(As printed in JCM directory published in 2011 with current pathshala volunteers’ name updates and typo corrections)
The Early Days
In early 1960s and 1970s, there were few Jain families in Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota), busy in pursuing their professional career or engrossed in higher degrees at the Universities. Most of Jains observed the religious practice privately in their homes with absence of religious facilities. Social/cultural/religious needs were satisfied with birth of Gujarati Samaj, India Club, SILC, Hindu Mandir, Geeta Ashran, and others regional organizations in 1970s.
History was made in 1974 when 10 Jain people performed first Samvantsari Pratikramman at Mahendra/Nipurna Parekh’s home. This practice continued few years with help of Ila Kamdar and others.
1980s was a decade of awakening for Jains in North America. Gurudev Chitrabhanuji and Maharaj Sushil Kumarji were inspiring Jains all over USA/Canada to keep Jain philosophy/religion alive and spread the message of Bhagwan Mahavir of Ahimsa, Anekantvad and Aparigrah, not only to Jains but to community at large. Jains across USA responded positively by forming an umbrella organization JAINA, starting local Jain Centers with Pathshalas,acquiring worship places and planning for new temples. Dr. Dulichand of NYC started “Jain Study Circular” periodical containing excerpts from Jain Scriptures, Jain philosophies, commentaries etc. Jain scholars, pandits and moonies, started visiting major metropolis, delivering discourses and inspiring devotees to practice religion to best of ones ability in this far away land from India.
In Twin Cities Hindu Mandir at Polk Street opened its door for worship and prayers in 1979. History was made in 1986 when Bhagwan Mahavir’s murti donated by Drs. Renu and Ranjit Jain (now in Las Vegas) was installed, preceded by murti of Lord Ganesh installed in 1985. Our thanks go to Dr. Shashikant Sane who was instrumental through his brother commissioning a marble murti from Jaipur, India. In 1986 Jain community celebrated first Mahavir Janam Kalyank at the Mandir with Hindu congregation. This annual celebration continues to date. Hindu Society founders Drs Sane, Drs. Saxena, and PC Mangalick encouraged us to use Hindu Mandir for Jain Community activities. In 1987 Ram Gada started delivering discourses on Jain philosophy and religious traditions on one Sunday of each month at the mandir. In 1988 we started Jain Satsangh monthly meeting on second Sunday of each month at the mandir with bhajans, discourses/discussions and youth Pathshala.
1989 – Formation of Jain Center of Minnesota (JCM):
First visit by Bandhu Triputi Maharaj, Munichandraji, Kirtichandraji, and Jinchandraji from Tithal, Gujrat inspired the Jain community with the message “Keep doing it regularly. If not for yourselves, than for your children”. Their message and discourses encouraged Ram Gada, Kusum Shah, and Vinod Shah,the first Incorporators to form the Jain Center of Minnesota, a non-profit organization which was registered on October 31, 1989 with the State Of Minnesota. By-laws were enacted and first Board of Trustees were elected: Ram Gada, Kusum Shah, Vinod Shah, Iswar Bhakta and Dhenandra Shah. Regular monthly meetings and Pathshala continues. Paryushan Parv celebration with first pratikaman in English for youths started. First fund raising of $2107 from 15 families was a fabulous amount in those days, showing great enthusiasm expressed by the pioneers.
- From the inception of the JCM our actions and practices were aimed for Jain unity, youth and adult education, scholar interaction, interfaith participation, charitable activities and celebration of festivals.
- JCM stressed unity of Jains among Sangh members who may belong to different Jain traditions. (Digamber, Swetamber, Sthanakvasi, Terapanthi, or Srimad Rajchandra follower, etc). However each tradition rituals/practices are respected in appropriate manner at different times and events. Our unity strength lies in Jain philosophy.
- All education material in English was made available from JAINA and other sources.
- Discussions and communication are conducted in English to benefit all adults and youth. Some exceptions for bhajans, poojas, and sutras which may be in Ardhamagdhi, Sanskrit, Hindi or Gujarati.
- We have invited several learned speakers from different traditions.
- Our emphasis was on philosophical tenents rather than rituals which may change as per time, place, Gachchha, guru and local conditions.
