10th Annual Young Jain Professionals Convention - Report

Author:  Image of Shilpa ShahShilpa Shah
Published: 15.10.2007
Updated: 05.05.2009

10th Annual Young Jain Professionals Convention

The 10th Annual Young Jain Professionals Convention was held in St. Petersburg, FL from September 28 to October 1, 2007. The theme of the convention was Back to Basics. A primary aim of this convention was to bring everyone in a natural setting and provide a forum for learning about and discussing issues that we as Jains face in the professional stage of our lives. Participants came from all over North America, including Seattle, Toronto, Indianapolis, and San Francisco.

The convention began Friday evening with introductions and a scrumptious Italian dinner, followed by an evening of ga mes. Participants were also called upon to think about the concept of forgiveness for the duration of the weekend and reflect on how we can be more forgiving and seek forgiveness from others to a greater extent than what they might normally do. Later that night, participants sat around a camp fire and enjoyed roasting vegan marshmallows, as they got to know each other better.

Saturday morning began with a yoga session led by Tushar Mehta. Participants got the chance to try out various yoga postures that Jain munis have been doing for centuries.

After breakfast, participants got a chance to learn about Vegan Fashions. Rina Shah, whose company has won awards for manufacturing “animal-friendly” products and for donating to “animal-friendly” causes, educated participants on the availability of such products. Her designs, which are available in stores in several countries and online, include non-leather and non-silk shoes, purses, belts, etc. In the session, she showed that one does not need to give up fashion to live a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Next came a session on Applying Jain Principles to Ethical Dilemmas, led by Shalin Mehta and Deepen Vira. In this session, participants engaged in a vibrant discussion on various topics that came from a questionnaire that they had completed earlier. Topics included personal relations, medical issues, business/law, and politics. Questions that generated much discussion included the following: Should we try to convince friends/family members to follow Jain principles if they have started engaging in un-Jain behaviors? Is animal testing acceptable for non-life-saving medical products such as acne cream? Is omitting truths the same as lying? Can a Jain serve in the military and kill in a war? And, given an option, should we save a person or a dog, if the choices are Hitler or Lassie?

After a Mexican feast, participants got a chance to enjoy the recreational activities that the park had to offer. People were able to bond as they enjoyed canoeing in the nearby lake, biking along some of the trails in the park, playing volleyball with the other participants, and cooling off in the swimming pool. This was followed by a North Indian dinner. After dinner, many participants went salsa dancing in the city, while others stayed behind and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere of the park.

Sunday morning, after a delicious South Indian breakfast, there was a session on the Concept of God in Jainism. This session was led by Deepika Dalal, president of Jain Center of South Florida and JAINA Director. Dr. Dalal, who has been teaching pathshala classes to young adults for many years, explained how God is conceptualized in Eastern as well as Western religions and how the Jain concept of God compares to these. She concluded by saying that in Jainism, God is not a creator or destroyer and does not grant favors, but is any soul who has exhausted all their karmas and achieved Moksha.

This was immediately followed by an open-ended question and answer session, where participants were free to ask any question related to Jainism. Questions that came up included a variety of topic areas, such as reincarnation, tirthankars, time cycles, Jain cosmology, and so forth. Dr. Dalal answered these questions with a modern approach that people were able to relate to and appreciate. In addition, she was very approachable and open to discussion throughout her stay.

After the sessions, the group made a trip to a nearby beach and had a picnic. While at the beach, many people tried jet skiing, while others went swimming or played football. This was followed by a tasty Asian dinner.

After dinner, came a session on Forgiveness. In this session, Shilpa Shah led a discussion on people’s experiences with seeking forgiveness and forgiving others. Questions that were raised and discussed included the following: Is there a disadvantage to seeking forgiveness? Can seeking forgiveness be seen as a sign of weakness or diminish one’s authority or can it be seen as a sign of strength? What’s the difference between being forgiving and being passive? Participants shared their personal experiences.

This was followed by some social time. Participants enjoyed a camp fire and played board games during the night.

Monday morning after breakfast, when the convention ended, the group parted with a strong feeling of closeness and friendship. Many of the participants who were new to YJP expressed eagerness for the next YJP Convention.

This was my first YJP event and I definitely had a great time. I kind of liked it that it was a smaller group of people, gives us an opportunity to get to know each other better. - Kilol Shah

I came with low expectations because of the small turnout but left with a greater appreciation of Jainism and its followers. - Manish Vora

The YJP 2007 Convention was a first for me. The three day experience allowed me to assimilate YJP's vision in empowering the youth to take strides in professing Jain philosophy. It was a perfect setting after the conclusion of Paryushan Parva. The gathering brought together young Jains around North America to interact on a personal & professional level. I intend to get more involved with the YJP organization to grow the organization into one that establishes change in the world around it. – Rakesh Soni

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  1. Indianapolis
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