Americans & Europeans have tended to show enthusiasm for absorbing Jain philosophy in day-to-day life quite apart from subscribing to its basic principles and philosophy.  They find that the two are inseparable.  Jain ritual in something so new and yet so simply and uncomplicated for them to practise within the confineness of their physical capacity and will power.  It is also facilitated because Jain religious practices are basically turned to mental and physical discipline, and there is also flexibility in the matter of degree of austerity or renunciation a person is willing or prepared to commit himself/herself to.  There is also no blind-belief oriented mumbo jumbo about observance of Jain religion.

 What is interesting is that a lot of interest has been aroused for observing Jain religion through recital of Namokar Mantra and other prayers and bhajans, observace of fasts, meditation, practising and preaching vegetarianism, organising vegetarian projects, lilstening to videotapes of discourses, (given by Gurudev at the Jain congregations at various Jain International Meditation Centres in New York and elsewhere in USA and Canada),  Yoga practice, celebrating Paryushan Parva together, observing the festival of Forgiveness and grasping its essence, nrusing not only ailing human beings but also sick and wounded animals and birds, undertaking

Philanthropic and humanitarian acts, fighting for the rights of animals and prevernting cruelty on them or killing them.

Among the ardent followers, the feeling is growing through experience that such religious ractices help in increasing their soul-strength and revitalising their soul-energy.  It makes them feel more self-reliant both physicall as well as mentally, and diminishes diffidence, timidity or lack of courage.  In one word, such practices are helping them keep their equilibrium.  One devout scholar has coined a beautiful term ‘balanced joy’ for the deep satisfaction that one gets by observing Jain religion  and subscribing to its principles—even on a lower scale.  The ‘balanced joy’ increases as one moves up on the performance scale.

The practice of Janism has come to the American and European followers not only as sould-purifying and soul-uplifting, but also as making them better, kinder and more compassionate human beings in the wider word of all living beings.  Many regard it as a miracle happened to them, and the miracle is the discovery of the power of the inner-self, the joyo of true understanding and the deep experience of interdependence.

What has deeply touched the core of the hearts of Americans and Europeans  is the experience of annual pilgirmage to the holy Jain shrines in India.  These trips have been very appropriately named as ‘Journey to Awareness’.  Balabhadra poured his heart ouot when he worte:  “Honestly I don’t want to die without visiting sammeta Shikhar”.  Vikas Prakash and Ananta felt that as they made their way up the mountain side to the summit of shatrunjaya and saw the glorious light which reflected from the domes of the temple roof,  ‘Their hearts and minds were uplifted quite suddenly.’  The pilgrimage was for them ‘a wave of bliss’.

When they learnt of postponement of the pilgrimage in 1990, Vikas wrote:  “Both Ananta and I were very much surprised to learn of the postponement of this year’s Journey to Awareness.  In my heart of hearts there were  visions of shatrunjaya, Mt. Abu, Shravanabelgola, Pavapuri and Sammeta shikhar which these scenes of your homeland were present in my mind’s eye, ananta and I were once again sharing the vibrations of the timeless blessing which these Mountains of Divinity bestow upon the fortunate pilgrims who visit them.  As real as any reality which I have known in this life!  The smell of incense, the glow of candles, the coolness of the stone floors on the feet!  The sound of mantra vibrating throughout the Temples and surrounding area; pilgrims coming and going to pay homage to each of the deities, all this and the calm serenity of the wide-eyed fully conscious larger than life representations of Adinaha, Parsvanath, shitalnath and all Tirthankaras!”

Durga and Narayan (Mr. & Mrs. Simonin) from Paris led a group on a pilgrimage to India in 1970, found the experience highly uplifting and deeply soul-satisfying.  Since then they have been in constant touch with Gurudev and his teachings and have brought into their own teaching of Yoga at the Centre de Yoga at the Centre de Yoga traditionnel in Paris – valuable input of meditation and concentration as per jain tradition.  They have taken Namokara Mantra to heart as its daily recitation has given them considerable peace of mind and tranquility of spirit.

I recall meeting and greeting a group which had come to India from USA in 1985 on pilgrimage under the inspiring guidance of Gurudev Chitrabhanu.  When I met them in New Delhi towards the end of their tour, I could see the feeling of exstasy and discovery of joy within bubbling forth in their talk.  It was a unique experience for them had disappeared.  They looked relaxed and at peace with the world—all those leading bankers, industrialists, professors, traders and other men and women of the mundane world.  The pilgrimage had raised their soul power so  high as to take the mundane in its stride and not get trapped into it.

