The History of Rituals
The Question of Root Vegetables
Concept of Time in Jainism
Paryushan parva is being celebrated by the entire Shwetambara Jain community of which I too am a constituent. All my life I have been labelled a rebel by my immediate family as far as my religious inclinations are concerned. They have viewed me as an outsider whom they have tried tooth-and-nail to win over to their side. On my part, I have found them and their efforts naive and simple and mostly innocuous. But come Paryushan and all that changes. I cannot have potatoes and onions; I must offer Pooja on all the 8 days. I must fast at least on the last day. A devout Jain or a submissive Jain husband will already feel that I am enjoying undue discounts. But I feel otherwise.
One of these days, out of curiosity, I asked my wife about the history of paryushan. To my utter amazement, she had no idea. So I looked it up on wikipedia and some interesting facts were thrown up. This in addition to my other knowledge about Jainism propelled me to write this blog. I have already planned to share it with my innermost circle. I hope whoever goes through it finds my effort worthy.
Shree Navkar Mahamantra Explained
I will start by explaining the meaning of NAVKAR Mahamantra in a jiff. Firstly, the meaning available in an average Punch Pratikraman compilation is the most ridiculous you will ever find. It takes a juvenile approach and insults the intellect of a Jain. Or probably reflects it. So here is my take. The meaning is incomplete if it does not elaborately explain the meaning of the 5 personas so revered in its first 5 lines. Here goes:
Arihant-it is a negative word. It means one who is totally annihilated. One who is no longer there in flesh or spirit. In one sense you are bowing down to pure nothingness. So, Bhagwan Mahavir or Bhagwan Parshwanath are not Arihant but Siddha (more on this later). They go beyond Siddha state but herein comes the problem of language. There is nothing beyond but nothingness. Our calling them Arihant is to make up for the inadequacy of language but it grossly contorts the meaning of Arihant.
Siddha-This is the final state a physical entity can attain. Siddha is not one who has achieved all but one who has no more inclination left to achieve anything. That does not mean Siddha doesn't achieve anything. When a person chooses a path and comes to a point where he understands that there is nothing more to discover, he becomes a Siddha. A painter or a musician too can become a Siddha but only when he stops in his path fully aware of its culmination and not for any other reason. This is why I feel a spiritual being is in the best position to achieve this state as compared to anyone else.
Acharya-Acharya is one who establishes by example. He is an entity whose life can become a model for the average human. He acts as he preaches. In India, acharya is the term used for a teacher. Any person whose cohesive words and action limit the friction in our lives so that we can meditate on life's more important questions is an Acharya. Most of our so called Acharyas don't even qualify as Sadhus (more on this later).
Upadhyaya-Most teachers can be put in this category. Though there is deviation in their acts and words but their words are still powerful. They can put a person on the right roadmap to Arihant-hood. They may or may not be able to open one's mind but can definitely help in removing the cobwebs settled there. One can think of them as that spark of light which though cannot illuminate the entire path but can definitely light one's own torch.
Sadhu-This, I believe, is the most misunderstood word in the entire sutra. Any person who person who signs up for monkhood becomes a sadhu as per populsar belief. Sadhu is a derivative of Sadhna which in turn means a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. So, a sadhu is anyone who is trying to perfect any discipline that does not interfere with general existence. A painter who is constantly learning is a sadhu. A musician whose thirt for musical knowledge is insatiable is a sadhu. So, in essence in the fifth line we bow down to almost all of existence. But given our bloated egos, we have shrunk the very meaning of sadhu so that the "bowing down" will not paralyze our otherwise impoverished image of self. Jainism as a concept was meant for all of existence. Why would it use terminology that was exclusive and not inclusive?
This is not a comprehensive meaning of any of the terms but just reflection on my part. I chanced upon a book which took all of 52 pages to explain the entire NAVKAR mahamantra. The person who recommended the book addded that the book clearly mentions that the meaning contained therein is incomplete. I am just juxtaposing my reflection with the rudimentary meaning contained in available texts and how that can give us a myopic meaning of Jainism itself.
The History of Rituals
I believe that the stress on going to temples and offering various poojas has no place in the Jain way of life. Some history before that.
