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Jainism : The World of Conquerors: 5.5 ► Penitential Retreat

Published: 19.12.2015

Penitential retreat (pratikramana) is the distinct feature of the Jain way of life, a most popular ritual, prescribed for both ascetics and the laity. It is performed in five forms: daily in the morning (raai pratikramana) and evening (devasi pratikramana) - each one just over 48 minutes; and the elaborate rituals (can last 2 hours or more) - twice each month (pakkhi pratikramana); four monthly (caumaasi pratikramana) and annual (samvatsari pratikramana).

Pratikramana means '(re)turning back', meaning a return to one's original state of purity. External environments and our daily activities, whether they are social, domestic, work related or recreational bring disturbance to the peaceful nature of the soul. As most of the worldly activities, whether performed knowingly or unknowingly, cause harm to other living beings and are sinful in nature; they harm us by the resulting karmic influx. They are usually associated with attraction and aversion, and the passions, which are against the nature of the peaceful soul. As people cannot avoid worldly activities, this daily ritual helps to shed the karma that is attracted due to the transgressions of Right Conduct, and return the soul to the state of purity before they began these activities (of mind, speech or the body). If pratikramana is not performed, the soul continues to be obscured by karmic particles and purification may become impossible. Jains believe that no other person or divinity can assist them, they have to help themselves, ask for forgiveness for their transgressions, perform penance, and see that such aberrations are not repeated.

The religions of the world have evolved ethical codes of conduct, but imperfect human beings violate this code repeatedly, knowingly or unknowingly, by mind, speech or physical action, by their own actions or by motivating others to act wrongly, or by applauding immoral acts. Jain seers taught that the violation of morality can be caused by any type of ill will (mental transgression); preparing for immorality ('preparatory' transgressions); breaking the moral code partially (partial violation); and acting completely immorally (total violation). If one confesses one's transgressions, realises one's wrongs, repents, performs penance and determines not to repeat such faults, one may return to one's original self. This act of 'turning back' is penitential retreat.

As 'to err is human', transgressions of the Right Conduct do occur for a worldly being; these transgressions (aticaara) could be intentional or accidental, such as in playing sport, in occupations, in self-defence and other worldly activities. Jain seers have classified 124 forms of inadvertent transgressions (Vijaydevasura sangha 1981: p.162). A full account of these can be found in the Aacaaranga Sutra or in the Panca Pratikramana Sutra. (Hindi and Gujarati).

These transgressions apply equally to ascetics and the laity. They may be committed by physical, physiological, psychological or verbal means. Transgressions may be against Right Faith, such as: doubt or scepticism; worshipping in anticipation of gain; condemnation of the faith; belief in false deities, teachers or traditions; criticism of the jina's faith; activities which undermine the faith; bringing the faith into disrepute; and false piety motivated by self-interest.

Transgressions may be against Right Knowledge such as: doubting the true knowledge of the omniscients, including seven ways of inappropriately reading the sacred texts. These are: reading at the wrong time (not at the best times, such as in the morning), reading without respect for the scriptures, reading without proper concentration, reading without proper pronunciation, reading without understanding the proper meaning, reading and reciting inaccurately, and reading without humility.

Transgressions may be against Right Conduct and those, which apply mainly to ascetics, are carelessness in walking, speech, accepting alms, picking up and setting down objects, and bodily functions. The further transgressions of unguarded mind, speech and physical action likewise apply mainly to ascetics.

Transgressions of Right Conduct against the twelvefold ethical code or vows, which apply to the laity, are:

Violence (physical, vocal or mental) towards living beings; falsehood; stealing; not observing proper sexual restraint (physically or mentally) and showing attachment to worldly possessions.

Transgressions against the three 'multiplicative' vows are breaking the 'directional' vow of limiting unnecessary movement, communication or activity.

Transgressions against the four 'educative' vows involve failure to rightly observe the vows of equanimity; the temporary adoption of an ascetic lifestyle; 'limiting consumables and non-consumables'; these include transgressions as an element of certain occupations; and 'hospitality'.

There are also transgressions against the six external and six internal austerities, and transgressions which obstruct the acquisition of spiritual energy. Lastly, there are transgressions against the vow of 'holy death'.

