Anastasia Piliavsky began researching the Jain community in Greater Boston while a student at Boston University. Her research discussed the developments within the Greater Boston Jain community in light of the larger trends in American JainismThe term Jain or Jaina refers to the tradition of the Jinas, the “victorious ones” who have won spiritual liberation, and to those who follow it. The Jain tradition as we know it dates back some 2500 years to the life of the teacher Mahavira, said to .... In the course of the summer she attended and documented the activities of both templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... where she made acquaintance with many of the community’s members. She spoke both formally and informally to a number of local Jains learning the details about the social and religious life of the community. While working locally, Piliavsky tried to look beyond Boston—at the broader trends and tendencies within Jain communities across the country—observing the efforts to overcome sectarian issues and to preserve tradition; the attempts to establish inter-ethnic and inter-religious networks of connection; and the larger issues of transmission, preservation and adaptation of Jain beliefs and practices on the American soil.
Being particularly interested in the future of Jainism in America, Piliavsky devoted a substantial portion of her study to the questions faced by Jain youth. She attended the Convention of Young Jains of AmericaYoung Jains of America was formed in 1989 during the fifth biennial convention of JAINA. YJA held its first national convention in Chicago in 1994 and plans to hold such conventions biennially. In addition to organizing conferences, YJA also encourages Ja..., a national Jain youth organization, which provided her with important insights into the life of American-raised Jains. In parallel, she conducted a nation-wide survey among the college-aged American Jains, which gave her further insight into the visions and challenges of the next generation of Jainism and Jains in America.
At the time of her research, Piliavsky wrote the following about networking within and beyond the templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... walls and current developments in the Greater Boston Jain community:
Greater Boston is home to one of the first Jain organizations, the first Jain templeEach Jain temple is regarded as a replica of the assembly hall miraculously created by the gods for Mahavira upon his enlightenment. Hence, in entering a temple, a Jain has the sense of approaching the spot where a living Tirthankara sits in omniscient co..., and the vanguard Jain publishing group in the US. Having played an important role in the establishment and organization of pan-American Jain associations such as JAINAThe Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) is an umbrella organization encompassing the approximately 60 Jain centers in the United States and Canada. Since its first meeting in 1981, JAINA has held conventions every two years in various... (Federation of Jain Associations in North America) and the Jain Study Center, the Boston community both heralds and reflects the current developments in American Jainism.
The past decade has been a period of major changes for the community. With the growth of the information technology job market the number of South Asians-and thus Jains-has more than doubled in the past decade, many of South Asian immigrants arriving in metropolitanA Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today. areas like Greater Boston in search of educational and career opportunities. Whereas in the 1960’s there were no more than a dozen Jain families in Boston, most of whom had plans to return to India, today there are more than 400 resident Jain families in Massachusetts. The growth of the community has had a serious impact on the organization of its social and religious life. While newly arrived immigrants have filled the multi-sectarian temple of the Jain Center of Greater Boston, reviving its efforts to naturalize Jain beliefs and practices, they have also supported the creation of the more traditionally oriented single-sect Shvetambar Jain organization, the Jain Sangh of New England, which seceded from the Jain Center of Greater Boston in 2000.
Selected Links and Publications
- Research Report: Jainism in Greater Boston and Beyond: Challenges and Emergent Organizational Paradigms (2004)
Center Profile: The Jain Center of Greater Boston (as told by Dr. Vinay Jain) (2002)
Research Report: Convention of the Young Jains of America (2004)