’m so in 33 love with YJA and the amazing people in it!


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Sessions The Identity Activity Give everyone about 5-10 minutes to write down their various identities. It should be something along the lines of answering the question of “What are you?� ex. I am an American, an Indian-American, a Tennessean, a GT Yellow Jacket, a brother, son, cousin, etc. Patriots fan, Jain. After that, start matching people up and seeing which identities they have in common. While doing this, take the time to poll the room and have people rank their identities in order of importance. Do they value their nationality, or religion, or family the most? How is this reflected in your daily life?

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Mid-West Feb. 9-11 Not even a foot of snow could stop the best of the best from coming to #midbest retreat. From scrubbing out animal cruelty with vegan soap to sharing thoughts at our open mic to making smores by the fire, an otherwise cold and snowy weekend was warmed with friendships, laughter, and memories. We were able to take the weekend to do some introspection, challenge our beliefs, and consider how we as Jains can take action in current events and issues around us. YJA is my family, and that weekend in Miller Beach, IN, my family grew to include 46 new young Jains. I'm already counting down days till Mid-West Retreat 2019 and more spontaneous dance parties! Charmi Shah, 2018 Mid-West Regional Coordintor

Saurin Shah, first-time attendee

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As my first YJA retreat, I really enjoyed meeting other Jains my age and discussing the challenges and opportunities Jainism faces now and in the future as we become the Jain leaders of tomorrow. The different sessions helped me confront some of my beliefs that I hadn’t critically analyzed. It was especially good considering I just recently visited Jain temples in India and this was a great way to compare how Jainism is practiced differently in the USA. Moving forward, I’d like to spend more time learning how Jains in India are dealing with issues like veganism and women’s health to see if there are any strategies we can use here. Beyond the nitty gritty of Jainism I also really enjoyed the games and activities we got to participate in such as making s’mores and vegan desserts. My favorite food was actually the vegan zucchini bread too!


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Sessions Scrubbing Out Animal Cruelty This session has an informative first half, where attendees learn about animal cruelty from how animals are treated, to animal testing for products, to animal byproducts used in clothing, to the idea of veganism and other ways to combat this cruelty. The idea of homemade vegan soap is then brought up, as it is not tested on any animals, nor does it have any byproduct. An informative retreat ends in a super fun activity where everyone is able to make their own customized soaps to then take home. Open Mic While all attendees share stories about themselves to the new people they meet, an Open Mic is a more organized way for everyone to just listen, reflect, and grow closer. Attendees shares stories about their family in India, to a lesson they learned, to their experience with YJA. Whether it was a funny story, or something more serious, attendees enjoyed just listening to what everyone had to say and getting deeper. Baking Sessions Baking sessions are definitely one of my favorite sessions since it's a hands on activity where everyone can feel involved, but also after the session is done, we are all able to enjoy delicious desserts. These sessions allow all of us to learn new, easy recipes that follow our eggless diet, but it's even cooler when we are able to explore vegan recipes as well. Sometimes these can be turned into competitions as we can split into small groups and see which group makes the best dessert!

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Mid-Atlantic Feb. 9-11 "Sooo... is the 7 AM Zumba actually required?" I don’t normally enjoy giving people an answer they don’t want to hear, but this was an exception (#DoItForTheSnaps?). Sweat and sore muscles scream group bonding like no other in my eyes. All jokes aside, Retreat was a chance to make new friends while acting/dancing/skiing out of our comfort zones. It was a chance to talk about pressing issues and ask ourselves: “What does it mean to be a young Jain in 21st century America?” The weekend in the PA mountains was my first of many YJA retreat experiences, and I can’t wait to find that same energy throughout the country with my YJA fam. Mansi Shah, 2018 Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordintor

This was my first YJA retreat and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I found comfort in meeting other Jain kids like me and learning so much about them. Some of the sessions such as the “Let’s Taco ‘bout Taboos” and the “Ethics behind Jainism and finance” gave me a new perspective towards Jainism and made me truly reflect on what the religion means to me. Everything about the trip was so memorable from pulling all-nighters and playing endless rounds of Mafia to skiing at Montage Mountain to late night karaoke to meeting unforgettable people. It was nothing short of an amazing time and I will definitely be attending future YJA events!

Lisa Shah, first-time attendee

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APR 2018

Sessions Financing and Finesse: Jain Perspectives Can a career in finance be ethical? What parts can or cannot be ethical? What is socially responsible investing? What are sin stocks? Does the end outcome to doing social good justify maximizing profits through unethical means? Is it worth taking a job where you know the company does unethical things or should you outright refuse the job?

