A tirtha is a spiritual “ford” or “crossing place,” and, by extension, a place of pilgrimage, often situated on a riverbank, a hilltop, or in a place of special natural beauty. There are many Hindu and Jain tirthas in India and, increasingly, in the United States.

Gandhi, Virchand Raghavji

Virchand Raghavji Gandhi (1864-1901) represented the Jain tradition at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. He proved to be a very eloquent spokesman for his tradition at the Parliament and on a subsequent lecture tour to major U.S. cities. V.R. Gandhi returned to India in 1895 and came once again to lecture in the U.S. in 1896.

Siddhachalam Ashram

Siddhachalam, which means literally “Abode of the Siddhas,” is described by American Jains as the first Jain tirtha (place of pilgrimage) outside of India. It was founded by Sushil Kumar (1926–1994) in 1983 and is situated on 108 acres of land in the Pocono Mountains of western New Jersey near Blairstown.

Das Lakshan

Das Lakshan, the “Festival of the Ten Religious Qualities,” is a ten-day Digambara Jain observance which starts at the close of the monsoon season (September), immediately after the Shvetambara Paryushana Parva. On each day, one of the ten chapters of the Tattvartha Sutra is read and a sermon is given on one of the ten virtues described in the scripture. forbearance, gentleness, uprightness, purity, truth, restraint, austerity, renunciation, non-possessiveness, and chastity. Like Paryushana Parva, Das Lakshan is a time for fasting, worshipping, and seeking pardon for any injuries... Read more about Das Lakshan


As part of his reforms to make the Jain tradition better able to address the challenges of 20th century life, the Terapanthi leader Acharya Tulsi has established a new, lower order of male and female ascetics, called samans and samanis. This order is specially charged with serving the Jain community abroad. Hence, unlike other Jain mendicants, they are granted a special dispensation to use mechanical means of transport and to eat food that was specially prepared for them. In their teaching, samans and samanis emphasis a new form of Jain meditation called Prekshadhyana.


In the Jain tradition, aparigraha means renunciation, literally non-acquisition or non-grasping. It means to avoiding all acquisitive attachments, even to people, since such possessive clutching inevitably leads to greed, jealousy, selfishness, and violence, thereby binding the soul to the cycle of birth and death.


A monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns.

Bhagavan Mahavira

Mahavira is the religious seer whose teachings of compassion and renunciation have formed the basis of the Jain tradition. Mahavira, regarded as the last of the 24 Tirthankaras of the present age, is said to have been born in the 6th century BCE in modern-day Bihar. After 12 years of ascetic practice, he attained full illumination (kaivalya). Mahavira spent the rest of his life teaching; he underwent bodily death and final liberation at the age of 72.


Jina means “victor,” one who has won spiritual liberation. The Jain teacher Mahavira, like the enlightened ones before him, was given the honorific title of Jina since, through his spiritual victory, he had conquered ignorance to realize the luminous, perfect soul. Those who follow the path of the Jinas are called Jains.


In the religious traditions of India, an upadhyaya is a teacher or preceptor.

Jain meditation

Today the most widely practiced method of Jain meditation involves sitting or standing completely still for 48 minutes, letting go of all passions and negative mental attitudes, thereby attaining a sense of equanimity (samayika). Another technique is prekshadhyana, or “insight meditation,” in which the meditator engages the mind to fully attend to the subtle and changing phenomena of consciousness.


The Sthanakvasis are members of a Shvetambara Jain sect which regards image-worship as contrary to the teachings of the Tirthankaras. They are called Sthanakvasis (“Dwellers in Halls”) because their monks and nuns do no. stay in monasteries attached to temples, as do other Shvetambara mendicants. Sthanakvasi monks and nuns can be recognized by their practice of permanently wearing a cloth to cover their mouth and nose, lest they inadvertently harm invisible life forms by inhaling them.


Dharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings of conscience. For the Buddhist tradition, the Dharma (or Dhamma in Pali) refers especially to the teachings of the Buddha. This body of teachings constitutes one element of the “Three Jewels” in which Buddhists take refuge: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (the community). For Hindus, ... Read more about Dharma


Seva means service, a religious obligation of both renunciants and laity in the religious traditions of India.


A bhajan is a popular devotional song, usually in one of India’s vernacular languages, sung individually or in the company of other devotees.