International Mahavira Jain Mission (Canada): Challenges and Priorities
Dr. Harish C. Jain
International Mahavira Jain Mission of Canda (IMJMC) was enablished in March 1985 with the inspiration and guidance of Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, IMJMC’s objectives are as follows:
I Promotion of the principles of Jainism among Jains and non Jains alike by education, research and practice. These principles include equal regard and reverence for all life (Ahimsa), relativity of truth in expression (Anekantavada) and vegetarianism.
II. Assistance in the establishment of Jain societies, Jain Centres and places of worship across Canada.
III. Promotion of Jain identity and awareness among children and youth in particular by holding religions camps, youth seminars, and other relevant activities.
IV. Promotion of vegetarianism.
In the last two years, the IMJMC has made some progress in meeting each of these objectives. A summary of our activities is listed below. In order to promote the principles of Jainism through education, research and practice, we organized a series of national and regional conferences, Arhum Yoga demonstrations and religious discourses.
I. Inaugural National Symposium on Ahimsa and Peace, June 1-2, 1985. Montreal.
The two-day symposium was attended by more than 500 people and included
(a) Presidential address by Professor Harish Jain
(b) Inaugural address by Acharya Sushil Kumarji, scholarly addresses contribution of Jain principles and philosophy by Professes John Rossner of Concordia University in Montreal. Professor John Mayer of Brock University in St. Catherines, Professor K Sivaraman of Me Master University in Hamilton and Mr. Ramnik Shah of Toronto
(c) Lectures by Mr. M. I. Kathotia and Jain Yoga demonstration by Mr. Dharam Chand, both were visiting Canada from India;
(d) Workshops involving all the participants, and an overview and a summary by Dr. R. B. Jain, a visiting professor from Delhi University. A great accomplishment of the symposium was a 55 page souvenir taining the addresses.
2 Jain Yoga Demonstrations and lectures in Toronto, London and Fort Erie, 1985.
Mr. Mohan Lal Kathotia and his colleague Mr. Dharam Chandi gave a series of workshops in several cities in Ontario following the Montreal Symposium.
3. Regional Symposium on Non-Violence and Peace, September 21. 1985, McMaster University, Hamilton.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the McMaster Department of Religious Studies, the India-Canada Society of Hamilton and Region and the India Association at McMaster University. Speakers included the Mayor of Hamilton. His Worship Robert Morrow. Professor Paul Dekar of McMaster Divinity College Dr. G. Subbiah of Vishva-Bharati University and McMaster Department of Religious Studies, Acharya Sushil Kumarji and Professor Harish Jain. Dr. Rama Singh thanked the speakers as President of the India-Canada Society.
4. Religious Addresses, Arbum Yoga Demonstrations and Teaching, December 21, 1985 to January 5th, 1986, Toronto, Hamilton and London.
Muni Amrendra gave religious discourses and taught yoga by giving demonstrations of Arhum Yoga to Jains and non-jains during Christmas vacations of children and youth.
5. Banquet to Launch Jain Studies Fund, May 9, 1987, Toronto.
The IMJMC held a banquet to establish a scholarship fund in Jain studies and to eventually establish a chair in Jain studies. The aim is to promote the study and propagation of Jain philosophy, literature and principles. We will provide scholarships to graduate students and scholars in Canadian Universities to do research and to publish on Jain topics. The banquet was addressed by Dr. Phyllis Granoff and Dr. Subbiah, both from McMaster University Department of Religious studies. Dr. Granoff also showed slides of places of Jain pilgrimage.
6. Indo-American Conference of the World Jain Congress, September 26-27, 1986. Siddachalam Blairstown, New Jersey.
We organized a bus-load of participants from Canada to go to Siddachalam and to take active part in the conference. In addition to speeches by President Harish Jain and others, we showed a video of the 1986 Arhum Yoga Camp and the IMJMC Camp youth gave a demonstration of yoga exercises and Mantras they had learned at the camp.
7. Jain Associations of North America (JAINA) Conventions in Chicago, May 23-25, 1987 and in Detroit 1985.
We participated in the JAINA Conventions in both 1985 and 1987. JAINA’s aims of propagating Jainism are consistent with our aims. Mr. Magan Lal Shah from IMJMC was elected Vice-President of JAINA at the Chicago Convention.
