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15th Biennial JAINA Convention

e-Jain Digest I e-Jain Digest October 2009

15th Biennial JAINA Convention

Jain Center of Southern California


JAINA Convention

(The entire set of article with all picture is available in the PDF version)

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Gary Francione

Dr. Jagdish Sheth

Dr. Dipak Jain

Convention Lectures, Seminars & Workshops

Evening Programs

Youth Programs

Awards & Recognition

JAINA Awards 2009

JAINA Recognition Awards

Commemorative Souvenir

Interesting Facts & Firsts

View of a Youth

Comments form some participants

Acknowledgement

Articles:

Ahimsa, Ecology, and Strict Vegetarianism as The Jain Way of Life - Dr. Gary Francione

Professor Jagdish N. Sheth: An Intellectual Giant Among Us - Editorial Team

Dr. Dipak Jain: Empowerment based on Jain Values - Editorial Team

Dave Chameides Speaks - Dave Chameides

The Environmental and Ecological Teachings of Tirthankara Mahavira - Sadhvi Shilapi

Sacred Balance: An Active Pursuit - Samir Doshi

Jains Go Green - Hetal & Suken Jain

A Gujarati Poem - Pallavi Doshi

JAINA Convention

Jain Center of Southern California (JCSC) was the host center as well as the site for the 15th Biennial JAINA Convention held July 2-5, 2009 in Buena Park, California. JCSC’s newly inaugurated facilities – a 62,000 sq ft cultural complex and 13,000 sq ft temple – proved to be the ideal spiritual backdrop to host the convention activities. Nearly 2,000 delegates (1600 adults and 400 youths – some including three generations of family members) from the United States, Canada, India, Europe, Dubai and Africa attended the event. The biennial convention provided a unique opportunity for the delegates to celebrate their heritage, gain new knowledge, and revive their spiritual aspirations.


The 15th Biennial JAINA Convention 2009 with the theme "Ecology – the Jain Way” was graced by the presence of prominent Jain monks, nuns, scholars and dignitaries including Pujya Chitrabhanu, Pujya Bhattarak Charukirtiji, Pujya Amrender Muni, Pujya Rakeshbhai Jhaveri, Pujya Acharya Chandanaji, Sadhvi Shubhamji, Sadhvi Shilapiji, Samani Akshaypragyaji, Samani Mudit Pragyaji, Samani Shukla Pragyaji, Samani Vinay Pragyaji, Pujya Lokeshmuni, Pandit Dhirajlal Mehta, Dr. Hukhumchand Bharill, Pramodaben Chitrabhanu, Taralaben Doshi, Dr. Falguni Zaveri, and various academicians, community, civic and business leaders.

This year’s convention theme "Ecology – the Jain Way” is a timely topic. In these challenging times, core Jain principles of Ahimsa, Aparigraha, and Anekantvad identify a framework of responsibilities, challenges and opportunities to support ecological harmony through non-violence towards all nature, including humans. It provides an impetus to reduce wants and waste through non-possessiveness. It also inspires universal respect for the environment and nature through non-absolutism. Lord Mahavir’s message, "One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them,” and the ancient Jain scriptural maxim Parasparopagraho jivanan – all life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence – resonated throughout the convention in the lectures, seminars, articles, and hands-on projects. The delegates were reminded of the fact that Jains have a fundamental commitment to stewardship of the earth and to promote ecological harmony. The lectures and seminars were designed to embrace this theme and suggested ways to take care of nature in these modern times. The theme of the convention offered a unique opportunity for attendees to apply their religious beliefs and practices in limiting environmental deterioration.


The convention activities began with the Shobha Yatra procession in the morning of the opening day. The colorful beginning was enthusiastically greeted by the delegates and the guests. The Jain monks, scholars, local leaders and politicians marched with the young and old Shravaks and Shravikas who were dancing to the beats of the traditional music and carrying huge colorful flags representing the 67 JAINA member centers. It was an uplifting auspicious beginning to the whole event.

Keynote Speakers

The keynote speech given by Dr. Gary Francione, Professor of Law and Philosophy at the Rutgers University, on animal rights was well received. For the past several years, he and his wife have followed a strict vegan diet and do not use or wear silk, wool or leather products. A self-proclaimed embracer of Jainism, Dr. Francione was the first professor to teach animal rights theory in an American university. In his lecture, he emphasized that veganism should be the default position of a dharma that is based on nonviolence. His passionate address was received with a standing ovation.

