By Niranjan Shah
My dear Nikita and Sanjna:
There are a number of Jain temples and institutions in the USA, and the number of Jains in America is about 200,000. There were two events that heralded the arrival of Jainism in the United States. The first was the construction of a “Jain temple” at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904-1905. At that time, there were no Jains in the USA. After the fair, it was dismantled and rebuilt in Las Vegas, Nevada, only to be taken down in the 1960s. Now that Jains live in the USA, the remains of the building have been acquired by the Jain Society of Los Angeles and it is being reassembled. The second event was the arrival of Virachand Gandhi, father of American Jainism, at the International Religious Parlia-ment in Chicago alongwith Swami Vivekananda.
Jain Society of Greater Cleveland, Ohio, is celebrating Pratishtha Mahotsav of Mulnayak Shri Dharmanath Bhagawan, the 15th Tirthan-kar, Shri Rushabhnath Bhaga-wan, the first Tirthankar and Shri Mahavir Swami Bhaga-wan, the 24th Tirthankar, at a temple in Richfield, Ohio. The celebration begins on July 2 and will last upto July 6. Bhagawan Dharmanath was the 15th Jain Tirthankar of the present age (Avasarpini). According to Jain beliefs, he became a Siddha, a liberated soul which has destroyed all of its Karma. Dharmanath was born to King Bhanu Raja and Queen Suvrata Rani at Ratnapuri in the Ikshvaku clan. His birth date was the third day of the Magh Sukla month of the Indian calendar. In due course, he became young, was married and then ascended the throne. He ruled successfully for a long period. One day he relinquished all worldly attachments and became and ascetic. After two years of spiritual practices he became omniscient. His first religious discourse was attended by the fifth Vasudev Purush Simha and Sudarshan Baldev. In his first discourse he mainly dealt with the subject of form and ill effects of passions. A large audience was benefited by this eloquent discourse. At last he went to Sammetshikhar and got Nirvana. Jainism is universal in character and this is amply manifested by the Navkar Maha Mantra. The distinguishing feature of this mantra is that it is not addressed to any particular individual or God. It offers salutation and adoration to all those sanctified and enlightened souls. Jainism puts the greatest emphasis on Ahimsa.
I had opportunity to work at an Ashram of Muni Santbalji, see Guru Nanchandraji at Sayla and share knowledge of Kanji Swami at Songarh in Saurashtra. During 1954-55, I worked on the Shetrunji Irrigation Project at Palitana, a city of temples and pilgrimage. My book on Vegetarianism, had blessings from Acharya Sushilkumarji and was sponsored by 7th Biennial JAINA Convention in Pittsburgh PA, 1993. This book was released by Sunderlal Patwa, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. I was speaker at 12th Biennial JAINA Convention at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2003 and at Raritan Center in New Jersey in 2007. Many of my articles on Jainism is published in India Tribune. The include (1) Ethical Vegetari-anism and Law of Karma, (2) Is your stomach a graveyard of dead animals? (3) Do US meat-eaters eat 3,596,302 animals with abscessed livers? (4) Earth can feed 20 billion vegetarians. (5) Contribution of Jainism to India’s culture (6) Warehouse helps JAINA’s Wheel of Hope. (7) Jains are a small community, but highly influential. and (8) Peace through Dialogue.
I have addressed Jain groups, including Jain seniors at New York Temple.
“Though the Jains form a little less than 1 percent of India’s population, their contribution to the exchequer through income tax was an astounding 24 percent.” According to The Hindu dated August 20, 2007.
– Grandpa’s blessing