Obeisance to the Arihantas the (Venerable) Slayers of (Spiritual) foes.


Obeisance to Siddhas, the ultimate accomplished.


Obeisance to Ācāryas, the (venerable) masters heading the religious orders.


Obeisance to Upādhyāyas, the (venerable) teacher–preceptors.


Obeisance to all the Sādhus, the (venerable) ordained ascetics.


Such five–way obeisance –


Is the destroyer of all sins (and) –


Of all the auspiciousnesses –


It is the very first (and the foremost) auspiciousness.


1 Also ‘ṆAMO ARHANTĀṆAṀ’ meaning ‘obeisance to the venerable spiritual leaders.


For any devout Jaina, the day starts with a reverent recitation of this benediction involving bowing to the five venerable paragons of spiritual virtues called ‘Pañca Parameṣṭhi’. These five paragons epitomise spiritual achievements and, in turn, guide the spiritual journeys of the other followers of the faith. A brief account of each of these five paragons will be in order at the very beginning of this work.

Arihanta Or Arhanta–

Arihanta means the slayer of the foes. The term foe ordinarily means a person who is inimical to one’s interest. Here, however, the term refers to enemies of the soul rather than those of the physical persona. They are – delusion (Moha) brought about by attachment and aversion, anger (Krodha), pride (Māna), guile (Māyā) and greed (Lobha), which are related to desire for the mundane welfare and its fulfilment or otherwise. The spiritual aspirant who slays these spiritual foes sheds delusion (Mohanīya Karma) and, thereby, gains true flawless vision (Kevala–darśan), perfect unlimited infinite knowledge or omniscience (Kevala–jñāna) and unhindered prowess as his hindering (Antarāya) karma are also destroyed in the process. In other words such a person (Arihanta, the slayer of spiritual foes) becomes enlightened (endowed with perfect vision and perfect knowledge) and capable of not only seeing things in their right perspectives but also of making others see them as such. He also becomes endowed with perfect and flawless conduct (Yathākhyāta Cāritra) and sets a perfect example for the others to emulate. In other words he becomes an Arhanta or the most venerable one. Being endowed with such enlightenment and perfect conduct, the Arhantas feel obliged to propound and preach the true faith, as seen and realised by them, for the greater good of all. It goes without saying that such a true faith, preached by such perfect Prophet–propounders, is bound to be for the betterment of one and all. The Arhantas not only propound and preach the faith but they also establish a sound four–fold socio–religious order, consisting of ordained monks (Sādhu) and nuns (Sādhvī) and lay male and female followers (Śrāvaka and Śrāvilkā) to ensure that the faith so propounded and preached by them is propagated down the ages. Such a religious order is known as ‘Tīrtha’ and the Prophet–propounders who set up such orders are called ‘Tīrthaṅkaras’.

It is quite right that every follower of the Jaina faith, a beneficiary of the precepts propounded and preached by the Arhantas, remembers and bows to them the first thing in the morning every day of his life.

Siddha –

Siddha means a person who has accomplished what he has set out to accomplish. As the ultimate goal of every soul is to achieve the ultimate spiritual purity and liberation from the miserable mundane existence, spiritually speaking the term Siddha means the soul that has attained complete freedom from the karmic bondage, which soils it, and achieved spiritual salvation or nirvāṇa. They are the ultimate role models for every spiritual aspirant and every one looks forward to duplicate their accomplishment and resultant perfection that is manifested in the infinite quartet of infinite perfect vision or omni vision (Ananta Darśan), infinite or perfect knowledge or omniscience (Ananta Jñāna), Infinite (spiritual) prowess (Ananta Vīrya) and Infinite bliss (Ananta Sukh). The freedom from karmic bondage means completely separating or shedding of eight types of karma that bind the soul and keep it tied to mundane existence. They are four types of destructive karma (Ghātiyā Karma) that destroy the soul’s capacity to attain enlightenment and four types of non–destructive karma (Aghātiyā Karma) that, though, do not hinder enlightenment but keep it tied down to the worldly life.

The four former types (destructive or Ghātiyā types) of karma are shed by the Arhantas before they attain enlightenment. They are –

1. Deluding (Mohanīya) karma that distorts the view or perspective of the soul,

2. Knowledge obscuring (Jñānāvaraṇīya) karma that bars the soul from gaining right–knowledge,

3. Vision obscuring (Darśanāvaraṇīya) karma that bars the soul from gaining right view or perspective on things and thoughts, and

4. Obstructive (Antarāya) karma that bars the soul from realising its true potential.

On destroying these four Ghātiyā or destructive types of karma the soul becomes enlightened and potent Arhanta but it is still confined to the physical body with which it was born. It is only on shedding the remaining four types (non–destructive or Aghātiyā types) that it becomes perfectly pure and ultimately accomplished or Siddha. They are –

5. Feeling producing (Vedanīya) karma that makes one to feel pleasure and pain,

6. Life–span determining (Āyuṣya) karma that decides the longevity of a living being when it is born in a particular life,

7. The physique or personality determining (Nāma) karma that decides the type of body or personality a living being will have during a particular birth and

8. The status determining (Gotra) karma that decides his place in the hierarchy of his fellow beings in a particular birth.

It can be seen that these four types of karma are associated with the body, which the soul resides in, in its corporeal form in a particular birth. Complete separation from these types of karma means complete freedom from the encumbrance of the body or to achieve bodylessness (Aśarīratva or incorporeality), which is the case with the Siddhas.

