By Dhanpal Solanki Jain

Paryushan Parva, the annual Jain observance, is the most appropriate time to get uplifted through fasting, meditation, soul-search, awakening, self-study, courage, compassion and forgiveness for all beings. For both Shvetambar Jains, who observe the ritual over eight days, and Digambar Jains, for whom the festival lasts ten days, this is a time for introspection, reflection and purification and this season is popularly known as Chaturmas. It is also called Varsha Yog.

Chaturmas literally means ‘four months’ in Sanskrit, during the monsoon when Jain monks and nuns stay in one place and are available to the community for instruction and guidance.

Paryushan is when, to improve karmas, adherents perform 12 kinds of austerities, including fasting. They also do svadhyaya or self-study. The purpose of Paryushan is to stay close to your soul, reflect on your shortcomings, seek forgiveness for wrongdoings, remove internal corruption and vow to live an ethical way of life. Daily recital of Bhaktamar Stotra, Navakar Mantra, meditation and prayer helps one look within and reflect on the teachings of the tirthankaras for guidance.

On the fourth day of Paryushan, it is customary for Murtipujak Shvetambars to read from the Kalpa Sutra, a scripture which recounts the life of Mahavira, the 24th tirthankar,  the 14 dreams of his mother before his birth, followed by the story of his birth, life and liberation. It also recounts the lives of other tirthankaras and the rules of Paryushan.

Jainism is the Sramana tradition of India. Mahavira led a socio-spiritual, non-violent reform movement. He rejected superstitious practices, blind faith, caste system, gender bias, sati and discouraged animal sacrifice. He encouraged ahimsa, compassion and scientific temper. He did not preach, but practised his philosophy. He promoted a radical economic, political and social justice movement based on complete equity.

He regarded all species of flora and fauna as integral to a composite moral community. He emphasised the concept of jivdaya or animal care and aparigraha or non-possessiveness to protect biodiversity from human greed and butchery. The fivefold Navkar Mantra that is recited offers obeisance not to God, but to arihants, perfected beings; siddhas, liberated souls; acharyas, masters; upadhyayas, teachers; and sadhus, renunciates. Jainism promotes rational, scientific, compassionate, courageous and ethical way of life based on complete equanimity and tranquillity.

The first tirthankar Rishabhdev talked of six main professions for livelihood: 1. Asi: swordsmanship for self-defence, wrestling; 2. Masi: art, culture, writing skills, literature and education; 3. Krishi: agriculture, agrarian lifestyle; 4. Vidya: schooling, knowledge and training; 5. Vanijya: trade and commerce, enterprise; and 6. Shilp-kala: architecture, handicrafts and skill development. Rishabhdev advocated women’s education and their liberation.

Bahubali, the elder son of Rishabdev said, “Do seva without discrimination” because all of us are experiencing dukh-dard, pain, agony and suffering. Without paro-upkar, selfless service, bhakti and puja remain incomplete. Bahubali promoted rural sports like wrestling and Hatha Yoga, to stay healthy, fit and active.

During Paryushan Parva vegetarian meals are made simpler than usual. For Shvetambars, the final day of Paryushan is Samvastsari Pratikraman, the annual confession, when it is time for confession and seeking forgiveness as well as being forgiving, enabling self-liberation. The ritual of seeking forgiveness from the teacher is widened in scope to include family, friends and all living beings. The culmination of confession is receiving forgiveness from all living beings and also forgiving everyone including oneself.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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