Being a Jain

Jains do have several sacred duties – the first is a daily penitential retreat or pratikramana in the morning and evening in order to rid the believer of karma. Forgiveness is requested, penance is performed and no further repetition of the acts is sought. There is also an annual festival of atonement and repentance called paryushana, which involves listening to sacred texts and taking positive steps with regard to ahimsa and fellowship to fellow Jains, visiting temples and right living. The words ‘micchami dukkadam’ are said requesting forgiveness of those who have been harmed in any way.

A person following Jainism is expected to observe basic vows – called anuvrats – as part of ethical living. These vows include non-violence, non-possessiveness, simplicity and non-materialism, self-restraint, honesty and sincerity. They are also expected to follow key religious rituals, but there is no pressure from community to do so. A significant amount of freedom is given to the individual to practice their faith. As a result, there is also considerable variety of expression. Throughout history, women have been more spiritual than men and have shown a greater degree and depth of devotion. Even the numbers of nuns have always outnumbered the numbers of monks by at least three times.

Commitment is recognized through the observance of rituals and participation in festivals and special ceremonies. Generally no special status is given to those who are more committed than others – credit for ethical conduct is accumulated by the individual directly and there should be no seeking for outer glory or recognition. Each individual is expected to look at the mirror – not to admire their own beauty but to introspect on their actions and how synonymous they are with their values. Self-improvement is constantly encouraged and this is why Jains everywhere are natural leaders.

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