By John Di Leonardo
Paryushan, Jain spiritual festivities, beginning this August 24th for Svetembar Jains and this August 31st for Digamber Jains is the festival of forgiveness and compassion. It lasts 8 days for Svetembar Jains and 10 days for Digambar Jains. In the Digambar tradition, it is known as Das Lakshana Parva.
According to Mrs. Pramoda Chitrabhanu, Director of the Jain Meditation International Centre, in her essay for the Jain Vegan Initiative:
Pari means from all directions and ushana means to stay close to yourself. Retreating back from all worldly activities and coming closer to yourself is the true significance of this spiritual festival. The cornerstone of the Indian Spiritual tradition is self-knowledge and paryushan provides us the time and space to find out “who am I.” It is a spiritual journey that connects oneself to the soul. Most Jain would try to follow the basic principles of Jainism during this festival, which are: right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.
In the Digambar tradition, Das Lakshana Dharma means the ten cardinal virtues of the soul which are celebrated during this Parva. This is the festival in which ten universal virtues are venerated and worshipped for self – purification and practice of Ahimsa. The ten dharmas or the virtues of the soul are supreme forgiveness, supreme humility, supreme straightforwardness, supreme contentment, supreme truth, supreme sensual restraint, supreme austerities, supreme renunciation, supreme non-possessiveness, and supreme celibacy.
Throughout these festivals, Jains practice ahimsa, or nonviolence, to its fullest capacity, not only eschewing the meat of five-sense beings, such as animals, but also that of one-sense beings, including fruits and vegetables, subsisting on grains, lentils, pulses, millets, and flat white rice. Additionally, it involves Kshamapana, or asking for forgiveness, from all the people whom we may have hurt in this life or past lives and forgiving those who have hurt us.
Paryushan and Das Lakshana remind us that no matter how kind one lives, we can always live kinder by expanding our knowledge of other beings and reflecting inwards empathetically.
Cows, like humans, are five-sense organisms and do not want to be raped or have their children abducted any more than we do, so once we learn that this is what cows experience over and over again in the dairy industry, why should we continue to consume dairy when we can consume almond, soy, or oat milk instead?
To obtain silk, distributors boil worms alive inside their cocoons, so why do we continue to buy sarees, ties, or other silk items when cotton, nylon, and so many other plant-based fibers exist?
For down, ducks and geese are kept in windowless sheds by the thousands and have their toes and beaks mutilated before being slaughtered or plucked alive, so why do we buy pillows or jackets stuffed with feathers while eschewing meat from these same animals?
In the spirit of Paryushan and Das Lakshan, I encourage readers to make an Anuvrat, or small vow, to reflect on how you can live a kinder life. If you are still consuming dairy, down, or silk, give vegan a try. If you are already vegan, try giving up rooted vegetables or living without single-use plastics.
During our more than 20 articles about Anuvrat in The South Asian Times, if we have unknowingly hurt anyone in any way, shape or form by our words, actions or thoughts, I ask for your forgiveness. Michhami Dukaddam.
John & Juliana, born and brought up in a Christian tradition have made great strides towards Jainism. During Paryushan, they have eaten strict Jain vegan, without any rooted vegetables or many-seeded fruits, for the entire month of August and they will continue this through the end of Das Lakshana, this is their vow of Anuvrat. To top it they plan to live, next year, as ascetics – as a monk or a nun during Paryushan and Das Lakshana. Many of you are familiar with their weekly contribution to The South Asian Times under Anuvrat since last March. The column usually appears on the last even number page before the end cover page.
During the last 40 years, the name and principles of Jainism have taken a firm footing on Long Island, mainly due to the Long Island Multi Faith Forum and the increasing population of Jains on Long Island. Now there is one Jain Temple and another one is underway primarily by Jain for Jain. What is innovative, even in thought, is John and Juliana’s desire to acquire property where they can invite the public on Long Island, to celebrate these festivals with them by showcasing compassion and practicing Ahimsa in actions. – Arvind Vora.