Report on International Jain Conference
October 3 & 4, 1981, United Nations Plaza,
New York City (U. S. A)
By Sadhvi Sadhnaji : History's first International Jain conference to be held in the West was impressively attended by more than 5000 representatives from various corners of the World at the United Nations Plaza in New York on October 3rd and 4th. A total of 50 major cities of the world were represented by members of 25 Jain Societies and International Mahavir Jain Mission centres in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, India, Germany and Thailand. The main objectives of the conferences were to establish a united community of Jains throughout the world without sectarianism or provincialism, and to establish systems to propagate the basic Jain Principle of Ahimsa (Non violence and respect for all living beings) and the spiritual teachings of the most ancient religious tradition.
The weekend Conference included sessions of guest lectures and delegate statements, panel discussion on vegetarianism and non-violence, and religious music and slide show. The invocation for the program was delivered by His Holiness Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, spiritual patron of the conference and founder/chairman of the International Mahavir Jain Mission and the World Fellowship of Religions. Blessings were also given by various clergy members of the Christian, Jewish and Hindu religions. Upon the introduction by Mr. Rameshwar Ashaant, Convener of the Conference, in the opening session, Chief Guest, Shri Jayasukhlal Hatjaiji former governor of Punjab(India) commented on the relevance of Jain principles for modern times and stressed that the hope of the world lies in the commitment to non-violence. While introducing Acharyaji, Hathiji paid tribute to the Acharya's dedicated work of 30 years for harmony among all the religions of the world. He praised Acharyaji's pioneering efforts in spreading the Jain philosophy to the west, and stated that this work and of the international Jain conference would fulfil the great need for the unification of all Jain denominations. In his opening address, Acharyaji spoke on the aims of the conference. He explained what motivated him to the west and break the traditions of Jain monks travelling only by foot. He also clarified that he did not initiate this system of travel abroad. Rather, it was practiced years ago in Lord Parshwanath's time and Lord Mahavir's time. Acharyaji continued, " I have only revived this system-not to attempt to convert anyone from one religion to the other, but to awaken man to peace, non-violence and the divinity of his soul. It is necessary, for spiritual social and political of the Arihantas are introduced. In speaking about the need for unity in the Jain community, Acharyaji stated, in the past we have been scattered by sectarianism. Our faith in the Arihant is our common bond. This faith is our uniting factor. The teaching of the Arihantas will flourish with the brotherhood and strong faith among all members.
Acharyaji explained, "The four major sects in Jainism are actually symbols of the four states of spiritual development-Terapanthi represents the surrender and acceptance of the Lord's path. Sthanakvasi represents the search for the true place of reality within. Swetambara represents the state of purity when the bondage of karma is broken. And Digamber represent non attachment and the highest state of consciousness. Therefore, any one who says he is Jain is actually a part of all four sects." At the non-violence panel discussion, Acharyaji said, " Ahimsa is the key to world peace and the principle of Anekantvad (non-absolutism) is the solution to problems of prejudice and intolerance. The future of the world is in your hands. You are the symbols of non-violence."
Acharyaji also proclaimed supported for any movements protecting the lives of animals saying' "The United Nations is synonymous with peace and human rights, but it is also necessary to become involved with right for animals. Animals should not be tortured by the many unnecessary laboratory tests, for cosmetics and household products. Nor should they be slaughtered to satisfy man's useless desire to eat fish." Guest for Honour, Shri C. V. Narshimhan, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, pointed out how Acharyaji had succeeded in not only lucidly expounding the basic truth of Jainism for the guidance of Jains and non Jains, but also had served the cause of bridging the gulf between Jains, Hindus and other religious groups, by preaching that Ahimsa is essence of all religious. Guests of Honour also included shri Remakrishnan, secretary General of Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan and Shri Lallan Prasad Vyas, Chief Editor of Hindu Vishwa Darshan. Upon the introduction by Shri Mohan Bhai Jhaveri, patron of the conference during his heartfelt statement, the conference president, Shri Deep Chand Gardi, President of the Swetambara Jain conference in India, admitted that some years ago when Acharyaji progressive mission of travel abroad was the object of much controversy, he himself was opposed to the transgression of the age-old tradition. But now seeing that Acharyaji bold step had led to great consecuence in the enthusiasm and acceptance of the teaching of the Jain traditions, and its unifying effect on the Jain community - his eyes have been opened. Mr. Gardi pledged that considering the great need of society and the future generation, he would work for unity of Jain community in the same manner, supporting Acharyaji's progressive work.
The welcome address of the conference was delivered by A. K. Nahar, Chairman of the Reception Committee. The conveners of the conference were Rameshwar Ashaant and Dr. C. L. Jain, Dr. T. J. Salgia, patron, served as chairman of the delegate session in deciding the proposals and resolution of the conference. Dr. K. C. Bhaiji, patron served as chairman of the panel session on non-violence and vegetarianism. Dr. Sulekh Jain was the chief speaker of the session. Other speakers of the conference were Dr. R. B. Harris, Dr. W. Rodenhiser, Rev. Pater Lewis, Dr. I. C. Sharma, George Hunt , Waiter Doyle and Dr. Vinay Jain. Address given by religious leaders or spiritual guides included those of Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, Swami Radhar, Dr. R. B. Harris, Ma Yoga Shakti, Vimala Lunavat. P. K. Tolia of Bangalore graced the Conference with Religious songs and instrumentals. The music party of Jayenendra Shah and Naresh Shah led religious songs and chanting as well as Piyush Bhaiji. Shakti Parakh adeptly demonstrated yoga postures. Other delegates from support for the mission of Unity among all Jain communities were; C. L. Lalwani, U. C. Golachha, Dr. Dhariwal, Parveen Jain, Prof. Metha, Dr. Binayak, Mohan Bhai Jeveri, Om Prakash, Praveen Shah, Arvind Shah, Dr. B. P. Shah, Dr. Bernard Tepper, Dr. pandya, Arvind shah, Dr. S. Shah, Manoj Dharamsi, Girish Shah, S. L. Mutha, C. M. Jain, Prakash Baid, B. C. Shah Manohar Seth, Pukh Raj Manak Chand Lonia. A vote of thanks was offered was offered by Subhas Lalwani. At the conference Dr. and Mrs. Dilip Ulja donated the generous amount of $10,000 for the proposed new Ashram of Acharya Sushil Kumar. Mr. Arun Kantharia was publicity coordinator for the Conference.