Archive for the ‘Interreligious Movement’ Category
One of the biggest festivals in India, Diwali, begins November 3. Similarly important as Christmas in the United States, celebrations will be held by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in and outside of India. Globally, Diwali is observed by both religious and nonreligious, as well as by other religious communities celebrating the joyous season in secular ways.Observing the official holiday in India falls this year on November third because it is the fifteenth day of the Katrina month on the Hindu calendar.
Diwali means the “Festival of Lights,” and each religion tells its own Diwali story.
- Hinduism – One of India’s major religious groups, Hindus, celebrate a story beginning approximately 900,000 years ago. Shri Rama, who was to become the king, was sent away to a forest so that his brother could become king. Shri Rama’s wife, Seta, and brother, Layman, followed him. But during this time, the demon Ravan abducts Seta. After winning at battle with Ravan, Shri Rama returns to Ayodhya with Seta after fourteen years. The people of Ayodhya welcomed him by decorating their homes, and lighting lamps and fire crackers by night. They also distributed sweets and bought gold ornaments to show their happiness. Since then, Diwali is observed by Hindus on this day.
- Sikhism – Two percent of Indians, Sikhs, honor the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib, along with 52 kings, who was released from prison on Diwali by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. When Guru Hargobind Sahib arrived at the Golden temple in Amritsar, his devotees lit lamps celebrating his release.
- Jainism – A minority Indian religious group, Jains comprise approximately 0.4% of the India’s population. Their observance dates some 2,539 years ago, when Lord Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankar (who established the rituals of Jainism as practiced today_ attained Moksha, the liberation from the endless cycle of life and death. There is no more birth to experience; one enjoys bliss forever in Siddhalok, the place at the top of the universe. Jains celebrate this day by lighting lamps to dispel inner darkness. They also observe a fast from Sunrise to next day’s Sunrise. Jains drink only boiled water from sunrise to sunset during their fast without taking any solid or liquid food. Jains do not light fire crackers because that will kill many insects and could take the lives of birds or other creatures, since Jains believe in nonviolence.
Diwali is a joyous moment for everyone. Observers often buy gold and gold jewelry to show signs of prosperity and to welcome Laxmi, the Goddess of money, to their homes. Bonuses and sweets are distributed by businesses to workers and agents. Everyone gathers to share sweets. Banks, government offices and schools take longer holidays. The day after Diwali begins a new Calendar year for Hindus and Jains. For Hindus the new year will be Vikram Samvat 2070, the calendar established by emperor Vikramaditya. For Jains the new year will be Veer Samvat 2540, based on the Nirvana anniversary of the Lord Mahavir.
In the United States, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains go to temple to worship and celebrate Diwali. Also, they gather at homes and create a party atmosphere. As many Indians string lights in decoration around their homes, it leads many people think early Christmas decorations are in progress. Neighbors should feel free to knock on the door of an Indian neighbor and wish them “Happy Diwali”. They will appreciate the sincerity and treat visitors to delicious Indian snacks and sweets. “Happy Diwali”
Kirit C. Daftary is a resident of Waco and practices Jainism. He is trustee of the Council of Parliament of World Religions, Board member of Greater Waco interfaith Council and the past president of JAINA, (Federation of Jain Associations in North America) There are about 150,000 Jains in North America and about 65 Jain Temples in North America.
Ancient faith was influenced by the natural world. Originating in ancient Europe as a Celtic Fire festival, the Pagan holiday of Samhain, marks the end of the harvest season, heralds the beginning of winter; the dark half of the year, and honors death. Samhain, (pronounced SAH-win, or SOW-in) is also the Gaelic name for the month of November, the literal translation being, ‘summer’s end’.
Being largely a pastoral people, the Celts observed the season of Samhain as the time when the earth was dying. The crops had already been harvested and stored; the fields lay barren, and now cattle and sheep had to be moved from remote areas to closer pastures and secured for the winter months. Those who kept livestock would assess the stored bounty of the two prior harvests; of field and orchard in order to determine how many animals could be adequately fed through the winter. Those not able to be cared for were butchered, and would help to feed the family during the dark days ahead. It is partially due to this that Samhain is sometimes referred to as the ‘blood harvest’
Cultures across the world embrace holidays with themes of death; Los Dias de los Muertos, of Mexico, the Buddhist festival of the dead in Japan, which is called Obon, or just Bon, the Hindu festival of Gaijatra, and the Christian celebration of All Souls are a few. Like them, Samhain’s celebrations also embrace a theme of death.