The daily duty of pratikramana involves yoga, including pranaayama and physical postures, meditation, and the six essential duties, an all-encompassing spiritual path. This ritual also aims to promote the welfare of all living beings and world peace.

If this sacred ritual is properly performed, with an understanding of its meaning and full concentration, the devotee can advance spiritually, and acquire mental peace and happiness. Ideally, pratikramana should be performed in the presence of an ascetic, but in their absence, a sacred text placed before the devotee may function as a consecrated substitute. This is particularly the case when this ritual is performed in the devotee's home.

Requirements for this ritual are minimal: clean clothes, a rectangular woollen cloth upon which to sit, a woollen brush (caravalaa), a 'mouth-kerchief' (muhupatti) and a text of the Pratikramana Sutras (for the devotees who do not know them by heart).

All the sutras recited in pratikramana have particular meanings and purposes, as do the various yogic postures used. During pratikramana, the repeated ritual of the muhupatti is performed, where a mental recitation is performed, expressing a desire to pronounce the sutras correctly and to understand their meaning; to abandon passions, attractions and aversions; to follow the right faith, knowledge and conduct; to have pure thoughts; and to protect immobile and mobile living beings. Both ascetics and laypeople recite the majority of these sutras; a few are recited only by ascetics, fewer still exclusively by men or by women. There are sutras in Prakrit and Sanskrit and in at least four modern Indian languages, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada.

The sutras recited during pratikramana have a special meaning and the purpose. It is impossible to mention all the sutras in detail in this work, however, their substance is as follows (Nirvana Sagara 1986: pp.1-155):

