Greater Boston, USA
The Jain Center of Greater Boston was founded on September 9th, 1973 when twenty families gathered in a home to celebrate Paryushana Parva, a holiday commemorating the birth of Mahavira, the historical founder of Jainism. Throughout the 1970s the group met at the MIT Student Center or Rindge Tower apartments (where many of the families lived) for pujas (devotional services), stavans (chanting) and lectures.
With the inspiration and help of Maharaj Sushil Kumar, the first Jain spiritual leader to come to America, in 1981 the families collected $6700, with which they made a down payment on the building of a former Swedish Lutheran Church in Norwood. The temple was inaugurated on September 6th, 1981 with the Murti Sthapana ceremony of installation of the murti of tirthankara (“ford maker” or spiritual pathfinder) Parshvanath, which was brought from a temple in Bombay by members of the community. The event was well-attended. Neighbors were invited. The temple in Norwood became the first Jain derasar (temple) in America. Since its establishment, the Jain Center of Greater Boston has made a substantial contribution to the organization and education of the wider American Jain community, most notably through its numerous widely circulated publications.
The temple is located in a residential neighborhood in the town of Norwood (about 12 miles south of Boston) and is accessible by commuter rail. Housed in the building of a former Swedish Lutheran church, which was built in 1893, the temple provides space for the community’s religious and social activities. The colorful décor of the well-lit main hall of the temple is complete with a marble altar that houses murtis of Adinath, Parshvanath, and Mahavira tirthankaras in Svetambar and Digambar iconographic styles. Behind the altar there is also a small room that serves as a library. The lower level contains a kitchen, a dining area that is used for meals and social functions, and a women’s prayer room. The temple is equipped with sound and video systems.
Activities and Schedule : Center activities include celebrations of major holidays including Paryushana Parva (Svetambar), Das Lakshana Parva (Digambar), the most important Jain festival of the year, Mahavira Nirvana Din (celebration of Mahavira’s spiritual liberation), Mahavira Janma-Kalyanak or Jayanti Din (Mahavira’s birthday), Ayambil Oli (a period of fasting), Gautam Swamino Din (Jain New Year), and Diwali (the Indian festival of lights). On the third Sunday of each month the temple holds the performance of a Snatra Puja (Svetambar), a ritual enactment of the birth of tirthankara Mahavira (Svetambar). On the fourth Sunday of each month the center observes the Dev Shastra Guru Puja (Digambar), service in homage of the tirthankaras, scriptures, and spiritual teachers (Digambar). All weekend services are followed by Jain vegetarian meals. Services are conducted in Prakrit, Hindi, Gujarati, and English.
Every summer the center organizes an annual picnic, a lively social event with vegetarian barbeque and cricket matches. The center also arranges retreats at Siddhachalam, the Jain ashram in New Jersey. In addition, the center hosts lectures by visiting scholars and semi-ordained Terapanthi mendicants. It also sponsors a Sunday school (pathshala) and seminars for religious study and discussion (swadhyay). The pathshala classes are held monthly at the Norwood Senior High School and have nearly 100 regularly attending students. A number of the pathshala students have participated in the annual Jain youth camp.
The center is currently initiating participation in a variety of activities of other non-Jain organizations. Since 2000 the center has been taking part in the annual festival of the Boston Vegetarian Society. At the festival the JCGB sets up a booth where they offer Jain vegetarian food and have recipes available for those who are interested. Recently, a group from the center visited the Peace Abbey, a multi-faith retreat center in Sherborn, Massachusetts, where a path will be named Jain Marg in commemoration of the influence of Jain tenets on Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.
Publications : The center has published a quarterly Jain Study Circular (1981-1987), four editions of the Jain Directory of North America (1979, 1987, 1993, 1997), the Jain Prayer Book (1987), Essentials of Jainism (1984), and have compiled intersectarian puja (devotional service) books. In more recent years the center has sponsored the publication of a number of Jain books including the re-issue of the Tattvarth Sutra and the Bhaktamar Stotra CDs. Some members of the community have independently issued several publications. Mukund and Dhira Mehta published the Kalpa Sutra, Dr. Asha Khasgiwala published Jinvani. Laxmi Jain, one of the founding members of the center, published Indian Cuisine Made Easy together with her son, Manoj Jain. Currently, senior students of the pathshala are working to compile a book on the Jain way of life, in which the group is reinterpreting Jain values and practices into the modern vernacular.
Mail to : Ahimsa Foundation