World Peace And Pratikramaṇa (Confession)

Posted: 02.01.2016
Updated on: 16.12.2017

Introduction to Pratikramaṇa

It is likely that the saint under the constraint of subtle passions may deviate from the minutest details of right conduct, so the saint is ought to purify them daily without any procrastination and deceit by resorting to self-criticism to censuring his faults in presence of the guru and lastly confession by revealing his committed transgression to the guru (ālocana)[1] pratikramaṇa is to be performed for wrong attitude, absence of self-control and inauspicious activities etc.

Repenting the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly forms an essential part of the devotional practices of Jains. A great significance is given to confession i.e. (pratikramaṇa). It is prominently seen in the fact that the totality of actions meant for the edification are also indicated as pratikramaṇa. The transgressions committed in the past period due to laxity, is purified through pratikramaṇa?[2] Substance, space, time and modes in four of this context, mentally, vocally, physically committed sins are confessed before the guru and expiations of sins is done to purify the self.[3] In Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, it is mentioned that by confession of sins (before the guru), the soul gets rid of the thorns, as it were, of deceit, misapplied austerities, and wrong belief, which obstruct the way to final liberation and causes endless migration of the soul. The soul which is free from deceit doesn't acquire that karma which results in his having a carnal desire for a woman or eunuch, and annihilates such karma that he had acquired before.[4]


Classification of Pratikramaṇa

In Mūlācāra, Vattakera has divided pratikramaṇa under the two heads, namely dravya and bhāva pratikramaṇa.

  1. Bhāva pratikramaṇa: One should confess before guru about ones perverted view, non-restraint, passion and inauspicious actions as these are causes of bondage and to take the resolution to try not to repeat the same is bhāva pratikramaṇa.[5] The person who does bhāva pratikramaṇa recites the sūtras of pratikramaṇa and tries to shed off the karmās and at last destroys all the transgressions.[6] In canonical literature we find various illustrations of Sadhvi Mrigavati, Sadhvi Chandanbala, Muni Kurgaduka, Muni Rathanemi, Elachiputra etc. perfomed bhava pratikramaṇa and attained omniscience.
  2. Dravya pratikramaṇa: On the other hand, the person who does not follow the above mentioned method of confession, only verbally recites the sūtras of pratikramaṇa, performs dravya pratikramaṇa and does not attain the aim/objective of pratikramaṇa.[7] That saint who merely pronounces the pratikramaṇa sūtra is dravya pratikramaṇa.[8]  Thus who pronounces the bhāva pratikramaṇa opens the way to the shedding of the karmās in profusion.[9] It is to be performed in day, and at night for negligence of movements, fortnightly, four-monthly, yearly and for the whole life.

On the basis of time, pratikramaṇa can be divided under seven heads. Various types of pratikramaṇa, mainly based on the period of time to which the confession refers, are recognized as[10]:

  1. daivasika - Performed at nightfall and referring to the past day.
  2. rātrika - Performed at dawn and referring to the past night.
  3. pākṣika - Covering the past paksa or half-month.
  4. cāturmāsika - Covering the past four months.
  5. vārṣika - Covering the past year.
  6. airyāpathikī - Referring to the unwitting harm caused by only a movement.
  7. uttamārtha - Referring to lifelong giving up of four kinds of food and all the lifelong committed transgressions are confessed.

All these seven categories of pratikramaṇa, when put into critical analysis, cause many questions. One common question which is very logical is how regularly should one perform daivasika and rātrika pratikramaṇa? Is it essential to perform half month, four month, and one year pratikramaṇa? To this, it was answered although one performs confession every day, still some transgressions remain unconfessed. So it is important to examine his conscience still more scrupulously every fortnight, even more thoroughly at the four-monthly confession, most importantly of all is the great yearly confession at samvatsari. Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra was a great psychiatrist and well aware of this fact, so he prescribed these further categories of pratikramaṇa for self-purification. Moreover, it is said that the person who doesn't confess ones transgressions due to tenacious attachment and aversion, confesses during the pratikramaṇa of uttamārtha, i.e. performed before the death which expiates the bound karma.

