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 Jainism. In the course of the summer she attended and documented the activities of both temples 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 America, 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 temple walls and current developments in the Greater Boston Jain community:
Greater Boston is home to one of the first Jain organizations, the first Jain temple, 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 JAINA (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 metropolitan 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)