An Immersive 4-Day Celebration of the Jain Religion

(left to right) Dipak Doshi, Gaur Gopal Das and Lokesh Muniji
(left to right) Dipak Doshi, Gaur Gopal Das and Lokesh Muniji


ONTARIO, California: During this July 4 weekend at the Ontario Convention Center, California, JAINA (the Federation of Jain Associations in North America), in partnership with a local community, hosted the JAINA convention with the central theme of “Celebrating Jain Religion in 21st Century.”

With over two years of planning and nine months of preparation, and the help of 600 volunteers and 45 committees, the JAINA convention brought forth an unforgettable and unique spiritual experience through inspirational enlightened speakers, beautifully crafted Jain temples with imported white marble, and live entertainment,bringing together sights and sounds from all over the world. Throughout the convention, over 48,000 delicious vegetarian and vegan meals were served for breakfast, lunch, dinner.

From July 4 to 7, 3,450 attendees participated in various events, including yoga and meditation which started as early as 6 a.m. Evenings with dancing, live music and cultural shows kept the energy flowing well into the summer nights. The convention organized more than 86 interactive breakout sessions to giving those attending opportunities to actively participate in discussions such as Ahimsa (non-violence), vegetarian and vegan practices, and raising awareness around tolerance and equal rights.

Also, breakout sessions for particular age groups were created by the Young Jain Professionals and Jain Connect organizations as a means for young professionals to network, socialize, or find that special someone. From morning to night, volunteers were seen around the convention constantly helping others. The Sarva Mangal Family Trust (SMFT) team, which donates backpacks filled with bare necessities to the homeless in Southern California, and volunteers of the convention completed assorting 1008 bags, ready to be shipped out to the facility.

Over 80 distinguished speakers were present including animal rights activists, scholars, climate scientists, and spiritual leaders of different faiths. A common theme among the Jain dignitaries was the significance of the lifestyle that encompasses Jain principles of non-violence, non-possessiveness (aparigraha), and multiple-viewpoints (anekantvad). During his keynote address, Sadhguru, a yogi, mystic and the founder of Isha Foundation, reminded the gathering that we are not alone in the universe. He emphasized to take a look inwards, rather than trying to control outward actions, in order to face life’s challenges with more clarity, a principle described similarly in the teachings of Lord Mahavir.

Gaur Gopal Das, a lifestyle coach and ISKCON monk who has over one million followers on Instagram, bestowed spiritual wisdom through humor and the anecdotes of daily modern life. Midway into his keynote speech, he surprised the crowd as he walked off the stage and then continued the rest of his talk amid the audience. He described spiritual wisdom as working yourself by “managing your inside thoughts, and then outside will be fixed”.

“Your thoughts turn into words, which turns into actions, then into habits, habits turn into character, and your character becomes your destiny,” he said.

In the Young Jain Professionals Ted Talk breakout session, a 16-year-old rapper, singer, song writer, named Sparsh Shah captivated his audience as he spoke about his musical and spiritual journey, and what it’s like to live with brittle bones.

Dancers performing during evening cultural program at the JAINA convention

During each convention, JAINA announces the biennial award recipient for the JAINA Ratna Award. On the morning of July 5, Dr. Nitin Shah, Chair of JAINA’s Award Committee, announced Ram Gada of Minnesota as the winner of the 2019 JAINA Ratna award. Ram Gada opened his acceptance speech by acknowledging Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary this year and went on to passionately articulate how his spiritual journey has been positively influenced by Gandhi’s teachings and philosophy.

Shortly afterwards, JAINA began its biennial elections of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. The new officers of JAINA’s Executive Committee for the next two-year term are . Mahesh Wadher, president, Haresh Shah, first vice president, Hemant Shah, secretary, and Ashok Savla, treasurer. They will be supported by seven regional vice presidents.

In his acceptance speech, Mahesh Wadher promised to make JAINA stronger, vibrant, and more relevant in the lives of the Jains in North America as well as for communities across the world.