Paryushana in Jainism holds significant importance as the foremost annual holy event for Jains, traditionally observed in the months of August or September. During this time, Jains intensify their spiritual endeavors, employing fasting, prayer, and meditation to enhance their spiritual growth. The emphasis lies on the observance of the five main vows, which followers are encouraged to practice according to their individual capabilities and aspirations. Unlike rigid regulations, Paryushana allows for flexibility and personal choice in spiritual practices.
About the sacred festival
Normally, Digambaras refer to Paryushana as Das Lakshana Dharma. The duration of Paryushana is for 8 days for Svetambara Jains and 10 days for Jains belonging to the Digambara sect. The festival ends with the celebration of Samvatsari or Kshamavani.
The Digambara Jains recite the ten chapters of the sacred Jain text, Tattvartha Sutra on ten days of fasting. The sixth day of the festival is celebrated as Sugandh Dashami by the Digambar
Community. Digambaras celebrate Ananta Chaturdashi on which a special worship is done. Colourful procession leads to the main Jain temple take place during this festival in various cities and towns.
At the conclusion of the festival, followers request forgiveness from others for any offences committed during the last year. Forgiveness is asked by saying ‘Micchami Dukkadam’ to others, which means, “If I have offended you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action, then I seek your forgiveness.”
During Paryushana, Jains observe a fast. The span of the fast can last from a day to 30 days or even more. In both Digambara and Shwetambara, do a fast by having boiled water only which can be consumed between sunrise and sunset.
The Das-dharmas are all prefixed by the word ‘Uttam’ (Supreme) to signify that they are practised at the highest level by the Jain Monks. The householder practises them to a lesser extent.
It lasts over a period of ten days, each day being dedicated to one of the ten Dharmas. In the sections below a) stands for the temporary point of view of modes and modification b) stands for the permanent point of view of underlying substance.
- We forgive those who have wronged us and seek forgiveness from those we have wronged. Forgiveness is sought not just from human colleagues, but from all living beings ranging from one sensed to five sensed. If we do not forgive or seek forgiveness but instead harbour resentment, we bring misery and unhappiness to ourselves and in the process shatter our peace of mind and make enemies. Forgiving and seeking forgiveness oils the wheel of life allowing us to live in harmony with our fellow beings. It also attracts meritorious karma.
- the act of forgiveness here is directed at oneself. The soul, in a state of mistaken identity or false belief, assumes that it consists of the body, the karmas and the emotions – likes, dislikes, anger, pride etc. As a result of this incorrect belief, it inflicts pain upon itself and is thus the cause of its own misery. Nischay Kshama Dharma teaches the soul to correctly identify itself by encouraging it to contemplate in its true nature and hence achieve the state of right Belief (Samyak Darshan). It is only by achieving Samyak Darshan that the soul ceases to inflict pain on itself and attains supreme happiness.
- Wealth, good looks, a reputable family or intelligence often lead to pride. Pride means to believe one to be superior to others and to look down on others. By being proud you are measuring your worth by temporary material objects. These objects will either leave you or you will be forced to leave them when you die. These eventualities will cause you unhappiness as a result of the ‘dent’ caused to your self-worth. Being humble will prevent this. Pride also leads to an influx of bad karma.
- All souls are equal, none being superior or inferior to another. The Nischay view encourages one to understand their true nature. All souls have the potential to be liberated souls. The only difference between the liberated souls and those in bondage is that the former has attained liberation as a result of their ‘effort’. With effort, even the latter can achieve liberation.
- The action of a deceitful person is to think one thing, speak something else and do something entirely different. There is no harmony in their thought, speech and actions. Such a person loses credibility very quickly and lives in constant anxiety and fear of their deception being exposed. Being straightforward or honest, oils the wheel of life. You will be seen to be reliable and trustworthy. Deceitful actions lead to the influx of karmas.
