Jain Study Center of North Carolina (Raleigh)
Introduction : The Jain Study Center of North Carolina is a non-profit religious organization created in the month September of 1979. The main purpose of the organization is to study and understand Jain religion, philosophy, rituals, and literature and to educate the children. It is a tax-exempt religious organization in the USA. In 1979, the Center started with 12 members in the organization. At present, the Center consists of 60 members of which 52 are life members.
Monthly Meeting : Since the formation of the Center, both the youths and adults meet regularly once a month to study and discuss Jainism. The meeting schedule and the host family names are published in January of each year. The monthly meeting starts on Sunday at 10:30 AM. The following format is followed during the meeting:
Prayers and Singing of Stavans
Children's Presentations of Religious Subjects
Adult Discussion of Religious Topics
Administrative Items and Announcements
Children prepare the religious topics at home from the Children's Jain Folder that was compiled in 1982 (version-1) and 1984 (version-2). The book consists of more than 200 pages and it is divided into five sections: stories, samayik sutras, mantras, basic philosophy, and prayers. Children present the topics in the meeting. An award system has been developed to reward the children for their presentations.
Many children have completed their study of the entire folder. This Children's Folder was distributed to other Jain centers of North America and many centers use it in their pathashala classes.
Adult discussions have covered the various topics of Jain philosophy, ethics, conducts, rituals, literature, and comparative religions. The discussion is very interactive and lively. Center also invites guest speakers to address its monthly meeting.
Weekly Jain Puja at Hindu Temple : The Jain Study Center of North Carolina is affiliated with the Hindu Center of North Carolina through a long-standing, symbiotic relationship. As a result, the Hindu Temple in Morrisville has a statue of Lord Mahavir and is the venue for major Jain events and celebrations. Since the opening of the Hindu Temple (1986) every Saturday morning, Lord Mahavir's Puja and Prayer is performed by Center's members. The president of the Hindu Center appreciates this activity very much and desires that every religion group within the Hindu Center perform similar activities for their deities.
Weekly Swadhyay : Since 1990 a weekly study (swadhyay) group meets once a week to study the Jain scriptures and philosophy in depth. The group has studied Tatvarth Sutra, Uttaradhyan Sutra, Atma Siddhi Shastra, Samaysar, Moksha Marg Prakashak, and many other Jain books. Also, we collectively listen to audiotapes of well-known scholars.
Visiting Ascetics and Scholars:
The Jain Center has been blessed by visits from many ascetics and scholars over the past 20 years. Acharya Shri Shushil Muni was the first ascetic who visited us in the year 1980. Every year, three or four scholars from all the different sects of Jainism visit the center.
Mahavir Jayanti celebration : The Center has celebrated Mahavir Jayanti (the birthday celebration of Lord Mahavir) at the Hindu Temple since 1981. The celebration starts with Snatra/Astaprakari Puja, Swapana ceremony, Shanti Kalas, Arti, Mangal Deevo, a cultural program, and concludes by serving luncheon to all the guests attending the program. Significant numbers of non-Jains attend the program as well. Center takes this opportunity to spread the message of Lord Mahavir through various cultural programs. Every year center presents different themes, which cover various aspects of Jainism.
Paryushana Parva Celebration : Unity of Paryusan and Das-Laxana Parva:
The Center celebrates Paryusan of the Swetambar sect and Das-Laxana Parva of the Digambar sect together in a united manner. Since 1988, his practice has the full-hearted support of the members from the traditionally different Jain sects.
The Paryushan begins on the Saturday before the first day of traditional Paryushan and concludes on the following Saturday. In other words, center starts Paryushana anywhere from one to six days earlier than the traditional celebration.
The main purpose of celebrating Paryusana from Saturday to Sunday is that the children and working adults can fully participate in the celebration of these very important yearly rituals and ceremonies.
The following summarizes the benefits of Saturday to Saturday celebration:
The 1st day being Saturday (a holiday), it is most convenient for children and working adults to do penance (Tapascharya), to get together for Puja at the temple, to attend religious discourse, and to do Pratikraman rites.
The 2nd day being Sunday (a holiday), the Center celebrates Mahavir Jayanti (Janma vachan) and Swapana viewing as done in India.