Rishabhdev finds a mention in Rigveda (or some other Veda) of the Hindus. However, The first Jain figure for whom there is reasonable historical evidence is Parshvanath, who might have lived somewhere in the 9th–7th century BCE. In the 5th century BCE, Mahāvīra became one of the most influential teachers of Jainism.
The Jain tradition talks about a body of scriptures preached by all the tirthankara of Jainism. These scriptures were contained in fourteen parts and were known as Purva. It was memorized and passed on through the ages, but became fairly vulnerable and were lost because of famine that caused the death of several jain saints, within a thousand years of Mahāvīra's death. Agamas are canonical texts of Jainism based on Mahāvīra's teachings. These comprise forty-six works: twelve angās, twelve upanga āgamas, six chedasūtras, four mūlasūtras, ten prakīrnaka sūtras and two cūlikasūtras. The Digambara sect of Jainism maintains that these agamas were also lost during the same famine. In the absence of authentic scriptures, Digambars use about twenty-five scriptures written for their religious practice by great Acharyas. These include two main texts, four Pratham-Anuyog, three charn-anuyoga, four karan-anuyoga and twelve dravya-anuyoga.
The ancient city Pithunda, capital of Kalinga, is described in the jaina text Uttaradhyana Sutra as an important centre at the time of Mahāvīra, and was frequented by merchants from Champa. Rishabha, the first tirthankara, was revered and worshiped in Pithunda and is known as the Kalinga Jina. Mahapadma Nanda (c. 450–362 BCE) conquered Kalinga and took a statue of Rishabha from Pithunda to his capital in Magadha. Jainism is said to have flourished under Nanda empire. The Mauryan dynasty came to power after the downfall of Nanda empire. The first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta (c. 322–298 BCE), became a Jain in the latter part of his life. He was a disciple of Bhadhrabahu, a jaina ācārya who was responsible for propagation of Jainism in south India. The Mauryan king Ashoka was converted to Buddhism and his pro-Buddhist policy subjugated the Jains of Kalinga. Ashoka's grandson Samprati (c. 224–215 BCE), however, is said to have converted to Jainism by a jaina monk named Suhasti. He is known to have erected many jaina temples. He ruled a place called Ujjain. In the 1st century BCE the emperor Kharvela of Mahameghavahana dynasty conquered Magadha. He retrieved Rishabha's statue and installed it in Udaygiri, near his capital Shishupalgadh. Kharavela was responsible for the propagation of Jainism across the Indian subcontinent. Hiuen Tsang (629–645 CE), a Chinese traveller, notes that there were numerous Jains present in Kalinga during his time. The Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves near Bhubaneswar are the only surviving stone jaina monuments in Orissa. King Vanaraja (c. 720–780 CE) of cavada dynasty in northern Gujarat was raised by a jaina monk Silunga Suri. He supported Jainism during his rule. The king of kannauj Ama (c. 8th century CE) was converted to Jainism by Bappabhatti, a disciple of famous jaina monk Siddhasena Divakara. Bappabhatti also converted Vakpati, the friend of Ama who authored a famous prakrit epic named Gaudavaho.
Once a major religion, Jainism declined due to a number of factors, including proselytizing by other religious groups, persecution, withdrawal of royal patronage, sectarian fragmentation and the absence of central leadership. Since the time of Mahavira, Jainism faced rivalry with Buddhism and the various Hindu sects. The Jains suffered isolated violent persecutions by these groups, but the main factor responsible for the decline of their religion was the success of Brahmanic (Hindu) reformist movements. Around the 7th century, Shaivism saw considerable growth at the expense of Jainism due to the efforts of the Shaivite poets like Sambandar and Appar. Around the 8th century CE, the Hindu philosophers Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Adi Shankara tried to restore the orthodox Vedic religion. The royal patronage has been a key factor in the growth as well as decline of Jainism. The Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) converted from Jainism to Shaivism under the influence of Appar. His work Mattavilasa Prahasana ridicules certain Saivite sects and the Buddhists, and also expresses contempt towards the Jain ascetics. Sambandar converted the contemporary Pandya king back to Shaivism. During the 11th century Brahmana Basava, a minister to the Jain king Bijjala, succeeded in converting numerous Jains to the Lingayat Shaivite sect. The Lingayats destroyed various temples belonging to Jains and adapted them to their use. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana (c. 1108–1152 CE) became a follower of the Vaishnava sect under the influence of Ramanuja, after which Vaishnavism grew rapidly in the present-day Karnataka. As the Hindu sects grew, the Jains compromised by following Hindu rituals and customs and invoking Hindu deities in jaina literature.
