Jainism in Europe
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Jainism is a religion that has traditionally been confined to the Indian sub-continent and parts of the Middle East. However, with immigration policies being liberalised along with increasing multiculturalism in western countries, local Jain populations are rising (especially in Northern America).
Since year 2002, the number of Jains in Melbourne has risen from about 100 to 400, and it is expected to continue to rise over years to come. Jainism is growing in North America, the Far East, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand
In Europe, Jain populations are centered in Britain with a population of about 25,000 (as of 2006). In the United States and Canada populations stand at around 100,000 (as of 2007). Jain religion is now a part of the diversity of the Canadian mosaic and is a member of several interfaith - multifaith organizations.
The Jains living outside of India belong to various traditions, Digambara, Shvetambara, Terapanthi, Sthanakvasi, Shrimad Rajchandra are all represented. In many cases, they gather and worship together in spite of sectarian differences.
Jainism has a couple of adherents in the West such as Kurt Cobain who as the lead singer of Nirvana was strongly interested in Jainist philosophy and Jainist practices throughout his life, Raj Jain who is a professor at Washington University, Michael Tobias who published over 35 books, and Claudia Pastorino who is a popular Italian singer.
Jainism in Belgium
The Jain community in Europe, especially in Belgium, is mostly involved in the very lucrative diamond business.
The Jains in Belgium are estimated to be around about 1500 people. The majority live in Antwerp, working in the wholesale diamond business. Belgian Indian Jains control two-thirds of the rough diamonds trade and supplied India with roughly 36% of their rough diamonds. They are building a major temple in Wilrijk (near Antwerp), with a cultural centre. Their spiritual leader, Ramesh Mehta, is a full-fledged member of the Belgian Council of Religious Leaders put up on 17 December 2009.
Jainism in Western Chronology
- 1847: Vegetarian Society established in UK.
- 1873: Hermann Jacobi encounters Jain texts in London. He later visited India to further study and translate some of them.
- 1891-1901: M.K. Gandhi in London corresponds with Shrimad Rajchandra regarding questions raised by missionaries.
- 1893 : Virchand Gandhi captivates western world with his participation in First ever World religion Parliament at Chicago. And thereafter had huge fan followings from USA and Europe.
- 1892: Champat Rai Jain (C.R. Jain) in England during 1892-1897, to study law. He established a Jain library. Later he translated several Jain texts into English.
- 1906-1910: Jugmandar Lal Jaini (J.L. Jaini) at Oxford as a law student.
- 1909: J. L. Jaini created the Jain Literature Society in London together with F. W. Thomas and H. Warren.
- Hemchandra’s “Yogasastra” was first translated into Japanese in the 1920s!
- 1930: the Rishabh Jain Lending Library was established by C. R. Jain.
- Tattvartha Sutra and the Dashavaikalika Sutra were translated in the 1940s.
- 1949: The World Jaina Mission, founded in London, by M. McKay, W. H. Talbot, F. Mansell, and Mrs. K. P. Jain.
- Forty Japanese students were sponsored by the Govt. of India in the early 1950s to live and study in India – some of them studied Navinaya in Varanasi and Gujerat, which led to new interest in the study of Jainism in Japan; one of the accomplishments was the first Japanese book by Minakata Kumagusu to simplify and translate the concepts of Jainism into Japanese for use by the common people in Japan.
- 1971: Idi Amin expelled Indians from Uganda. Jains from Eastern Africa started migrating to UK.
- 1973: Jain Samaj Leicester was formed.
- 1979: An Old church building in Oxford Street, in heart of Leicester was bought and named the Jain Centre.
- 1980: The Jain Samaj was expanded as a European body.
- 1980: First Digamber Temple outside India established in Kenya.
- In the early 1980s, the Jain Society of Toronto was founded and the first Jain Center was established in that city
- 1982: Jain Samaj opened an office in London, The All India (Overseas) Jinalaya Samiti, was created to complete the temple according to the plans drawn by the architects from Leicester, Bombay and Ahmedabad.
- 1983: On 10 November, Shilanyas ceremony the laying of the foundation stones for the first fully consecrated Jain Temple in the western world, was performed.
- 1984 : On 14 December, the Anjanshalaka ceremony was carried at Pali(Rajasthan) for the images of Shree Shantinath, Shree Mahavirswami and Shree Parswanath.
- 1985 : On 25 August, the above images were placed in the Jain Centre, Leicester.
- 1988 : On 8 July, images were entered in Garbagriha (permanent place of adobe) and the Pratistha Mahatosova was celebrated for 16 days starting from 8 July 1988 to 23 July 1988.
- 1992 The Jain Cultural Centre of Antwerpen VZW was formed with 12 committee members and 52 founder members. And land for Jain temple and meditation centre (upashray) was purchased.
- 2001 Construction of Antwerp Jain temple and meditation hall began.
- 2007 Antwerp Jain idols Anjanshalaka took place on 31 January in India and was performed by 'Jain Saints Acharyashri Subodhsagarji, Acharyashri Manohar KiritiSagarsuriji, Acharyashri Udaykirtisagarsuriji ' and also Shri Narendra Hiralal.
- 2008 On 25 August the idols were brought to Antwerp soil by air, followed by a huge procession.
- 2010 On 27 August in Antwerp the idols pratistha was performed
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