Pathshala means “learning place” is traditionally used to describe the religious classes conducted by traditional teachers or gurus. In the Jain tradition in America, this term has been used to describe the religious education classes conducted by Jain laity for both adults and young people.


Adinath is the first of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras. He is said to have established the various institutions that form the basis of all civilized life: marriage, agriculture, the arts, and weaponry. After ruling for thousands of years, he divided his kingdom among his sons and departed to take up an ascetic way of life. He attained full illumination (kaivalya), then spent the rest of his life teaching others how to leave the cycle of birth and death.


In the Jain tradition, the adoption of the Mahavratas, or “great vows,” is central to becoming a monk or nun. The vows include: ahimsa (nonviolence); satya (truth); asteya (not stealing); brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-possession). The vow to observe these five ethical precepts is also common to renunciants in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Young Jains of America

Young 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 Jain centers to create on-going youth forums, contributes articles to JAINA’s Jain Digest, publishes its own magazine, Young Minds, and has a website on the Internet.

Jain temple

Each 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 consciousness. Ideally, a temple is constructed of marble, both to maintain a cool interior and to symbolize the eternal nature of Truth. The interior will vary depending upon the sect. In Digambara and Murtipujak Shvetambara temples, images of the twenty-four Tirthankaras will typically be set in small chambers around the central sanctum.... Read more about Jain temple


Divali (also called Dipavali or Diwali) is the autumn festival of lights in the Hindu and Jain traditions. In the Hindu tradition, the festival is in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Good Fortune, who is invited to be present. In the Jain tradition, the lights are kindled to commemorate the illumination of the Tirthankara Mahavira.


Siddha means accomplished or perfected, one who has attained spiritual realization. In the Jain tradition, an enlightened and liberated soul is called a Siddha. Such a soul does not need a body, but transcends the cycle of life and death and dwells in moksha, complete freedom, having regained its original state of pure energy.

Chitrabhanu, Gurudev

Chitrabhanu (b. 1922) renounced home life at age 19 to become a Jain monk. His life as a mendicant followed traditional norms until 1970, when he returned to lay life so that he could fly to Geneva to participate in the second Spiritual Summit Conference of the Temple of Understanding. He has lived in the United States and played a leading role in the American Jain community since 1971.


Pratishtha means establishment or installation and refers to the rites by which images are consecrated for worship in the Hindu and Jain traditions.


The Jain term anekantavada, which literally means “no-one-perspective-ism,” refers to an appreciation for the fact that a variety of apparently contradictory views may all hold validity. Because the Jain position is able to resolve the apparent inconsistencies between other views, however, it is considered to come closer to fully grasping the one underlying truth, satya.


A nun is a woman who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ordained nuns are called bhikkhunis, those who beg alms, depending upon the laity for their food and support. The early lineage of bhikkhunis died out long ago in the Theravada traditions of South Asia, but was preserved in the Mahayana traditions of East Asia where nuns outnumber monks today in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the Jain tradition,... Read more about nun


A mendicant is one who renounces worldly life, is often a member of a monastic order, and is sustained by the alms of the laity.

Kumar, Sushil

Sushil Kumar (1926–1994) was born in a small village in India, became a Jain monk at age 15, and came to the United States in 1974 at the age of 48. He founded Siddhachalam, the first Jain religious retreat center in the United States, in 1983. He was recognized as an acharya, a spiritual teacher, in the Jain tradition and was often referred to by his followers with the honorific: Sushil Kumarji. Despite resistance from more conservative members of the Jain community, Kumar traveled widely to participate in conferences concerned with world peace and animal rights.


The 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 be the most recent of 24 Jinas. It includes both monastic renunciants and laity, and has long been noted for its adherence to principles of non-violence. Today, there are approximately 3,000,000 Jains living in India, 25,000 in England and Europe, 21,000 in Africa (especially Kenya), and 20,000 in North America.


In the Jain tradition, a Tirthankara, literally a “ford-maker,” is a spiritual pioneer who has crossed beyond the perpetual flow of earthly life. In each cycle of time, there are twenty-four Tirthankaras. They differ from other Jinas in that, in addition to liberating themselves, they spend their lives as teachers, sharing their knowledge with others. The twenty-fourth Tirthankara of the current age was Mahavira, who is said to have lived in the 6th century BCE.