It will be convenient to deal first with the airyāpathikī-pratikramaṇa, which has a special importance. The meaning of airyāpathikī sūtra runs as follows:

'I want to make pratikramaṇa for injury on the path of my movement, in coming and in going, in treading on living things, in treading on seeds, in treading on green plants, in treading on dew, on beetles, on mould, on moist earth, and on cobwebs. Whatever living organisms with one or two or three or four or five senses have been injured by me, or knocked over, or crushed, or squashed, or touched, or mangled, or hurt or affrighted, or removed from one place to another, or deprived of life - may all that evil have been done in vain.[11] So apart from the recitation of the airyāpathikī formula, the performance of pratikramaṇa requires the presence of a guru, for reciting the pratikramaṇa bīja sūtra, "I do pratikramaṇa for all that I have done amiss this day in thought, in speech and in act may that evil have been done in vain.[12] So non-violence is the heart of airyāpathikī pratikramaṇa. Now let us proceed for social significance of pratikramaṇa.'

Social Significance of Pratikramaṇa

All the religions of the world, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, Islamism accept the ritualistic practice of pratikramaṇa i.e. self-confession. The main reason for doing pratikramaṇa is to repent for all forbidden things done and all duties left undone, all infringements of the twelve vows and all actions motivated by passion and hate, and all wrong done in the course of one's daily business or ones house-hold duties. In pratikramaṇa man repents for the misdeed committed in the past and in pratyākhyāna, a person restrains himself from the repetition of the same sin in future. Confession of sin or paḍikamaṇaṁ, is a essential part of Jain worship. The objective of this confession, the Jain says, is not to obtain forgiveness of sins and removal of the guilt, but by confessing and carrying out the penance imposed by the director or the guru, to perform an austerity, in the fire of which it is hoped to burn up some of the karma acquired by sinning. It is illuminating to notice that the preceptor never imposes a penance, generally concerned with fasting in some way or other, and confessor performs it to the satisfaction of his own conscience. Now let us proceed one by one towards the socio-spiritual relevance of pratikramaṇa.


Attitude of Straight-forwardness and Liberation

Confession is not an easy task. Without the attitude of straight forwardness, nobody can perform pratikramaṇa in a real sense. Once the person commits any mistake knowingly or unknowingly at once resolves that he should confess for this guilt before the guru. During the confession time also he expresses his mistake as it is, without any attitude of deceit, such a person only can attain purification.[13] The confessor should confess all the mistakes clearly without any deceit and pride, like an innocent child before the preceptor and take resolution not to repeat the very same transgression a second time. Repeatedly telling this again and again, he/she sheds ones karmās.[14] For a spiritual practitioner, it is essential to confess ones mistake at once before a guru without any delay, even forty-eight minutes is not excusable if an aspirant remains with thorns as per Niśītha Bhāṣya.[15] It is quoted in the Vyavahāra Bhāṣya that the mendicant (monk) who dies with the three kinds of thorns without confessing, wanders in this empirical world endlessly.[16] Moreover it is said, whoever does deceitful confession, gets more repentance than the straightforward confessor.[17] So this quality of straight-forwardness is not only necessary and beneficial for personal-cum-spiritual upliftment, at the same time it is also essential for solving the problems of crimes and external imposed punishments in the society.

Pratikramaṇa: Self Purification through Repentence

Repenting the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly forms an essential part of the devotional practices of Jains. This form of confession is very unique. Confession consists in saying certain formula, in which the offences are systematically counted and a pious person expresses his repentance in this way. I come back from the sins committed earlier, I blame them, repent them, I absolve myself of them. One repents for the 84,00,000 different types of living beings, if one of these beings are hurt with his mind, speech or body, or one has allowed someone else to harm them or approved someone harming them. This form of expressing general apology for the offence committed against the commandment of ahiṃsā is the only possible one, for no one can know how many insects or elementary beings he has injured or killed while walking, even though as this is prescribed for the ascetics, he pays careful attention to the path.[18] Another formula often used by śvetāmbaras enumerates eighteen sources of sin (athāraha pāpasthān), as they are the infringement of the small vows, passions, etc., and conclude with an affirmation of the repentance.

Jains know, beside this general confession, an aurticular confession (ālocanā) in which special sins are enumerated. A layman makes this confession before his guru or some other monk and an ascetic before his guru or senior. Frequency of confession depends upon the piousness of an individual. It is recommended that one should confess ones sins as often as possible because there is no fix time of the completion of present life-span karma. Moreover through regular confession the binding up of the karma can be prevented.[19] By expiation of sins (pratikramaṇa),,he obviates transgressions of the vows; thereby stops the āśravās, (inflow of karmas) preserves a pure conduct, practices the eight article (asta pravacana mātā) and does not neglect the practice of control (gupti) and pays great attention to it.[20]

The guru lays down certain expiations (prāyaścitta) to the one who is confessing to atone for the sins committed by him. The expiation consists usually in fulfillment of certain cult acts namely, recitation of scriptural verses, chanting of mantras, practices of meditation, doing special acts of penances. Expiations have a special significance in the order of the monks. Here punishments meant for even the smallest offences and stricter punishments for a serious offence. In ten types of expiations, there is a kind of expiation in which even a reduction of spiritual seniority is made.[21] Jains give extra-ordinary importance to tapas. Its great value for the purification of soul and for the destruction of karma is a special peculiarity of the Jains.