There are several legends about the mass massacre of Jains in the ancient times. The Buddhist king Ashoka (304-232 BCE) is said to have ordered killings of 18,000 Jains or Ajivikas after someone drew a picture of Buddha bowing at the feet of Mahavira. The Saivite king Koon Pandiyan, who briefly converted to Jainism, is said to have ordered a massacre of 8,000 Jains after his re-conversion to Saivism. However, these legends are not found in the Jain texts, and appear to be fabricated propaganda by Buddhists and Saivites. Such stories of destruction of one sect by another sect were common at the time, and were used as a way to prove the superiority of one sect over the other. There are stories about a Jain king of Kanchi persecuting the Buddhists in a similar way. Another such legend about Vishnuvardhana ordering the Jains to be crushed in an oil mill doesn't appear to be historically true.
The decline of Jainism continued after the Islamic conquest of India. The Muslims conquerors of India, such as Mahmud Ghazni (1001), Mohammad Ghori (1175) and Ala-ud-din Muhammed Shah Khilji (1298) further oppressed the Jain community. They vandalized idols and destroyed temples or converted them into mosques. They also burned the Jain books and killed Jains. The Jains also enjoyed amicable relations with the rulers of the tributary Hindu kingdoms during this period; however, their number and influence had diminished significantly due to their rivalry with the Saivite and the Vaisnavite sects.
As mentioned earlier, the Jain community in various parts of India started mirroring the Hindu form of worship to be accepted as a tributary of the Hindu fold to get the Royal patronage and basic security. Temples started becoming more and more important with the passage of time. I do not say that temples did not exist in the period before the mentioned crisis but they had become unduly important unwarranted by any Jain scripture then. This dichotomy resulted in various schisms in the Jain community other than the previously existing Digambar and Shwetambar divide. Offering flowers, incense, lamps and dancing in front of the idols gradually became an inseparable part of the Jain way of life. Shwetambars (being the more creative lot) amalgamated various forms of Pooja that i am pretty sure put some of the Hindus to shame. Most temples standing today have been built after 900 A.D. and it is between 900 AD and 1200 AD that a new Jain Dharma was carved out that was helpful in securing the propagation of bloodlines of the original followers. Our rituals were the garb behind which we wanted to hide our true allegiance but in due course we became allegiant to the garb itself.
Now let us talk about the Shwetambara Samayika (meditation) and Pratikraman (introspection). The last human being that the Jain history accepts as omniscient was Jambuswami who attained Nirvana in 462 BC. So, it can be certainly understood that anything that was composed, created or invented in the path of Jainism after 462 BC could not have been authorised by any omniscient being. Samayik and Pratikraman use some Sutras that were composed around 600 AD and later. The oldest known Gujarati poem was written in 1185 AD so Atichar Sutra which is in the Gujarati language could not have been composed before that. So the big question is who authorised these two practices (Samayik and Pratikraman) and imposed them on unsuspecting Jains. Another question that comes to mind is if the ritualistic Pratikraman leaves anytime for introspection which is in reality its true meaning. So, here we are, doing things that were not authorised by any omniscient being and at the same time hoping that they would wash away or lessen our sins.
The Question of Root Vegetables
Now, I come to the topic of consumption of root vegetables like garlic, onions and potatoes... (I guess one should not wait for too long to finalise what one set out to do else one either is faced with a roadblock or too many forks as in my case.)
Biologically, onions and garlics belong to a certain family of plants (Allium), potatoes and tomotoes to other (Solanaceae), radish and cauliflower to Brassicaceae while carrots and asafoetida (hing) to Apiaceae. So, for science they are disctinct varieties and science doesn't forbid eating any of them but there are caveats. Jainism forbids (as per available commentaries) eating anything that is grown underground and the reason offered to satiate your non-existent curiosity is that the said plants contain innumerable lives (anantkaya jiva). So, let us first consider the general meaning of jiva as per different texts available:
1)that which is sentient (Able to perceive or feel things)
2)that which exists even after physical death
3)that has a soul in the general sense of the word.
