It is estimated that nearly four lakh Jains are now residing abroad. During the British regime they mainly settled in UK and other British colonies. Their migration to other countries mainly started from the sixties while better avenues opened in scientific and medical research, in various professions, particularly engineering and medicines and in business and industry, Thanks to the initiative and enterprise of the younger generation that the Jains are now very well established in professions, business and industry in many countries of the world and in larger number in UK, USA, Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia etc.
In is pleasing to know that the Jains are in fairly large number in African countries as well. At the beginning of this century some Jains from Gujarat, specially from Saurashtra and Kutch, sailed to Zanzibar and coastal towns of East Africa, such as Mombasa, Daressalaam, Tanga, Lindi etc. As hinterland of Kenya and Tanzania opened, they went into inland and established their business there. Some of them even went to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and even to South Africa.
With a long record of social service, deeply involved with international and national conferences and seminars, I had a natural desire to know whether the Jains living abroad have entirely adopted a materialistic attitude of life or they still have faith and regard for the Indian culture and religious beliefs particularly the Jain principles and traditions.
I had the occasin to first visit America, Canada and other countries of Europe including U. K. France, Italy and Switzerland in connection with partici- pating and addressing the Second International Jain Conference, held at London, U. K. in October 1983. I was overwhelmed to see that at the concluding General Session on 2nd October over 2000 participants had thronged the large Wembley Conference Hall near Landon and many representative speakers had expressed their heart-felt desire to spread the message of love, mutual understanding, co-existence, peace, mun violence, vegetarians and the principles of Jainism through the The younger Jain generation too participated enthusiastically al ev with evidence if their deep faith in the religion of their ancestors through active participation in public addressing, singing of devotional songs and paying the deserved repees to the Tirthankara’s message and the literature emerging from theic real knowledge.
The Third International Jain Conference was liekt at New Delhi in February 13 To my capacity as Secretary General of Ahimsa International, the organising insitution of the Conference, I had distinct indication that a very large number of Jains much desired periodical international meets, strengthening of unity and from ratablishment of Jain faith in the hearts of younger generation through organaing religious camps, publication and distribution of suitable literature, establishment of Jain centres and construction of Jain temples etc. Many Jain speakers from abroad gave detailed account of the work being done in these fields in their respective countries.
Pursuant to the Resolution adopted at the above Conference, the World Jain Congress came into existence with the responsibility of organising the future international Jain conferences, seminars, etc. As also the Secretary General of this new world body I had to visit USA, Canada and the European countries again in This large 108 acres September-October 1986 to hold the regional “Indo-American Jain Conference” at Siddhachalam, Blairstown, in New Jersey State, USA. premises has developed into a big Jain Centre of North America with the untiring efforts of its founder, Jain saint, H.H. Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, who has devoted his life to propagate the ethics of Jain religion, peace, non-violence and vegetarianism on global basis and has been living in America for the most part of the year since 1976 with this objective. Because of his religious influence in America and Canada, more than 1200 participants zealously took part in the three day Conference on September 26-28, 1986. With one voice, the Jain principles were hailed and desire was expressed by all speakers who were eminent professors. engineers, doctors and persons from various professions (of America and Canada) to perform the religious rites regularly, to keep away from flesharian food, eggs and alcoholic drinks. Great stress was laid on publication of suitable Jain literature in English, particularly to suit the needs of the children and the youth, to construct more Jain temple and places of worship and to pay due regard to the Jain saints and scriptures. It was a scene of big gratification that the small children and young boys and girls were reciting Namokar Mantra and other Jain hymns correctly.
During both of my extensive vsits to America, Canada and Europe, I had the opportunity to stay with a large number of Jain families who were the senior professors, engineers, doctors and businessmen, several Jain centers and temples which they have established there to keep the footing of their religion fem 1 had also the opportunity to visit On week end and other holidays they meet and at various meetings, which I also had to address at these centers and temples, 1 found that there was an unsatiable hunger far Jain literature, video-cassettes of Jain temples and shrines and cassettes of Jain devotional songs. Hardly there was any home where I stayed or about which I came to know from my friends that the cassettes of Jain songs were not played daily.
