Sunday, August 16, 2009


Today starts the Jain "Festival of Uplifting the Self by the Holy Observation of Ten Universal Virtues" So put down the french fries...
The Jain community like other communities throughout the world celebrates many social and religious functions annually. The superb Jain festival popularly known as ‘Paryushan Parva’ organized every year in the auspicious month ‘Bhadrapad’ of the Hindu calendar extends from the fifth day to fourteenth day of the bright fortnight. The festival ordains the Jains to observe the ten universal supreme virtues in daily practical life. Besides assuring a blissful existence in this world and the other world for every living being, it aims at the attainment of salvation - the supreme ideal for mundane soul. The non-Jains also express high reverence for this Jain festival. All members of Jain community- high and low, young and old, and males and females, participate with full vigor and zeal in the various religious rituals and cultural programs. They listen with rapt attention to the holy sermons of the saints and learned Jain scholars arranged during the ten-day festival. In these celebrations lie dormant the seeds of the well being, peace and happiness of the common man. On the eve of this festival all activities, which add to social discord or bitterness are declared taboo from the temple pulpits. These celebrations harbinger social harmony and amity and preach the lofty Jain motto ‘Live and Let live’.

The ‘Paryushan Parva’ celebrated annually for self-purification and uplift is meant to adhere to the ten universal virtues in practical life; and leads us on the right path, far from the mad strife for material prosperity, which ultimately leads us to our true destination i.e., salvation. Two popular titles of this festival, viz. (i) Paryushan Parva and (ii) Dash Lakshan Parva are in vogue; but the mode of performance and aim of the festival is same. According to Sanskrit grammar the underlying idea of the festival and its interpretation is given below:
“Parismantadushayante dhante karmani yasimannasau paryushnm”
I.e., The celebration through which the karmic matter attached to the soul is totally burnt or
vanquished (both internally and externally) is known Paryushan i.e., self-purification.
Various meaningful and sublime titles have been assigned to this festival in different Jain scripture; e.g.,
Parva Raj - The festival which carries a special and greater significance; its celebrations spread over a longer duration and it is more soul-stirring than any other Jain festival.
Maha Parva - It is an ancient and chief of all Jain festival.
Dash Lakshan Parva - The festival for the observance of ten universal virtues; viz., forgiveness, contentment, and celibacy, which aim at the uplift of the soul and are vividly preached and practiced during the festival.
Paryushan Parva - The festival through which an attempt is made to put an end to all vices, passions and lustful desires in thought, speech and deeds.
Paryu-Prasa - The festival in which one meditates upon the inherent virtues of the soul in thought, speech and action; or one attains peace of soul i.e., celestial peace.
Paryupshamn or Pajjusvana - The festival in which an attempt is made to obtain peace discarding all passions and lustful desires through various means; and observe harmony in the soul through the study of scriptures.
Pajjushana - This word of Prakrit language carries the same meaning as explained in Paryushan Parva.
Samvatsari Parva - The festival which is celebrated annually to subdue all passions and lustful desires. This title is popular to the Swaitamber sect of Jainism.

Paryushan Parva gives expression to the perfectly purified trait of the soul, through which one gets rid of worldly discords and allurements and one gets fully absorbed in the eternal truth on experiencing and realizing the true nature of soul. In other words we can say that the natural realization of the trio ‘the True, the Good and the Beautiful’ is fully possible only through Paryushan. In fact the other name of the Jainism, which is universal religion, is Paryushan. This festival puts an end to all evils in man; gives him realization of the eternal bliss, and spiritualism becomes alive by the celebration of this festival.