Dr. Jagdish Sheth, Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, spoke about the nurturing of nature in the modern world. He talked about the emerging economies of China and India putting a lot of pressure on natural resources and how sustainable growth can only be achieved by limiting our consumption and applying the Jain principle of Aparigraha. We should be aware of where the things we consume come from. Use of locally grown fresh produce minimizes transportation requirements and helps the environment.

Using informative, entertaining, and funny personal anecdotes, Dr. Dipak Jain, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, illustrated how Jain principles can be employed in everyday business activities. "Our Jain core values of Ahimsa (non-violence), Aparigraha (non-possession), and Anekantvad (non-absolutism) offer the resources and the path to making ourselves, and the world, better. It is a key to success,” he said.

Additional profiles of Dr. Gary Francione, Dr. Jagdish Sheth and Dr. Dipak Jain as well as the details of their presentations are included elsewhere in this issue of the Jain Digest.

Convention Lectures, Seminars & Workshops

Parallel tracks of lectures delivered in Gujarati, Hindi and English provided many opportunities for the delegates to pursue topics of their interests. Such offerings included:

· Jain Dharma through Social Services by Acharya Chandanaji & Sadhvi Shubhamji

· Essence of Human Life by Pujya Bhattarak Charukirtiji

· Twelve Bhavnas by Pujya Lokesh Muni

· Jain Way of Life in Professional Life by Prem Jain

· Chasing Sustainability by Dave Chameides

· Science of Climate Change by Catherine Gautier-Downes

· Punya-Pap by Falguni Zaveri

· Atmasiddhi by Pujya Rakeshbhai Zaveri

· Significance of Maha Mantra by Acharya Chandanaji & Sadhvi Shubhamji

· Path Towards Moksha by Pramodaben

· Jain Dharma in Daily Life by Sadhvi Shilapiji

· Science of Forgiveness by Pujya Lokesh Muni

· Andhakar ma thi prakash taraf by Chandrakant Mehta

· Jains and Ecology by Dr. H. Bharill

· World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle

· How to be a true Jain by Samani Vinaypragyaji

· Jain Customs by Pandit Abhay Kumar and Pandit Dhirajlal Mehta

· Bhay Bhagado Ane Bhav Jagado by Chandrakant Mehta

· Can Jains Help Change the World? by Raksha Shah

· Education Update by Pravin Shah

· Jains – Pioneers of Ecology by Samani Vinaypragyaji

· Karma Theory by Pandit Dhirajlal Mehta

· Vachanmrut by Pujya Rakeshbhai Zaveri

· Leadership in Green Economy by Paul Hannam

· Anekantvad by Sadhvi Shilapiji

· Jain Way of Raising Children by Pujya Chitrabhanuji & Pramodaben

· Basics of Jainism by Dr. H. Bharill

· GunaSthanak by Tarlaben Doshi;

· Charity Focus by Nipun Shah

· Inter-faith by Girish Shah

· Samyak Darshan by Anop Vora

· Jain Tirth Yatra by Mahendra Khandhar

Panel discussions included: Health Issues for Seniors led by Dr. Ramesh Kothari, Senior Issues led by Gunvant Shah and Remembering V R Gandhi led by Dr. Dhiraj Shah.

A dedicated group of volunteers from the Jain Center of Southern California set forth to make Seva a significant activity at the JAINA convention. Their mission was simple: to channel the goodwill of the delegates to improve the quality of life of the needy. Participants of all ages, from 5 to 85, convened to form assembly lines to assemble 1,000 hygiene kits and sew 500 blankets for the homeless; prepare 400 backpacks with school supplies for disadvantaged students; put together 100 care packages of card quilts and books or DVDs for children with serious medical conditions; and collect cell phones for battered women’s shelters and eyeglasses to be used in developing countries. This kind of generosity was unparalleled at any previous convention.