The last day (Samvatsari), being Saturday and again a holiday, is most convenient for children and working adults to do Tapascharya, Puja, attend religious discourse, and perform the annual rite of Samvatsari Pratikraman.
The following day being Sunday (a holiday), allows members to celebrate the fast-breaking ceremony (Parana day) by honoring tapsvis.
In India, all different Jain sects celebrate Paryushana at different times. This approach, by contrast, unites all sects.
During the Paryusana/Das Laxana celebration, two weekends are effectively utilized. Using the weekends allows all the children to participate in every important religious ritual and ceremony.
Celebration Evants : Day Kalpa Sutra Reading Das Laxana Reading
1st Day Sat - Lord Mahavir's 27 lives Kshama(1) Forgiveness Mardava(2) Modesty
2nd Day Sun - Mahavir Jayanti Day Arjava(3) Straight-forwardness
3rd Day Mon - Diksha to Keval_Jnan Shaucha(4) Purity
4th Day Tue - Ganadharawada Satya(5) Truth)
5th Day Wed - Life of 23 Tirthankaras Samyama(6) Self-restraint
6th Day Thu - Sthaviravali Tapa(7) Austerity
7th Day Fri - Samachari Tyaga(8) Renunciation
8th Day Sat - Samvatsari Pratikraman Akinchanya(9) Non-attachment Brahmacharya(10) Celibacy
9th Dat Sun - Tapasvis' honor day (Parana)
Note: On the first and the last day two virtues of Das Laxana are celebrated instead of one as traditionally done in India.
Samvatsari Pratikraman : Since 1988 the annual rite of Samvatsari pratikraman is performed by Center. Center do separate adult and children samvatsari pratikraman. The adult pratikraman is done traditionally and it lasts for about 3 hours.
The Pratikraman for children was compiled in English in 1989. This pratikraman includes transliteration of some original sutras, and their meanings along with meditation and kayotsarg rites. Children of all ages participate to perform this annual rite every year. The following are the important features of the English Pratikraman:
Pratikraman ritual explains the purpose and meaning of all Sutras
One hour duration
Performed by Youths and for Youths
Essay Competition : For many years, the young children of the center participated in the national essay competition organized by the Jain Center of Boston. Every year, the children have won 35% to 50% of the awards given at national level. Many of these award-winning essays are available on center's Internet site.
Humanitarian Activities : The Center has supported several relief (Jiva Daya) activities in India, USA, and around the world by donating money, food, and clothes. Center have supported several Panjarapoles and Institutions, the Eye Campaign, local and national disaster relief programs, and used clothing drives. Every year, Center collect and distribute $1000-2000. The Center does not keep any percentage of the collected amount.
Ahimsa Day : Since 1992, the Center has observed the first Sunday of October as Ahimsa day. For several years, center distributed food and clothing to the needy and homeless people in nearby area on this day.
Jain Camp : The Center has organized several religious Camps for the benefit of adults and children. The participants spend a weekend at Umstead State Park or just a day at Optimist Farm. The camp activities include Yoga, meditation, religious discourses, and recreation. The first camp was organized in 1982 with Acharya Shri Shushil Muni. Since then, center have had camps with several monks and scholars like Amerendra Muni, Rupachandji, Manekmuni, Prof. Toliya, Pandit Dhirajlal, and Shri Atmanandji (Dr. Soneji).
National Jain Conventions : The Jain Center has actively participated in all national Jaina conventions beginning in 1989. Following summarizes center's activities at these conventions:
Participation in debates and seminars by youths and adult members
Organizing Jain Education workshops and presenting various papers on Jainism
Demonstration and presentation of center's Jain literature Website
Conducting early morning English Pratikraman for youths, and singing of Bhajans/Stavans
Organizing exhibitions of Jain literature, educational posters, and quilt
Sale of Jain books and other literature
Distributing vegetarian and vegan literature
Awards : Starting from 1991, Center's members and youths are honored at every Jaina convention and receive national recognition for their contributions toward the promotion of Jainism. During the last five Jaina conventions, four adults and eight youths have been recognized. Also Jaina's highest award - the Jaina Ratna Award - was awarded to Pravin Shah at the 1999 Jaina convention held at Philadelphia.