There are in all 39 Jain Centers, Associations and Societies in USA and Canada alone, They are engaged in holding various religious, social and literacy activities throughout the year, The Federation of Jain Associations in North America (USA & Canada) is a powerful body of Jains. It has its members 24 Jain Centers and Associations of North America.
The Federation is the product of a dream and vision of a few concerned and far-sighted individuals from Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. who, on an informal basis during November-December of 1979 started discussing the possibility of creating an umbrella organisation which would provide leadership to Jain centers, help create more Jain organisations and promote Jainism in North America. This idea and dream was discussed with Muni Shri Sushil Kumarji and Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanuji. Both gave their blessings.
Towards the end of 1980, the Jain Center of Southern California made a motion that they would like to host a Jain Conference of all Jain Organisations in Los Angeles (LA) during Memorial Day week end of 1981 Members from Cleveland, L.A., San Francisco and Washington D.C, gathered for the three-day conference and discussed the various aspects of the need of such an organization and of its aims and objectives. Finally, a draft resolution was agreed upon and an ad hoc committee was appointed under the leadership of Mr. Lalit Shah of Los Angeles as its first President, Mr. Girish Shah of San Francisco was appointed Secretary- Treasurer and Dr. Manoj Dharamsi of Washington, D. C. and Dr. Tansukh J. Salgia of Cleveland were appointed as Vice-Presidents.
A second convention of the Federation, sponsored by the Jain Center of America was held in New York City in May of 1983. At that time the constitution of the Federation was signed by the representatives of the member organisations and a new Executive Committee with Mr. Manoj Dharamsi as President, Mr. Laxmi Gogri, Dr. Tansukh J. Salgia and Mr. Ramnik Kothari as Vice-Presidents, Mr. Krishna Gosavi as Treasurer and Mr. Arvind Vora as Secretary was formed for the period 1983-85.
A third convention, hosted by the Jain Society of Detroit, was held in Detroit in May 1985. Delegates from various Jain organisations agreed to further At the end of revise the aims and objectives of the Federation and also agreed to promote new projects such as publication of a quarterly news bulletin, Jain Digest, increase membership in the Federation, and secure tax exempt status etc. the three-day convention a new Executive Committee was elected consisting of Dr. Tansukh J. Salgis of Cleveland as President. Mr. Sulekh C Jain of Cincinnati at Secretary and Mr. Laxmi Gogri of Detroit, Mr. Vasant Gandhi of Boston, Mr. Himar Dagli of San Francisco and Mr. Pravin Shah of Toronto as Vice-Presidents. and Mr. Bhupendra Shab of Chicago as Treasurer for the period 1986-87.
A fourth convention hosted by the Chicago Jain Society was held during May 23-25, 1987, in Chicago, U. S. A. The main concerns of this Convention were to provide literature and thought to the growing youth population, maintaining the Jain culture, heritage and unity among the Jain community in North America. About 1000 participants joyfully participated in the Convention. Dr. Tansukh J. Salgia and Dr. Sulekh C Jain were again elected President and Secretary respectively for the next 2 year period 1987-89 because of their rendering the dedicated services to the Federation.
The Federation has, during its very short span of about 8 years, seen a steady progress. During this time its membership has increased from 4 to 24 organisations and the quarterly journal Jain Digest’ has been published regularly. The Federation has released funds for the P. R. S. documentary film’ Ahimsa : Non-violence ‘. The visiting scholars programme of the Federation has brought many scholars to visit many of the Jain Centers in North America. With more frequent and timely communications, established with many Jain organisations in USA, Canada, India and UK, the Federation has been able to obtain several high quality Jain books in English for distribution to the Jain community.
