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jain religion and teachings of bhagwan mahavir

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CHAPTER – 11

PARYUSHAN PARVA

Among the festivals celebrated in Jain religion, Paryushan parva occupies the pride of place. While other festivals are symbolic (Naimittik) occasions, Paryushan parva in a substantive (Nitya) occasion of vital religious significance coming once a year, and Ashtanhikas coming periodically three times in a year. The symbolic festivals include celebration of anniversaries of conception (Garbh kalyanak), birth (Janma kalyanak), renunciation (Diksha kalyanak), attaining omniscience (keval Jnana kalyanak), and salvation (Nirvana kalyanak) of the 24 Tirthankars. Shrut Panchami, Akshaya Tritiya, Jin Shashan day are among other symbolic festivals.

By tradition, Paryushan parva is celebrated in Bhadrapad (August-September). The Shwetambar paryushan comes first with duration of eight days from Bhadra Krishna 13 to Bhadra shukla panchami. On the eighth and concluding day Shwetambars observe Samvatsari (day of Forgiveness). On this very day (Bhadra shukla panchami) commences the Digambar paryushan with a duration of ten days. It is popularly called Dasalakshan Parva. The tenth and the concluding day is Anant Chaturdashi. After an interval of a day comes the Kshamavani (Day of Forgiveness).

Paryushan is a retreat to one’s inner-self. All the days of the parva are dedicated to penance, meditation, self-introspection, worship, study of holy scriptures and strict observance of all religious principles governing one’s conduct, The word “Paryusha” means ‘awakening’. Paryushan is, thus, a time for spiritual upliftment and soul purification with intense effort to move towards mental peace, tranquility and equanimity. One looks within and tries to correct wrong perceptions and conduct.

Another meaning of Paryushan is to burn all types of karmas.

Paryushan comes during Chaturmas when at each place groups of Jain sadhus and Sadhvis stay for a longer time because of the rainy season. Thus, Chaturmas and more particularly Paryushan provides a valuable opportunity for listening to their sermons as well as their interpretation of holy scriptures, and clearing doubts about principles and practices prescribed in the religion. Paryushan offers an opportunity for complete and unwavering concentration on religion and spirituality, and more particularly observance of ahimsa, aparigraha and anekant as well other ingredients of anuvrat with sincerity and dedication.

SHWETAMBAR PARYUSHAN

The eight days of the Paryushan are dedicated to Ahar shuddhi , Sahakar shuddhi, vyapar shuddhi, sanskar shuddhi, aachar shuddhi, vichar shuddhi, vyavahar shuddhi, and atma shuddhi .There is an organized effort to rectify wrong practices and perceptions and take to the right path in all respects ranging from food, thoughts, life values, dealings with others, business practices and above all one’s inner conscience. During these days, one tries voluntarily to control one’s passions, and avoid being egoistic, greedy, cruel, exploitative and violent. One is inspired to strengthen qualities of humility, piety, tolerance, compassion and equanimity.

Fasting is very common and many people fast for all the eight days or one or more days depending on their will power. Many stop their professional or business activities to devote total time to religious pursuits. On all the eight days, special emphasis is placed in the sermons for inner self-criticism and introspection, admission of one’s wrong conduct towards others, seeking forgiveness from others and forgiving them and genuinely repenting for wrong deeds done.

At the temples and Sthanaks, Jain saints recite Kalpa Sutra which contains a detailed account of Mahavir’s life in addition to the lives of other Tirthankars. On the third day of the Paryushan, the Kalpa Sutra receives very special reverence, and may be ceremonially taken out in a procession. On the fifth day at a special ceremony, the replicas of the 14 dreams of Mahavir’s mother Queen Trishala are displayed and honoured. Shravaks and Shravikas are expected to give special attention to activities like Amari Parivartan (spreading the message of Ahimsa; Attham Tapa (fast for three consecutive days, chaitya paripati (visiting the temples and Sthanaks for worship and prayers; Swami Vatasalya (honoring and respecting fellow Jains); and Kshamapana (asking for forgiveness from all by performing Pratikraman.

On the final day namely Samvatsari, Jains perform Samvatsari Pratikramana and ask for forgiveness to family, friends and even foes for any wrongful acts or behavior. Many perform different austerities and penances as per their volition in these eight days. Forgiveness (Kshama) is asked for and given with the following utterance :

Khamemi Savva Jiva, Savve Jiv khamantu Me

Mitti me savva bhueshu, veram majjiham na kenai.

