Singapore Jain Religious Society

March, 2024 by Parul Kothary

Singapore Jain Religious Society


18 Jalan Yasin, Singapore 417991

sjrs@sjrs.org.sg

Introduction
Jains have settled in Singapore since the beginning of 20th Century. the Singapore Jain Religious Society was registered in 1972 and our Jain elders secured its current premises in 1978. The location has since been renovated a number of times and in the year 2009, a murti of lord Mahavir was consecrated at the premises. The Jain Center is unique in the world, as it has progressed with the times in accommodating all the different Jain sects in the same premises, keeping to fundamental principles of Jainism. The Society maintains its prime objective a preserving Jain unity in Singapore. Jainism was officially accepted and became the 10th religion to join the Inter Religious Organization (IRO) in 2006. Being a member of IRO raised awareness of Jainism in Singapore.

Jain community in Singapore is a strong community of over 1000+ families. SJRS has various sub-groups formed for effective participation in religious activities throughout the year such as Jainshala, Young Jains of Singapore (YJS), ladies Wing, Commit and Swadhaya team.

Astrologers predict that the Year of the Dragon will bring some kind of positive change for every individual. And indeed, that was the feeling which each attendee at the SJRS CNY Shibir 2024 felt at the end of the 2 ½ -day specially curated program running over the Singapore Chinese New Year break.

Aptly titled “Check and Change” the program was filled with blessings by the virtual presence of Rashtrasant Param Gurudev Shree Namramuni Maharaj SahebParam Mahasatiji Saumyaji and Param Mahasatiji Asmitaji. The interactive activities at the Sthanak in the form of discussions, debates, audio/visuals, quiz time and competitions were facilitated by 3 Shibir Shashan Prabhavaks from Parasdham – Paritosh bhai, Dipali Didi Shah and Jaanvi Didi Shah. Needless to say, deep thought was put into the entire program curation for every group, children, youth and adults. Certain sessions and games were deliberately combined to facilitate discussions between all age groups.

At the end of the 2 ½  -day program, I found myself questioning my own self – what would I change about myself after the Shibir? And the question that was raised in the Shibir came to my mind – “Is Jainism a religion or a way of life?” I found my answer in the many stories and examples that were narrated and discussed during the program.

The change will come eventually when you Gamify your mann (mind), vachan (speech) and kaya (body). You can’t rush in this journey. It’s best to take baby steps but importantly make a goal. Do a stretch target. And the ability to control your mind starts growing. Just like in the corporate world, you have short term goals and long-term goals, apply the same process. Draw a dotted line and start your journey slowly, nonetheless intently with bhaav. The dots will start to connect and eventually the straight line will be formed.

Our Jain shasan is perfect. We are indeed blessed. But do we actually value what we have? Do we even know why we are chanting the Navkaar mantra? Theoretically we have the answers, but the facilitators stretched us to think beyond the answers we have read and recited. Guided by them, we learnt breathing techniques while chanting Navkaar Mantra, realizing the Mahaprabhavak Shree Uvasaggahar Stotra, seeing visual renditions of bhakti and stavans and completely immersing ourselves in the process. The  Uvasaggaharam Stotra composed by Acharyashri Bhadrabahu Swami is instrumental in eliminating obstacles, hardships, and miseries, if chanted with complete faith.

And talking about faith, a silent stream of tears dribbling down my cloudy eyes while listening to a stavan was for me the ‘check’ point. I actually cried on something that was extremely dear to my heart but somehow locked up inside me for an entire year. And there lay the answer to yet another question asked by the facilitators, “do we actually experience the divinity of the mantras?”  Mantras are the purest form of universal vibrations, and one should do it with bhav (sentiment) because anything that does not come from the heart, cannot find its place at the altar of devotion. It then doesn’t have much value and certainly won’t be able to maximise your spiritual ROI.

ROI or Return on Investments led into What is RunanubandhThis is a topic that could actually form into a long discussion. In the essence of time, only the surface could be touched, and I jotted this down as a relationship that you develop with people around you that is carried forward into the next birth as human being. This is not our antim birth. How do I guarantee that I will get Jain Dharma in the next birth as well? Needless to say, it’s about laying the neev (foundation) strongly. This can be made possible by connecting with your guru and immersing yourself in that path wholeheartedly.  When your Guru is the navigator, the probability of mistakes is low.

The topic of Tapasya was discussed almost throughout. We often hear of people who never fasted previously and suddenly embark on the Tapasya journey and have the bhav to do more. I didn’t need to think too much into this for I was reminded of my first Tapasya, not long ago and following that a bhaav to continue. I have often wondered why a sudden belief and a passion in Tapasya. The discussions settled the immediate questions lingering in my mind, but with a quest to go deeper into this topic.

I summarized my key learning into one goal which is to make your aura positive. Aura is an electromagnetic field around every living body. In human beings, it’s a storehouse of all negative and positive energies. Just like we run regular virus scans on our laptops, we should also work on ourselves, prepare our own checklists and continuously read, review and revise so that our checklist becomes an inherent part of ourselves.

The wireless world”, an exhibition showcasing the impact of technology on our mind, body and soul was an eye-opener for all participants. The aim was in line with the theme of the Shibir – “Check and Change”. It prompted us to think deeper on a few questions, namely:

  1. Are we raising our kids and ourselves in the hands of social media?
  2. Is mobile increasing our family bond and trust or creating doubts and breakups?
  3. Has technology made us independent or handicapped?
  4. Are radiations making you sick?

I walked back home with lots of questions in my mind after a beautiful immersive 2 ½ -day program. I recall fondly the grand start of the SJRS Shibir – Check and Change – by the children waving Jain flags joined by bhakti and stavans and bringing in the mangal kalash by SJRS President Kenal bhai Kothari and Arti ben Kothari along with the MC team, volunteers, and the attendees.

And I made a silent promise to myself to continuously remember to ‘check’ on oneself for ultimately the ‘change’ is in our hands.

About Author

Parul Kothary is a banker by profession and part of the SJRS extended management committee supporting their various initiatives.

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by Nidhi Nahata

Spicy Masala Makhana

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