Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
Mahavira's Teachings
The Early Centuries of Jainism
Jainism In Indian History
Jainism Enters The Modern Age
Doctrines of Jainism: Part 1
  Doctrines of Jainism: Part 2
  The Jain Path In Life: Part 1
  The Jain Path In Life: Part 2
  Daily Practices and Recitations
  Rituals and Festivals
  Pilgrimage and Sacred Places
  Jainism and Other Religions
  Conclusion
  Appendix
  Bibliography
  Glossary

Daily Practices and Recitations

 

Paul Marett

Six daily duties are recommended for the lay Jain. These are not compulsory rules but advisable practices to help spiritual development. Here they are:

(1) meditation and prayer,

(2) honor to the Tirthankara,

(3) respect for spiritual teachers,

(4) repentance for the things one has done wrong,

(5) control of the body by holding a fixed position during meditation,

(6)renunciation of certain pleasures, activities, foods, for a fixed time.

Somadeva, a great teacher of the 10th century A. D., in a widely-read list of duties. included charity and reading the scriptures.

The religious life of the individual is helped by a regular routine of religious practice. Whilst religion will permeate the whole life of the pious Jain, he or she will also want to set aside some time each day to concentrate the mind on religion. This may be a time of meditation, or it may be accompanied by ritual actions, it may take place in the home or, if a temple is convenient, in the temple, or in a meditation hall. A short time set aside each day (the traditional period is forty-eight minutes) in a quiet place is possible for all of us. The mind is calmed, passions are reduced, self-control develops.

Reference has been made to the Panca Namaskara, the best- known prayer of the Jains, It is a formula .of surrender, not request, to the five categories of praiseworthy individuals. The rolling sounds of the ancient language echo at every Jain religious gathering, chanted by all the people, who learned it in childhood.

Namo Arihantanam I bow to the enlightened souls

Namo Siddhanam I bow to the liberated souls

Namo Ayariyanam I bow to religious leaders

Namo Uvajjhayanam I bow to religious teachers

Namo Loe Savva Sahunam I bow to all the monks in the world

Eso Panca Namokkaro Savva Pavappanasano

Mamgalanam ca Savvesim Padhamam Havai Mangalam

This fivefold salutation which destroys all sin is pre- eminent as the most auspicious of all auspicious things.

Samayika really means equanimity: the practice of samayika involves meditation, usually for a fixed period of forty- eight minutes. At its simplest it is performed in any quiet place. The person sits quietly cross-legged like a monk (for samayika is sometimes seen as a temporary ascetic state), and turns the mind to compassion and friendship with all living beings, and to separation from all desire and hatred. Sometimes the devotee will recite verses which have been learned in the ancient Ardhamagadhi language of the scriptures, asking forgiveness, promising virtuous conduct and praising the great figures of the Jain religion. Sometimes samayika may be carried out in the presence of a religious teacher. The devotee will bow to the monk and recite a formula of dedication and confession before commencing meditation. The spiritual presence of the teacher will have a beneficial effect.

Jains will often use a simple religious formula as a focus for meditation, or will meditate before an image of the Tirthankara, or perhaps diagrams on cloth or metal depicting in graphic form objects and persons of the faith. A Jain home will quite probably have at least one image, perhaps in an elaborate and beautiful shrine.

Some Jains (the Sthanakvasi sect) do not believe that images should be used but for the majority of Jains more elaborate rituals are advocated. It is important to remember that the rituals are intended to concentrate the mind. The material objects, the actions, the words, are all means to an end, not an end in themselves. Different groups of Jains in different parts of India will, of course, carry out the rituals with some variations.

A pious Jain who lives conveniently near a temple may carry out the worship of the Tirthankara image in the temple daily before going to work. Otherwise it may be performed before the shrine at home. Bathed and dressed simply, possibly only in two pieces of cloth like a monk, he will bow before the image and recite the Panca Namaskara. He will pass three times around the image (which in a Jain temple is set forward from the rear wall) . He may perform the ritual washing of the image with water and milk and a mixture of sandalwood and saffron, or it may be done by a regular official of the temple. Although women take an active part in Jain rituals their role is somewhat simplified.

