Posts Tagged ‘Jains’

 

Samvatsari

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Today is the holiest day of the year for Jains and is called Samvatsari. As the culminating day of an eight or ten day festival, known as Paryushana, Jains devote the day to prayer, meditation and fasting. In addition they ask for forgiveness for any harm they may have caused, and send the following message to all friends and relatives.  Nowadays, with the internet, this is easily conveyed by email and I have received two messages today which show the sort of wording that is used:

Forgiveness is the jewel of the brave. It takes a big heart to forgive.

We request your forgiveness for any act of omission or commission, by thought, word or deed, that may have hurt you or your loved ones.

and

On this most auspicious festival of Samvatsari, we all humbly seek forgiveness for any actions, thought or speech by which we may have caused you any hurt or sadness. Please do forgive us. We all too forgive and forget, in return, sincerely.

A cynic might mock the idea of a sort of annual attempt at a bulk-clearing of bad karma, but I find this custom beautiful and touching. We sometimes hurt others inadvertently by saying or not saying something. Simply not replying to an email for ages can feel hurtful to someone, for example. So the idea of each year expressing our sincere intent that we wish no harm, and regret any that was caused, and also forgive others in turn, seems both spiritually and psychologically sensible and healthy. And so, On this most auspicious festival of Samvatsari, I humbly seek forgiveness for any actions, thought or speech by which I may have caused you any hurt or sadness. Please do forgive me. I too forgive and forget, in return, sincerely.

Jain Temple at Wardha, India

Jain Temple at Wardha, India

Nagpur Diary

Thursday, February 12th, 2009
Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir Ramtek

Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir Ramtek

After getting back from India a few days ago, it was wonderful to read Barbara’s, Penny’s, Liz’s, and Juliet’s guest posts (all so inspiring and so well written!) and the comments they generated… thank you so much guest bloggers!

I had been invited to India by the ICCS – an organisation that is promoting the revival of ancient traditions. But the visit also became a Yatra – a pilgrimage – to a land steeped in spirituality for thousands of years. In particular I was interested in the connections between the Dharmic religions of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism and Druidism. Could they really be said to be brothers and sisters who share a common parentage?

Many of us who are interested in Druidry also feel drawn to one or more of those paths which arose in India, and I wanted to explore whether this is simply an example of Westerners’ greed for ‘more’ or whether there really is a way in which these geographically separate traditions are in reality related, and can be complementary.

I am particularly interested in Jainism, and had written an exploratory paper on the connections and resonances between Jainism and Druidism, but while I was in India I met many experts on Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism, and have broadened that paper to include them too. When I’ve finished it, I’ll post it up here. In the meanwhile, some photos and notes, and a big thank you to the organisers and participants of the conference – all of whom were so warm and generous.

At The River Crossing

The day before the conference I took a ramshackle bus to Ramtek, 40km from Nagpur, to visit the Jain and Hindu temples there.

Clues are hidden in language. Jain temples are called ‘Teerth’ or ‘Tirtha’. Tirtha literally means a river-crossing or ford, but also means ‘a sacred place’. Rivers have been considered sacred in many traditions – including the Celtic and Indian – and ‘crossing the river’ is a powerful image of moving from one realm to another. So a temple or sacred place is like a river – we can bathe in it, drink from it, and cross over it to the Other Side. And in the Jain tradition the 24 great teachers of humanity are known as ‘Tirthankaras’ – which means ford-makers. So the Sacred Person and the Sacred Place are one: they are both gateways to the Divine.

Most visitors to Ramtek go straight to the Hindu temples up on the hill. The Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir is less frequently visited and lies on the plain at the base of the hill. Inside its nine temples are exquisite figures of the Tirthankaras, seated or standing, with the pride of place given to a great statue in yellow glossy stone of one Tirthankara that is 3.04 metres tall. I was asked not to photograph the interiors, but here are some exterior pictures:

The Entrance to the Jain Temple at Ramtek

The Entrance to the Jain Temple at Ramtek

Once through the entrance this avenue offers Dharmsala - guest rooms for pilgrims

Once through the entrance this avenue offers Dharmsala - guest rooms for pilgrims

Once through the Inner Gateway you can rest from the heat on these mattresses and cushions

Once through the Inner Gateway you can rest from the heat on these mattresses and cushions

Stupas in the temple courtyard

Stupas in the temple courtyard

More stupas

More stupas

A figure on a stupa. The oldest parts of the temple are between 400-500 years old, and a large new section is being built

A figure on a stupa. The oldest parts of the temple are between 400-500 years old, and a large new section is being built

One of the Most Extraordinary Acts of Devotion in the World

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I have just found this wonderful slide show of the Jain festival of

MAHAMASTAK ABHISHEKThe Grand Anointing Ceremony
 
This magnificent ceremony of the Jains takes place once every12 years, in Karnataka. To pay homage to Bahubali, an18-metre high statue of the saint is anointed with milk, sugarcane juice and herbal powders.

It is by award-winning photographer Karoki Lewis, on the BBC website. Have a look here!