- We enjoyed celebration of Paryushan/Dashlakshan festivals with a common Ksamapna (forgiveness) day, Mahavir Jayanti/Nirvan day, Ahimsa day, etc.
- Sponsorship in lieu of “Ghee Boli” (auction) for JCM fundraising during Sapana or Poojas events was introduced and well received by the membership.
- Historic decision was made to raise all the Jain Temple and Pratishtha funds with prescheduled sponsorship amounts for various events for greater participation by all.
- JCM practiced open communication with the membership, heldg annual elections and electedg new Trustee Board as per JCM By-laws and encouraged everyonel for leadership positions particularly to women and youth.
Jain Education – Pathshala:
In 1990s, Pathshala for youth was a very successful activity with three levels of classes. Youth were encouraged to participate at Young Jains of America (YJA) Conventions. These activities at their forming years have made a permanent impact on their lives. Last few years we have more young children who require special attention from teachers like Abha Bhow and Manisha Shah in past and now from Seema Jain and Bindiya Shah who are doing a great job. JAINA Education Committee has been an excellent source for different level of curriculum books in English.
JCM as Source of Information Exchange:
JCM maintains large numbers of books, audio/video tapes, DVDs, on Jain philosophy/religion topics in English, Hindi, and Gujarati. We act as a source for Jainism related inquiries from students. Ram Gada visits churches, schools, and community organizations to talk about Jainism, which is not known in community at large. His lectures at Hindu Mandir since 1987 and participation in interfaith activities have helped to impart understanding of Jainism.
Scholars Visits to Twin Cities:
We are very fortunate to have well-known speakers to visit our Center. They deliver inspiring messages to Jains and Non-Jains. We are thankful to Gurudev Chitrabhanuji, Pramodaji Chitrabhanu, Bandhu Triputiji, Sadhavi Subhamji, Swami Shrut pragayji, Samans and Samanis Dr. Hukumchand Bharill, Dr. Bruce Costain (Bal Bhadraji), Vidhikar Narendra Nanduji, Dr. James W. Laine, Dr. Joseph Schaller and others.
Jains follow Bhagvan Mahavir’s message to their heart “Serve JCM has donated generously to JAINA World Service Fund for financial aid to victims of natural disasters around the world.
New Temple & Pratishtha:
Hindu Society of Minnesota welcomed Jain Center of Minnesota as a sponsor of new Jain Mini Temple in their beautiful Temple to join with other 18 Mini Temples. Hindu and Jain Communities are excited about the continuation of our partnership which had started in 1985 at the Polk Street Mandir.
With guidance from Gurudev Chitrabhanuji, and Bandhu Triputi Jinchandraji, three moorties will be consecrated on July 22, 2007. Bhagvan Mahavir Moorti (existing) in meditative pose and Bhagvan Parshavnathij & Aadinathji in Pravachan pose will be blessing to all devotees for their Darshan. Pratishtha Committee with 12 Sub-committees are working hard to make this once in a life time event a memorable and enjoyable. Our entire membership is enthused about this auspicious event. I hope that new Jain Temple with Hindu Temple(s) together would become a spiritual home, spreading the message of love, compassion, understanding, and peace to all.
The Challenges Ahead:
We are proud of the achievements of a small Sangh like JCM with dedicated volunteers, leaders, and members. In my humble opinion, following challenges may lie ahead, requiring greater determination, understanding and strategy for a success:
- Maintaining unity.
- Keeping balance between rituals and rational practice of religion.
- Continuing youth education.
- Interacting with community at large.
- Maintaining heritage and culture.
About the Author:
Mr. Ram Gada is the founding member of the Jain Center of Minnesota and is actively involved since its inception. He is the founding member of Gujarati Samaj of Minnesota, Trustee of Hindu Society of MN, Jaina Director, KOJAIN Director and active participant at India Association of MN. He is serving as a Vice-President & Director of excecutive council of Minnesota Historical Society.
This article was prepared based on JCM old newsletters, meeting notes and reports and recollection of events over the past 40 years. I beg sincere apology (Michhami Dukkadam) for any errors and omissions of names, events and many accomplishments by the members of JCM community.
JCM Board Note:
We are updating JCM history page to include updates since publishing of the JCM directory in 2011 and including key event information.