Scientifically, all matter is build up by group of atoms. These atoms are constantly oscillating and the speed of such oscillation predicts the state you will find them in. In one sense, they are pure energy and cannot be destroyed but only transformed so they do exist even after physical death in some other form in some other state. Also, a group of atoms would move in a certain pattern but when they are being observed by a human eye the pattern changes. Though, there is an explanation for that too but the atoms apparently seem sentient. Take the example of human body. While you might feel it is one soul in one body but the truth you know is far from it. At any time, the human body houses millions of bacteria and viruses. All your blood cells have an average lifespan starting from birth to maturity to imminent death and experience health and disease. They prepare their own food that helps in their sustenance at the same time contributing in yours. In fact, I can proudly say that Jain philosophy is unique for it classifies the entire earth as a jiva with a longer lifespan. So, I infer from this that the jain concept of 'Jiva' is very similar to the scientific term 'atom'. Now, Jain scriptures make a distinction in vegetation viz. Sadharanvanaspati (Many jivas in one body) and Pratyekvanaspati (one jiva in one body). Here, it starts deviating from what science tells me. I have to either believe it or take it as a falsification that was concocted along the many years of Jain history. These two terms can be found in the Saat-Lakh sutra which is totally in the Gujarati dialect. Should I elaborate? Again? In fact, in my research an interesting accusation was thrown up that the forbidding of root vegetables has its roots entirely in Gujarat. But I don't buy that. Jain devouts, relax!!
So why are they forbidden? There can be no smoke without fire so there has to be some reason. In everyday life, one accepts as gospel truth anything his religion preaches and daggers are drawn at the subtlest of oppositions. As I love my root vegetables, I wanted to arm myself with as much pro-root-vegetable information as I could find. I found a lot going for them including nutritional benefits, enhancement of soil fertility, faster growths. But they had their fair share of pitfalls such as complex cultivation, bearer of toxins and earthly metals, and so on. I was not convinced so I started looking at cultures and practices not influenced by the Jain way of life who forbade all or any of these foods. I list below the various institutions who recommend the negation of some or all of the root vegetables from one's diet and their reasons.
1) Buddhist monastics and specially those who practice Tao forbid eating onions, garlic and radishes. Eaten raw they are believed to incite people to anger and disputes; eaten cooked they increase one's sexual desire. Buddhist adepts are advised to avoid them, as their consumption tends to disturb the peacefulness of the mind. According to [the sutras], garlic, three kinds of onions, and leeks are the five forbidden pungent roots. `If eaten raw, they are said to cause irritability of temper, and if eaten cooked, to act as an aphrodisiac.
2) According to Ayurveda, India's classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories - sattvic, rajasic and tamasic - foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance. Rajasic and tamasic foods are also not used because they are detrimental to meditation and devotions.
3) Reiki is a spiritual practice developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, which has since been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healing as a form of alternative medicine and is sometimes classified as oriental medicine by some professional medical bodies.Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e., reiki) in the form of qi (Japanese: ki) through the palms, which they believe allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium. According to Reiki principles, garlic and onion totally desynchronise the brain and cause us to loose our psychic mind (for which they provide medical as well as practical proofs).
4) Bob Beck also found in his research on human brain function in the 1980's that garlic has a detrimental effect on the brain and researching this further he learned that many yoga groups and philosophical teachings caution against the use of garlic and onions as they are known to interfere with meditation practices. He realised with the help of Electroencephalography (EEG) that garlic puts the brain waves out of sync.
So, we have 4 different institutions or entities who forbid some root vegetables based on what they do to the human mind. Kausagg (meditation) which was an important part of our Tirthankara's lives could have required them to forbid some plants that they would have found detrimental to their endeavor of achieving a certain state of mind. Hence, if you are into meditation or any similar discipline, then by all means remove root vegetables from your plate. Other than that there is no reason why you should forbid these items. I definitely would not attach the guilt of destruction of anantkaya jiva to this list. If you are anybody who needs to put in hard work everyday then going off root vegetables is not recommended (based on what I mentioned above). Here, it is interesting to note that root vegetables become more and more popular as you go towards the lower strata of our society, the economically less endowed people who have to put up with strenuous labour to earn their bread.
