Lots of friends have asked me about being a Jain and i admit i haven't been able to get through to most of them. Most just hear about our strict vegetarianism, and sign off with that. I've always wanted to show how it's more than that.. how there's something deeper and more divine to Jainism than just being vegetarian. I myself don't know many of the scriptures and meanings. Fortunately, TOI's Speaking Tree has published an article about Jainism today... For those who wanna know what Jainism is really about, read ahead!
Celebrate Forgiveness: Kshamavani Divas
Shugan C JainKshamavani Parva celebrates forgiveness as a way to a life of love, friendship, peace and harmony. When you forgive, you stop feeling resentful; there is no more indignation or anger against another for a perceived offence, difference or mistake; there is no clamour for punishment. It means the end of violence.
Jains classify forgiveness as: gifted by the one who forgives, earned by the one seeking it, and natural as a part of our divine nature. Forgiveness can be earned by request or prayer, pratikramana or confession and penitence, and prayascitta or willingness to suffer consequences.
Natural forgiveness, on the other hand, is automatic and effortless as it emanates from pure soul or paramatma, illustrating the dictum that to err is human, to forgive is divine.
Mahavira said we should forgive our own soul first. To forgive others is a practical application of this supreme forgiveness. It is the path of spiritual purification. Mahavira said: “The one whom you hurt or kill is you. All souls are equal and similar and have the same nature and qualities”. Ahimsa Paramo Dharma. Anger begets more anger and forgiveness and love beget more forgiveness and love. Forgiveness benefits both the forgiver and the forgiven.
Jain seers advise: “It is my bad karmas yielding results now even though i have not caused harm to him. So i must perform penance. I am the doer of my karmas and the enjoyer of their results”. It is the weak who give in to anger. The daily duties of all Jains include pratikramana and prayascitta. Every year, the month of Bhadra is considered holy and the last 18 days of the month are observed as either Paryusana or Das Laksan Parva.
On the last day, Kshamavani Divas, the resounding theme is: “Miccha me dukkadam” — “We ask forgiveness for any harm we may have caused you, by thought, word, or action, knowingly or unknowingly”; “Khamemi savve jiva” — “I grant forgiveness to all living beings”; “Savve jiva khamanatu me” — “May all living beings grant me forgiveness”; “Metti me savve bhuyesu” — “My friendship is with all living beings” and “Vairam majham na kenai” — “My enemy is totally non-existent”.
In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful emotions from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being: “In contemplating the law of karma, we realise that it is not a matter of seeking revenge but of practising metta or loving kindness, mudita, upekkha and karuna to avoid generating resentment, and then seek forgiveness. If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers”.
Jesus Christ, when being crucified prayed to God to forgive his tormentors as they “know not what they do”. The concept of confession and seeking absolution, and ending prayers by seeking forgiveness and the Lord’s blessings are applications of the principle of forgiveness.
In Islam, Allah is described as “the most forgiving”. Jews observe a Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Just prior to Yom Kippur, Jews will ask forgiveness of those they have wronged during the year. Mahatma Gandhi forgave his assassin even as he was dying. His practice of non-violence and satyagraha is based on the principle of forgiveness.
Those who forgive are happier and healthier than those who are resentful, say studies. Forgiveness is part of ahimsa; it helps us overcome anger and hatred.
The writer is founder-director, International School for Jain Studies, New Delhi.