Paryushan - A Festival of Introspection



By Mr. Shitul Shah


Daslakshan Parva (Festival of ten virtues) is the Paryushan festival as celebrated by the Digambar Jains.

Eating, drinking and being merry are normally associated with festivals but Paryushan is the opposite. During Paryushan Jain practice penances, vows, fast and study. If not fasting they refrain from eating green vegetables. There are two categories of festivals: eternal and non-eternal. The non-eternal festivals are further divided as those that relate to people and those that relate to historical events. Dipawali, Mahavir Jayanti and Janamasthami, which celebrate the liberation and birth of Lord Mahavir and birth of Lord Krishna respectively, are people related festivals. Paryushan, on the other hand, is an eternal festival relating neither to people nor to any historical event. It is the time to celebrate the natural qualities of the soul. Just as the soul does not have a beginning or an end, Paryushan does not have a beginning or an end. It falls three time year but is only celebrated once around August / September because at this time, business being quiet, businessman can take time off for spiritual  pursuit. Also it is the time of the monsoon retreat when insects flourish, causing the monks to stay in one place.

Before we discuss the ten Dharmas, it is important to understand two common viewpoints found in our scriptures. The Vyavachar view, in crude terms, helps you to live more easily and peacefully with the outside world. It also builds up your reserve of good deeds (punya karmas). The nishchay view helps to enhance enhance and blossom the soul's natural qualities. In Jainism the Vyavhar view is always considered the "by the by". The Nishchay view is considered to be most important as it leads to contemplation and understanding of the true nature of the soul with the aim of its population, the ultimate goal of practicing Paryushan. Merely practicing the Vyavahar Dharmas may bind punaya karmas, leading to material gain in this life and the next.

The Dharmas are well prefixed by the word "Uttam" (Supreme) to signify that they are practiced at the highest level by the Jain monks. The householder practices them to a lesser extent. It last over a period of ten days, each day being a) stands for the Vyavahar view and b) for the NIshchay view.

Forgiveness : a) We forgive those who have wronged us and seek forgiveness from those we have wronged. Forgiveness is sought not just from human colleagues, but from all living beings ranging from one sensed to five sensed. If we do not forgive or seek forgiveness but instead harbor resentment, we bring misery and unhappiness on ourselves and in the process seeking forgiveness oils the wheel of life allowing us to live in harmony with our fellow beings. It also attracts punya karma.
b) Forgiveness here is directed to oneself. The soul, in a state of mistaken identity or false belief, assumes that it consists of the body, the karmas and the emotions-likes, dislikes, anger, pride etc. As a result of this incorrect belief it inflicts pain upon itself and is thus the cause of its own misery. Nishchay Kshama Dharma teaches the soul to correctly identify itself by encouraging it to contemplate in its true nature and hence achieve the state of correct belief or Samyam Darshan. It is only by achieving Samyak Darshan the the soul ceases to inflict pain on itself and attains supreme happiness.

Modesty / Humility : a) Wealth, good looks, reputable family or intelligence often lead to pride. Pride means to believe one to be superior to others and to look down on others. By being proud you are measuring your worth by temporary material objects. These objects will either leave you or you will be forced to leave them when you die. These eventualities will cause you unhappiness as a result of the "dent" caused to your soft-worth. Being humble will prevent this. Pride also leads to the influx of the bad deed or paap karmas.
b) All souls are equal, none being superior or inferior to another. In other words of Srimad Rajchandra: "Sarva JeevChe Sidh Su, Je Samje Te Thai - All the souls are akin to the Sidh; those who understand the principle will achieve that state" The Nischay view encourages you to understand your true nature. All souls have the potential to be liberated souls (Sidh Bhagwan). The only difference between the liberated souls and those in bondage is that the former have attained liberation as a result of their effort. With effort, even the latter can achieve liberation.

Straightfordness : a) The action of a deceitful person is to think one thing, speak something else and do something entirely different. There is no harmony in his thought, speech and actions. Such a person loses credibility very quickly and lives in constant anxiety and fear of his deception being exposed. Being straight-forward or honest oil the wheel of life. You will be seen to be reliable and trustworthy. Deceitful actions leads to the influx of paap karmas.

b) Delusion about one's identity is the root cause of unhappiness. Be straightforward to yourself and recognize your true nature. The soul is made up of countless qualities like knowledge achieve omniscience (Kewal Gnan) and reach a state of supreme bliss. Again, the body, the karmas, the thoughts and all the emotions are separate from the true nature of the soul. Only by practicing Nishchay Arjav Dharma will one taste the true happiness that comes from within.