  1. Navakara (Maha)Mantra (also known as the Panca Parmesthi Sutra): This incantation is the most sacred sutra and the most commonly recited. It is the veneration mantra of obeisance to the five 'supreme beings'.
  2. Pancindiya Sutra: This sutra describes the thirty-six virtues of ascetics. It is the consecration sutra of a sacred text, as a guru, prior to the performance of equanimity (saamayika).
  3. Khamaasana Sutra: This sutra is recited during the performance of the 'five limbs' posture (obeisance with forehead, hands and knees on the ground) with which it shares its name; it offers veneration to the panca parmesthis.
  4. Icchakaara Sutra: This sutra respectfully enquires after the spiritual and physical welfare of the ascetics and invites them to accept food, water and other necessities.
  5. Iriyaavahiaa Sutra: This sutra asks forgiveness for harm to any living being through our actions such as walking and otherwise moving.
  6. Tassauttari Sutra: This sutra asks for penance to annihilate the karmic effects of sins that remain even after asking forgiveness through the Iriyaavahiaa Sutra
  7. Annattha Sutra: By this sutra, the vow of meditation with bodily detachment is taken, allowing for exceptions for the sixteen physiological events such as sneezing, passing wind or having an accident.
  8. Logassa Sutra: In this sutra, the eulogies of the twenty-four tirthankaras of each of the past, present and future cycles are performed. A prayer is also made to seek their help through the Three Jewels.
  9. Karemi Bhante Sutra: This is a sutra for taking a vow to practise equanimity (saamayika) or renunciation, and to resist harmful sins of mind, speech or body, by oneself or through motivating others to sin, and to condemn and censure sins until they cease.
  10. Saamaiya vaya jutto Sutra: This sutra is recited on conclusion of saamayika. It considers the practitioner of equanimity to be equivalent to an ascetic and desires the performance of equanimity repeatedly. It seeks forgiveness for the thirty-two faults (ten of mind, ten of speech, and twelve of body) involved in practising saamayika.
  11. Jaga cintamani Sutra: This sutra eulogises all the present, past and future tirthankaras, famous places of pilgrimage, temples and jina images, and offers veneration to ascetics and other omniscients.
  12. Jankinci Sutra: This sutra venerates all the places of Jain pilgrimage and all the images existing in the Jain universe.
  13. Namutthunam Sutra or Sakrastava Sutra: This sutra eulogises and offers veneration to all the present enlightened ones, and past and future liberated ones, and recites their attributes. The celestial King Sakrendra recites it whenever the soul of a jina is conceived in its final human life.
  14. Jaavanti ceiaim Sutra: This sutra venerates all the jina temples existing in the Jain universe.
  15. Jaavant kevi sahu Sutra: This sutra venerates all the ascetics present in the Bharata, Airavata and Mahaavideha regions of Jain geography.
  16. Namorhata sutra: this sutra is a short form of the navakara mantra.
  17. Uvasagga haram Stotra: This sutra is a eulogy composed by Bhadrabahu in praise of Parsvanatha, the remover of all calamities, and is a prayer to him asking for Right Faith.
  18. Jayviyaraya Sutra: This sutra offers prayers before the jinas for the destruction of karma and worldly miseries, and reiterates that the teachings of the jina are the most auspicious among all faiths.
  19. Arihanta ceiyanam Sutra or Caitya stava Sutra: This sutra offers prayers of adoration and devotion to jina images in temples. It is recited as a vow before meditation with bodily detachment for obtaining Right Faith and liberation.
  20. Kallaana kandam stuti Sutra: This sutra is a eulogy in four parts offering veneration to the tirthankaras Risabhdeva, Santinatha, Neminatha, Parsvanatha and Mahavira in its first stanza; to all the jinas in its second, to scriptural knowledge in its third, and to the goddess of scriptures, Sarasvati, in its fourth stanza.
  21. Sansaara daavaanala Sutra: This sutra, a eulogy to Mahavira, is a composition by Haribhadra. It offers veneration to Mahavira, all jinas, scriptures, and the goddesses of scripture.
  22. Pukkhara varadivaddhe Sutra: This sutra venerates the tirthankaras as the source of the scriptural knowledge of the Three Jewels and is a prayer to them seeking Right Conduct.
  23. Siddhaanam buddhaanam Sutra: This sutra venerates the liberated ones and omniscients, and all the twenty-four tirthankaras are eulogised and prayers are offered to them.
  24. Veyavacca garaanam Sutra: This sutra venerates the heavenly guardian deities who care for people with Right Faith, and the followers of the jina's teaching.
  25. Bhagvaanaham aadi vandana Sutra: This sutra venerates the panca parmesthis.
  26. Devasia padikamana thaum Sutra: This sutra seeks steadfastness in penitential retreat.
  27. Icchaami thaami Sutra: This sutra is a vow of meditation with bodily detachment for transgressions of Right Conduct, including the twelve vows of laypeople.
  28. Naanam mi dansanam mi or Pancaacaara Sutra: This sutra describes transgressions of the Three Jewels, austerities, and the utilisation of spiritual energy. This recital is undertaken in meditation with bodily detachment.
  29. Suguru vandana Sutra: This sutra venerates ascetics and seeks forgiveness for disrespectful conduct towards them, knowingly or unknowingly.
  30. Devasiam aalou Sutra: This sutra expresses self-censure for transgressions of Right Conduct, during the day.
  31. Saat laakh Sutra: By this sutra, one asks forgiveness from all living beings in the universe for any harm inflicted by oneself, or by someone whom one has motivated to do harm, or where one has 'appreciated' violence done by others.
  32. Adhaara paapa sthaanaka Sutra: By this sutra one seeks forgiveness for eighteen types of sins committed by oneself, or by someone whom one has motivated to commit sin, or where one has 'appreciated' sin committed by others. The sins reiterated are: taking life, untruth, stealing, improper sexual relations, hoarding and attachment to material things, anger, pride, deceit, greed, attraction, aversion, discord, accusation, slander, excessive feelings of pleasure and of pain, defamation, lying and deception, and misguided beliefs.
