Jains gather for the next generation

The 20th biennial JAINA Convention in Ontario, California saw the attendance of close to a 3,500 Jains. The Jains are followers of an ancient Indian sect. They enjoyed infamous speakers like Gaur Gopal, a motivational speaker with more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube as well as Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who is a yogi with more than 1.6 million followers on Instagram.

The convention’s theme was “Jain Religion in the 21st Century” as everyone was concerned with handing the reigns of the faith over to millennial as well as Gen Z Jains.

The earthquake on July 4th didn’t stop the convention as it shook the building. Organizers assured the crowd that the show would go on while Sadhvi Sanghamitraji recited prayers to lead the attendees.

JAINA was founded in 1981 and a local Sangh works with JAINA every two years to host a biennial convention. This year saw 90 speakers, 600 volunteers, and 3,450 attendees. In addition to this, 22 sadhus/sadhvis attended the convention.

There were plenty of sessions for millennials and Gen Zs. In addition to these breakout sessions, the convention offered youths programs to help them make new friends, new business connections or to find a special someone.

Jainism shares its history with Buddhism as well as Hinduism. Jainism focuses on many principles, such as non-possessiveness (aparigraha), multiple viewpoints (anekantavada), and nonviolence (ahimsa). In addition to the above, Jainism encourages equal rights, meditation, veganism, and environmentalism. Jainism entered the United States 125 years ago. It was brought there by Virchand Gandhi.

Southern California’s Jain Center was founded in 1979. When it was formed, there were ten other Jain centers across the U.S. JAINA was established two years later as an umbrella organization. There are now 67 Jain centers in the U.S. with around 165,000 members.

A lot of Jain’s growth in the U.S. has come from Indian emigrants who came to the U.S. in the last twenty years. The Migration Policy Institution has revealed that there were 2.4 million people from India living in the United States in 2015.

JAINA has taken a nonsectarian approach to unite American Jains. It is unique to America. There aren’t any umbrella organizations like JAINA which exist in India.

JAINA’s efforts to hand down values, wisdom, and experience which the older generations have to the younger generations should be applauded.

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