THE JAIN SANGH – Historical perspective
As our Sangh enters the new millennium and celebrates the 11th anniversary of our temple, let us look back and see how we have grown over the years physically and spiritually. In the fall of 1980 Mahesh Shah searched for fellow Jains in South Jersey through telephone book and held a first puja. That puja was the beginning of our Sangh. The Sangh was originally started for the sole reason to unite Jains of this tri-state area and perform prescribed religious rituals every once in a while. This also included “Bhavana” once a month to be held at sponsors’ house. The best result achieved through “Bhavana” was social and religious bond of Jain families. The religious activities continued over the years and the addition of ” Samavatsari Pratikaman” deepened the faith in Jainism.
Over the years as Jain activities increased realization set in that we must have our own Temple. Fund raising began in 1987. Persistence of a determined few, inspiration by Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanu and a donation of $25,000 from North Jersey Sangh resulted in purchasing of a church in Pennsauken in 1989. With generous donations from area Jains, conversion into a suitable temple was completed by May 1990. Specially made marble idols of Shree Adinath, Shree Parswanath and Shree Mahavir Swami were flown in for Pratistha Mahotsav in May of 1990 that was attended by 800 joyous devotees and the occasion was graced by Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanu, Acharya Shree Sushil Kumarji, Shree Amrendra Muni, Shree Kirtichandji Maharaj, Shree Munichandraji Maharaj and Shree Jinchandraji Maharaj.
Soon after that the Sangh bought adjoining house and furnished it to serve as Pathshala, Swadhyay hall and Bhojanshala. Once again the Sangh members donated with open hearts and the house has become an integral part of the Jain Sangh. In 1993 the Sangh installed Moorties of Shree Manibhadraji, Shree Ghantakana Veer, Shree Chakeshwari Devi, Shree Siddha Devi and Shree Padmavati Devi in the Bhamti. The Pratishta Mahotsav that May was celebrated with Shree Parswa Padmavati Poojan and was attended by 800 Jains of the Tri-state area. In 1998 two 6′ x 8′ marble murals (Shatrunjay Pat and Girnar Pat) were installed with big fanfare and Shree Shatrunjay Bhavpoojan. New by-laws were published in 1999 and the Sangh management structure was changed to two separate bodies – Trustees for overall direction and Executive Committee for day-to-day management.
As to the spiritual growth of the community there can be no two opinions. Monthly Sangh sponsored poojas, scholarly discourses from visitors from India and here, monthly pathshalas, periodically held pratikamans, samayiks, Aymbils and shibirs have raised spiritual level and better understanding of jain way of life to our members. Tapascharyas by sangh members – adults and children are increasing every year. This year we witnessed Varshi Tap by two of our members and Aymbil olis by many more.
In 2000, work started to expand the temple facility. A shikhar, expanded Rangmandap, separate change rooms for men and women, a small library etc. will make temple more attractive for jains in the area to come together, pray and achieve inner peace. Our temple now looks and feels more like a temple back at home. This year the 11th anniversary of our temple is being celebrated with Shantisnatra Poojan and Dhvaj Aarohan ceremoney. It is a glorious time for all of us.
JAINAM JAYATI SHASHANAM