Unlike the vibrant and enthusiastic rites of spring, and summer, this is a time specifically carved out of the Wheel of the Year, to acknowledge death and loss, to experience grief, and for venerating the Ancestors, and honoring departed spirits. Many Pagans will dedicate a home altar to this, with photographs, food offerings and other tokens of remembrance.
For Pagans, death is not a thing to be feared but is part of the Wheel of Life. Death is the ultimate Rite of Passage, the final act that we complete as human beings. Old age is valued for its wisdom, and dying is accepted as natural; as a form of transformation. Death is the great equalizer that puts everything else into perspective.
The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the spirits of the dead were able to mingle with the living. The echoes of this ancient tradition can be seen in popular Halloween celebrations today. Contemporary Pagans still accept that as the life force of our hemisphere wanes, the veils between this world and the other worlds are at their thinnest and our memories, connections and abilities to communicate with our Beloved Dead are heightened. Death also symbolizes other endings, and Samhain is therefore not only a time for reflecting on mortality, but also on the passing of relationships, jobs, and other significant life transitions.
Samhain is generally celebrated by Pagans personally from sunset on October 31st, to sunset on November 1st, a date which is approximately halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It is most often celebrated in community, as a festival or as a community event the closest weekend to that date. Many Pagans consider Samhain to be their New Year, as it used to mark the old Celtic New Year. It is perhaps the most important and significant of annual celebrations.
This year, the Earth Traditions Pagan community will gather to honor our Beloved Dead with a “Dumb Supper;” a meal served and consumed in total silence; each bite taken in the name of our loved ones. We will place an empty chair at the head of our tables, and bring offerings of food for those Ancestors who might wish to join us. We will sing and dance; call the litany of names of our deceased, and share our stories with one another drawing comfort from the telling.
We will draw strength and healing from our deeply held spiritual belief that life continues beyond death, that birth and death and re-birth all occur within the same threshold, that we as humans are not an anomaly residing outside of the Great Mystery rather we follow the natural cycles of life; the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the turning of the seasons, and our very breath.
Good Samhain to you and yours. May the blood of your ancestors flow through your veins, like a river over the landscape of memory; may you hear your Beloved Dead as they whisper their wisdom in your ear and leave you with the gift of hope.
We will call their names at Samhain. What is remembered lives.
Angie Buchanan is a Pagan Minister with Earth Traditions, a Pagan church in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, and an emeritus of the Board of Trustees for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Attention students, clergy, and compassionate Chicagoans! Tickets are now on sale for the afternoon program and reception of Living Out the Vision, Saturday, November 16 at the Chicago Sinai Congregation.
The 120/20-year anniversary benefit of the Parliament of the World’s Religions afternoon program has brought together a schedule of four distinguished speakers on the history of the interfaith movement and its unique Chicago roots.
Tickets to the afternoon program and reception are now
$150 $50.00 and can be purchased here.
- The Global Ethic with Dr. Daniel Gomez-Ibáñez
- Women of the 1893 Parliament with Dr. Allison Stokes
- Swami Vivekananda with Swami Varadananda
- The Impact of the Parliament of the World’s Religions with Dr. Martin E. Marty
Defining sacred beliefs in language we can all understand is no easy feat, even for faith leaders. So imagine when a professional must be hired to design worship space. This someone guides the tenets of a spiritual tradition into a built space, designing structures that symbolize and embody the sacred. Somewhere embedded in the blueprint, architecture becomes a vehicle for interreligious understanding.
An exhibit of five architectural models of sacred spaces commissioned by Suzanne Morgan, architect and CPWR Senior Ambassador, opened the Institute for Human Science and Culture at the University of Akron Center of History and Psychology June 15. This was the premiere appearance of the exhibit outside of Chicago.
On its opening and closing day, Morgan presented a 30-minute PowerPoint and shared the story of how the events of 9/11 convinced her that interfaith understanding was desperately needed. By sharing what religious architecture taught her about other traditions, Morgan realized these models could contribute to healing.
These models showcase the exterior design, as well as the interior shape and liturgical arrangement of space. Architectural design can assist in describing the faith and practices of various religious beliefs. Of the five featured models, one is designed and built by a Chicagoan who originally built dollhouses for his children. Lending a captivating quality, his synagogue model features bright colors. This attracts younger children, and stimulates the imagination of adults, too.
