(by Manubhai Doshi)
The soul in its pure form is imbedded with infinite perception, knowledge, happiness, and vigor. These attributes are not, however, manifested by worldly soul, because it is smeared with Karmas. The basic purpose of religion is the upliftment of the soul which may also be considered a restrained life. For this purpose, various rituals have been devised which help in progressively getting rid of the impurities and defilements and eventually liberating the soul from the bondages of Karmas. One of the most important ritual is Pratikraman, which must be performed by all Jains young or old. During this ritual we can review our demeritorious activities on a daily basis. Sooner we realize our mistakes and ask for forgiveness, the easier it will be to shred off the bondage of Karmas from our soul.
The ritual of Pratikraman is devised as to cover six essentials to be performed by everyone. Let us try to understand their significance in our daily life. They are:
1) SAMAYIK - To stay in equanimity.
2) CHAUVISANTHO - Adoration and worship of 24 Tirthankars.
3) VANDANA - Obeisance to Monks and Nuns.
4) PRATIKRAMAN - Turning back to Self.
5) KAYOTSARGA - Meditation on Self.
6) PRATYAKHYAN - Vow for some enouncement.
The First essential is Samayik, which is staying in equanimity. This amounts to purification of the Self by withdrawing from all cravings and aversion. This purification is outward as well as inward. For outward purification we clean our body, put on simple plain clothes, occupy some quiet place and seat on a mat in order to insulate the body from other contacts. For inward purification, the mind is to be set at rest and it should not feel joy or sorrow, gain or loss for worldly events. One has simply to observe everything very dispassionately without in anyway reacting to them. In Samayik, we can recite Navakar Mantra which is the unique Jain incantation. By that recitation we humbly offer obeisance to all those who are liberated or are in the process of liberation. There are five categories of such entities which are considered supreme irrespective of any specific identification. By offering obeisance to them we cultivate a sense of modesty within, and respect for the supreme entities. This is helpful to purify the passions like anger, enmity, ego, arrogance, vanity, greed etc. This is inner purification. During Samayik we restrain our physical and verbal activities and we engage our minds in meditation, atonement, or reading scriptures. Our Samayik is for 48 minutes during which we renounce all worldly activities while monks and nuns take vows to stay in equanimty for the rest of their lives. So Samayik gives us a glimpse to see how easy or hard it is to live in equanimity and ultimately prepare us for monkhood life.
The second essential, Chauvisantho, or Chaturvinshatistava, means adoration of 24 Tirthankaras. In this, we pray to the 24 Tirthankars and admire their principal attributes. This reminds us of their achievements, their victories over passions like anger, ego, deceit and greed, which in turn motivates us to overcome our similar passions. This will also help us to purify our minds and make us receptive to virtues. We also appreciate the Tirthankars for showing us the path of liberation.
Third essential is Vandana, in which we bow down to monks and nuns and express our reverence for them. They are our current religious guides and preceptors. We pay our respect to them for sparing some of their valuable time for upliftment of our souls. When we bow down, it generates the feeling of humbleness that helps us to overcome our sense of ego and anger. It also reminds us that some time we too have to renounce the worldly attachments like them.