Brief note on brain waves:
Our mind regulates its activities by means of electric waves which are registered in the brain, emiting tiny electrochemical impulses of varied frequencies, which can be registered by an electroencephalogram. These brainwaves are known as:
1)Beta emited when we are consciously alert, or we feel agitated, tense, afraid, with frequencies ranging from 13 to 60 pulses per second in the Hertz scale.
2)Alpha when we are in a state of physical and mental relaxation, although aware of what is happening around us, its frequency are around 7 to 13 pulses per second.
3)Theta more or less 4 to 7 pulses, it is a state of somnolence with reduced consciousness.
4)Delta when there is unconsciousness, deep sleep or catalepsy, emitting between 0.1 and 4 cycles per second.
In general, we are accostumed to using the beta brain rythm. When we diminish the brain rythm to alpha, we put ourselves in the ideal condition to learn new information, keep fact, data, perform elaborate tasks, learn languages, analyse complex situations. Meditation, relaxation exercises, and activities that enable the sense of calm, also enable this alpha state.
Concept of Time in Jainism
The concept of time in Jainism comes very close to the scientific one. It is nothing that the average-strutting -for-no-reason-Jain knows about but he sure will be pleased. Jain scriptures don't exactly break it up into understandable units but it can be inferred from what we have available. Jainism believes that the life spans of different beings is different and the difference between lives from different planes is drastic. So, while a deva can live for a Sagropam (you really don't want to know how long that is), a human on earth will live for about a 100 years optimistically speaking. In one sense you cannot read too much into that. So, I go to Hindu mythology from which Jainism branched out as per historical data.
I recall the story of King Muchukund. Mucukunda was the son of King Mandhata, a ruler in the Ikshvaku dynasty (also known as the Suryavamsha). Some of the other important Ikshvaku kings include Harishchandra, Dileepa, Raghu and Sri Rama. (Mucukunda is an ancestor of Sri Rama.) He was an exemplary kshatriya, famous for many battles against the demons. During one such battle, the demigods didn't have their own commander, so Mucukunda fought and protected them for a long time. He was eventually relieved by Karthikayen, son of Shiva. He immediately asked to be sent home to Earth to his family, his kingdom and his subjects. Indra was very upset. The story tells us that time on earth travelled much faster than the astrophysical plane on which the war took place and that King Muchukund's family and his kingdom were wiped out in that span of time for which he led Indra's army. When Muchukund was told about his misfortune he was angry, hurt and desolate all at the same time. To appease him the demigods offered him a boon. After that epically long battle, King Mucukunda wanted nothing more than to sleep, without interruption, for a very long time. Lord Indra granted him the boon, that anyone who dared to disturb Mucukunda's sleep would immediately be burnt to ashes. Thus King Mucukunda chose a cave, and gratefully began his long rest. A king named Kalyavan was lured into this cave by Krishna, and the former woke the sleeper, who cast a fiery glance upon the intruder and destroyed him. I wonder how true the story is but it tells me something about time which is interesting so I take the lesson and forget the poetry, however beautiful.
Next I looked at science to find out if it concurred. In physics, there is something called the twin paradox. It is a thought experiment in special relativity involving identical twins, one of whom makes a journey into space in a high-speed rocket and returns home to find that the twin who remained on Earth has aged more. This theory has been proved to be right by an experiment involving atomic clocks.
a)It is a relative concept.
b)It is dependant on space. If the sun were to die down suddenly, someone on Mercury (if it would be possible for someone to be there) would experience this event earlier than someone on earth.
c)It is dependant on your frame of mind.
d)Relative expanse of time for all sentient beings, perceivable and unperceivable is to a greater degree similar while the absolute expanse of time for all such beings from the perspective of any one species may vary drastically. So, the average mayfly as per the human perspective lives for only about a day after maturing. But we don't have the mayfly's perspective on it? For all we know, it could be living its own life of 60-70 years and would have memories and scars to show. This entire point I make is surmising and conjecture but it is fodder for thought.