By Parveen Chopra, IANSÂ
Edison City (New Jersey) : Over 5,000 people attended a huge Jain convention here that brought together several spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Gurudev Chitrabhanu and yoga guru Swami Ramdev.
The three-day event that began Friday was the 14th biennial convention of JAINA – Federation of Jain Associations in North America – and the broad theme of the convention was "Peace through Dialogue".
On the first day, the gathering was addressed by Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and popular yoga guru Swami Ramdev. Gurudev Chitrabhanu, considered the first Jain religious leader to come to the West and who inspired the formation of JAINA in the early 1980s, L.M. Singhvi, eminent jurist and former Indian High Commissioner to Britain, and Frank Pallone, Congressman from New Jersey also spoke on the occasion.
Chitrabhanu narrated the history of JAINA and its success in uniting various Jain sects in the US. Elaborating on the convention theme, he said peace through dialogue was possible only when one has inner peace. He added that Mahatma Gandhi's principle of non-violence was inspired by Lord Mahavir, the last Jain Tirthankara.
In his keynote address, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar referred to his recent visit to strife-torn Iraq. He said: "I told them, 'You have seen that violence has not worked for four years, now give peace a chance'." He added that Jainism was most relevant today.
Swami Ramdev said Mahavir established the highest human values such as non-violence, love and compassion, and thus belonged to all humanity. He also praised Jain principles such as not eating after sunset. "If they are followed, you would not suffer from diseases like cancer and heart problems," Ramdev noted.
Speaking from a wheelchair, the 76-year-old Singhvi exhorted scholars to establish the historicity of Jainism as one of the world's oldest religions by establishing the historicity of the 24 Tirthankaras.
Those attending the convention – the largest Jain meet so far in this part of the world – were mostly Gujarati speaking Jains.
Asked why she had come, Sampurna Jain, a Long Island resident, said: "To renew connection with our religion, to preserve and promote it, to get together with other Jains, and to provide an opportunity for our children to mingle with an eye on matrimonial alliances."
JAINA represents 60 Jain organisations and an estimated 1,50,000 Jains living in the US and Canada.