For Shvetambaras, the final day of the eight-day festival of Paryushana is Samvatsari Pratikraman, the “Annual Confession.” On this day every member of the Shvetambara Jain community confesses any infringement of the five great vows to his or her teacher, family, friends, and, in fact, all living beings. The culmination of confession is receiving forgiveness from all living beings and granting forgiveness to them.
Mahavira is the religious seer whose teachings of compassion and renunciation have formed the basis of the Jain tradition. Mahavira, regarded as the last of the 24 Tirthankaras of the present age, is said to have been born in the 6th century BCE in modern-day Bihar. After 12 years of ascetic practice, he attained full illumination (kaivalya). Mahavira spent the rest of his life teaching; he underwent bodily death and final liberation at the age of 72.
Paryushana is the most important holy season in the Shvetambara Jain ritual calendar. This festival season, celebrated over eight days in September, is the climax of the four-month monsoon period when ascetics abandon the wandering life to settle down among the laity. During Paryushana Parva the entire Shvetambara Jain community focuses its attention on fasting, instruction, and the rites of Pratikraman in which each person asks forgiveness for the faults of the previous year.
A monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ordained monks are called bhikkhus, those who beg alms, depending upon the laity for their food and support. In the Jain tradition, ordained monks are called sadhus or holy ones; they traditionally live in close interaction with Jain laity, depending upon them for food and sustenance. In the Hindu tradition, a sannyasi is one who renounces... Read more about monk
Mahavira Jayanti is the Birthday of Mahavira, the religious seer of the 6th century BCE, whose teachings of compassion and renunciation have formed the basis of the Jain tradition. In India, this day, which falls in either April or May, is a national holiday. Jains mark the occasion by bathing the image of Mahavira and performing dance-dramas on the fourteen dreams of Mahavira’s mother before he was born.
Jiva means the life-force, the vital breath, or the soul. According to various Jain and Hindu traditions, every sentient being possesses a soul or jiva which is caught up in an ongoing cycle of birth and death, shedding the body time and again. The ultimate goal is to leave this cycle of rebirth behind through the liberation of the soul from all that obscures its true, perfect nature.
Svadhyaya means self-study. Because of the rules prohibiting Jain monastics from traveling by mechanical means, the lay community in the United States has had to take greater responsibility for its religious education. It has done so by forming lay-led svadhyaya study-groups which meet in family homes or Jain centers to discuss commentaries on Jain scriptures or to listen to lectures given by Jain scholars.
The Digambara tradition is one of the two major branches of Jain monasticism, the other being Shvetambara. Each has its own community of lay followers. The two monastic groups began to emerge as early as the 4th century BCE, although the split was not finalized until many centuries later. Unlike their Shvetambara, “clothed in white,” counterparts, Digambara monks were “sky-clad,” renouncing even clothing and remaining completely nude.
The Shvetambara tradition is one of the two major branches of Jain monasticism, the other being Digambara. Each has its own community of lay followers. The two monastic groups began to emerge as early as the 4th century BCE, although the split was not finalized until many centuries later. Unlike their Digambara counterparts, the monks of the Shvetambara or “white clad” tradition do not practice complete ascetic nudity. Instead, they don two pieces of white cloth.
The most important Jain religious observance of the year, Paryushana literally means “abiding” or “coming together.” Lasting either eight or ten days, it is a time of intensive study, reflection, and purification. It culiminates with a final day that involves confession and asking for forgiveness.
Jainism appears in the American landscape in surprising ways. A teakwood replica of a Jain temple traveled from the St. Louis Fair of 1904–1905 to the Castaways Hotel in Las Vegas, and finally made its way to the Jain Center of Southern California in 1988.