With a small beginning in 1981, JAINA has become known for a remarkable and praiseworthy achievements during last four decades. Gurudev Chitrabhanu (1922 – 2019) and Acharya Sushil Kumar Ji (1926 -1994), two most prominent Jain spiritual leaders in USA, blessed the JAINA at its auspicious beginning. They provided till their last breadth all the nurturing needed for JAINA to grow in a new frontier of America where they may have been hardly any Jain prior to 1950. The structure and establishment took place in 1983 at the Jain Center of America (JCA) in Elmhurst, Queens, New York in the presence of delegates from dozen or so Jain Centers, a big jump from around six centers represented in 1981. As a secretary of JCA, I was requested to take charge of JAINA Convention in New York. Elections were held and New York delegates, understandably, recommended my name as a president, but Dr. Manoj Dharamsi of Washington DC wanted to become president and I withdrew in the interest of budding organization to show unity. Name, logo, constitution, registration as a nonprofit organization etc. were subsequently completed before the next convention held in 1985 at Detroit. Since then, it has become an odd year biennial convention usually held around July 4th weekend. It was usually three-day event that has grown to four or five days.
COVID-19 posed great challenges for all – be it a small organization or big countries. For JAINA there were multiple challenges. Initially a location was decided in Orlando Florida during July 4th weekend in 2021. However wisely it was decided at the beginning of the year to have a virtual convention. Multiple day convention posed technological challenges unlike few hours of meeting on Zoom or many workers working on computer all day. The end results were spectacularly splendid. More than 15000 attendees from toddlers to people in their 90’s joined the convention at one time or other. They represented more than 23 countries. More than 70 scholars delivered in excess of 130 discourses. 175 sessions totaling 300 hours were prerecorded in 400 high fidelity videos to accommodate time differences and to avoid last minutes glitches.
Anuvrat, one word played a critical role. More than 300 volunteers decided to take a vow, knowingly or unknowingly, to do their best for the convention. Almost 125 volunteers were working for six months. To top it all the credit goes to the president Mahesh Wadher who along with his family sacrificed a lot financially and otherwise during last two years. He now holds special place among 150,000 Jains and 72 Jain Centers in Canada and USA. JAINA Conventions had its ups and downs but Jain community in Los Angeles deserve millions of congratulations, where first convention was held in 1981 and this 2021 which broke all previous records in multiple ways. Everyone’s resolve – Anuvrat – made this dream come true.
Arvind Vora was recipient of JAINA Ratna (the highest award of JAINA) in 2003 for his contribution to promote Jain values and multifaith activities.
People Also Ask..
What is Jainism?
Jainism is the most difficult religion. We get no help from any gods, or from anyone. We just have to cleanse our souls. In fact, other religions are easy, but they are not very ambitious. In all other religions when you are in difficulty, you can pray to God for help and maybe, God comes down to help. But Jainism is not a religion of coming down. In Jainism it is we who must go up. We only have to help ourselves. In Jainism we have to become God. That is the only thing.
– Prof. Ann Valley at University of Ottawa specializes in the broad field of the Anthropology of Religion, with a focus on South Asian religion, especially that of Jainism.