Let's Taco 'Bout Taboos I would consider taking a break from my career in order to better provide for my family. If I have kids, I will be more involved in their school and extracurricular activities than my spouse. I’m tired of seeing the same token fobby brown guy in every Hollywood movie. We need more representation! My parents would support my decision to marry a non-Indian. My grandparents would support my decision to marry a non-Indian. I have no problem with my spouse being the primary breadwinner. Many reports indicate that a woman makes 70 cents for every dollar that a man makes. If this “wage gap” exists, I think it’s because of differences in lifestyle choices between men and women. I know someone who is battling a mental illness. Mental health is something that is discussed in my family. I would consider purchasing a gun in the future. I would feel comfortable telling my parents about a homosexual friend. I would feel comfortable if my kids identified as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer). Every time I go to Taco Bell, I see an Indian family stuff a handful of sauce packets in their bag. I feel that this is unethical. Someone from my school just posted a statement on Facebook with the hashtag #MeToo. I think society’s definition of sexual assault is becoming too broad. I feel most comfortable around Indian people.

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Houston Mentoring Program by Mishi Jain

to one’s sangh. As such, my friend Siddharth Kurwa and I initiated the Houston Jain Mentorship Program (JMP). The main goals of such a program are as follows:

The story of the archetypal young Jain who half-heartedly attends pathshala and disconnects almost entirely after graduating is one that many in America can relate to. As a native Houstonian (go Astros!) and active member of the Jain Society of Houston, one of the largest sanghs in America, I always noticed how easy it was to disconnect with one’s sangh. Young Jains would be engaged with their sangh to the extent of attending pathshala and nothing more regarding any other aspects of their lives, whether it be related to college, career, or personal matters. Then, after graduating high school, they would become disengaged with their Jain community since they would no longer attend pathshala, removing the only link they had to their sangh to begin with. As someone who actively attended pathshala throughout all of my schooling years and engaged in leadership roles with the Jain Fellowship of Houston youth group, I soon realized the untapped potential to create a stronger, more close-knit community that spans generations and cultivates multiple links

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Guide high school students to develop a better understanding of their preferred field of study and discover possible internships and career opportunities Encourage high school students to make informed decisions about college selection and develop college-readiness, academically and personally Provide high school students with a better understanding on how to implement Jain values through the college experience Develop strong connections between future leaders by fostering a sense of community and interdependence JMP is set up so that mentors, current college students and recent graduates, are paired with mentees, high school juniors


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and seniors, for a year. A mentor could be any individual who has a connection to Houston, ranging from those who are native Houstonians to students who had moved to the city for college. Prospective mentors and mentees are matched up based on a variety of factors such as college and career interests, geographic proximity, and shared hobbies. On the back end, Siddharth and I create monthly themes such as resume review, scholarships, summer opportunities, and essay editing, and gather corresponding resources such as a list of applicable scholarships, essay editing tips, and more. Mentors and mentees “check-in� with each other via phone call or video chat and discuss the monthly theme, though they are not limited to that topic. In addition, in-person events such as workshops, panels, and webinars are organized to compliment the check-ins. The 2017-2018 pilot year of JMP saw a total of 26 participants, consisting of 13 mentors and 13 mentees. While the initial year of JMP faced barriers such as garnerning traction with both mentors and mentees, it has also shown us the true value of mentorship and community among young Jains.

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Mentor Raj Dalal, sophomore at Rice University describes, “JMP has given me an opportunity to offer all the advice I wish I had received when I was in high school. In addition, the program has been great because it has deconstructed some of the social barriers that separate high schoolers and college students at our temple.” Mentee Jenali Mehta, senior in high school, “JMP is a wonderful mentorship program that not only gave me insight into the application process but also made me an organized person. Each month there is a topic that helped me think beyond just college essays, and the mentors are very dedicated to making sure that I was taking advantage of every opportunity available to me so that I can get in to my dream college.” Mentee Vanshika Jhonsa, junior in high school, “The mentorship program has helped me a lot. Since my mentor is in the same field that I want to go in, he is able to give me specific advice that will help me get into the program I want. He is also super nice and willing to help with any questions I have.” For anyone looking to foster a stronger youth community at their local sangh, tapping into the immense knowledge of their pathshala graduates, and giving back to the future generations to ensure that they are better prepared, I call on you to create a Jain Mentorship Program at your sangh. In fact, I call on every sangh to organize a similar program. The impact this program has had not only on mentees, but also mentors, is truly phenomenal. For additional questions about the Houston Jain Mentorship Program, or if you would like to replicate a similar model at your sangh and need materials, please feel free to contact me at mishi.jain@yja. org.