JAINA’s initiative of Jain Diaspora to unite the Jain communities living in 36 countries outside of India was further discussed at this convention. The concept was first proposed and discussed in a meeting chaired by Dr. L. M. Singhvi at the JAINA Convention 2007. Plans are in the works to hold a Jain Diaspora meeting in London in 2010.

Evening Programs


The evening programs included garba-raas, a dayaro by Bhanubhai Vora, and a cultural program presented by members of various Jain Centers. A concert by the band Black, consisting of blind singers and musicians from India, was very impressive, entertaining and well received by the audience.

The highlight of the evening was the world premiere of a two-hour Gujarati play, Siddh Hem. It told the story of Hemchandracharya, Jain literature’s most influential figure. At the request of Siddharaj, the King of Gujarat, he composed the entire Gujarati grammar guide and wrote over 3.5 million shlokas throughout his lifetime. This play was specially brought from Mumbai by the same team who had performed the play Apurva Avsar based on the life of Shrimad Rajchandra at JAINA Convention 2007. The performance was electrifying and educational.

Youth Programs

Youth activities and programs were organized at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Fullerton. Many of the speakers who had addressed the adult delegates were also invited to talk to the youth.

Members of the Young Jains of America played a key role in organizing youth events at the convention. Throughout the weekend, the younger generation learned about the applications of Jain dharma through entertaining activities such as the JAINA Academic Bowl, leadership sessions, Jain Way of Living seminars, and entrepreneurial workshops. Participants from Jain Center of New Jersey won the JAINA Academic Bowl. The evening cruise was, by far, the most popular activity of the youth program.

Young men and women at the convention had the chance to meet potential life partners through the JAIN 21 programs scheduled for those who were 21 and older. Some of the events included icebreakers, mixers, speed-dating activities, and Bollywood aerobics.

Dr. Dipak Jain spoke to the youth about how Jain values and ideals guided him through life. He said that by following what he believed in, he was able to achieve what he wanted.

Dr. Jagdish Sheth was impressed with their interest in Jainism. "The youth program was very energizing,” he said. "They have the beliefs about Jainism, clearly, but can practice it in a contemporary, modern way, the ‘fusion concept,’ as I call it. We need to fuse the East and the West.”

Dr. Gary Francione noticed the youths’ extensive involvement. "From what I can see as a cultural outsider, things are changing dramatically,” he mused. "The younger generation of Jains is going to revolutionize the world.”

Parallel tracks of lectures, seminars and workshops offered the youth a variety of options to learn and get involved. Such offerings included:

· Ecology in Daily Life by Lata Champsee, Christian Kohler and Soumil Mehta

· Chasing Sustainability by Dave Chameides

· Charity Focus by Nipun Shah

· Pray and Prayers for World by Sadhvi Shilapiji

· Ecology 201 – Demystifying Green by Amit Jain & Pooja Jobalia

· Jain Dharma in East and West by Suketu Khandhar

· Jain Dharma in Daily Life by Samani Akshaypragyaji

· Broadcasting Jain Life in the Media by Dr, Manoj Jain

· Science and Jain Dharma by Premal Doshi

· Indian Culture and Eco Skills by Pallavi Doshi

· Guides and Mentors in Life by Shanehi Shah, Biren Mehta & Amita Desai

· Spirituality and Sobriety by Rajni Modi

· Smoothie with Ecology by Falguni Zaveri

· Jain Dharma through Social Service by Acharya Chandanaji & Sadhvi Shubhamji

· Soul Songs by Jayesh Khona

· Jatra Dot Com by Mahendra Khandhar

· Leadership in the Green Economy by Paul Hannam

· Path towards Moksha by Pramodaben; Science and Politics of Climate Change by Catherine Gautier-Downes & Sameer Doshi

· Jain Food by Manoj Jain

· Cool Climate Careers by Christian Kohler

· Jain Way of Life in Professional Life by Prem Jain

· Compassionate Living by Dr. Gary Francione

· World Peace Diet by Dr Will Tuttle

· Eco Imagination Workshop – California Student Sustainability Coalition by Aakash Desai