And consider the deep pleasure they got chanting Namokar Mantra at the mountain tops in temples and their environs.  Rock singer Rosita Rashmi writes:

“There is a lot of love and a lot of joy that has been put into this and a lot of gratefulness at being able to sing and record a song that is so ancient, so powerful and I believed the whole world should hear it.  I have never felt so complete in singing before.”

In another letter she writes,  “In Mt.  Palitana, when we were in the temple, when we finally climbed the mountain and went into the temple you asked me to sing Om Namu Arihantanam, and you wanted us to sing it for everybody.  My first reaction was strange because I did not want to dishonour or sing it incorrectly.  But I did hear it differently in my own mind, heard the mantras played differently.  When I did sing it, and everybody joined in and we all sang it together, I actually heard the sounds that you will hear when you listen to the tape . . … I played the mantras on my guitar to a musician.  He was overwhelmed by it, and told me he heard definite sounds in his mind.  They were the same sounds I had heard in my mind in India.  So when we came together to prepare the album called ‘Ray of Light’, it was synchronotic, as if it was meant to be …. It seems that this mantra has its own power, and I am just a vehicle to express it in a way it have never felt so complete in singing before.”

Trupti Otto narrated to Gurudev and me at Gurudev’s residence in Bombay her ‘beautiful’ experience when she was asked to sing and chant Chattari Mangalam and everyone joined her at Palitana.  She felt ‘connected’ to inner peace and deep delight like one she had never experienced before.  She misses this back home in Berlin:  “here the growing is different, more coming with the demands of the real world which is so different in dynamics from the atmosphere of meditation and cool-collected thoughts leading to the attainment of spiritual energy.”

Reinhold Braun from Germany writes:  “I have been five times to India and travelled to all holy mounts of the Jains.  I went to the toop of Girnar, Shatrunjaya, Abu and to the three hills of Taranga in Gujarat and Rajasthan.  I climbed to the top of mount Parshvanath in Bihar, and I have orders to my feet to bring me to Gommata in shravanabelgola.  That I saw a lot of other improtant holy temples of the jains you may imagine!  I also have friends.  I know Acharya Paramasagar and I visited Acharya Kalyan Sogarji in the new simandhara-temple of Mehsana.  And I know a lot of monks, now I hope to see you one day and this would be a big enjoyment for me.  The world needs Ahimsa, that is my conviction and my belief.”

I was invited too preside over a public function held on December 4, 1991 at Patkar Hall in Bombay to welcome the 1991 India pilgrimage group by 25 American, German, Swiss and English men and women.  It was a heart-warming experience to meet these ‘inspired’ foreigners who have been attracted  to the tenets of Jainism, and have sought to transform their lives through meditation, vegetarianism, animal care, linking spirituality with science and commitment to non-violence.  The group included professor of humanities and law, attorney, deep sea diver, nurse, financial consultants, computer expert, marketing, executive, psychiatrist, yoga and spiritual shone with a radiance – at once pure and wholesome.  They came not to discover India, but to discover themselves in the overwhelmingly pure and rarefied atmosphere on hill tops of Jain pilgrimage centres.

Levin spoke of earning love and respect and being vegetarian and trnsmitting it to others as the aim of his life.  Jerry Fischer dealt with the profound meaning of reverence for all forms of life.  Joe Warren, Professor-cum-attonery spoke about linking reasoning and logic with faith, belief and commitment.  Shanta Nancy Grasso expressed repugnance to meat eating and how she succeeded in converting her family to vegetarianism.  Premal Takacs reflected on concern for animals and virtues of being vegetarian.  Cathy Florida narrated her experience of many years of meditation, vegetarianism, running of Jain International Meditation Centres in U.S.A., editing a magazine ‘Light house’ and her deep attachment to Jain philosophy.

The Journey of Awareness lasting a fortnight took them to Palitana, Shatrunjhaya, Mt. Abu, Hastagiri, Ahmedabad (Hathibhai Temple),  Shankeshwar,  Bamanwada Dilwara, achalgarh, Ranakpur, Udaipur, New Delhi.



The Wave of BlissSo Hun | Ahimsa | Looking up to the Teacher | The Practice of Religion | Through the Eyes of the Camera | A Pioneer Shows the Way