“We can learn about other faiths in a neutral, universal, and beautiful way through architecture,” Morgan states. At the exhibit, learning from the architecture about a congregation’s values and beliefs is enhanced by interpretive texts framed and hung beside each model. When congregations intentionally build their structures illustrative of their faith and their religious practices, they are providing a tangible form of their beliefs.
“I initially introduced an idea for a Center for Religious Architecture in Chicago to the Parliament of World’s Religions,” Morgan recalls. “There, I was given the names of a dozen religious leaders in Chicago, names who opened doors to me for tours of their spaces.”
While working with congregations in the design of sacred spaces, Morgan discovered how useful it is for people to envision their designs in a 3-dimensional way.Morgan wanted to use architectural models of sacred spaces so that people would better understand the history and traditions.
Morgan states that this collection is only the beginning of a more comprehensive collection of architectural models, photos, and artifacts that represents a wide range of religious traditions. The current collection comprises two Roman Catholic churches, a Unitarian church, a synanogue, and a Protestant church.
“I would like to expand the collection by identifying- through people of faith- sacred spaces that they can sponsor and add to the collection,” Morgan says. As the collection expands, travels, and gains support, she dreams that it will become a museum with an interreligious center, where people can connect with one another through various events and celebrations and can explore new rituals and liturgies together.
By the Akron exhibit’s close, Morgan’s collection became front page news in a major Ohio newspaper. As female leadership is critical to conversations interweaving faith, art, and science, peaceseekers everywhere can be upifted that the exhibit further introduced the power of interfaith understanding to the mainstream of middle America.
Morgan extends an invitation to organizations affiliated with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, and can consult with interested venues on hosting an exhibit of sacred space models of up to three months. Please contact the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions for more information.
A Listening Session conducted by Parliament Ambassador Sanchay Jain in Jaipur, India brought together eleven members of the Hindu community at the Children’s Peace Palace, Anuvibha, Rajsamand. As many gathered were professional educators, the participants agreed that “humanity is the supreme religion to be taught to children,” rather than imparting one-sided stories of religiosity to children.
The Parliament encourages listening sessions around the world to give the Interfaith advocates across borders the chance to share important issues in their region within the interfaith or religious community context, and how it is desired that the Parliament can incorporate both their values and challenges into the planning of the next major Parliament.
Jain reports that important facts discussed within the group included challenges they face and challenges all face in global society today. The role of religion, spirituality and convictions were also addressed to overcome these challenges (caste system, tensions between Hindu and Muslim Indians, and extremism) as well as the role of the Parliament by improving the capacity to organize religious leaders around the world for a peaceful coexistence. As a result these listening sessions help the Parliament peer into the lens through which the smaller groups view Interfaith as a model to achieve peace, justice, and sustainability in our world.
Ambassadors like Sanchay Jain conducting listening sessions serve their community and the Parliament in vital areas. When attendees are mobilized to attend a Parliament, it is helpful to guarantee their voices have been considered and included in the planning process.
” When someone deeply listens to you, the room where you stay starts a new life and the place where you wrote your first poem begins to glow in your mind’s eye. ” – John Fox
Celebrating the role of women in the 1893 Parliament, pioneers of the interfaith movement, is the passion of scholar Rev. Allison Stokes, Ph.D. Ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and Founding Director of the Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Finger Lakes. An accomplished professor and historian, Dr. Stokes is pursuing publishing a book on the prominent women’s voices in the history of interfaith. Dr. Stokes will be speaking on this research at the Living Out The Vision program and dinner benefit of the 20th/120th anniversaries of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, November 16, in Chicago, IL. This article is an excerpt of this body of work and the second installation of the Parliament Anniversary Series.
Looking Back to 1848 and 1893: Feminist Pioneers in Inter-Religious Leadership, Scholarship and Service
When Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott created the Declaration of Sentiments, a document that 68 women and 32 men signed at the first women’s rights convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY, they had specific things to say about “the usurpations on the part of man toward woman” when it came to the subject of religion.
Among their grievances: “He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known….”
Furthermore, “He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church…”
And finally, “He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.”[i]
Forty-five years later, at the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition (more commonly known as the Chicago World’s Fair), the situation was different. Progress had been made.
