452. A Visit to a Jain Temple in Toronto 2014

 Ruth writes: When I was in India over a decade ago, I saw several men

wearing rectangular white masks over their noses. They were dressed in white

 robes. As they walked along the streets with brooms, they gently swept

 the ground in front of their bare feet. They were Shwetambar Jain

 monks trying to avoid killing living organisms — like insects. They

 were amazing.

c2014 Tor Jain Temple 075_2    

Then I heard about another sect of Jain monks called Digambar.

These men did not even wear clothes. They were trying to use as little

of the earth’s resources as possible. They still do not use vehicles,

telephones, or electricity. They avoid world possessions.

      I admired their idealism. Today we too are concerned about carbon

footprints. The Jain religion began in India at least 5000 years ago.

Paper Cut of Life of Mahivira.

About 6000 Jains live in Toronto today. The walls of their temple are

 covered with pictures of their spiritual teachers such as Mahavira.

 Like Buddhism’s Prince Siddartha, Mahavira gave up a life of luxury to

 search for the reason for human suffering and existence. Mahavira also

 spent years travelling, meditating, fasting and teaching. Jains live an austere

life so they can escape the endless cycle of birth and reincarnation.

      Last week I visited a Jain temple in Etobicoke. Pictures of Mahavira’s life were on the walls.

Captions were in English, Hindi and Gujarati. Most Indian Jains speak Hindi,

said Kirti Shah, a member of the Jain Society who was showing me around.

 Prominently placed in the former Anglican church building was a large

 mural of the 24 Bhagwan Tirthankaras or religious teachers of whom

 Mahavira was the last. Shah explained that they were all equal but

 some are more popular with worshippers than others. They were all

 male, said Kirti though some Swetambar Jains believe that one was female.

Kirti Shah pays homage to Mahavira of the Svetambara Sect. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy.

Kirti Shah pays homage to Mahavira of the Svetambara Sect. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy.

     Kirti led me to a chapel called the Derasar where one altar had three

statues of the Tirthankaras of the Svetambara sect. These role-models

are not worshipped or petitioned. Rather, Jains pay homage to them as

teachers and hope that these teachers will inspire them to follow the

five Jain principles of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing,

celibacy, and non-possessiveness within their current practical

limitations.

Statues of Jain Monks of the Digambara Sect.     

At another altar were statues of monks from the Digambara sect. The

 monks of this sect don’t wear clothes and believe only males can reach

 nirvana or extinction. I thought it exemplary that members of

 differing sects could worship in the same room and work peacefully

 together.

      Kirti is not a monk. He admires people who live as simply as possible.

He showed me the poster he was promoting. I had seen it recently

 around Toronto. On it was “Why do we love dogs but eat pigs who are also

 loveable, intelligent, and social?” It is a good question. Most Jains

 are vegetarian and do not even eat root vegetables because they believe these vegetables contain multiple lives.

 c2014 Tor Jain Temple 067

    The symbol of Jainism includes a swastika, a Sanskrit word that means

“auspicious.” It too is at least 5000 years old.

 c2014 Tor Jain Temple 072_2 

 Near the front door was a model of the Jain temple and community

 centre which should be open at Ellesmere Road and Warden Avenue in a

 few years. Kirti said it will be 55,000 square feet. The Jain

 population of Toronto is growing quickly from immigration and needs

 the space. It will help keep their ideals alive.

Model of New Jain Community Centre and Temple.

The current temple is at 48 Rosemeade Avenue with a membership of a thousand families. Telephone 416-251-8112. Its email is info@isotcanada.org. Its website: http://www.jsotcanada.org/ .

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Kirti Shah writes to Ruth: One important correction. It is not true that all or most Jains speak
    Gujarati. Jains in many states speak Hindi. About 40% of Jains speak Hindi.

    Also, I do not live a simple lifestyle but admire those who do.

    Other than this, the blog is very good and largely accurate.

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