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APR 2018

A Niche ofMy Own By: Aashtha Shah

For the last 19 years, my perception of Africa was extracted from still images, charity videos, and articles describing genocide and poverty. My entire view of Africa was far too simple; the only identity I gave to Africa was the continent’s name rather than its countries, cities, rivers, mountains, and people. When handed the opportunity to embark on a 21 day solo trip to Kenya and live with extended family I had never met, I was both excited and nervous. I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone; it was a place where none of my friends nor immediate family had visited. The only idea I had of what my trip possibly would look like was from what travel websites told me. Based on these forums, my initial itinerary of the trip went like this: • Don’t contract Ebola/Cholera/Yellow Fever • Don’t die in the election day riots • Don’t get pick-pocketed • Make sure to use the bathroom before leaving the house I was overcome with irrational fear and grouped every niche of the continent into one category: a corrupt, third world nation. I let this image coat a thick layer over my eyes, my ears, and my thoughts. Fast forward a 26-hour journey, my arrival in Nairobi, Kenya was greeted with my extended family anxiously waiting to see me. I was immediately taken in as their own. The landscape, the smiling faces of people walking by, and the clear skies swept me off my feet. Everything was so new to me. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the window, as if I was a toddler looking at a stranger. The city had four sides. On one side was the city landscape and moving roads; on the other, Nairobi’s national park and an ostrich standing next to a couple of giraffes 20 feet from our car. In the corner of my eye were metal rooftops of thousands of homes of a single slum that continued for miles. Directly opposite to that were the bungalows of the wealthy. My first stop was home, and I could call my cousin’s

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home right away. They taught me my first lesson: the importance of family beyond our immediate family. Up until then, the only close family I had was my immediate family, but within days, I found myself sharing things with my cousins that I would only tell a select few. I got the experience of having an older and younger brother, and it was like I had a second set of parents across the world. These relationships only grew over the next 20 days. An hour’s drive away, my next stop was Flying Fox ziplining. This was my introduction to rough roads and really impressive driving through massive crater-like potholes. As we passed the city of Nairobi and headed up the Great Rift Valley, I saw a volcano in the distance and patches of different lifestyles. Three thoughts were on my mind: oh my goodness, this view is beautiful; I am going to die by falling off the crazy drop-offs or my zip line breaking; and if there were this many cacti growing in Ohio, I would collect all of them and place them in the windowsill of my dorm room. While ziplining, I learned my second lesson: fear is not worth stressing over. I was nearly in tears waiting for my turn. WHAT IF I FELL AND WAS EATEN BY A LION? Yeah, I was being a little preposterous. As soon as I did my first line, I realized that there was nothing scary about it. Reaching speeds of almost 45 miles per hour, I whisked over some of most beautiful landscapes I had seen. This place was ethereal and amazing, and it made me appreciate my presence on earth and question why we have the privilege

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of such perfect things. What made the day even better was going paintballing and not being hit once (mostly because I hid behind trees the entire time). Later in my visit, I was taken to the Giraffe Park and an elephant orphanage. There was no enclosure that separated the onlookers from the elephants; these animals were in communion with humans. I learned my third lesson from witnessing these animals in their natural habitat: animals are not very different from humans. These gentle giants had their own intricate way of communicating with both their kind and humans. This relates to one of Jainism’s main pillars: every organism in the universe has its own inherent right to live. Who are we to dictate the lives of another important and evolved being? This principle was reinforced by my trip to the Masai Mara National Reserve. During my 3-day stay, I witnessed Earth in its purest form, unaffected by the modernizing world beyond the savanna. Leopards, rhinos, cheetahs, lions, and elephants all lived in one house, standing only 10 feet from me. These animals weren’t the beasts I had been conditioned to think of them as. Rather, I came to the realization that the only beasts were the humans who have taken poaching to extents far enough to leave these animals in hopeless conditions. Three white rhinos are left on this earth. Three. Sitting in the flat lands of the Mara surrounded by thousands of migrating wildebeests and vultures, I understood that I was in their home, and I have to respect it.

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practice my religion when 99% of the people practice a different one? I realized that the only limitation is my mindset. While I’ve heard this phrase my entire life, going to Kenya put it in perspective. I did so many things I never would’ve if I had let my mindset get in the way, and that is what made this trip so special. It taught me the importance of immersing myself in the world around me. From the moment I left the Columbus airport to the time I got back, I met so many amazing and passionate people, experienced an entirely unique culture, and witnessed myself and my perspective change entirely. I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.