Siddhas are venerable and worthy of worship, as they are the ultimate in spiritual accomplishment and perfection and present an example of what can be achieved through adherence to the tenets of the right faith. It is, therefore, in fitness of things that every Jaina bows to them every day.

Ācāryas –

Ācāryas or the spiritual masters, who head the four–fold religious order, comprising the ordained monks and nuns and lay male and female followers of the faith, are saints with high a very degree of renunciation and spiritual accomplishments. They command reverence by virtue of their thirty–six qualities, namely–

1–5. Restraint of five sense–organs,

6–14. Observing perfect sexual abstinence characterised by nine types of restrictions,

15–18. Freedom from four great passions of anger, pride, guile and greed,

19–23. Observance of five great vows of complete non–violence, complete truthfulness, complete avoidance from accepting anything not offered by its rightful owner, complete sexual continence and complete lack of material encumbrance (possessions or attachment thereto),

24–28. Capable of undertaking five types of monastic duties, and

29–36. Observing five types of vigilance (Pañca Samiti) and three types of self–controls of body, mind and thought (Trigupti).

Such spiritual masters wield great spiritual influence on the followers (ordained ascetics as well as the lay followers) of their respective orders and are highly venerated by them. They administer and control their religious orders in all its spiritual and organisational aspects and ensure that every member of their flock remains on the right path. They not only lead by their own personal example but also by ensuring that the writ of the faith prevails. They are also empowered to punish the defaulters in accordance with the scriptural provisions.

No wonder, then, that every member of the order feels obliged to bow to them every day, day after day.

Upādhyāya –

Upādhyāyas are the ordained monks who are preceptors, learned in scriptural learning, and who propagate the message of the Prophet–propounders by teaching and preaching the Jaina precepts to the fellow monks and nuns and the laity. They are venerated for their unsurpassed learning and are remembered and bowed to by every follower of the faith everyday.

Sādhu –

Sādhu or the saints (including the ordained monks and the nuns) are those who renounce the mundane life of worldly pleasures and accept monastic ordination for pursuing the goal of spiritual purification through the practice of non–violence, restraints and penance. Their restraints are all aimed at ensuring perfect non–violence towards all gross and fine creatures and include strict and flawless observance of five great vows (Pañca Mahāvrata), five types of vigilance (Pañca Samiti), three controls (Trigupti), ten monastic duties (Muni–dharma) and twelve advanced monastic practices (Pratimā). They are the true followers of the path of liberation and are worthy of worship and veneration by the laity as well as by the fellow ascetics. They, too, are remembered and bowed to by everyone everyday.

It will be noticed that this benediction, which is also known as the Namaskāra Mahāmantra (Great hymn of obeisance) and which has been hailed as the destroyer of all sins and giver of all that is auspicious is nothing but remembering and showing veneration to the five venerable paragons of spiritual virtues. It is also worthy of note that there is no mention of any particular person in its text. It is purely qualitative in nature and says that our obeisance is to all those who exhibit these spiritual qualities. It goes without saying that by remembering, recalling, venerating and bowing to such virtuous personae we are forced to reflect on the qualities that made them so venerable and feel motivated to inculcate them in our own selves. This motivation itself is the very first step on the journey to spiritual progress and perfection.

Abridged Forms of Namaskāra Mahāmantra –

Several abridged forms of this great hymn are in vogue. The following four that are more famous and in wide circulation are as follows: –

1. “Arihanto Bhagavanta Indra–Mahitāḥ,

Siddhāśca siddhisthitāḥ ™

Ācāryāḥ Jinaśāsanonnatikarāḥ,

pūjyāḥ Upādhyāyakāḥ ™™

Śrī siddhānta–supāṭhakāḥ Munivarāḥ,

Ratnatrayārādhakāḥ ™

Pañcaite Parameṣṭhinaṁ pratidinaṁ,

kurvantu no maṅgalaṁ ™™”

(Lords Arihantas, the slayers of spiritual foes, are venerated by even Indras the celestial kings; Siddhas, the ultimate accomplished perfected souls, are situated in their eternal abode – Siddhi; Ācāryās, the heads of religious orders, ensure the progress of the Jina order; Upādhyāyas, the preceptor–teachers are highly venerated and Munivarā, the dedicated ordainedascetics engaged in the study of the right precepts and practice of three conceptual gems. May these five paragons of spiritual virtues bring beneficence to the religious order everyday).

2. “Namorhatsiddhācāryopādhyāyasarvasādhubhyaḥ ™™”

(Obeisance to all the Arihantas, Siddhas, Ācāryas, Upādhyāyas and the monks).


It is an acronym that stands for the five paragons as follows:–

A – Arihanta or Arhanta,

SI – Siddha,

Ā – Ācārya,

U – Upādhyāya, and

SĀ – Sādhu.

4. h – pronounced as ‘A“`U

It is also an acronym that is expanded as follows:

A – Arihanta or Arhanta

A – Aśarīrī (Incorporeal or body less Siddha)

Ā – Ācārya,

U – Upādhyāya, and

M – Muni (ordained monk or Sādhu).

Like this, we can see that within the Jaina fraternity the reach of this great hymn, believed to be bestowed with miraculous powers to ensure the well–being of its believers, is universal.Svastika

Contents |