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jains celebrate paryushana August 21, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion.
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Followers of the Jain Dharma (Jainism) are celebrating their most important holy day today, Paryushana. Unlike Christianity or other religions, their most important holy day does not concern the birth or death of their founder. Paryushana is actually a celebration of Jain philosophy. The festival lasts for eight days in the Swetambara tradition and ten days in the Digambaras tradition. Many Jains fast throughout the festival and some continue for weeks afterwards. During the festival of Paryushana, Jains flock to temples (Upashrayas) to listen to and discuss the sacred writings of the Kalpa Sutra. Later in the evening the Jains meditate and reflect on their spiritual journey in a ritual called the Pratikraman.

Pratikramana literally means “turning back” and is a meditation that focuses on the renewal of faith. Pratikramana is sort of a religious version of New Years Day. Jains withdraw to meditate, reflecting on past trangressions and making resolutions for the next year. Prayers to the Deity or a spiritual guru are often apart of these meditations as well to the Five Supremes, 24 Jinas, and the four mangalas. Just as in Western religions, Jains reflect on the foundations of their religion during Paryushana. These foundations include the “ten cardinal virtues”: forgiveness, charity, simplicity, contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint, fasting, detachment, humility, and continence.

There are approximately five million Jains worldwide, with only four thousand in North America (there are only around thirty Jain temples). Jainism is almost solely restricted to India with a relatively large population throughout Africa.

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