The Jain community like other communities throughout the world celebrates several social and religious functions annually such as Diwali and the superb festival of “Paryushan Parva”.
‘Paryushan Parva’ (“Paryushana”)is one of the most important Jain festivals and is celebrated every year during the auspicious month of ‘Bhadrapad’ (mid-August to mid-September in the Hindu calendar). It is a festival of fasting and forgiveness; a time of reflection and repentance for Jains worldwide.
The meaning of Paryushana:
The word “Paryushana” has different interpretations:
1. Pari + Vasan = ‘Pari’ means from all sides and ‘vasan’ means to stay. Here Paryushana means to stay closer to our own soul from all directions.
2. Another interpretation is – Pari + Ushan = ‘ushan’ which means “to burn” therefore Paryushana means shedding or burning our all bad karma.
3. The word ‘Paryupashamana’ is also used for Paryushana. Therefore a third interpretation is Pari + Upshamana = upshamana which means “to suppress” referring to suppressing negative emotion such as anger, ego, deceit and greed.
The collective meaning of Paryushana is to purify the soul by staying closer to it, shedding bad karma and suppressing negative thought, word or deed.
The most important part of Paryushan is the practice of daily meditation and prayer providing an opportunity to look inward and outward, towards the teachings of the enlightened Jain Tirthankaras, for religious guidance.
The origin of Paryushana:
The origin of Paryushana is related to monks halting in one place for the rainy season termed “chaturmasa”. This word refers to the length of the rainy season of about four months. The minimum duration of Paryushana is around 70 days. As monks settled in towns for a longer duration, householders could renew their faith by listening to the statement of the Dharma and by meditation and vratas (self-control).
The festival of Paryushana
Jain scriptures make reference to Lord Mahavira, the 24th enlightened Tirthankara, starting Paryushana on Bhadrapada Shukla Panchami. The date for the Paryushana festival is, therefore, the fifth day (“panchami”) of the Shukla (“bright”) phase of the Bhadrapada month for both major
Jain sects – the Svwetambaras and the Digambaras.
Svwetambara Jains celebrate an 8-day festival ending with Bhadarpada Shukla Panchami. The last day is called Samvatsari. Since it coincides with Paryushana, the terms “Samvatsari” and “Paryushana” are sometimes used interchangeably.
During the 8-day festival, the Kalpa Sutra, a scripture which recounts the life of Mahavira – the fourteen dreams of his mother before his birth, followed by the story of his birth, his life, and his liberation is recited. The Kalpa Sutra also recounts the lives of other Jain Tirthankaras and the rules of Paryushana.
The Digambara Jains observe Paryushana over 10 days starting from Bhadrapada Shukla Panchami. During this time, the “Dashalakshana Vrata” which celebrates 10 characteristics of dharma such as gentleness, austerity, truth, renunciation, chastity and humility is undertaken. The Tatvartha-sutra of Umaswati is recited.
Overseas, various Jain centers have been established with the presence of samans and samanis (monks and nuns) who are part of a new order created especially to attend to Jain communities residing outside India as well as established scholars to encourage participation in the festival and rituals and keep their faith alive.
Jains often take time off from daily chores during this period and eat a much simpler diet. They add to their normal vegetarian restrictions by avoiding such foods as potatoes, onions, and garlic to avoid eating that which entails killing the entire plant instead of just taking its fruit. Many Jains also fast during Paryushana, some for the entire period and others also observe the Paushadha Vrata, the practice of monkhood for a day or more while fasting.
A special indication to celebrate Paryushana
• Practice ‘Samayika’ i.e. equanimity
• Control food intake
• Read spiritual books (minimum 15 minutes)
• Speak less and use kind words (observe 1 hour silence)
• Meditate for a minimum of 20 minutes
• Control your anger
• Send vibrations of friendliness to all living beings everyday
By following such a life-style, one can develop spirituality within the self. These activities purify one’s emotions and thereby consciousness. Paryushana is the time to fill the qualities lacking in our lives.
The process of shedding our karmas really begins by asking for forgiveness with true feelings, and by taking the vow not to repeat mistakes. The quality of forgiveness requires humility (absence of ego) and suppression of anger. One of the great aphorisms to ask for forgiveness is:
Khamemi savva jive,
Savve jiva khamantu me
Mitti me savva bhooesu,
Veram majjha na kenai.
I grant forgiveness to all living beings,
May all living beings grant me forgiveness;
My friendship is with all living beings,
My enmity is non-existent.
Let there be peace, harmony, and prosperity for all.
The conclusion of the festival leaves behind a deep impression in the heart and minds of every Jain wherever they may be in the world.
Jain Vishva Bharati, London, conducts an 8 day Paryushana program including “Pratikraman – The Ritual of Forgiveness” in English.
It has also published a “Pratikraman” (“renewal meditation”) set including DVD/CD and Book in three languages – English, Gujarati and Hindi which is very helpful specially for children and youths.
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