Contentment: a) Be content with the material gains that you have accomplished thus far. Contrary to popular belief, striving for greater material wealth and pleasure will not lead to happiness. Desire for more is a sign that we do not have all that we want. Reducing this desire and being content with what we have leads to satisfaction. Accumulating material objects merely fuels the fire of desire.

b) Contentment or happiness, derived from material objects, is only perceived to be so by a soul in a state of false belief. The fact is that material objects do not have a quality of happiness and therefore happiness cannot be obtained from them! The perception of "enjoying" material object is indeed only that -a perception! This perception rewards the soul with only misery and nothing else. Real happiness comes from within, as it is the soul that possesses the quality of happiness.

Truth : a) If talking is not required, then do not talk. If it is required  then only use the minimum of words, and all must be absolutely true. Talking disturbs the stillness of the mind. Consider the person who lies and lives in fear of being exposed. To support one lie he has to utter a hundred more. He becomes caught up in a tangled web of lies and is seen as untrustworthy and unreliable. Lying leads to an influx of paap karma.

b) Satya comes from the word sat, which means existence. Existence is a quality of the soul. Recognizing the soul's true nature as it really exists  and taking shelter in the soul is practicing Nischay Satya Dharma.

Self - Restraints : a) i) Restraining from injury to life - Jains go to great lengths, compared to other world religions, to protect life. This encompasses all living beings, from one-sensed onwards. The purpose of not eating root vegetables is that they contain countless one-sensed onwards. The purpose of not eating root vegetables is that they contain countless one-sensed being termed "nigod". During Paryushan the Jain also do not eat green vegetables to reduce harm to the lower sensed beings. ii) Self restraint from desires or passions - These lead to pain and are therefore to be avoided.

b) i) Restraining injury to the self - This has been elaborated upon in Nishchay Kshma Dharma.ii) Self restraint from desires or passions - Emotions, e.g. likes, dislikes or anger leads to misery and need to be eradicated. They are not part of the true nature of the soul and only arise when the soul is in a state of false belief. The only method to free oneself from these is to contemplate on the true nature of the soul and in the process commence the journey to liberation or  moksha.

Penance : a) This does not only mean fasting but also includes a reduce diet, restriction of certain types of foods, avoiding tasty foods, etc. The purpose of penance is to keep desires and passions in control. Over-indulgence inevitable leads to misery. Penance leads to an influx of punya karmas.

b) Meditation prevents the rise of desires and passions in the soul. In a deep state of meditation the desire to intake food does not arise. Our first Tirthankara, Adinath Bhagwan was in such a meditative state for six months, during which he observed Nischay Uttam Tap. The only food he consumed during these six months was the happiness from within.

Renunciation : a) Contrary to popular belief, renouncing worldly possessions leads to a life of contentment and assists in keeping desires in check. Controlling desires lead to an influx of punya karma. Renunciation is done at the highest level by our monks who renounce not only the household but also their clothes. A person's strength is measured not by the amount of wealth he accumulates but by the amount of wealth he renounces. By this measure our  monks are the richest.

b) Renouncing the emotions, the root cause of misery, is Nischay Uttam Tyag, which is only possible by contemplating on the true nature of the soul.

Non-attachment : a) This assists us in detaching from external possessions. Historically ten possession are listed in our scriptures: "land, house, silver, gold, wealth, grain, female servants, male servants, garments and utensils" Remaining unattached from these helps control our desires and leads to an influx of punya karmas.

b) This assists us in being unattached from our internal attachments: false belief, anger pride, deceit, greed, laughter, liking, disliking, lamentation, fear, disgust, male sexual desire, female sexual desire and hybrid sexual desire. Ridding the soul of these leads to its purification.

Supreme Celibacy : a) This means not only refraining from sexual intercourse but also includes all pleasures associated with the sense of touch, e.g. a cool breeze on a hot summers day or using a cushion for a hard surface. Again this dharma is practiced to keep our desires in check. The monks practice this to the highest degree with all their body, speech and mind. The householder refrains from sexual intercourse with anyone except his or her spouse.

b) Brahmacharya is derived from the word Brahma - soul and charya to dwell. Nischay Brahmacharya means to dwell in your soul. Only by residing in the soul. Only by residing in the soul are you the master of the Universe. Residing outside your soul makes you a slave to desires.

Kshama Vani Parva : This is celebrated on the day following the day Das Lakshan Parva and is also celebrated three times a year. With proper practice of Das Lakshan Parva our hearts should be overflowing with forgiveness and hence the celebration of this festival on the following day.

Shitul Shah is a solicitor by profession, based in London. He is a keen student of Jain philosophy. The above is extracted from the Young Jain newsletter, October - 2000.



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