When the Rev. Anna Howard Shaw, MD, gave a sermon at the closing event of the World’s Congress of Representative Women held during the opening month of the fair in 1893, on the platform with her were 18 ordained clergywomen from 13 different Christian denominations. Shaw opened her message in a manner that was extraordinary. She began, as expected, with a text from the New Testament, but immediately followed it with readings from the religion of Zoroaster, Buddhism, the “Mohammedan scriptures,” and Confucius.[ii] Throughout her message Shaw demonstrated a global feminism and inclusive vision that viewed in retrospect was a preview to the first World’s Parliament of Religions that would be held at the fair four months later.
Although Elizabeth Cady Stanton did not attend the first world’s Parliament of Religions in September 1893, she wrote a paper for the occasion that was delivered by
Susan B. Anthony—“The Worship of God in Man.” This was just one of 19 speeches delivered by women in the massive building (with halls that seated 5,000 people) that is now the Art Institute of Chicago. Feminist scholars of religion owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Ursula King for her article, “Rediscovering Women’s Voices at the World’s Parliament of Religions.”[iii] Here Dr. King points out that ten percent of the addresses given at the Parliament were given by women. This proportion is stunning considering that at the time it was considered improper for women to speak in public, and many were ostracized for doing so. Feminist scholars also owe a debt of gratitude to the Rev. Dr. John Henry Barrows for publishing before year’s end in 1893 the papers of the World’s Parliament, and so preserving a record of women’s contributions.[iv] At the conclusion of the Parliament Barrows observed, “The Congress was a notable event… for woman, for then she secured the largest recognition of her intellectual rights ever granted.”[v] Unfortunately, not much at all has been made of this fact in histories of Women in Religion.Inspired and surprised by the achievements of our foremothers, I have been doing research on Women’s Voices at the 1893 World’s Parliament. In December 2009 I presented a PowerPoint lecture on the topic at the 5th Parliament of World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. People were amazed: “Why don’t we know about this?” Indeed.
Recovering the stories of women who were earliest pioneers in the interfaith movement is an ongoing project of mine. I look forward to sharing some of what I have learned in Chicago on November 16th at the anniversary celebration of the first Parliament 120 years ago and the second Parliament a century later—20 years ago.
[ii] Sewall, May Wright, ed. The World’s Congress of Representative Women. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally, 1894, pp. 857-858. See my article, “Global Feminism and Inclusion in Anna Howard Shaw’s 1893 Sermon,” in Postscripts, vol 5, no 2 (2009). http://www.equinoxpub.com/index.php/POST/article/view/10245
[iii]See A Museum of Faiths, Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, Eric J. Ziolkowski, ed. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1993, pp. 325-343.
[iv] The World’s Parliament of Religions, Volumes I and II. Chicago: The Parliament Publishing Company, 1893.
[v] Barrows, vol. II, pp. 1569-1570.
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As Syria sits center in the world’s attention over the last weeks, watching the reaction of religious leaders to the prospect of military intervention has revived global anti-war sentiment. Peaceful resolution creating consensus across government and religious lines demonstrates a growing cohesion of interfaith harmony building sturdy coalitions. Some of the latest motions of religious leaders call for:
- “We urge governments and the media to listen to the voices of all Syrians, particularly those who are working for a peaceful solution and who reject violence,” Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist leaders plus secular leaders have signed the statement by Australians for Reconciliation in Syria saying a US strike would be “an extreme escalation” of the conflict. The 34 signatories include Melbourne’s Catholic and Anglican archbishops, Denis Hart and Philip Freier, Sheikh Riad Galli, the president of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia, Coptic Bishop Suriel, Greek Orthodox Bishop Ezekiel, barrister Julian Burnside, the National and Victorian Councils of Churches, the Victorian Buddhist Council, State Labor MP Bronwyn Halfpenny and Joseph Wakim, founder of the Australian Arabic Council.
- “There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” - Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.
- Pope Francis took the unusual step of penning a letter to world leaders ahead of a global day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria that Catholics will observe on Saturday (Sept. 7). Francis will also preside a marathon five-hour vigil in St. Peter’s Square, and the Vatican has invited believers of all faiths and even nonbelievers to join in whichever way they see fit.
- Pope Francis has set Saturday September 7, 2013 as a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria. The Vatican has declared that it is against “armed intervention,” pointing to the havoc caused by the United States led war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003.
- The crisis in Syria needs to be resolved through “human intervention, not military intervention”- Desmond Tutu.