· Science of Forgiveness by Sadhvi Shilapiji

· Jain Way of Living by Yogendra Jain

· JAINA Campus Outreach Workshop by Ashok Domadia

· Taare Zameen Par by Sneha Patel & Aditi Shah

· Can Jains Help Change the World? by Raksha Shah

· Scientific Aspects of Jain Food by Manoj Jain

· Entrepreneur Workshop led by Bipin Shah & Prem Jain

· Team Building Workshops

Awards & Recognition

The highest JAINA award, JAINA Ratna, is awarded in recognition for the recipient’s lifelong contribution to the Jain community in North America. This year it was awarded to Dr. Sulekh Jain of Houston. He served JAINA for eight years, first as Secretary then as President for two terms. He has been the president of two Jain Centers (Cincinnati–Dayton, Ohio and Houston, Texas). Currently, Dr. Jain is the Founder and Chairman of the Governing Council of International School for Jain Academic Studies (www.jainstudies.org) and Secretary of Mahavir Vision Inc. USA.

The Presidential Awards were given to Udai Jain of Houston and Mahendra Mehta of Mumbai. Udai Jain is the longest serving member of JAINA Executive Committee. He has served as Chairman of JAINA Patron Program and in various capacities with the Jain Society of Houston. Two humanitarian trusts established by Mahendra Mehta tackle the problems of poverty in Mumbai, especially among young children, and have provided equipment (prostheses, wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) to over 95,000 handicapped recipients in India and worldwide. Mahendra Mehta serves as JAINA’s liaison in India.

JAINA 2009 Recognition Awards went to ten adults and five youths nominated by the local Jain Centers for their outstanding contribution and service. The adult recipients included: Amita Desai (Anaheim, California), Narendra Jain (Torrance, California), Rakesh Jain (Columbus, Ohio), Mayur Mehta (Clarksville, Tennessee), Arvind Shah (Gaithersburg, Maryland), Kirit Shah (Edison, New Jersey), Nilesh Shah (Clarksville, Maryland), Pravin Turakhia (Fremont, California), Hamir Vadi (Mountainside, New Jersey), and Rasik Vagadia (Foxboro, Massachusetts). The youth recipients included: Naman Jain (Norwood, Massachusetts), Rajiv Jain (Odenton, Maryland), Pina Mehta (Tustin, California), Parinda Shah (Schaumburg, Illinois), and Shanehi Shah (Torrance, California).

Photos of the JAINA award recipients are included elsewhere in this issue of the Jain Digest.

Commemorative Souvenir

Reflecting on the theme of the 15th Biennial JAINA Convention, "Ecology – The Jain Way”, it is worthwhile to take note of Dr. L. M. Singhvi’s observation, "Jainism is fundamentally a religion of ecology and has turned ecology into a religion”. In these challenging times, core Jain principles of Ahimsa, Aparigraha, and Anekantvad identify a framework of responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities to support ecological harmony through non-violence, not only towards humans but towards all nature; reducing wants and waste through non-possessiveness; and respect for others including earth, environment and nature through non-absolutism.

A wide range of articles addressing the convention theme are included in a commemorative souvenir published for the convention. As we tread the path of the religion of ecology, several spiritual, theoretical, and practical expositions remind us of our responsibilities as practitioners, proponents, and agents-of-change for eco-friendly lifestyle and sustainable living. Jain doctrines concerning Ahimsa and ecology that lead to vegetarianism and not using animal products are discussed. Jain tradition of establishing paanjarapols and promoting jiv daya is re-affirmed with inspirational stories of two such facilities in USA. Jain youth activism, awareness and active participation in "Go Green” movement are illustrated. Two poems remind us that we are "merely guests on this earth” and "all one day can be free”. JAINA’s initiative of Jain Diaspora promotes global unity through a novel concept of Jains Without Borders. In keeping with the convention theme, the souvenir was printed on paper with post consumer contents.

Interesting Facts & Firsts

Hosting of the 15th Biennial JAINA Convention in the Los Angeles area was an historical milestone and a homecoming event for the Jain Center of Southern California. A concept to unite all Jain communities in the United States and Canada under one umbrella was conceived in 1980 by Lalit Shah, a visionary Vice President of Jain Center of Southern California. With encouragement and support of Pujya Chitrabhanuji, Pujya Acharya Sushil Muniji, several scholars and various community leaders, the concept was formalized at the first national convention of Jains in the United States, hosted by the Jain Center of Southern California in the Los Angeles area from May 22-25, 1981. Lalit Shah served as JAINA’s first President.