  33. Savvassavi Sutra: This sutra briefly expresses censure and penitence for sins in general.
  34. Icchami padikkamiu Sutra: This sutra expresses the desire for penitence and forgiveness for any transgressions.
  35. Vandittu Sutra or Sraaddha pratikramana Sutra: This fifty-verse sutra is the essence of the penitential ritual. It expresses repentance for 124 forms of transgressions in observing the Three Jewels, the twelve vows, the three guards and the five carefulnesses during the day or night. The sutra eulogises the panca parmesthis and venerates the jinas, their temples and images, ascetics and scriptures. Finally, the devotee beseeches forgiveness from all and forgives all and expresses friendship to every living being and enmity to none.
  36. Abbhutthiomi Sutra: This sutra asks forgiveness for any impoliteness shown, intentionally or otherwise, towards ascetics.
  37. Aayariya uvaajzaae Sutra: This sutra asks forgiveness for offences committed against ascetics, religious leaders and teachers, the sangha, and all living beings. Devotees express their forgiveness to all.
  38. Sua devaya Sutra: This eulogy is a meditational prayer with bodily detachment to the god(dess) of scripture for aid in shedding karma, which inhibit Right Knowledge, and is prescribed only for men.
  39. Kamala dala Sutra: This prayer, recited by women, in meditation with bodily detachment, is a eulogy to the goddess of scripture, Sarasvati, who is depicted as seated upon a lotus.
  40. Jise khitte Sutra: Men recite this eulogy, in meditation with bodily detachment, to the guardian deity of the region and pray for the removal of obstacles to spiritual observance.
  41. Yasyah ksetram Sutra: Women recite this eulogy, in meditation with bodily detachment, to the guardian deity of the region, but men also recite it in elaborate fortnightly, four-monthly and yearly pratikramanas.
  42. Jnaanadi guna Sutra: This eulogy to the guardian celestial beings of the world, is uttered in an elaborate penitential recitation with hymns asking for knowledge.
  43. Namostu vardddhamanay Sutra: This eulogy, recited by men in the evening pratikramanas, venerates Mahavira, all the tirthankaras and the scriptures for their right teachings.
  44. Visaala locana Stotra: This eulogy, recited by men during the morning pratikramanas, venerates Mahavira, all the tirthankaras and Jain scriptures.
  45. Addhaijzesu Sutra: This sutra venerates all ascetics in the Jain universe.
  46. Vara kanaka Sutra: By means of this eulogy, male devotees make obeisance to the one hundred and seventy tirthankaras of the Jain universe who are venerated with rich offerings from heavenly beings.
  47. Laghu santi Sutra: This short recital venerates tirthankara Shantinatha and the goddess of peace, Vijaya, for bestowing peace on the entire world. The seventh century ascetic scholar Aacaarya Manadeva composed it and its recitation dispelled an epidemic, and it is believed that misery is dispelled and peace appears when this sutra is recited or read, or water consecrated by this hymn is sprinkled.
  48. Caukkasaaya Sutra: This sutra is a prayer to Parsvanatha, conqueror of the four passions, to grant spiritual uplift.
  49. Mannah jinaanam Sajzhaaya: This sutra consists of five verses reminding the laity of their daily duties.
  50. Bharahesara Sajzaaya: By these thirteen verses, devotees remind themselves each morning of the fifty-three men and forty-seven women, ascetics and laypeople, who were celibate and pious, and whose conduct is a model for the sangha. Both ascetics and laypeople perform this recitation.
  51. Sakala tirtha vandanaa Stotra: This fifteen-verse hymn was composed in Gujarati by the seventeeth century Aacaarya Jiva Vijay, and venerates all jina images in the universe, places of pilgrimage, present tirthankaras in the universe, liberated souls and ascetics on the path to liberation.
  52. Sakalaarhata Stotra: This sutra, composed by Hemcandra, is a thirty-three verse sanctuary veneration in the form of an eulogy to the twenty-four tirthankaras, is recited in the elaborate pratikramanas, and offers veneration to all Jina images in holy places.
  53. Snatasyaa Stuti: This eulogy to Mahavira, composed by Muni Balacandra, a disciple of Hemcandra in the thirteenth century, is recited in elaborate pratikramanas.
  54. Paksika aticaara Sutra: This detailed recital seeks forgiveness for all the 124 possible transgressions in observing fivefold conduct in every fortnightly, four-monthly and yearly pratikramana. It is an elaboration of the Vandittu Sutra, but ascetics recite the Pakkhi Sutra, a detailed version relating to transgressions of their vows.
  55. Ajita santi Stava: This is a eulogy of Ajitanatha and Shantinatha (second and sixteenth tirthankaras) composed by Aacaarya Nandisena to dispel diseases and fears, and is recited during elaborate pratikramanas.
  56. Bruhacchanti Stotra: This long recitation, composed by Shanti Suri in the eleventh century, is used on all auspicious occasions such as image consecrations, anointing worship and other pujaas, to pray for the peace, happiness and spiritual upliftment of all living beings. In this recitation prayers are offered to Parsvanatha, Shantinatha and the other tirthankaras, the sixteen goddesses of learning, the nine heavenly beings of the planets, the four heavenly beings of the regions. It prays for the peace and welfare of the sangha, all non-Jains, rulers, leaders, spiritual preachers, and for the welfare of all living beings. It reiterates that the teachings of jina are beneficial to all. Water consecrated by this recital is sprinkled on places to purify the surroundings and on devotees as a blessing.
  57. Santikarana Stotra: This thirteen verse recitation, composed by Munisundar Suri, is a prayer to Shantinatha, to the sixteen goddesses of learning, and to the male and female guardian deities of each of the twenty-four tirthankaras (saasan devas and devis). It is believed that by reciting this stotra at least three times, with full concentration, worldly calamities and miseries can be averted. (Vijaydevasura sangha: 1981, Doshi C. 1979)