- Delusion about one’s identity is the root cause of unhappiness. The soul is made up of countless qualities like knowledge, happiness, effort, faith, and conduct. It has the potential to achieve omniscience (only knowledge) and reach a state of supreme bliss. Again, the body, the karmas, the thoughts and all the emotions are separate from the true nature of the soul. Only by practising Nischay Arjav Dharma will one taste the true happiness that comes from within.
- If talking is not required, then do not talk. If it is required then only use the minimum of words, and all must all be absolutely true. Talking disturbs the stillness of the mind. Consider the person who lies and lives in fear of being exposed. To support one lie they have to utter a hundred more. They become caught up in a tangled web of lies and are seen as untrustworthy and unreliable. Lying leads to an influx of karma.
- Recognising the soul’s true nature as it really exists and taking shelter in the soul is practising Nischay Satya Dharma.
Contentment or happiness, derived from material objects, is only perceived to be so by a soul in a state of false belief. The fact is that material objects do not have a quality of happiness and therefore happiness cannot be obtained from them. The perception of ‘enjoying’ material objects is only a perception.
This perception rewards the soul with only misery and nothing else. Real happiness comes from within, as it is the soul that possesses the quality of happiness. In order to dwell in the pure soul and enjoy the bliss, the accumulated filth of karma (material attachments, jealousy, anger, lust, greed, Physical pleasures etc.) ought to be cleaned up. The process of cleaning up is called the Purity Dharma. With this understanding, we free our souls of any karmic impurities and false beliefs. Self-resistance:
- Jains go to great lengths, compared to other world religions, to protect life. This encompasses all living beings, from one sense onwards. The purpose of not eating root vegetables is that they contain countless one-sensed beings termed ‘nigod’. During Paryushana the Jains also do not eat green vegetables to reduce harm to the lower sensed beings. Also, they practice Self-restraint from desires or passions – These lead to pain and are therefore to be avoided.
- Permanent 1. Restraining injury to the self – This has been elaborated upon in Nischay Kshma Dharma. 2. Self-restraint from desires or passions – Emotions, e.g. likes, dislikes or anger lead to misery and need to be eradicated. They are not part of the true nature of the soul and only arise when the soul is in a state of false belief. The only method to free oneself from these is to contemplate the true nature of the soul and in the process commence the journey to liberation or moksha.
- This does not only mean fasting but also includes a reduced diet, restriction of certain types of foods, avoiding tasty foods, etc. The purpose of penance is to keep desires and passions in control. Over-indulgence inevitably leads to misery. Penance leads to an influx of meritorious karmas.
- Meditation prevents the rise of desires and passions in the soul. In a deep state of meditation, the desire to intake food does not arise. The first Tirthankara, Rishabha is said to have meditative in such a state for six months, during which he observed Nischay Uttam Tap.
- Renouncing worldly possessions leads to a life of contentment and assists in keeping desires in check. Controlling desires not only leads to an influx of meritorious karma but also absolves oneself from bad karma. Renunciation is done at the highest level by Jain ascetics who renounce not only the household but also their clothes. A person’s strength is measured not by the amount of wealth they accumulate but by the amount of wealth they renounce.
- Renouncing the emotions, the root cause of misery, is supreme renunciation, which is only possible by contemplating the true nature of the soul.
- This assists the person in detaching from external possessions. Historically ten possessions are listed in Jain scriptures: ‘land, house, silver, gold, wealth, grain, female servants, male servants, garments and utensils’. Being unattached from these helps control our desires and leads to an influx of meritorious karma.
- This assists us in being unattached from our internal attachments: false belief, anger, pride, deceit, greed, laughter, liking, disliking, lamentation, fear, disgust, and sexual desires. Ridding the soul of these leads to its purification.
- This means refraining from all pleasures associated with the sense of touch, e.g. a cool breeze on a hot summer day or using a cushion for a hard surface. The monks practice this to the highest degree with all their body, speech and mind.
- Brahmacharya is derived from the word Brahma – Soul and Charya – to dwell. Nischay Brahmacharya means to dwell in your soul. Only by residing in the soul are you the master of the Universe. Residing outside your soul makes you a slave to desires.