This blog series invites members and friends of WIN to prepare a ‘festival diary’, exploring the history and significance of specific rituals or outlining the routine of religious celebrations, as a window into the lived experience of people of different faiths. This month’s blog from friend of WIN, Jiwan Jain, and Veena Jain, from our Gants Hill group, explores the upcoming festival of Paryushana or Das Lakshana and its roots in Jain philosophy and ethics.
It is important for us to understand about Jainism before looking at ‘paryushan’ which is one of the key events in the calendar of Jains.
Jainism is a totally scientific religion. It observes that one must have ‘right knowledge’, ‘right belief’ and ‘right conduct’, known as ‘three jewels’, to follow the path of salvation or ‘moksha’ and break away from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Jainism does not believe in a God figure as the creator and destroyer of the universe but places the individual soul (‘atma’) at the centre of its doctrine. It does however believe in Jina’s or Tirthankaras who are supreme souls (param-atma or parmatma) and who have attained salvation and show us the path to salvation from their own experiences. By placing the individual at the centre of its thinking Jainism also places the emphasis squarely on ‘purusharth’ or the individual’s effort. The belief that an individual by his or her own effort can attain the status of paramatma is a very uplifting vision.
Three key tenets of Jainism are ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence), ‘aparigraha’ (non-attachment), and ‘anekantvaad’ (multiplicity of truth).
‘Ahimsa’ does not just mean ‘non-killing’ but also not hurting/harming any life including plants and animals and also tells us to live in harmony with our environment as a whole.
‘Aparigraha’ non-attachment or non-possessiveness – helps us to conduct our business and our daily lives with due diligence but without attachment to the results and also helps us to maintain a balanced view in life. It also guides us against using resources in a wasteful way.
‘Anekantavada’- implying truth can be seen from many perspectives – gives us the gift of tolerance and accept other views as equally important as our own.
These three principles are as true and as relevant in the world today as they have ever been.
Das Lakshna or Paryushana is the most important annual holy event for Jains and is celebrated in the month of August or September. Das Lakshan, as celebrated by Digambar sect, is a ten day celebration that ends with Shamavani, whereas Paryushan, as celebrated by Swetambar sect, is a 8 day event that ends with Samvatsari.
This is the time for individuals to introspect – to reflect and contemplate on our past conduct, in the light of the teachings of Jainism and make a determination to lead a spiritually cleaner life in the future.
The word Das-lakshan can be defined as ten (das) virtues (lakshan), which define the very essence of Jainism and these are focused upon on the consecutive days of the celebration. Preceded by ‘uttam’ meaning supreme these are:
- uttam kshama – forgiveness
- uttam mardav – modesty
- uttam arjav – straightforwardness (simplicity in behaviour)
- uttam satya – truthfulness
- uttam shauch – purity
- uttam sanyam – self-restraint
- uttam tapa – austerity
- uttam tyag – renunciation
- uttam akinchaya – non-attachment
- uttam brhamcharya – celibacy
The festival ends with Shamavani means forgiving others and asking for their forgiveness for anything you may have done to cause them hurt by your thoughts, words or deeds.
The festival of Das-lakshan is celebrated by doing a daily pooja (prayer/worship) and reading the scriptures in the temple, focussing on one of these principles on consecutive days.
If you would like to submit your own festival diary, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org