Jain seers have arranged the sequence of the sacred sutras of pratikramana in such a way that devotees obtain the full benefits of the performance of their daily essential duties, yoga and meditation.

Daily Pratikramana

In daily pratikramana (performed in the evening) devotees recite the sutras of equanimity: the Navakara Mantra, Pancadiya, Khamaasana, Iriyaavahiaa, Tassauttari, Annatha, Logassa, Karemi bhante, and sutras seeking permission from ascetics (or their substitutes) to be in a state of saamayika. Following this, devotees mentally recite the verses concerning the muhupatti, while checking it, then venerate ascetics and temples, recite once more the Karemi bhante, the sutra of saamayika, the first essential duty. For the second duty, the Logassa and other sutras are recited in veneration of the twenty-four tirthankaras. For the third duty, devotees check the muhupatti and recite the Suguru vandana Sutra. For the fourth duty of pratikramana, devotees recite sutras such as the Devasiam alou, Saat lakh, Adhaara papasthanaka, Vandittu, and perform meditation with bodily detachment and the sequence of the Suguru vandana. For the fifth duty of kaayotsarga, devotees recite a series of sutras, interspersed with meditation, on the Logassa or Navakara Mantra, with bodily detachment.

At this point, in celebration of purification, devotees recite eulogies to the liberated ones and to the guardian deities, such as the Siddhanam buddhanam, Sua devaya, Kamala dala and Jise khitte. Accepting the vows to renounce that which is harmful to the soul performs the sixth duty of pratyaakhyaan.

After completing these essential duties, one recites the eulogy of Mahavira and Parsvanatha followed by the short recital to peace and other sutras in conclusion of samaayika.

The morning pratikramana comprises a similar recitation of sutras, with more emphasis on eulogies and hymns, but the fortnightly, four-monthly and yearly pratikramanas include more elaborate sutras concerning transgressions, elaborate kaayotsarga and eulogies followed by the long recital to peace.

Although, theoretically, pratikramana forms the fourth of the six essential duties, the Jain seers made it customary to include all the six duties in its performance, to ensure that devotees would observe them (Vijaydevasura sangha 1981: pp.20-21).

Figure 5.6 Some of the postures adopted during the ritual of pratikramaṇa


Title: Jainism: The World of Conquerors
Dr. Natubhai Shah
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Edition: 1998
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Airavata
  2. Ajita
  3. Anger
  4. Arihanta
  5. Ascetic lifestyle
  6. Bharata
  7. Body
  8. Concentration
  9. Deceit
  10. Devas
  11. Equanimity
  12. Greed
  13. Guna
  14. Guru
  15. Haribhadra
  16. Jina
  17. Jiva
  18. Karma
  19. Lakh
  20. Mahavira
  21. Mantra
  22. Meditation
  23. Muni
  24. Navakara Mantra
  25. Nirvana
  26. Omniscients
  27. Paapa
  28. Parsvanatha
  29. Prakrit
  30. Pratikramana
  31. Pratikramaṇa
  32. Pride
  33. Samvatsari
  34. Sangha
  35. Sanskrit
  36. Santinatha
  37. Sarasvati
  38. Soul
  39. Stuti
  40. Sutra
  41. Tamil
  42. Three Jewels
  43. Tirtha
  44. Tirthankara
  45. Tirthankaras
  46. Vandana
  47. Violence
  48. Yoga
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