Control Over Crimes

Such religious process of self-repentance can stop the crimes in the society. The buildup of immorality can be kept under check, as person who commits sin resolves not to continue the same illegal act in future.[22] Pratikramaṇa is a great vacuum cleaning system. It aids us in scanning out the past mistakes and thus alerts for future slips. It crushes various cyclones of thoughts and the emotional thunder, which is crucial for professionals to take the appropriate decision at right time. It is a very effective mechanism to wipe out the negativity and shape up the positive, pleasant and peaceful personality. "Sugar factory in tongue and ice factory in brain", this phrase comes in practice when pratikramaṇa affects the life style. Through this repentance, he not only purifies and moulds his conduct but also creates the peaceful society on the earth. It is said in the canons that through free-hearted repentance for hurting others, a person sheds off his bound karmās. It is a special privilege of the human beings that they are competent enough to critically analyze ones actions and deserve the capacity to choose the right path through the decision power of self-discretion. No other living being possesses the potentiality to perform pratikramaṇa except human beings. It works as an alarming wake up call to pull back the person from his own blind race in the world. It is the process of enlightenment that reveals the hidden capabilities of the practitioner himself. It is a holy ritual of self-purification through self-imposed restraint from the sinful activities.


Self-confession: Self-management

Pratikramaṇa or self-confession is a kind of self-introspection and a complete process of self-management. Today we experience the importance of pratikramaṇa in all walks of life for better improvement in respective fields. All categories or fields of persons namely businessman, salesman, teacher, student, public administrator, spiritualist, scientists, they need to reflect on their deeds once done and put in critical analysis which will unfold the essence or truth as how far efficiently positive output has been accomplished. Through this process of self-analysis, self-confession, one can faithfully look to ones plus points and minus points simultaneously. It further leads one to determined improvement of one's virtues and giving up of one's vices in their respective fields. So the great importance of pratikramaṇa in Jainism is evident from the very fact that all edifying religious practices depend on pratikramaṇa sūtras being very wide indeed. It not only enriches the spiritual life but grooms the professional part also. "Success on the outside begins within."


Universal Amity And Pratikramaṇa

The keynote of the pratikramaṇa is best expressed in the well-known verse from the sūtra:

khāmemi savva jīve savve jīvā khamantu me, mittī me savva-bhūesu veraṁ majjha ṇa keṇaī.[23]

I ask pardon from all living creatures, may all of them pardon me, may I have friendship with all beings and enmity with none. Through this kind of universal forgiveness, the virtue of universal amity develops within us, which is the cause of peaceful co-existence. King Udaai defeated the King Chandapradyoth in war but while coming back after the victory the important festival of Jains, i.e. samvatsari came and he performed yearly pratikramaṇa,confessed with 84 lakhs of beings,listening to this King Chandapradyoth laughed at him. King Udaai knew the essence of pratikramaṇa; he at once freed the King, forgot the hatred and open-heartedly asked forgiveness.[24]

It is likely that the saint, under the constraint of subtle passions may deviate from the minutest ethical conduct, such faults of commission and omission may not accumulate so as to devour the spirit of asceticism, however the saint ought to purify them daily without any procrastination and deceit by resorting to self-criticism (nindā), to censuring his faults in presence of the guru (garhā) and lastly to confess by revealing his committed transgression to the guru (ālocanā).[25]

We find lots of illustrations in canonical literature who confessed for the five ashravas (inflow of karmas). Aacharya Aashadbhuti did confession of mithyātva[26], Muni Rathanemi[27] and Muni Megh did confession of vowlessness,[28] Goutam Svami confessed for his remissness before the Anand Sravaka for negating the clairvoyance knowledge[29] by asking forgiveness. The Chandakoushika Serpant confessed for his anger before Mahavira,[30] Bahubali, son of First conqueror Rishab confessed for his pride before Sadhvi Brahmi and Sundari.[31] Malli Kumari did not confess for censor, so she became women although she bound the karma of tirthankar.[32] Kapil confessed for his greed and in the process of introspection, he attained the keval gyan.[33] The Prasannachandra Rajarshi merely by thinking bound the lifespan of Hell,but at once confessed for his inauspicious actions and involved himself in auspicious action, karma began to shed off and ultimately he attained the omniscience.[34] Even the Arjuna Malakar who killed 1144 persons and acquired demerits but later on he became a monk and tolerated kicks of laities, heard the abuse words calmly as a repentance,in this way by bearing all the hardships, he destroyed all the karmas through the (pratikraman) confession of the past deeds. On the other hand, who does not confess for their past demerits or inauspicious actions like the soul of King Shrenik, Gajasukumal, Khandaka muni, experienced the fruition of their bound karmas in manifolded way.[35] Thus confession is the gateway towards the spiritual growth and self-realization.

