By Arvind Vora
The longest serving president of Digambara Jain Mahasabha took his last breath at the Tirthankara Mahaveer University Hospital near Delhi on Tuesday from COVID related causes while listening to the recitation of Jain Navkar Mantra.
I met Mr Sethi at one of the JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America) biennial convention held usually during the July 4th weekend. We were instantly connected with each other having common purpose of promoting Jain principles.
During my first visit to New Delhi, having made a special effort by informing him that I will be visiting Delhi for only a few days, he invited me to his home. We talked may be for an hour so. He gave me copies of many issues of Prachin Jain Tirth Jirnodhar and other magazines that described in depth location, present conditions etc. of Jain places of worship. He had a dream of restoring as many temples as possible. According to him, there must be several thousand Jain temples all over the world in need of restoration and rehabilitation. He himself must have helped to restore more than 1,000 such temples in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Rajasthan, Bihar, and other states in India. His research and inventory were mindboggling.
He had a special request since I am in America and a Main Representative of Anuvibha at the UN. He wanted me to get in touch with UNESCO officials to provide help in archeological and restoration work. Obviously, I liked to help but needed to politely inform him that the UNESCO is based in France and most UN agencies stay away if religion is involved, with rare exceptions. Little I knew that it was a special day of celebration for him organized by his son. It was his 50th Wedding anniversary and he had let his wife go earlier but he waited for me. That meeting, with his gracious hospitality and intense commitment left me awestruck with what he has achieved and his dreams.
Mr Sethi travelled extensively and found Jain temples and artifacts in Sri Lanka, China & Indonesia; Mexico and Guatemala in South America; Ethiopia in Africa and even in America at Native American Reservations. He signed a Memorandum of Understanding with many entities including governments.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular and memorable events for Jains is Shri Bahubali Swamy Mahamastak Abhiseka that takes place every 12 years. Bahubali did a yearlong meditation in a standing position. This is depicted in a statue. It is the tallest monolithic statue in the world, carved out of a single block of granite. It is 57 foot high monolith and located between Bengaluru and Mysore in the Karnataka. We were lucky to participate and witness this memorable ceremony in 2006 as part of JAINA delegation when Nirmal Ji was president of the host committee.
He used to come to just about every JAINA Convention and both of us made time to go over activities and plans. At my last visit to India five or so years ago we again connected and enjoyed each other’s company.
Our last meeting was on March 14, 2021 at a webinar that he frequently organized about Jain matters. The subject matter of Sallekhana (welcoming the death) was extensively discussed as per Jain scriptures. He would invariably recognize my presence at these webinars.
In many ways he was unique and a rare breed who committed almost his entire life in the service of Jains and Jainism. May his soul rest in perpetual peace.
The writer is main representative of Anuvibha at the UN.Read More