About JAIN SOCIETY OF GREATER CLEVELAND
As with most Jain Sanghs in USA, the Cleveland Sangh had a modest beginning 30+ years ago. The first gathering of Jains, about six families appears to have taken place in November 1974 for a Mahavir Nirvan celebration at a family residence followed by similar gatherings about two to three times a year. With encouragement from Acharya Shri Sushil Kumarji the group came together in a more formal manner resulting in the formation of a Jain Association in 1976. A more formal structure was created in 1978 – with a constitution approved on December 13, 1978 naming the organization “Jain Society of Greater Cleveland” – JSGC. The IRS classification as a Non-Profit Tax Exempt Religious Organization [501(c) (3)] was approved in February 1979 followed by registration as a charitable organization in Ohio in November 1979.
To increase awareness of Jain principles in the community-at-large, the JSGC members were successful in having Hon. George G. Voinovich, Mayor, City of Cleveland issue a proclamation designating April 26, 1981 as “Day of Ahinsa in Cleveland” – a first event of its kind in the nation.
The following year, October 24, 1982 was designated as “Day of Mahavir Nirvana” in the City of Cleveland. At the national level, JSGC was one of the four founding organizations (along with Sanghs from Boston, Northern California and Southern California) of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) in May 1981. JSGC was also one of the original signatories of the constitution of JAINA in 1983.
At home the breadth and depth of the religious activities continued to increase. Over time, additional celebrations were added including Mahavir Janma Kalyanak in the spring, Das Lakshan Parva and Mahavir Nirvan (Diwali) in the autumn. The Society nurtured a tradition of learning Jain principles and scriptures from accomplished scholars from all primary Jain traditions. An adult swadhyay group and a children and adults pathshala have also been running for many years. All of these programs were held in various rented halls or in member homes.
The Society currently has about 200 member families belonging to all Jain traditions and from various parts of India and a younger generation brought up in USA. Its administrative affairs are handled by a nine member Board of Trustees elected by the General Body. Individual trustees have a 3 year term. To provide for continuity and renewal, three seats on the Board of Trustees are up for election every year. The Trustees for each year elect the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer to serve a one year term.
As with other Jain communities, there was an on-going desire to build a Temple of our own. In mid-2005 an offer of donation of land by a community member family gave the community the impetus to seriously pursue the idea of building an independent Jain temple. With enthusiastic and generous response from the community, the General Body approved the Jain Center Project, which would include a Jain temple, class rooms and a community hall, in September, 2005. Various Committees, Design, Engineering, Gabhara (religious aspects), Finance and Public Relations were formed along with the Main Jain Center Committee to plan and execute the Jain Center project.
Based upon the guidance provided by Acharya Shri Pradyumansuriji Maharaj and Acharya Shri Hemchandrasuriji Maharaj in India the community decided to have Shri Dharmanath Bhagwan as our Mulnayak and Shri Mahavir Swami Bhagwan and Shri Rushabhnath Bhagwan as the other two pratimajis in the gabhara. The community decided to have the idol of Shri Rushabhnath Bhagwan in the Digamber tradition and the other two in the Shwetamber tradition.
In addition, it was decided to have the idols of Guru Gautam Swami, Manibhadra Veer, Ghantakaran Veer, Padmavati Devi and Saraswati Devi, a Navkar mantra plate, a Siddhachakra plate and chitrapats of Shri Shatrunjay tirth and Shri Sammet Shikhar tirth in the rangmandap. Carved images of Kinnar Yaksh and Kandarpa Yakshini were to be installed in the entrance to the main temple. It was also decided to make provision for idols of the 24 tirthankars and Shri Simandhar Swami in the bhamati to be installed at a later date.
Bhoomi Poojan and Khanan Vidhi ceremonies were celebrated in October 2007 followed by the Shilanyas/Shilaropan ceremony in April 2008. The community welcomed and accepted an offer by two community members to conduct the entire Jain Center construction project on a non-profit basis – without remuneration or any other consideration and the foundation was poured in late spring in 2009.
July 2, 2010 through July 6, 2010 were the most auspicious and joyous days for the Jain community in Greater Cleveland. On these days the community’s long standing vision of a place of worship of their own turned into reality in a beautiful new building comprising of a Temple and a Community Center. With a lot of preparation and fanfare, the community consecrated the idols of the Shri Dharmanath Bhagwan, Shri Mahavir Swami Bhagwan and Shri Rushabhnath Bhagwan in the gabhara in the early morning of July 5th per the muhurat recommended by Acharya Shri in India. The idol of Guru Gautam Swami and other Dev Devis were also consecrated at the same time. The entire pratishtha Mahotsav was performed under the guidance of Bhattarak Shri Devendrakeertiji Swamiji and vidhikars Shri Narendra Nandu and his group from India and Shri Naresh Shah from New York. The ceremony was blessed by several Acharyas, Munis, Samanijis and scholars who graced the occasion. Over 280 families from 18 states comprising 900+ people along with local dignitaries participated in the festivities making it a truly memorable event. It was also a matter of great joy for the community that the financial commitments made during the pratishtha successfully covered all the expenses and the Jain Center was to be totally debt-free.
The Jain Center is located in Richfield, OH on about 12 acres of land in a rural and peaceful setting. The temple area is about 2700 sq.ft. The class rooms, library, office space and a community hall comprise the remaining 6900 sq.ft. The dhwaja height is about 44 ft. Parking lot can accommodate 84 cars with additional parking available on adjacent unpaved land. One unique aspect of our Jain center is that there are no names of individuals, families or organizations anywhere in the Center. The Center belongs to equally to all. To our great satisfaction the numbers of events and participation have significantly increased since the temple opening, particularly involving the younger generation.
In July 2012, the Society celebrated the pratishtha of the 25 bhamati murtis. Of these 22 are in the Shwetamber tradition and 3 in the Digamber tradition under the guidance of Bhattarak Shri Charukeertiji and vidhikars Shri Narendra Nandu and his group and Shri Naresh Shah. A unique feature of the bhamati murtis is that they conform to the colors ascribed to various tirthankars in our scriptures – Shri Chandraprabh Swami and Shri Vasupujya Swami in reddish color, Shri Mallinathji and Shri Parshvanathji in blue color and Shri Munisuvrat Swami and Shri Neminathji in black color. Others are all in normal white marble color. The participation and commitments during this pratishtha ceremony were also excellent with over 400 people participating.
With Jain Center now fully operational, JSGC looks at its past with satisfaction and accomplishment and towards the future with a sense of joy and anticipation.