Besides, many Jain Centers, Societies and Associations which are doing good work in various cities in USA and Canada, the International Mahavir Jain Mission and the Jain Society of Toronto deserve special mention. The International Mahavir Jain Mission is particularly active in Canada and organises religious camps and other activities. The Jain Society of Toronto has a Jain Temple at 247, Parklawn Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M8Y 3J6. The temple is visited by several devotees everyday and in large number on week ends on Saturdays and Sundays, I had the occasion to visit the temple, perform Pooja along with the members and had exchange of views with them. In the course of my address to them I came to know that Jains of Toronto have been making steady efforts for the Center to develop as a big religious and social place. The Jain Society warmly receives the visitors from India and other countries.
The Jain activities are also well developed in the United Kingdom with London and Leicester as focal points. It is estimated that about 25000 Jains reside in London alone. Many of them are big businessmen having their big establishments in Africa, India, Bangladesh and other countries. A large number of engineers. doctors and Chartered Accountants are well established in U. K. The Jain Asocia tion of U. K. and Jain Samaj Europe are the two more important bodies of the Jains Dr. Narubhai K. Shah, Shri Nitin Mehta, Dr. S. K. Dhariwal, Shri K. P. Chandaria, Shri U.C. Golechha and Shri Jawahar Golechha are some of the well- known Jain social figures of U. K. Young Nitin Mehta, President of the Society Young Indian Vegetarians” is doing Commendable work for Vegetarianian. In Leicester, which is about 160 Kms from London, a beautiful Jain temple has been built by the Jain Samaj Europe from hand carved Rajasthan stone weighing about 250 tons. Images of Tirthankaras Parsvanath and Mahavir, duly consecreted in India, were installed with full religious ceremonies. The speciality of this temple is that it provides religious facilities for all the three sects, separate temple for Digamber and Swetamber Jains and Sthanak for Sthanakvaris The Temple Pratistha Ceremonies have been decided to be held there during July 14-20, 1988 at which participants from all paru of the world will take part.
From the Jain activities point of view, Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is also very important. It is estimated that 12000-15000 Jains reside in Nairobi alone besides a fairly large number living in Mombasa and the other towns of Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania etc. There are two big Jain temples at Nairobi which are visited by a large number of devotees. The two temples draw visitors also from India and other countries.
Kobe in Japan is famous world over for the pearl trade. Some Jain families particularly of Shri S. R. Choudhary have big pearl business there. They are very affluent persons. As a result of their liberal donations and sincere efforts a big Jain temple has been built in Kobe.
Because of their hard working nature and expertise in running their business some of the Jains settled in different countries have expanded their business considerably and possess very big wealth. A good number of Jains in Belgium, Kenya, Kobe in Japan, U. K. and USA now possess big material resources. Shri Vijay Mehta and Shri Suresh Mehta in Belgium have become fabulously rich from their diamond trade.
The family of late Shri Ramlal Golechha has made big fortune in Nepal. Shri Ramlal Golechha owned several mills in Nepal, now managed by his sons, and received personal honour from King of Nepal. The Jain associations in Nepal are active in religious and social work.
Many Jain families have settled and established prosperous business in Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian countries families have been residing in Bangkok the capital of Thailand, about 70 Jan families in Singapore and over 100 Jain families in Hong Kong. They are mostly in business, particularly trading in precious gems, jewellery, ornaments and general merchandise, Shri Mahendra Singh Daga, who has his big jewellery business in USA, has also his business office in Bangkok and takes keen interest in the social and religious activities. He was the Chairman of the Reception Committee which organised the Asian Jain Conference of the World Jain Congress at Bangkok during March 18-20, 1900, A 46 member delegation led by Shri Satish Kumar Jain took part in the three day Conference. About 300 persons participated on each day in the Convention Hall of Narai Hotel. Shri Nirmal Singh Dudhoria, Sri Bhimraj Kothari, Shri Jhawar Kothari, Shri Vijay Chand Moga, Shri Ratan Chand Moga, and Shri Shanti Singhi have also their flourishing business at Bangkok. There are several other enthusiastic social workers like Shri Dilip Chowdhary, Shri Padam Chand Jain, Shri Sunil Metha and Shri Manoj Jain who take active interest in social and religious activities. The Asian Jain Conference held at Bangkok during March 18-20, 1988, the first such Jain Conference at Bangkok and possibly also in Asia, will foster brotherhood and bring closeness among the Jains, in whatever small number they are residing in the Asian countries. Some good resolutions were adopted at the Conference for organising the work on regular basis.
The Jains living abroad know how to earn money. They also know how to spend it well. Some of them have used their money in philanthropic work especially in social, educational and religious fields.
Sectarian feelings do not prevail among Jains in foreign countries. They without regard to their sects freely mingle in the religious celebrations organised by any sect. Mostly there are centers where the Jains of all sects celebrate Paryushan, Deepawali and some such festivals jointly. All of them, idol worshippers or not, meet together, exchange greetings and take food together.
Most of the Jains living abroad perform rituals, observe Vratas and under- take fasting and perform other religious rites. There are also some who follow the preachings of Shrimad Raichandra, late Kanji Swami and Acharya Kund-Kund and Amritchandra,
About three decades before, Jainism was virutally unknown in Europe and America but with the increased contacts of the Jains there with the Europeans and Americans and supplying them to some extent the literature and calling them to their functions, the Europeans and Americans are also getting interested in Jain religion. They appreciate the principles of this scientific religion and even se compassion and non-violence feelings of the Jains for all living beings including human animals, birds and even plant life.
There is need to know more about the Jain Centers, Societies and Associations which exist in many parts of the world. There is also need to bring out a large Directory which may give information on Jain Temples. Centers Societies and Associations which have been established in each country of the world, citywise It is no doubt a big task. But nothing is bigger than the resolve to under take and complete the work howsoever big it may be.
The efforts of Jain Center of Greater Boston, USA in bringing out the first edition of Jain Directory of North America in 1979 and bigger revised second edition of the Jain Directory of North America in 1906 praise worthy. The Directory gives a fairly large number of names and addresses of the Jains living in various cities of America and Canada. This will help in maintaining contacts with the Jains living there.
A big Directory “Progressive Jains” published by Shraman Sahitya Sans- than, from New Delhi (India) and edited by Shri Satish Kumar Jain is a big task performed in India. This 700 pages directory in large size gives detailed bio. graphical sketches and photos of the eminent Jain writers, poets, journalists, cour- tiers of the ex-princely states, senior service and business executives, highly dedicated social and religious workers and prominent persons of the various professions, industries and trade. This directory gives at one place a fairly good idea of the achievements made by the Jains in different fields and their enriching the Indian culture. Such detailed directories of Jains living in various countries of the world will indeed be very useful in knowing about that how and in what manner the Jains are making their increasing contribution to branches of learning, social service, industry and trade.
Jain religion is amongst the oldest religions of the world. Its high principles and their scientific analysis attract the researcher. It is the need of the time that suitable books on Jain literature are placed in every library, research center, university and Jain Center and Association of the world.
Many foreign scholars are keen to know and write about Jainism but they do not get suitable material in their countries. It is a field which needs attention of the Jain community particularly residing in India to come forward and collect substantial donations for supplying suitable sets of books to the researchers and readers.
There is also a need that more and more learned Jain scholars, who can perferably speak in English, are sent to various countries regularly to give prepared and extempore lectures and have free discussions with the Jains, particularly the younger generation settled in many countries of the world. It will be advisable to form a suitable panel from which the scholars be sent regularly. The selection of the scholars should exclusively be on the basis of merits. It will be a laudable idea to create a suitable fund for this, out of the interest of which 5 scholars can be sent abroad every year.
The Jains settled abroad have a great desire to hear the cassettes of the sermons of Jain saints and the Jain devotional songs. Efforts should therefore be made that such cassettes are prepared in large number and distributed among many countries. India should certainly take a lead in all these matters.
It appears that the barriers of frontiers are breaking and the message of love and peace emerging from the great knowledge of past Tirthankaras and it will spread in whole of the world. The coming world will certainly be of those who love peace and shall live for peace .