I forgive all living beings of the universe

May all the living beings forgive me for my shortcomings

I do not have any animosity towards anybody, and

I have friendship for all living beings.

DIGAMBAR PARYUSHAN

Digambars celebrate Paryushan as DAS LAKSHANA PARVA by emphasizing the following ten cardinal virtues, namely Kshama (forgiveness), Mardava (humility), Arjava (straightforwardness), Shaucha (absence of greed), Satya (truth), Samyam (restraint and self-discipline), Tapa (penance and austerities), Tyag (sacrifice), Akinchan (non-possesiveness. and Bramhacharya (celibacy). In the Jain scriptures, these ten virtues are described as yati dharma- part of 57 ways of stopping the influx of karmas (Samvar).

The ten virtues highlighted during the 10-day Digambar Paryushan are virtually like ten commandments, which if cultivated in thought, conduct and expression would be instrumental in not only helping in one’s soul awakening, but also promote ethical social values as conceived in the compassionate Jain philosophy. Renowned Digambar Jain Acharya Vidyasagarji has observed that all the ten virtues are intertwined and need to be practiced together. They are all equally important, and together constitute the essence of Jain teachings.

As during Shwetambar Paryushan, during Digambar Paryushan also one witnesses intense religiosity in the form of regular reading of or listening to extracts from holy scriptures particularly Bhaktamar Sutra, sermons of saints present during Chaturmas, observance of rituals in elaborate forms of worship, penance through fasts or food restraint in strict conformity with Jain teachings, self-study, Pratikramana, active participation in religious discourses, and undertaking acts of compassion towards other living beings.

Sugandh Dashmi, the fifth day of the Paryushan is a festive occasion when Jain families visit a number of temples to offer scented powder symbolizing spread of fragrance all around in the presence of the idols of Tirthankars. On the 10th and the last day Anant Chaturdashi is celebrated usually with fasting in honor of the birth anniversary of Tirthankar Anantnathji. After the gap of a day comes the Kshamavani. Festival for seeking forgiveness from others for any hurt caused to them by one’s thoughts, conduct or expressions. The day brings to a climax the paramount importance in Jain philosophy of Forgiveness.

It is pertinent to review the significance of the ten virtues highlighted during the Digambar Paryushan as follows :

(1) Forgiveness (Uttam Kshama)

Forgiveness, if practiced to perfection, is the most important ingredient for soul purification. Forgiveness promotes tolerance, forbearance, patience, cordiality, open-heartedness and above all equanimity. It eliminates ego, greed, jealousy, anger and delusions. Thus, it emerges as an invaluable attribute for strengthening the spirit of non-violence not only in an individual, but also permeating it to the society as a whole.

Sincerely given and taken, Kshama is enabling both the forgiver and the forgiven. Mahavir used to say that, “ By forgiving , one triumphs over one’s sufferings and hardships.” The emphasis during the entire Paryushan is one of seeking forgiveness from one and all living beings of the universe. Following words are recited during daily Pratikraman ritual as mentioned in Pratikraman Sutra :

Khamia kamavia mai khamavia mai khamaha

Savvaha jiva nikaya

Siddhaha sakha aloyena

Ujja vaira na bhava

I forgive everyone wholeheartedly;

May every living being be willing to forgive me’

I call upon the purified and perfect Siddhas

To witness my declaration that

I hold no ill-will towards any one in the entire universe.

Samvatsari on the 8th day of Shwetambar Paryushan and Digambar Kshmavani have become unique occasions for solemnly highlighting the cardinal importance of Forgiveness in the Jain concept of comprehensive and active non-violence.

(2) Humility (Uttam Mardava)

Jain scriptures extol humility as one of the sheet anchors of religion. Humility calls for giving up ego, false pride in one’s status in family, community or society, in one’s wealth or intellect6 or accomplishments. Humility wins over feelings of hostility, revenge, anger and exploitation.

(3) Straightforwardness (Uttam Arjava)

Straightforwardness and transparency in thought, conduct and expression promotes tremendous amount of energy for mutual trust and confidence, reconciliation, and clearing of doubts, suspicions and reservations. It helps in getting rid of deceitful, insulting, unfair and unethical mindset and behavior. Uttam Arjava has been reflected in recent times in the personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Vinoba Bhave.