Since times immemorial the living beings have fallen prey to the bewitching worldly allurements. They are involved day and night in such a poisonous environment of lustful desires and sensuous pleasures that despite being cautioned time and again, they fail to rid themselves from the bondage of the net work of worldly illusions. Jain Acaryas have, through their sermons and ideal moral code of conduct, inspired the mundane souls to keep aloof from the blemishes of the world, which breed nothing but sorrow and misery for the mankind. But the insatiable ambition of man for sensuous pleasures, material comforts and luxurious life has always allured him since antiquity. Consequently man has bitterly failed to make distinction between self and non-self, and to understand the real nature of soul.
During the eight-day Paryushan festival, many fast and perform pratikaraman, meaning 'turning back'. It is a form of meditation where one reflects on his spiritual journey and renews his faith. During this time, many drink boiled water and eat before sunset. Many abstain from onions/garlic/potatoes (root vegetables), fermented food, and even green vegetables. Penance and fasting are the key words in these days. The reason for such restriction is to hurt as less living beings as possible. Items previously mentioned have far greater number of lives (atmas) than simple grains. For example, when you take any piece of potato and put it in water, it will grow. but the same is not true for rice grain. By doing this, we commit less sin and bind with fewer bad karmas. this will later help us on our jouney to moksha.
This festival has its own age-old history, but nothing definite can be said about its origin and since when it is being celebrated. In fact, the celebration of this festival is beyond the scope of known history. The truth is that spiritual matters like self-purification and renunciation cannot be measured by Time scale. When the auspicious month of Bhadrapad comes every year, the whole Jain community celebrates this festival unitedly without any difference of high and low, rich and poor. The Digambaras and the Swaitamberas, both sects of Jain community celebrate the self-uplifting festival with great enthusiasm. The fifth day of the bright fortnight of the holy month of ‘Bhadrapad’ is auspicious for both. The Digambaras celebrate this festival annually for ten days, from the fifth day to the fourteenth day of the bright half of the month. Whereas the Swaitamberas celebrate it only for eight days, and the fifth day is the main day of their celebrations held under the title ‘Samvatsari Parva’.
Now, with a little Wiki help...
Pratikramana (Samayika): Renewal meditation:
Pratikramana means turning back. It is a form of meditation, called Samayika where one reflects on his spiritual journey and renews his faith. For both Swetambaras and Digambaras, it takes the form of periodic meditation. The period can be twice daily (morning and evening), once every lunar phase, every four months, or every year. The annual Pratikramana in some form is the minimum for a Sravaka.
The annual Pratikramana is Samvatsari Pratikramana, in short Samvatsari. Since it coincides with Paryushana, the terms "Samvatsari" and "Paryushana" are sometimes used interchangeably.
Pratikramana includes:
samayika: to stay in equanimity by withdrawing to the self.
Prayers to the Five Supremes, 24 Jinas and the 4 mangalas, including the Dharma as presented by the ancient Masters.
Prayer to the Master(Guru) or the Deity.
Reflections on vratas and past transgressions.
Kayotsarga: detachment from the body by controlling it.
Pratyakhyan: making resolutions for the next period (next year for Samvatsari Pratikramana).
The detailed recommended procedure can be found in the handbooks. Detailed Pratikramana takes about 3 hours, however all essentials can be done in a much shorter time if needed.
Pratikramana is also sometimes termed Samayika in the Digambara tradition.
By tradition certain postures are recommended for Pratikramana.

Dasha-Lakshana Vrata:
This is a vrata that celebrates 10 components of the dharma: Noble kshama (forbearance), mardava (gentleness), arjava (uprightness), shaucha (purity), satya (truth), sanyam (restraint), tapa (austerity), tyaga (renunciation), akinchanya (lack of possession) and brahmcharya (chastity), as described by Umaswati.
In the full form, it is a 10 day vrata that spans 10 years. It may be undertaken during Shukla Panchami to Chaturdashi of Bhadrapada, Magh or Chaitra. However it is common to do it during Bhadrapada, in which case it starts with Paryushana.

Requesting Forgiveness
At the conclusion of the festival, the Sravakas request each other for forgiveness for all offenses committed during the last year. This occurs on the Paryusha day for the Swetambara and on Pratipada (first) of Ashwin Krashna for the Digambara. Forgiveness is asked by telling "Micchami Dukkadam" to each other. It means "If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness".

To sum up, Paryushan Parva is a grand Jain festival of self-introspection, self-enlightenment and self-achievement, which ultimately leads to the one and only one final goal, i.e., liberation or salvation.

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