- Hundreds of people in Seattle were on hand Saturday night (September 7th) to join a vigil and procession to call for peace in Syria.
Military interventions are unlikely be supported by many religious leaders as they have reached out and connected with various religious groups to promote interfaith, non-violence and also advocating non-military actions to promote peace in Syria. By supporting peaceful resolutions and interfaith harmony building coalitions, religions around the world can establish a ground for a non-violent campaign towards peace in Syria.
The Women’s Task Force of CPWR will partner with Women of Spirit and Faith and numerous other faith and interfaith organizations to host a dynamic event this fall. Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self will bring together 240 women November 7-10 at the San Francisco Bay Sofitel. This intergenerational gathering of women from all spiritual and faith perspectives will explore the intersection of women’s transformative leadership and authentic feminine spirituality.
“Alchemy is rooted in a process of listening deeply to women for the past three years , “ says Kathe Schaaf, a co-founder of Women of Spirit and Faith and a member of the Women’s Task Force. “We’ve learned so much about what women are longing for, about the passions that guide their service to something larger than themselves. We’re excited about the potential synergy of bringing this remarkable community together to connect, co-create and cross-pollinate.”
Alchemy will offer a unique opportunity for women to both nourish their personal spiritual connections and explore emerging issues at the heart of faith and feminism. Multiple partner organizations will also be invited to explore the potent opportunities as they move beyond networking to collective transformative impact.
“By partnering with Women of Spirit and Faith for this exciting gathering, the Women’s Task Force continues its commitment to new models of mutual support and accomplishment,” said Phyllis Curott. “This kind of collaborative relationship expands organizational resources and impact and generates an inspiring spirit. These were among the wisdom gifts we received at our inaugural event in 2012, attended by over 500 people because of the generous sponsorship of University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel and its Dean, Dr. Elizabeth Davenport, and we are delighted to have yet another opportunity to serve the community that is growing at the nexus of women and interfaith work.”
The innovative design for Alchemy grows from commitment to shared leadership and a profound belief that every woman in the room is equally valued as a leader. Rather than the usual conference structure built around keynote speakers and panels of experts, Alchemy will unfold through a series of circle dialogues designed to invite, harvest and illuminate the wisdom emerging in the room. These generative conversations will be interspersed with breakout sessions and open space designed to invite women to “occupy their sacred selves” – through movement, music, poetry, journaling, meditation, nature walks, rituals and focused discussions on topics of interest to the group.
Like the first Alchemy gathering held in April 2011, this event will actively invite the participation and nurture the leadership of young women leaders. Special events, activities and focused conversations will offer young women an opportunity to explore the issues that matter to them.
Women of Spirit and Faith was born at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne. Over the past three years, the organization has been working to support and nurture women’s spiritual leadership in North America. They have convened a number of retreats and gatherings bringing together women from diverse faith traditions and have expanded the interfaith invitation to include women who are spiritual but not religions, a fast-growing demographic often identified in the media as ‘unaffiliated’ or ‘the Nones’. The co-founders of Women of Spirit and Faith also edited an anthology of women’s spiritual wisdom, Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power published by SkyLight Paths. The book, which features reflections from more than 30 women including CPWR Vice-Chair Phyllis Curott, was honored as one of the Top Ten Religion/ Spirituality books of 2012 by the American Library Association.
Anne Benvenuti, a Trustee of CPWR says, “’If women ran the world, what would it be like?’ a wondering, a longing, a frustration that I have often heard. There is a challenge in it, too. A challenge to move beyond feelings of exclusion and frustration with obstacles, a challenge to be the change we want to see in the world. Can women claim power and voice while being true to their religious and spiritual paths? Yes! Can they find their voices as women, and not just imitate men in order to break into the circles of power? Yes! Women of Spirit and Faith doesn’t just talk about women’s voices, but is a place for women’s voices, for expression of the deepest spiritual longings of women’s hearts, and for the transformation of those longings into creative action. The Women’s Task Force of the Parliament is delighted to join in the journey of Alchemy with Women of Spirit and Faith. “
To learn more about Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self and to register, visit www.womenofspiritandfaith.org/alchemy .
Jainism is an Eastern religion and philosophy dating back over 2600 years. The three major tenets to define Jainism are the path of Ahimsa, Anekantvad and Aprigraha (non-violence, multiple points of views and non-attachment).