Some interesting firsts which happened at this convention included the following:

· The convention was hosted onsite at its own facility by the host center.

· Philanthropist Hamilton Brewart, not born as a Jain, served as the convention’s Sanghpati.

· The Seva project provided hands-on participation opportunities to young and old delegates.

· The souvenirs were printed on paper with post-consumer contents.

· 90% of the meals were vegan, and served on eco-friendly recycled paper plates.

· The youth visited a functioning organic farm.

· Babysitting arrangements enabled parents to participate fully in the convention activities.

· Lata Champsee was elected to serve as JAINA’s President for the 2009-2010 session. She is the first woman and the first Canadian to lead JAINA in that capacity.

Acknowledgement

The overwhelming success of the 15th Biennial JAINA Convention is owed greatly to the enthusiasm and hard work of over 250 volunteers, adults and youths, from various Jain Centers – the majority from Jain Center of Southern California. Arranging an event of this magnitude is no easy task. The dedication of the organization’s volunteers made the conference run smoothly. Planning of the convention began soon after the conclusion of the 14th Biennial Convention 2007 held in Edison, New Jersey. Thousands of hours were invested in planning, re-planning, logistics, scheduling and execution of various events and activities. The convention was convened by Lata Champsee, JAINA’s 1st Vice President, and Dr. Nitin Shah and Rashmi Shah assisted her as co-conveners

View of a Youth

JAIN 21 at JAINA Convention 2009

In my opinion, JAIN 21 was a major, and rather unexpected, success. In all honesty, earlier in the year, the committee was recruiting very heavily and many of us felt that the numbers were not too impressive. But in the end, there were more participants than any of us could have anticipated, which says a lot. There were a lot of great things about the convention itself – the food was fantastic, most of the programs were interesting and well run, the nightly activities – especially the cruise – were fun and well-planned, and there was a large and diverse group of attendees.

I have identified three areas for improvement. 1) At times, the facilities did not quite seem to fit all of the participants. 2) The speed-dating event on the first night was not the most enjoyable – the idea was good, but the lack of space, the highly uneven ratio of males to females, and the lack of ability to hear each other in a room with hundreds of other people talking, made it a bit difficult to enjoy. 3) The speed-dating event also took place at the same time as the raas garba, so many of the JAIN 21 participants were unable to attend the garba.

The 2009 JAIN 21 program received strong positive feedback. With the passion and diligence of the hard-working team, it is easy to see why the convention was a great success. They have now set the bar extremely high.

-Shanehi Shah, age 23

Educational Advisor for the Upward Bound Program at California State University, Dominguez Hills

Comments form some participants

Clearly room for improvement!

"Lots of things were handled in an excellent manner. However there was a significant confusion and poor planning about the evening programs. While many of the delegates standing in line could not get in, some with inside information and favorable connections were able to participate in all activities.” ~ RK, Los Angeles,

"Overall it was a good experience. It was a unique experience because of location being at a Jain Temple. Tender Care Organization program was very well received by attendees.” XX

"We were satisfied with the day programs but we were disappointed with the evening programs. Even though we had paid for a complete three-day program, we did not get to see evening programs because the space in the Hall was limited.” SPS, Plano, TX

"It was very nice to see so many people giving their time to volunteer. JAINA convention was executed smoothly. It was a good convention. ~ SJ, Los Angeles, CA”

"There was some room for improvement. Youth group activities in the hotel needed some more help managing food and security. There were not enough volunteers at the hotel. Some of the lecture events did not have any audience at all. Give little more thought to topics of the lectures and activities, next time, considering youth and not to be adult oriented.” XX

"Give autonomy to "Jain 21" or have a separate convention for them. "Jain 21" youth did not get what they expected from JAINA. There were too many unrelated events scheduled for them and not enough time given for what they came for, namely to find a life partner. They are capable of running their own program if adults don't interfere.” XX

There is always room for improvement and improvements will not happen without your valuable comments. So please do keep sending your comments. However, we do like to point out that JAINA conventions are planned, organized, and coordinated entirely by volunteers. Further, such events would not be possible without donations from various generous individuals.

– eJain Digest Editorial Team


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