Within hours of my arrival back home from Masai Mara - just enough time to scrape the layers of dust off myself -, my family took me on a trip to Kericho. The scenery changed from Nairobi’s dry and sunny weather to weather that was cloudy and rainy. Steep hills covered in acres of tea leaves and small, uniform cabins that housed hundreds of workers could be seen for miles. Here, I learned another important lesson: the fragility of nature. I was told that the tea would not grow if there was even a slight change in environment. Seeing the farms in person made this fact even more incriminating. That was the first time that our duty to preserve the environment really took perspective in me. On one of my last days in Kenya, I visited the Jain temple in Nairobi. Here, I learned my last lessons. I felt I was in India, as the temple was built in the same fashion as temples there. In Nairobi, an entire community of Jains and multiple city centers for them were built on a land where nearly 99% of the people practiced a different religion. This resonated with me even after I returned from my trip. Living on a college campus, I always feel limited in the ways I can practice my religion. How can I 49


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Social Media: Inherently Un-Jain By: Poojan Mehta

When was the last time you checked your phone? According to a recent study by Deloitte, Americans collectively check their phone over 8 billion times a day. As social media is a daily part of our lives, a question must be posed – is the use of social media Jain? It is not something most of us think about, as we give technology credit for many of the luxuries of modern life -- thus, it must be good, right? However, there are many reasons that point to the opposite of this belief. In fact, Mark Zuckerburg’s 2018 New Year’s resolution revolves around improving Facebook’s effects on the health of its more than 2 billion monthly users.

with a ‘bad’ picture? Social media has allowed people to communicate the image of a perfect world to their friends or followers. Many of my peers take 10 or more pictures before something is ‘just right’ to post on Facebook or Instagram. Since we are constantly seeing other people’s portrayed lives, there are feelings of jealousy invoked. “Oh wow, look at how wonderful (insert any name here) looks! Looks like they are living large.” As discussed before, how can social media be Jain if it invokes feelings of jealousy, thus violating our core principle of Satya?

Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, is another one of Jainism’s Maha-vatras. As I mentioned In this article, I outline how social media can be above, Americans collectively check their phones argued as un-Jain due to conflicting with two of over 8 billion times a day. In the same study, Jainism’s core values: Satya and Aparigraha. This across all age groups, most respondents said they article is meant to provoke thought on technolo- check their phones within 5 minutes of waking gy in almost every American’s life, and in no way, up. In my personal experience, many of my peers shape or form, should be taken personally. If I are constantly on their phones. America is dehave written anything below that has hurt you veloping new dining etiquette because so many personally, Micchami Dukkhadam. people are attached to their phones. In response to this trend, when many of my friends go out to Satya, or truth, is one of Jainism’s Maha-vatras. eat, we put all of our phones on the table -- the According to JAINA’s definition of this core first person to pick up their phone must pay principle, only those who have conquered anger the full bill. This constant-phone-checking is by and jealousy can speak the truth. However, when design, however. Most social media sites revolve you take a look at social media and Satya, there around dopamine loops built into their systems. are many red flags that pop up. First, in the 2016 Dopamine is a chemical released in our brains presidential election, America saw a revival of when we experience joy. People are addicted to 'fake news.' Though the public is still processing the loops these tech companies have created and how 'fake news' affected the election, 2016 was are unable to put their phones down. An examthe first time the general public understood that ple of this dopamine hit is every time you get a content can be altered to achieve a goal. With like on Facebook or Instagram, or a message on this taken into account, how can social media be WhatsApp. Doesn’t it – deep down – feel good? Jain? It provides a platform for people to communicate targeted messages to influence your With today’s social media addiction, are the thinking – whether the truth, or a blatant lie. companies that have created these loops Jain and more importantly is Social Media? Secondly, when was the last time you saw a post 50


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But, what can you do? I understand that social media is a part of daily life. For business or personal reasons, you may not be able to abstain completely from using it. In fact, social media is good in many ways – it allows us to connect with friends and family across the world, reach new customers, and share ideas and thoughts with a global community. However, there are ways you can use social media in a more Jain-friendly way. The first step, which you have already taken, is to be aware of when it can be problematic. By understanding how social media can be an obsession, and what this does to us, you can proactively take steps to reduce the un-Jain use of social media in your life. Second, you may consider reducing the time spent on certain applications or only staying active on certain sites. Lastly, you may consider taking the time to call your friends and family, rather than keeping in touch with them only through social media. By calling, rather than messaging, you can have a human conversation -- understanding the emotion, thoughts, and actions of your conversation partner better. I have personally reduced my social media use significantly over the last few years and plan to deactivate additional accounts over the next few years. Already, I have seen changes: it has allowed me to stay more focused, develop new relationships, and keep close, meaningful relationships with those I care most about.

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