II Assistance in the Establishment of Jain Centres.
Our second objective was to assist in the establishment of Jain societies, Jain Centres and places of worship. As President of IMJMC, 1 had the privilege of visiting Jain families in Vancouver, Montreal and Winnipeg. With the inspiration of our chairman, Acharya Sushil Kumarji, our brothers and sisters in Vancouver and Montreal have recently established Jain Centres. In both these cities, Jain families meet regularly on religious and other occasions. With Acharya Sushil’s guidance, we will continue to encourage the formation of other Jain Centres. societies of worship in other Canadian cities.
III Promotion of Jain Identity and Awareness, Among Children and Youth in Particular.
Arhum Yoga Camps in August 1986 and 1987, Niagara Falls, Canada.
Arhum Yoga Camps were held in the first week of August in 1986 and 1987 at the Loretto Centre in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Both camps were held under the guidance of Acharya Sushil Kumarji. Both Acharyaji and Muni Amrendra were present at both camps for nine days each to provide guidance and to teach Jain principles, Arhum Yoga, mantras, and meditation. Both the 1986 and the 1987 camp started with inauguration ceremonies attended and addressed by religious and political leaders including Acharya Sushil Kumarji, members of Parliament civic leaders, academicians and the Conul-General of India, followed by a banquet and a cultural program.
Both the camps were subscribed to the capacity. In 1986 we had 90 full-time campers. Most campers were from Canada but a significant number came from all over the United States and in 1986 from England as well. In both years, over 300 people visited the camp. A typical day started at 7 am with prayers with Archarya Sushil Kumarji followed by hour long classes in Arhum Yoga by Muni Amirendraji, Shanti Parekh and staff from Siddachalam, breakfast. Acharyaji’s dis course at 10:30 am, indoor swimming and gym, and lunch. In the afternoons, the adults participated in lectures by Jain scholars and attended optional workshops on subjects such as reflexology, iridology, palmistry etc. The youth and children had an hour of mantra classes and indoor and outdoor activities. For instance, they played volleyball.soccer, Kabadi and learned Judo. All campers enjoyed the natural and beautiful surroundings of Niagara Falls, the Falls could be seen and heard from the Loretto Centre, the nature walks, and other attractions such as the Imax theatre, visit to the beach etc. The day ended with chanting and meditation with Acharyaji,
Both camps ended with a parents night on the last night of the camp. On both these nights, the campers demonstrated their mantra and yoga training and performed cultural skits and dances such as raas and dandia Each youth camper was awarded a certificate by Acharyaji for his her attendance at the camp.
IV Promotion of Vegetarianism.
Free Vegetarian Lanch for Non-Jains, January 17, 1987, Toronto.
IMJMC organized a free vegetarian lunch for 200 non-jains in Toronto in co-operation with the Toronto Vegetarian Society. The aim of the lunch was to promote vegetarianism as a way of life, an easy way to good health and to stress that animals need not be killed to provide food. The meal prepared by IMJMC members consisted of green and fruit salads, pita bread, brown rice, mixed vege- tables, curried potatoes and Mung Been Dahl.
Challenges and Priorities
Our challenges are to continue the past activities by maintaing continuing interest and momentum of our members, bring fresh blood in the form of youth and non-jains and to initiate new activities while maintaining the past ones. Our future priorities consist of buying land in Niagara Falls, Ontario (a) to establish an international centre for the study of non-violence and peace, (b) to making the Arhum Yoga Camp a permanent annual feature of our on-going activities, (c) establishing a Jain library to study Jainism in a scientific manner and to conduct research on different topics of interest, (d) to have a lecture hall as a venue for inviting both Jain and other scholars to give discourses on Jain principles and philosophy, (e) to provide a residence for jain Munis, (f) to establish a nursing home for our elders, and (g) to construct a Jain temple, Niagara Falls is an ideal location for these buildings and activities. Nearly 20 million visitors from Canada and abroad come to this International city every year.