Various offerings are now made before the image. Grains of rice are arranged in the symbolic figure of Jainism, a swastika (denoting the four possible kinds of rebirth, as heavenly beings, humans, lower living beings, or creatures of hell) having above it three dots (the Three Jewels of Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct), and at the top a single dot within a crescent for the final resting place of the liberated souls. The other offerings may be flowers, incense, fruit and sweets though the practice varies. After other prayers the Panca Namaskara is repeated. This will be followed by the Chaitya Vandana, the temple prayers of reverent salutation: these commence with a formula of repentance for any harm caused to living creatures on the way to the temple; salutations follow to the twenty-four Tirthankara and to all monks and nuns; then the virtues and good deeds of all the Tirthankara follow and the devotee expresses the desire and intention to emulate them. In his or her devotions the worshipper does not seek worldly favor but sees the Jina as a divine example to be respected and followed. The worship concludes with the rather beautiful ceremony of arati, the waving of fivefold lights before the image. The image is, of course, only a symbolic representation of the Tirthankara and is in no sense a living god Nevertheless it is considered necessary that a fully- consecrated image should receive daily attention and worship.

A special beauty is given to the rituals by the language in which they are performed. Ardhamagadhi was the language of the ancient Magadha region in north-east India where Mahavira lived. It was the familiar speech of the people, a 'Prakrit' or popular language as distinguished from the classical Sanskrit of the orthodox scholars. Although no longer a spoken language, Ardhamagadhi is used today in Jain prayers and rituals, not only for the sonorous splendor of its rolling sounds but also because a Jain, whatever his or her native tongue, can follow the familiar prayers and chants. Every Jain will have learned from childhood at least a few recitations and can take part in temple prayers with other Jains with whom he or she may not share a common modern language.

Other practices are recommended as beneficial to the spiritual development of the individual. Monks and nuns receive great honor from the laity and it is a meritorious thing to pay one's respects formally to them on occasion and to make a confession in set terms of one's faults and misdeeds. It is, of course, a duty of the laity, and one giving great merit, to provide food and other necessaries for the mendicants. Another recommended practice which we must mention is the reading of the scriptures, for these enshrine the wisdom and example which can help a Jain greatly on the spiritual path. Jains are very generous to Jain charitable objects: again merit ensues to the individual who contributes to temple buildings, religious education, refuges for animals and the like.

Needless to say, not every Jain manages to fit a full schedule of religious activities into every working day. What follows is the simple daily routine recommended for a pious Jain. He or she will get up an hour and a half before sunrise and will commence the day with the Panca Namaskara and other prayers. Reflecting on the spiritual advancement of the soul, the pious Jain will recite sincerely the Pratikramana, the formula of contrition for harm and misdeeds. A visit to the temple follows as described above. Then the monks are visited, respectfully greeted and their needs cared for, or if there are no monks there, is given to fellow Jains or others who need it. If there is time it may be possible to hear a sermon from a learned monk. The religious person will not eat at night, nor in the first forty-eight minutes of the day, so breakfast is deferred until now. The daily work will, of course, occupy most of the day, broken by a period of prayer before the midday meal. The last meal of the day should finish before sunset. There will be an evening visit to the temple for worship and arati, the ceremonial waving of lights before the image. The day will end with a further repetition of the prayer of repentance and perhaps reading the scriptures. With the mind calm, forgiving all others and seeking forgiveness, the Jain goes to bed, and if sleep is disturbed calms the mind again with scriptures or the Panca Namaskara.

An important part of Jain spiritual training is the control of the body, so that hardship and suffering are accepted even-mindedly, the passions are reduced, the inflow of karma is lessened and existing karma is shed. The lay person will share, in lesser degree, in the austerities of the monastic life. Austerity (tapas) can take various forms. Essentially, however, it needs to be approached with the right attitude, not seeking worldly reward nor allowing mental disturbance to result. Of the six 'external' austerities, four are concerned with food, fasting (which is often undertaken on the set fasting days each month), eating less than enough to satisfy hunger, going without food unless some arbitrary outside condition is fulfilled, avoiding more tasty foods. Jains do take these seriously and food restrictions are a common form of self-discipline. Solitariness or seclusion for the avoidance of temptation is the fifth austerity, and the sixth is the acceptance of deliberate physical hardship in One form or another. Linked with these are six internal austerities, repentance , respect to monks and nuns, service to them, study of the sacred scriptures, detachment from the body and passions and lastly deep meditation. These are all part of the spiritual training of the monk. but the lay person can also, though without the same single-mindedness, share in these austerities.