Education : Jainism on Internet ( www.jainism.org) :
The Center established a computer-based Jain Education and Information electronic Bulletin Board System (Jain BBS) in February 1993. With the use of a home computer and a modem, anyone can use the Jain BBS obtain a wealth of information on Jainism at no cost.
Also, at that time, the Center started Jain education programs via E-mail. Once a month center e-mailed an Jain article to about 100 members. The members appreciated the activities and learned a great deal of Jainism through e-mail. In 1995, the activity migrated to Jain Website : www.jainism.org.
Comparative Religion : The Center has published a book on comparative religions called "Essence of World Religions" compiled in 1994. It provides an excellent summary of 11 major religions of the world and also provides a comparison between Eastern and Western religions. More than 4000 copies have been distributed and sold to Jains and others.
Jain Library : The Center has a good collection of audio and video cassette tapes. Also, the Center has full access to Pravin Shah's library which has more than 1500 Jain and other religious books. The library consists of all Jain scriptures (Aagams), and many books on Jain philosophy, spirituality (adhyatma), conduct, ethics, karma, arts, and rituals.
The Center has also financed the translation of the following religious books.
Sadhak and Sathi by Shri Atmanadji
This book describes 33 human virtues and how to cultivate each virtue in daily life.
Jain Dharno Prana by Pt Sukhalalji
This book has eighteen chapters; each chapter covers important aspects of Jain religion. Some of the topics covered in the book are:
Heart of Jaina Culture, Stages of Spiritual Development,
Non-Violence, Karma Elements, Theory of Non-Absolutism, Nayavada
Saptabhangi, Four Institutions, Paryusana and Samvatsari etc..
Mahavir Katha by Gopaldas Patel
Arvachin Jain Jyotirdharo by Shri Atmanadji
This book provides the biographies and contributions of thirty-three great figures in modern Jainism.
Distribution of Religious Material : The Center distributes religious books, and discourses of scholars on audio and videotapes at cost. Over the past ten years, center has distributed several thousands books and tapes.
Jainism on Audio Tapes : At the request of the Center, Pandit Shri Dhirajlal Mehta prepared the following audio tapes. The entire set of tapes covers a basic Jainism course as taught to Jain monks and nuns after their initiation:
Pratikramana Sutras with meaning
Three Bhashyas - Deva Vandan + Guru Vandan + Pratyakhan
Dandak & Jumbu Dvip Sangrahani
Puja - Panch Kalyanak + Antarai Karma + Astha Prakari
The lectures of the following scholars are also available for distribution on audio or videotapes.
Dr. H. Bharill
Shri Niraj jain
Shri Atmanandji (Dr. Soneji)
The Center purchases the books of the following authors and publishers for distribution to Jains in North America
Publications from Shri Kanjiswami's Ashram of Sobgadh
Publications from Shri Atmanadji's Ashram of Koba, Ahmedabad
Publications from Shri Parshavnath Vidhya Bhavan of Banaras
Books authored by Pt. Dhirajlal Mehta
Books authored by Dr. H. Bharill
Publications from Shrimad Rajchandra Ashram at Agas
Publications from L. D. Indology
Publications from Navjivan Press (Jain Books)
Parliament of World Religion - Chicago
Pravin Shah from the Center attended the major religious event of century: the Parliament of World Religions conference from 08/28/93 to 09/04/93, at Chicago. He presented a paper on Jain Literature covering all its aspect including its history and its contribution to various aspects of Indian culture.
Pluralism Project (Harvard University) : Our Center coordinated the activities related to Jainism for the Pluralism Project of Harvard University. Center provided guidance and material to the students working on Jainism. The center coordinated with other Jain centers to obtain the information needed for the project. Center has edited more than 100 pages of material on Jainism prepared by the Harvard students. The chairperson of the project, Diana Elk, appointed Pravin Shah a Member of the Advisory Council for Pluralism Project. The project resulted in a CD-ROM "On Common Ground: World Religions in America", with a rich and representative section on Jainism.
Article Courtesy : Mr. Pravin K. Shah
Chairperson Jaina Education Committee
Federation of Jain Associations in North America
509, Carriage Woods Circle Raleigh, NC 27607-3969, USA
E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org