Gathering of Light celebrates Mahaveera Jayanti

Members of Gathering of Light celebrated Mahaveera Jayanti on April 22 in New York. They have been celebrating the birth of Mahaveera since 2007.

Rev. JoAnn Barrett welcomed everyone with a traditional greeting of ‘Jai Jinendra’ and briefly described the Gathering of Light. “Today was selected for this celebration since it is Earth Day and perhaps Mahaveera was one of the first to warn against dangers of environmental harm humanity is capable of,” Rev. Barrett said. She also led a meditation session, prayers of forgiveness, and benediction with the recitation of greetings of peace from various traditions.

Ila Vora recited the Navkar Mantra while Arthur Jacques sang Mahaveera song: “Vande Mahaveera, Jai Jai Mahaveera, Jai Shree Mahaveera, Jai Jai Mahaveera … … … ….”

Here are excerpts of few of the speeches made at the event:


Ahimsa is the fundamental tenet of Jainism: John & Juliana 

This year, we will talk about the impact Mahaveer still has on our organization Humane Long Island today.

“Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” is the fundamental tenet of Humane Long Island and permeates throughout all we do. Attributed to various religious teachers, including Mahaveera — the 24th Tirthankara or enlightened spiritual master in Jainism — and popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, “ahimsa paramo dharma” is loosely translated to “nonviolence is the highest moral virtue.”

Ahimsa — Sanskrit for non-violence or non-injury to life — requires doing the least harm one can to all living beings, not only by action but also by thought and word. An important tenet of many of the Eastern faiths, including Hinduism and Buddhism, Ahimsa is the fundamental tenet of Jainism. Paramo means topmost, ultimate, or supreme. Dharma has no direct translation into English; however, it can be conceptualized as duty, reality, or righteousness in thought, word, and action.

Unlike western conceptions of non-violence, ahimsa is not a passive force, but implies an active expression of compassion. 

In the same vein, Humane Long Island does not believe it’s enough to simply go vegan – or stop contributing to animal cruelty ourselves – but rather believes we must become activists.

Taking inspiration from Mahaveera, a name meaning “Great Warrior”, Humane Long Island is not your typical animal rights organization. We are strategic campaigners who have shut down petting zoos and illegal backyard butcher operations, stopped massacres of thousands of geese and deer, ended animal circuses and wild animal acts from New York City to Greenport, stopped a slaughterhouse from being built in Islip and a sordid aquarium chain from expanding into Oyster Bay, and done so much more, through the implementation of right thought and action.

 We do not approach animal exploiters with pride or anger, but rather as humane educators with thoughts of consequentialism. We recognize that a person’s every action is the result of the disposition they were born with — whether one calls that a soul, a Jiva, or simply their genetic makeup — and how that disposition is influenced by environmental factors, experiences, or karmas. 

Currently, we’re working to shut down Sloth Encounters – an illegal petting zoo that subjects vulnerable baby sloths, kangaroos, porcupines, capybaras, and other wild animals, to grabbing hands, noisy crowds, and ramshackle cages inside a former pool supply store, and also sells these animals to the public to be kept in garages and bathrooms.

On this Mahavira Jayanti, we urge you to begin your own campaign as a peaceful warrior or to join one of ours. You can help our campaign by contacting the USDA and urging them to confiscate the animals at Sloth Encounters or by contacting your state Senator and urging them to support Monica’s bill.

As today is also Earth Day, I also must remind us that animal agriculture is the biggest cause of deforestation and poaching of our oceans today. If you still eat animals or consume dairy, remember that Mahavira said, “To kill any living being amounts to killing oneself.” Compassion to others is compassion to one’s own self. Therefore, one should avoid violence like poison and thorns.

Thank you very much for having us here today, and happy Mahavira Jayanti to you all.

Jain cosmology recognizes symbiosis, says Carmen Maffia

Anekantvada translated literally means “no – one – perspectivism,” in other words – the multiplicity and relativity of views.

By this Jains meant that in many cases the arguments espoused by the various participants in a debate all held some validity. Jainism’s position was able to overcome the apparent inconsistencies between the other views, it came closer to fully grasping the one underlying truth, the satya.

Mahaveera proclaimed a profound truth for all times to come when he said, “one who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, fire, water, and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them.”

Jain cosmology recognizes the fundamental natural phenomenon of symbiosis or mutual dependence, which forms the basis of modern-day science of ecology.

The ancient Jain scriptural aphorism, “Parasparopagraho Jivanam” – all life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence, is refreshingly contemporary in its premise and perspective. It defines the scope of modern ecology while extending it further to a more spacious ‘home’. It means that all aspects of nature belong together and are bound in a physical as well as metaphysical relationship.

Life is viewed as a gift of togetherness, accommodation, and assistance in a universe teeming with interdependent constituents. 


(Text Courtesy: The Jain Declaration on nature by Dr. L.M. Singhvi and Pluralism Project, Harvard)


Forgiveness is the highest virtue: Arvind Vora

We are here to celebrate the Mahaveera Jayanti by Gathering of Light, the very first one was celebrated in 2007 and continuously since then except for COVID duration. I am sure Mahaveera, if present, would be delighted that his principle of Anekantavada is alive and practiced by other than Jains after more than 2500 years since he was born.

We all are exposed and lately exponentially to daily and deadly physical violence. I need to take you into reverse. Physical violence is a symptom of mental violence that you have been told umpteen times. But what causes mental violence?

It is a fourfold Kashays and for lack of better words, I will call them evils. They are anger, pride, greed, and deceit.

Jainism places highest virtue in forgiveness as an antidote for anger. In fact, eight days of Paryushan or Daslakshan goes into detail about Supreme Forgiveness and recitation and extending Michhami Dukkadam to all souls, which is as important as saying Jai Jinendra.

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: Parveen Chopra)

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