From September 2nd to September 19th, Jains worldwide will be observing the practice of Paryushan. For Jains this is the one of the two most important annual festivals, the other being Diwali. While Diwali is focused on the celebration of Nirvana (ultimate enlightenment) of the Lord Mahavir, Parushan is focused on the reflection of one’s soul.
WHAT IS PARYUSHAN?
Paryushan – the celebration of spiritual awareness – is the most important annual festival of Jain religion. The word “Paryushan” has several different meanings:
- To stay closer to our own soul from all directions. To stay absorbed in our own-self (soul), read scriptures, meditate, observe austerities, etc.
- To burn (shed) all types of karma. Fasting is just one of many ways Jains use to shed karma.
- To suppress one’s passions (anger, ego, deceit and greed) from all directions.
Paryushan is a period of repentance for the acts of the previous year to shed one’s accumulated karma. Jains endeavor to exercise self-discipline and do penance to purify their souls to the best of their individual capacities.
THE ORIGINS OF PARYUSHAN
The origins of the Paryushan Festival are rooted in the agricultural lifestyles of India from centuries ago. After the monsoon rains and harvests, people had a break from the agricultural work. While the rains made roads difficult to travel, it also brought an increase in insects. Traveling by road at that point meant an increased chance in killing insects, i.e. undue violence. Thus people tended to stay in their villages, avoiding any travel. With this extra time came the chance to spend time on self-purification, meditation and self-awareness.
WHY IS PARYUSHAN CELEBRATED?
Paryushan is a time for self-analysis and soul searching. Though one can tirelessly strive to live within the framework of the moral standards and ideals Jainism, it is extremely difficult to avoid mistakes due to the complexities and hardship of life. Paryushan provides a break from routine life and allows reflecting and contemplation on the past conduct, in the light of the teachings of Jainism. This helps one to make a determination to lead a spiritually cleaner life in the future. Paryushan also reminds Jains that life’s ultimate and highest aim is not the pursuit of materialism but the attainment of Nirvana. When the soul achieves Nirvana (salvation), the soul has finally broken the chain of life, death and reincarnation.
Paryushan also has an important social aspect. During these holy days, the goal is to further bring people together by letting go of feelings of inequality and discrimination. Equally, wealth and social status have no place in Paryushan. Practitioners of Paryushan believe in the interdependence of all souls, i.e. all lives are bound together by mutual support and interdependence.
HOW IS PARYUSHAN CELEBRATED?
During Paryushan, Jains study scriptures and religious books, reflect on basic principles of Jainism and purify their conduct through meditation and self-awareness. They strive to observe the vows of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, purity of mind and body and non-possessiveness to a greater extent and resolve for greater effort for spiritual progress in the coming year.
Observing the essentials of Paryushan Festival:
- Welfare of fellow human beings and all other living creatures alike.
- Reflection over the events and actions of the past year.
- Practicing Ahimsa (non-violence) through one’s thoughts, words, and deeds.
- Fasting for up to 8 days. (Though many will fast for three days as three represents the jewels of Jainism: right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.
- Pilgrimage to holy places – to show respect and devotion to the Lord through worship, prayers and meditation.
- Asking for forgiveness from all beings who in the past or present life may have suffered because of their actions to others. In turn, they forgive those who may have hurt them and forgive their shortcomings and weaknesses.
During these eight days, many Jains will not eat after sunset as more insects and micro-organisms become present at dark. Additionally, many Jains will not eat vegetables grown underground – root vegetables like potatoes/onions/garlic – because entire plants are destroyed in obtaining them.
WHY DO PEOPLE FAST DURING PARYUSHAN FESTIVAL?
Fasting is a good way of developing self-control. Health permitting, everyone should fast occasionally. During Paryushan, Some Jains observe up to eight days of fasting, while others – eating once a day or twice a day. It is important to note that while fasting, they also try to be free from passions such as pride, greed, anger etc.
The last day of Paryushan, known as Samvatsari, is the most important of the eight days. On this day, most Jains will try to observe a fast and collectively perform the prayer of introspective Pratikraman. This is also the day of ‘forgive and forget’. During this day, Jains will ask for forgiveness from family and friends for any faults, which they might have committed towards them in the previous year. As with many religions, Jains also believe that the best year begins with a clean slate and with no ill will toward anyone.
Compiled by: Kirit C Daftary
Reference: Insight Into Paryushan Festival. www.oshwal.org