Peace Signs

Happily we made it to the Jain Center of Northern California’s 10th Anniversary procession Saturday morning. My whole family went. I was well prepared: my camera batts were fully charged and my memory card was freshly erased. I took about 340 photos but I’ve pared them down to about 100 for your viewing pleasure.

It was scheduled to start at 9:00 A.M., proceeding down Main Street from Corning Ave. down to the Jain Center. We arrived about 9:15, parking off Abel Street to avoid any Main Street closure hassles. We walked through O’Toole Elms Park, mindful of the significance. IMG_9786We smelled smoke and realized that the Milpitas Fire Department was conducting drills at their practice tower across the street. At the Jain Center things were still quiet so we sat on a park bench and waited for the procession to arrive. Around 9:30 a couple city workers blocked off the street with cones and we had some fun watching unwitting drivers get thwarted and have to do K-turns in the middle of the street, sometimes three or four cars at a time. Some Milpitas police arrived to help ease the chaos. We saw police cars, a motorcycle, and even a bicycle.

Suddenly we heard a loud pop and squealing sound coming from the direction of Abel Street. I jogged over, camera in hand, to see what it was. My imagination went wild. Was it a jail break? A light rail derailment? An accident at the firefighter drill? It turned out a street sweeper driving down Abel had run over a piece of metal and blown out its tire explosively. Happily there were no serious consequences—no injuries or evident damage—just a few streets that would have to stay dirty that day.


CIMG1345We could see the procession up the street but it didn’t seem to be moving so I walked up to it, taking photos of Main Street scenes along the way. I had never seen that part of Midtown Milpitas from on foot before and the change of perspective was illuminating. I realized that Tom Evatt Park has a lovely view of the eastern hills; a fitting tribute to the city’s first mayor.

I reached the procession and was enthralled. Live music was broadcast from two slow-moving trucks. I recognized the singer and musicians from the temple on Thursday. Hundreds of Jains of all ages followed on foot, dressed in festive colors, most wearing a red sash around their necks covered with gold text and symbols. Some participants carried different items: banners, statuettes, musical instruments, orbs. It was fun to try to spot these objects in the crowd.

The most eye-catching items being carried were large white picket signs with plain English text printed on them in big black letters. At first glance they looked like the typical angry signs you’d find at a political rally or protest march, but the big difference is these carried simple, quiet messages of peace. My favorites were:

Intolerance is Violence – It violates the other person’s right to be himself or herself

VIOLENCE is NOT just physical; it is Verbal & Mental as well

Twisting a doctrine or a principle in order to violate it is the worst kind of violence

They weren’t poetic. They weren’t arcane. Just clear statements of core Jain beliefs which, if taken to heart, can transform the soul and therefore the universe. They weren’t pretty, but they were profoundly beautiful.

The procession marched right into the Center around 10:30. About that time I realized some elected officials had joined the parade: Milpitas vice-mayor Pete McHugh, city councilwoman Debbie Giordano, and county supervisor Dave Cortese (I didn’t see him but I heard he was there). People kicked their shoes off before entering the Center. We thought about trying to enter ourselves but we soon realized the place was packed, standing-room-only, and they were launching into some ceremonies which were likely to take a while. So we departed, hearts, minds, and cameras full of the spectacle we had been fortunate to witness and in a small way participate in.IMG_0082

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