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The Rite Of Universal Friendship

    By : Dhanpal Solanki 

Read full spiritual article: The Rite Of Universal Friendship

Paryushan Parva, the annual Jain observance, is the time to uplift oneself through fasting, meditation, soul-searching, awakening, self-study, compassion and forgiveness for all beings. For both Shvetambars, who observe the ritual over eight days, and Digambars, for whom the festival lasts 10 days, this is a time for introspection, reflection and purification. It takes place during the rainy seaso..

Paryushan is the time when, to improve karmas, adherents perform 12 kinds of austerities, including fasting. They also do svadhyaya or self-study. The purpose of Paryushan is to stay close to your soul, reflect on your shortcomings, seek forgiveness for wrongdoings, remove internal corruption and vow to live an ethical way of life. Daily meditation and prayer help one to look within and reflect on the teachings of the tirthankaras for guidance.

On the fourth day of Paryushan, it is customary for Murtipujak Shvetambars to read from the Kalpa Sutra, a scripture which recounts the life of Mahavira, the 24th tirthankar — the 14 dreams of his mother before his birth, followed by the story of his birth, life and liberation. It also recounts the lives of other tirthankaras and the rules of Paryushan.

Jainism is the Sramana tradition of India. Mahavira led a socio-spiritual, non-violent movement. He rejected superstitious practices, blind faith, caste system, and gender bias. He encouraged equity and scientific temper. He did not preach, but practised his philosophy. He liberated the village girl Chandanbala, and showed her the path to eternal peace, purity, progress and spirituality. She became his disciple. He promoted a radical economic, political and social justice movement based on complete equality

He regarded all species of flora and fauna as integral to a composite moral community. He emphasised the concept of aparigraha or non-possessiveness to protect biodiversity from human greed. The fivefold mantra that is recited offers obeisance not to God or Creator, but to Arihants or perfected beings, siddhas or liberated souls, acharyas or masters, upadhyayas or teachers, sadhus or renunciates. With mantra-chanting, seekers find liberation through their own efforts, and not by waiting for divine intervention. Jainism lays great emphasis on rational, scientific, compassionate and ethical way of life based on complete equanimity and tranquillity.

The first tirthankar Rishabh Dev, gave us six concepts: Asi, sword of defence; masi, art, culture, literature and education; krishi, the agrarian life; vidya, schooling, knowledge and training; vanijya, trade and commerce, enterprise; and shilp-kala, architecture, handicrafts and skills.

During Paryushan Parva vegetarian meals are made simpler than usual. For Shvetambars, the final day of Paryushan is Samvastsari Pratikraman or annual confession, when it is time for confession and seeking forgiveness as well as being forgiving, enabling self-liberation. The ritual of seeking forgiveness from the teacher is widened in scope to include family, friends and all living beings. The culmination of confession is receiving forgiveness from all living beings and also forgiving everyone.

This ritual of forgiveness is sometimes called the rite of universal friendship. Those who do manage to fast, speak in glowing terms of the wonderful effects of penance that purifies the soul. The greater the will, the greater would be the flow of energy, they say. Tirthankar Rishabhdev is said to have performed penance for one year at a stretch. During the process of penance, toxins accumulated in body cells get expelled. The body is recharged and relaxed. And there is mental and physical wellbeing.

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