Jainism is practiced almost everywhere in the world — even though few people know that such a resolutely pacifist religious even exists. Those who live in or are traveling to the southern United States can relax knowing that there are many avenues through which to study the religion. Many temples and resources are located in Florida. These places of worship see a lot of traffic, though, and proceed with caution while the pandemic rages.
The Jain Society of Central Florida is presided over by Denish P. Vardhan and headquartered at 407 W. Citrus Street in Altamonte Springs. The Federation of Jain Associations in North America heads 72 smaller Jain Centers with around 150,000 members scattered about the United States and Canada. One can research this organization using the acronym JAINA.
The JAINA mission is “to preserve, practice, and promote Jain Dharma and Jain Way of Life. With the blessings of Acharya Sushil Kumarji and Gurudev Chitrabhanuji, JAINA was founded in 1981 and formalized in 1983.”
Notably, JAINA is the biggest umbrella conducting such activities outside of mainland India. A number of committees help determine the order of operations. It also represents Jains from all around the world.
What does JAINA actually do? There are many services provided. These include activities related to education, humanitarian, publication, production, community outreach, administrative, religion, government, public relations, youth, and environment. The Jain faith is especially concerned with protecting the global environment, as it practices awareness of Ahimsa. Jains typically follow a plant-based diet to do as little harm as possible — even to microorganisms we cannot see.
JAINA also organizes a Biennial Convention in order to help the Jain community foster new relationships and increase networking. “Biennial” means once every two years.
The magazine “Jain Digest” can also be obtained through JAINA — and we urge believers to look into this if they cannot visit a temple. Articles are devoted to teaching readers the importance of spiritual growth while fostering important values and principles related to the Jain faith.
There are Jain Centers located in Fort Myers, Miami (JCSF), Northeast (JANEF), Orlando (JSOCF), Palm Beach, Panama City Beach, and Tampa Bay (JSTB). Those traveling to other Southeast states can find centers in Atlanta and Augusta, GA; Southern Louisiana and Northwest Louisiana; Charlotte (JCGC) and Raleigh (JSCNC) in North Carolina; and Memphis and Middle (JSMT) in Tennessee.
There are a number of affiliates that support Jaina, including the Jaina India Foundation (JIF), the International School for Jain Studies (ISJS), the International Alumni Association of Shri Mahavir Jain Vidyalaya (IAAMJV), and Siddhachalam.
Parents who wish to introduce children to Jainism can join or support the Young Jains of America, whose members are usually aged fourteen to twenty-nine. Another group, the Young Jains Professionals, works to foster comprehension of relevant Jain principles while teaching Jain history. Both groups work to increase networking between Jains.
The Jain Society of Central Florida has conducted many Zoom chats in order to employ social distancing during this trying time: