Jains Observe Paryushan Parva with Fasting and Meditation

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The Jain Festival Paryushan Parva lasts 8-10 days.

Aside from Diwali, one of the most important celebrations in the Jain religion is Paryushan Parva. In fact, the celebration is so vital that Jainism is tantamount and otherwise termed as Paryushan because the festival embodies the core principles and objectives of the religion. There are minor differences in observances among the various Jain communities and sects around the world but all focuses on spiritual upliftment, self purification, deeper understanding of religion and the pursuit of salvation.

The festival is celebrated for eight days in certain Jain communities like the Svetambaras while the rest (i.e. the Digambaras) observe it for ten days. Paryushan is also termed as Dash Lakshan Parva and begins on the fifth day of the brighter half of the Hindu month Bhadrapad. In the Gregorian calendar, it usually falls between August and September.

Religious significance

Paryushan Parva is considered to be the most auspicious time for Jains. Members of the religion believe that the soul is at a higher condition, the path to salvation (achieving moksha or nirvana and freedom from the cycle of birth and death or reincarnation) is clearly visible, cleansing of the soul from the dirt of karmas is possible, and everyone even the sinful has that opportunity to become pious and virtuous during these times.

The festivity also signifies the end of all evils in man. For Jains, all worldly pleasures, desires and possessions are essentially evil. These are poisons and illusions that keep man from realizing the True, the Good and the Beautiful.

To be able to attain salvation and to purify one’s soul, Jains try to align their soul to the ten righteous virtues or Das-Dharma. These virtues include: forgiveness, supreme modesty or humility, straightforwardness, truth, purity or contentment, supreme restraint or self-restraint, austerity or penance, renunciation, non-attachment and supreme celibacy.

Religious activities

Similar with all other Jain festivities, Paryushan Parva is not marked by merrymaking, feasting and drinking. Instead of a fun-filled celebration, members of the faith, male and female, both young and old practice penance, meditation, prayer, fasting, and religious studies.

The three highlighted activities during the celebration include meditation, fasting and asking and giving forgiveness. Meditation called pratikramana samayika is performed by Jains at the start of each day during the entire festivity. This activity calls for spiritual reflection and renewal of faith. Fasting is observed differently among the religion’s followers. It can be observed for one up to 30 days although the most important fasting requirement is on the last day. Pregnant women, very young children and those with special and medical needs are exempted from this requirement.

Asking for forgiveness from friends, family, one’s self including animals and other beings is also a key activity towards the final day of the celebration. The ritual of forgiveness is also termed as the rite of universal friendship or the practice of Samvatsarik Pratikraman.

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