Paryushan:A Jain Tradition of Reflection, Renewal and Forgiveness

Posted: 21.08.2004
Updated on: 17.11.2010

Followers of the Jain faith around the world prepare for a very solemn observation this month.

Paryushan is an 8 day period of study, fasting and introspection that culminates in a community call and search for forgiveness.
It is a significant time in the Jain faith, so much so that businesses will close to focus fully on the tradition unencumbered by material concerns.
It is a time for reflection and renewal.

“We live in a very busy worldly life,” says Satish Kumar, Chairman of Jain Spirit magazine“. We gather unnecessary baggage. Paryushan is a time to clear that clutter and make a bonfire to burn that junk, that rubbish, which is corrupting our minds, lives and relationships”.

Jainism, a centuries old faith tradition, is committed to the ideals of non-violence and respect for life. Practitioners are vegetarian and dedicated to truthfulness, faithfulness and an unattached life. Similar to the Christian tradition of Lent, Paryushan calls for followers to reflect on their actions of the last year.

While there is no set ritual or service, followers will pray, read scripture and attend Jain lectures. This process of introspection leads practitioners to a spiritual place where forgiveness can come“. It is inevitable that we have harmed or offended someone knowingly or unknowingly,” says Kumar.
“Paryushan is a time to heal, to mend, to include, to embrace, to settle disputes and to unite with everyone without exception”.

Fasting is an important part of the observation which can last from the common 36 hours to several days.
There will be many Jains who will fast for up to 21 days.
Fasting is meant to free Jains from worldly activities so that they may reflect on their lives and actions.
Jains ask themselves how they have behaved in their personal and business life, but the introspection extends beyond people.
Jains will review their actions toward the environment, animals and life in every kind of soul.
Every morning and evening during times of contemplation a prayer is said that calls to mind those behaviours and asks for forgiveness:

Khamemi Savva-Jive,
Savve Jiva Khamantu Me,
Mitti Me Savva-Bhuesu,
Veram Majjha Na Kenai.

I grant forgiveness to all living beings,
I solicit forgiveness from all living beings,
I am friends with all living beings,
I do not have any animosity towards any living beings.

“This is done repeatedly to recall things of where I have gone wrong,” says Dr. Sulekh Jain, past president of the Jain Society of Houston. “This is not done in front of a priest or in confession. You are talking to yourself. This is purely personal.”

The most important aspect of the observation is forgiveness. On the last day of the observation (the 8th day in some traditions, the 18th day in others) the entire community gives and asks for forgiveness of each other for any indiscretion or violence they may have imposed the previous year.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of people who after certain prayers embrace and ask for forgiveness. This is within families, younger people, older people, women and men,” says Dr. Jain. “This is not a formality. This is done with all sincerity.”

Jains will visit each other, call, email or send cards to ask for forgiveness of each other. There are also printed cards that are mailed, similar to Christmas cards that convey the sentiment of forgiveness.

“We always deal with each other and that’s where hatred starts,” says Dr. Jain. “If I have hurt your feelings I have committed a violence. How do I reconcile that? I need to clean my slate. Bring the harmony, love and trust.”

At the end of the observation, Jains gather to pray and read scriptures.
They will make donations to various causes.
In addition, Jains will gather to help break the fast of those few who have been fasting for several days.
The community will gather and each give one spoonful of warm water with honey to the person.
They will also give the person money which will go to charity.

Though Paryushan is a Jain tradition the practice of forgiving transcends religious boundaries. Many Jains are hopeful that others, no matter their spiritual affiliation, will adopt the practice. “Now it is time to reach out,” says Satish Kumar, “Making Paryushan available to the world as a week of peace and purification will be a very good start. We need to make peace with ourselves, peace with our fellow human beings and peace with nature.”

Paryushan Daily Routine For 7 Days.

  1. Rising early in the morning and hearing the holy word.
  2. Contemplation of the holy words that were preached.
  3. Half an hour of meditation or ‘Preksha Dhyana
  4. Limiting one’s diet to only certain elements or abstinence.
  5. Abstinence from meals after sunset.
  6. Abstinence from indulging in the gratification of the flesh.
  7. Observing ‘Anuvrata
  8. Observing a minimum of five ‘Samayikas’
  9. Observing silence for an hour.
  10. Prayers or meditation with the community or family.
  11. Maintaining a feeling of selflessness.
  12. Abstaining from all forms of entertainment.
  13. Abstaining from consuming green vegetables or limiting ones diet to pulses.
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