Paryushan Mahaparva-Flowing with the Routine

Posted: 24.08.2017

Paryushan is celebrated for eight consecutive days. The discipline of this celebration is to change our routine by laying out and putting to action a clear schedule. The benefits of this change are to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, obtain peace of mind, and cultivate a higher conscience through our behavior. Following this routine is suggested for anyone who desires to take on the eight-day challenges and build an eternal pillar that holds everyday peace and kindness. This routine removes the emotional congestion and provides a real freedom. The subsequent rules are:

  1. Awaking in "brahma muhoorta" (one hour before sunrise):
    As the saying goes, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise", sound and restful sleep between 11 p.m. and 4a.m. refreshes and rejuvenates both body, mind and spirit as it prepares us fully energized for a productive day. These eight days are very special for adherents to this practice, so both the time for going to bed and rising in the morning should be well managed simply for investing our waking hours in the most meaningful practice of Paryushan that is possible. Early to rise gives us more energy, real joy and motivation to live meaningfully.

  2. Contemplation of "maitri bhavana" (for half hour):
    The core aim for Paryushan is selfpurification. Practicing half an hour contemplation of friendliness enables us to transform our mind at the level where we can easily forgive and forget. Moreover, it removes the impressions of grievances we have gone through in the previous year.  The mind is very clingy. Because of the brains inherent nature to "remember", it becomes very difficult to forget those who have hurt or been hateful towards us. The goal here is not to forget, but rather to embrace the cure of forgiving. Through forgiveness we relieve ourselves of inner toxins, and this allows us to awaken our inner-self. H.H. Acharya Tulsi, an enlightened Indian saint, had extended the core message of the slogan of "Love your enemy" to "Do not ascribe anyone as your enemy". This is the path to true forgiveness.

  3. Meditation (for half hour):
    Meditation makes the clouded vision clear. If we practice Preksha Meditation with complete focus, pure intentions, and consistency it will surely enhance our spirituality. The positives of meditation lead to a reduction and control of anger, arrogance and deceitful behavior. Undoubtedly, we will find at a level we are exercising a strength of control. Through meditation – by its own nature, the benefits of meditation have been widely accepted and to some extent scientifically substantiated. Naturally you will find you are exercising control, and the blessing is inner-strength through confidence in mastering your mind.

  4. Simple diet (limited items to the diet):
    During the 8 days of Paryushan, we should keep our diet simple. Acharya Mahapragya-ji says the foods we consume – how we prepare them, how much we eat and the number times we eat per day - has an intimate relation with our attitude. The culinary philosophy of purity maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. Our diet in itself should be an advocate for a food lifestyle that is healthy, clean, compassionate and fair. Too often we do not take the time to savor what we are eating with the people we are dining with, as we spend time engaged in conversation. The challenge is not to consume and indulge in gluttony, but rather to appreciate, learn new methods of moderate cooking, and share the joy of food with limited items. In doing this, we can save our time for spiritual maneuvers- reading, relaxation and meditation.

  5. Night-dine abstinence (no-dine after sunset):
    The body, like every living entity in nature needs rest. The idea of eating during the day has changed over time. Rather we take it as a matter of discipline, and rest for the body mainly the digestive system. When we eat and store food internally in the presence of the Sun our body has plenty of time to digest properly, but we are still active as well. The benefits of avoiding dining at night and late nocturnal snacks are not just about the discipline, but also in the fact our body gets a chance to utilize and burn the fuel properly before we go to sleep. We can also nurture the nature of nonviolence simply avoiding night dining. The practice of 8 days will show us the benefit for future commitment.

  6. The sound of silence (for one hour):
    Silence is very powerful. Practicing silence is a way to save energy of speech. It is a great springboard for clarity of the mind. It allows us to engage in the art of listening. Silence can energize our mind by allowing one to think before we open our mouth. This practice clears our vocal energy clutter, and deflects the need to speak simply for the sake of being heard. Words are wonderful, but they mean nothing without reasoned and thoughtful execution. True execution requires both care and silence to contemplate. Acharya Mahashraman has said, "Moderation in speech is the real silence."