The Post-modern philosopher Jacque Lacan (1901-1981) speaks of self-analysis and its importance in treating a mentally imbalanced subject. The entire treatment by the psycho-analyst is done on the basis of speaking subject. When the person is hypnotized, he speaks everything about his past and in this way he gets relaxed from mental tension and feels himself cured. It is a kind of pratikramaṇa only which is utilized as an alternative therapy in present era.

In a nutshell, it is clear that (pratikramaṇa) self-confession is a kind of voluntary acceptance of one's guilt open-heartedly. It is a process of self-purification, self-introspection and self-evaluation. This process of pratikramaṇa is not only relevant in religious field for shedding off the karmās but in social life also it is essential for teachers, students, business men, leaders, and all cadres of man. Also if this self-confession technique is applied then:

  1. There will be decrease in the graph of immorality rate.
  2. Culture of self-discipline will emerge which will decrease the labour of police authorities.
  3. All the Judiciary works, which are delayed due to mismanaged mind, where criminals are freed, and innocent people are punished, such immoral governance can be eradicated.
  4. The quality of straight-forwardness can be developed which will give full stop to all kinds of vices and social evils. Moreover emotional diseases arising due to deceit-oriented activities can be controlled and a healthy moral society can be built.
  5. Pratikramaṇa is a self-regulating method which can mould the consciousness of the type of violence in kids which led to school shooting incidents and can bring about a citizen with self-discipline, the mother of success and a means of perfect society.
  6. It is a systematic process of spiritual-cum -social personality development through the technique of self-introspection and self-evaluation.
  7. It is an unique method of controlling ones passions and achieving the universal amity and the world peace, which is the need of the hour.


Primary Texts

Ācārāñga Sūtra. Ed. Yuvācārya Mishrimalji 'Madhukar'. With original Text, Hindi version, Notes, Annotation and Appendices. Beawar: Shri Āgam Prakashan Samiti.1998.

Āvaśyak Sūtra. Ed. Yuvācārya Mishrimalji 'Madhukar'. With original Text, Hindi version, Notes, Annotation and Appendices. Agās: Shri Āgam Prakāshan Samiti.2001.

BhagvatīSūtra. Ed. Mishrimalji Maharaj. Beawar: Āgam Prakāshan Samiti.1991.

Dharmāmrta Anagāra. Ed. Kailashchandra Shastri. Delhi: Bharatiya Jñānpītha.1977.

Dharmāmrta Sāgār of Āśādhar. Ed. Kailash Chandra Shastri. Delhi: Bhāratīya Jñānapith Prakaś an.1978.

Mūlācāra of Vattakera.Ed. Kailash Chandra Shastri, New Delhi: Bhāratīya Jñānapītha.2000.

Tulsi, Ācārya.Jaina Siddhānta Dīpikā.Sardarsahar: Ādarśa Sāhitya Sangh.1950.

Uttarādhyayana Sūtra.Ed. Muni Mishrimalji Maharaj.Trans. Muni Rajendra. Beawar: Āgam Prakāshan Samiti.1991.

Upāsakadasāñga Sūtra. Ed. Mishrimalji Maharaja Madhukara.With text, Hindi translation, Classified list of topics and Various appendices. Beawar: Shri Āgama Prakaśana Samiti. 1980.


Secondary Books

Yoga Śāstra of Hemachandrācārya. Ed. Surendra Bothara and trans. S.Gopani.Jaipur: Prakrit Bharati Academy.1st edn. 1989.

Glassenapp, Helmuth.Doctrine of Karma in Jain Philosophy. Varanasi: P.V. Research Institute. 1991.

Glassnapp, Helmuth. Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 1984.

Mahāprajña, Ācārya. Jaina Dharma Ke Sādhanā Sūtra. Delhi: Ādarśa Sāhitya Sangh. 2001.

Sadhvi Kanchan Kumari, Shadavashyak: Aatma Shuddi Ki Prakriya Jain Vishva Bharati, Ladnun, 2011.

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