(4) Purity ( Uttam Shaucha)

Uttam Shaucha relates itself to both internal as well as external purity in dealings with others without being schakled by false attachments, possessive instincts and unending desires. Purity is achieved through self-restraint and self-discipline.

(5) Truth ( Uttam Satya)

Truth lies at the heart of spiritual and ethical growth. Scriptures extol truth as Godliness. Acharya Shivmuni, the head of the Sthanakvasi sect has very thoughtfully observed:

It is imperative to lead a truthful life. Only speaking the truth is not enough. Truth must permeate our individual and social conscience as its inseperable ingredient. In recent times, Mahatma Gandhi has emerged as a living example of the practioner of the comprehensive culture of truth.”

As a result of the efforts of the Jain delegation of Saints and Scholars comprising twenty and representing all sects to the historic Centennial Session of the Parliament of World’s Religions held in 1993 in Chicago (U.S.A.), the Declaration of Global Ethics included the following words on Truth:

We must cultivate truthfulness in all our relationships instead of dishonesty, dissembling and opportunism. We must courageously serve the truth and we must remain constant and trustworthy, instead of yielding to opportunistic accommodation to life.”

(6) Self restraint (Uttam Samyam)

Uttam Samyam envisages both intense restraint and control over one’s senses (Indriyas), as well as Prani Samyam (restraint towards other living beings. Self restraint lies at the root of practising Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anekant not merely in thought but in conduct and expressions as well.

(7) Penance ( Uttam Tapa)

Penance cleanses one’s soul, removes impurities and promotes the feeling of bliss. It is a potent weapon for shedding karmic attachments and bondages.

Penance is both internal as well as external. Internal penance takes the form of Prayashchit (repentance) for past misdeeds, sincere and well-focussed self introspection, respecting saints and elders, and engaging in study of scriptures and other holy texts. Internal penance is aimed at moulding one’s mindset, outlook and attitude in the direction of limiting desires, controlling wants, and increasingly engaging in noble deeds for the needy and the deprived in the society.

External penance takes the physical form of controlling one’s body and its wants and desires. This is achieved by undertaking periodic fasts, voluntary restrictions or giving up consumption of some items of food or daily necessities.

(8) Renunciation ( Uttam Tyag)

For Uttam tyag, the pace has been set by ascetics who after renouncing all worldly attachments endeavour to move up on the ladder of spiritual upliftment which could take them to the final stage of enlightenment by achieving Omniscience.

For the lay persons, the progress towards the ladder of 14 Gunasthanas is slow and steady depending upon limitations of family and social obligations, and their own preparedness and will power to finally renounce the world. In the meantime, developing an outlook of renunciation enables lay persons to succeed in acquiring self restraint and self discipline of an increasingly high order.

(9) Non-possession (Uttam Akinchanya)

The instinct of non-possession, non-attachment and non-possessiveness is at the core of Jain religion. Jain faith inspires its followers to move away from too much clinging to material things of life as well as passions and desires. Acharya Kundakunda observes that even if one has acquired mastery over all holy scriptures, if one has not practiced aparigraha, one cannot hope to get liberation from the bondage of karmas. The entire emphasis during Puryushan is to learn to give up as much as possible and make one’s soul feel lighter and purer. Akinchanya mirrors the realization that in the ultimate analysis, the soul comes alone and leaves the world alone, and all attachments and possessions are left behind.

(10) Celibacy (Uttam Bramhacharya):

Observing sexual restraint is a vital part of practicing aparigraha. Sexual passions tend to enslave not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Passion makes a soul move away from the oath of rationality and balance, restraint and discipline. Practice of celibacy to whatever extent helps one to control one’s sensual desires and the insatiable appetite for them. Eventually Bramhacharya may appear to be a denial of available sexual pleasures, but it is essentially a step towards a discipline which enables a person to get closer to his soul and at the same time recognize his social responsibilities and obligations. Practice of sexual restraint and discipline goes to make a society more ethically alive, harmonious and value based. It is in this wider interpretation of Bramhacharya that Mahavir added it as the fifth vow both in Mahavrata as well as Anuvrata.

(end of Chapter 11)

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