  7. Prayer without demands and desires:
    Simple prayers at the temple, with our family, or even in the morning in our vehicle before we start the engine - The power of prayer is unlimited. Receiving blessings from ethereal energy can rejuvenate or kick start our faith in setting off on a positive day. Prayer should be free of desires, wish lists, and demands in the form of material things or personal gain. It should be a moment of contemplative celebration for the life we lead, and the opportunity we are given, not only to breathe and wake up again and again on a daily basis, but in order to fulfill our responsibility for being on this planet. It is not the amount of breaths we take, but rather what we do in the moments we breathe. We should sit for prayer every day for the well-being entire humanity.

  8. Withdrawal from worldly entertainment:
    All celebration has a general sense of purpose in our lives, but the importance of this 8 day span is very specific. Keeping this in mind, we should launch our boat into these festivals with full spirit, but also with a clear destination, as a boat without a destination and on the right path is not on a voyage, but rather simply adrift. These holly days embody the true meaning of the intent of each festival for devotees. We have the entire year for entertaining ourselves outside of these specific days. We should celebrate our festivals as they are created for us.

  9. Readings:
    Paryushan is a celebration directed by penance, recitation, prayer, and meditation. The beautiful part of Paryushan is the daily study which provides an opportunity to look within and towards the teachings of the Tirthankars for guidance. Traditionally, people read or hear the story of Tirthankar Mahaveer and the words of His birth, life and liberation leading to inspiration. It also recounts the lives of other Tirthankaras as well. Many of the laity read Jain history and other scriptural literature during this time frame.

  10. Special practice of 'samayik':
    This is a practice of withdrawing from all worldly affairs for forty eight minutes long. Many people perform this practice on daily basis. While not everyone has the opportunity or inclination to be a monk 365 days a year, for longevity in one's own life, the practice of Samayik, - for a short period of time is valuable for maintaining inner peace and also balances inner peace. By doing this you can stay in calmness for many days at a time. This is really worthwhile for reducing bad Karmas and rejuvenating your action.

  11. Annual fasting:
    People fast during Paryushan as their energy level and ability allows, whether fasting for one day, on alternate days or for eight consecutive days. Fasting slows down the five senses, and allows the mind to focus on the truth and the spirit. The thoughts become clear and straightforward. Fasting is not torturing the physical body – on the contrary, it purifies our body and mind as well. The purification doesn't happen without fasting we believe. We have to slow down our machine for better functioning. People, generally, are very much acquainted with the energy of food but they are not familiar with the vitality of fasting. It is true that fasting initially weakens the body, but later it rejuvenates the entire physical system.  This also inspires and involves listening to discourses and studying Scriptures during the same period. All these are for spending time in enriching the Self with knowledge and self-purification.

  12. Performance of 'pratikraman':
    Pratikraman means to go review, confess and expel the hubris of bad thoughts or deeds from our daily routine, releasing us from the burden of these negative impulses. This practice bestows upon us the strength to untangle the inner knots of resentments and desire for retaliations that develop within us during the year. Pratikraman actually is the bath for the soul and cleanliness of behavior.

  13. Forgiveness:
    The festival ends with Samvastsari (Annual) Pratikraman with fasting without water but with water optional for common people. Pratikraman is the specific ritual of annual confession. This performance results in asking forgiveness from the close members of family to all living beings and receiving forgiveness from all. The popular verse people recite on this occasion is: "I grant forgiveness to all living beings, May all living beings grant me forgiveness; my friendship is with all living beings, my enmity is totally non-existent."

This is the list of thirteen points, however it is not exhaustive in itself. One can add more or augment this with one's experiences, challenges, strength and resolution. The obstacles of life are what we welcome for these eight days, and the challenge of purification can be overcome by anyone.

All is for "happifying" the soul

Our personality, memories, affections, thoughts, desires, and feelings make up this beautiful existence we call life. The soul is more than that even though it exists within our physical parameters. It is our extra-physical existence that maintains the continuity and keep changing the corpus in every life. The healthy Soul, in and of itself, is bodiless and is not challenged by physical death. Focusing totally on this flow of energy, we need a particular mode of purification to keep this energy "clean". All religions or spiritual pursuits are purposefully formatted to unburdened souls and happify the life. "Happify" is not a dictionary word but it is being used to express the out-and-out happiness of the soul.

The soul is something special, and everyone has an opinion on what makes our patterns and worldly journeys unique. In today's world we encounter experiences, and personalities with strong wills. We strive to lead passionate lives, and life-changing decisions are made. Sometimes broken paths that we liken to forks in in the road cause strife, unfamiliarity, and mystery. What is important is that we cherish the present just as we learn from the past, but practice constant purification every day, not delaying for tomorrow.

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