Siddhachalam is a Jain ashram located in an idyllic setting in rural north-western New Jersey on 120 acres of hilly terrain. It is managed by International Mahavira Jain Mission, a religious public charity. There are no affiliates or chapters of International Mahavira Jain Mission.
Siddhachalam was founded in 1983 by the Jain saint Acharya Sushil Kumarji. It was here that Guruji, as he was lovingly called, perfected the secret science of sound behind the Navkaar Mantra. The mantra is considered by Jains to be the most auspicious of all mantras. It was also here that he practiced and taught the Jain form of yoga called Arhum Yoga. Guruji left his human body in April, 1994. There is no successor to Guruji.
Guruji purified Siddhachalam through his austerities, study and meditation. As a result, Siddhachalam is called a Tirth (or “teerth”), a pilgrimage place. It is the only Jain Tirth outside India. Because it is a Tirth, Jain monks and nuns visit Siddhachalam without hesitation for temporary stays (no monk or nun is permitted extended or permanent stay).
Siddhachalam literally means a “mountain [in homage] to the siddhas” Siddhas are all who attain moksha, that is, liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. In other words, Siddhachalam means a permanent homage to the great souls that have attained moksha. Moksha is central to Jain Dharma. In deed, Jain Dharma is often referred to as a dharma that sets forth a path to liberation (“mokshasmarg”).
Siddhachalam comprises temples, residence for visiting monks and nuns, library, cabins for temporary stay for worshippers, congregation hall, community dining hall, nature and meditation trails, and play grounds. It has a beautiful lake and several ponds filled with water from natural springs. It is also a safe sanctuary for deer, peacocks, turkeys, cats and other animals and birds.
Siddhachalam has three temples. The main temple has magnificent marble idols of Lord Adinath, Lord Parshvanath, Lord Mahavira, Lord Chandraprabhu, and Lord Shantinath. The smaller temple’s main idol is that of Lord Parshvanath made in the Digambar tradition. It is carved in magnificent black marble. The smallest temple is a meditation spot with several idols. The main idol in this temple is that of Lord Mahavira.
Siddhachalam has a large library containing old and new books on religion, ahimsa, peace, environment, vegetarianism, health and related subjects. The library is open to all during the weekends and to residents throughout the week.
Siddhachalam also has a Guru Mandir that contains a life-size idol of Guruji and a wall-hanging showing Shri Gautam Swami, the ganadhar of Mahavira Swami. The mandir is housed on the second floor of the Acharya Sushil Kumar Ahimsa Bhavan. The ground floor of Ahimsa Bhavan has a large meditation and meeting hall, and the second floor a large bhojanshala. Jains are strict vegetarians and Siddhachalam has an unbroken tradition of serving simple, home-made, food without charge to all devotees.
Siddhachalam has 11 nature and meditation trails spread over about 3 miles. One of the trails contains a life-size pratima of Guruji at a spot close to where he performed tapasya. It is called Guruji’s tapasya sthal and is open for darshan during fair-weather.
Siddhachalam is an ashram for all who believe in Jain principles such as ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth). It brings together all Jains under one roof, and in that spirit, two of the idols in the main temple are in the Digambar tradition and the remaining three are in Swetamber tradition. Siddhachalam observes all Jain auspicious events, regardless of sect.