Fourth essential is Pratikraman. Let us first understand what Pratikraman is. Pratikraman means turning back to the Self. Transgression of any limitation is called Atikraman. This is popularly known as Atichar. Atichar can be said as a lapse from code of conduct. So literally Pratikraman means turning back from transgressions. As a Jain householder we are supposed to observe 12 minor vows against five major vows observed by monks and nuns. During Pratikraman, we overview our activities for any transgressions which might have occurred among these vows. So, Pratikraman reminds us to live within set limitations. There is a five fold code of conduct pertaining to: 1) Knowledge, 2) Perception, 3) Behavior, 4) Austerity, and 5) Exercising vigor. There are also various restrictions laid down to regulate our essential activities. Monks are supposed to avoid all sorts of violence, lying, stealing, sensuousness and possessions. Laymen have their limitations and cannot avoid them totally. Restrictions in these respects have, therefore, been modified. There are five minor vows (Anuvrats), three subsidiary vows (Gunavrats) laid down for augmenting the effectiveness of the minor vows, and four disciplinary vows (Shikshavrats). Any lapse or transgression of these vows is called Atikraman. Therefore we undertake Pratikraman by pondering over the code and the restraints one by one and take into consideration the faults and lapses pertaining to them with a view to atonement. During this Pratikraman, even if we might not have taken these vows, we still atone for lapses pertaining to them and wish that one of these days we can take those vows. This way, we try to ask for forgiveness for our ill actions and purify ourselves and improve upon our future activities. This enables us to shed off some of our previous Karmas and also to slow down or prevent the inflow of new Karmas.
Let us now discuss when Pratikraman should be done. Ideally, Pratikraman is considered due as soon as a transgression takes place. Sooner we atone for the lapse, minimal would be the bondage of the Karma. We may, however, not be vigilant enough to get conscious of the lapse as soon as it occurs. Since we happen to transgress some limitations every now and then, it is laid down that we should do Pratikraman twice a day. One is called Evening (Devashi) Pratikraman, which is meant for the lapses during the day time and should be done at the end of the day, at sunset. The other known as Morning (Rai or Raishi) Pratikraman is meant for lapses during the night time and should be done in the morning at sunrise. The intention in laying down two Pratikramans a day is that a person can easily recall the lapses or transgressions in which he might have indulged during that particular day or night. He can therefore atone for the same without involving undue delay. Many people, however, think that they cannot spare that much time every day. Such people should do Pratikraman at least once every fortnight. This is known as Fortnightly (Pakshik) Pratikraman. There are some people who think that they cannot spare even that much time. Such people should do at least one Pratikraman every four months, known as Four Monthly (Choumasi) Pratikraman. There are many people who think that they cannot spare even that much time. All of them must do at least one Pratikraman every year. This Yearly (Samvatsari) Pratikraman is considered a must for every Jain.
There is a special significance for this “must”. The passions (Kashayas) that defile the nature of the soul are of 4 types. The worst one is known as Anantanubandhi Bondage, meaning very severe and long lasting bondage, lasting to over a year, upto many, many lives. A Pratikraman washes off such defilements. Samvatsari Pratikraman thus helps in washing off the defilements pertaining to a whole year, thereby limiting the duration of the defilements to less than a year and thus avoid very severe bondage. Pratikraman also reminds us every year not to engage into such sinful activities.
Fifth essential is Kausagga or Kayotsarga. The word Kayotsarga is made up of two words, “Kaya” meaning body, and “Utsarga” meaning giving up. So during Kayotsarga, one gives up physical activities and concentrates upon the true nature of the soul as being distinct from the body. This is also called Meditation. During Kausagga soul rectifies its transgrations of the present as well as of the past. This helps it to get rid of some of its Karmas because of physical suffering. We may mentally recite Logassa Soutra one line for each respiration, which lasts for 25 respirations. During Kayotsarga, we give up all the physical activities except following 13 on which we have no control. They are 1) breathing in and out, 2)zcoughing, 3) sneezing, 4) yawning, 5) belching, 6) passing body gas, 7) dizziness, 8) nausea, 9) fainting, 10) subtle bodyly movements, 11) subtle movements about swallowing sputum, 12) subtle flickering of eyes, and 13) other exceptional actions from fear of thieves, king, fire, fierce animals, etc. By practicing pure Kayotsarga, we slowly and steadily get control over our physical and verbal activities and ultimately mental activities too.
Sixth essential, Pacchakhan or Pratyakhyan, means taking vow or formal renunciation of certain activities. By renunciation one closes the doors to incoming of Karmas from that particular activity for a specified time. Experience from this renunciation also gives a glimpse of how one can control desires and ultimately prepare for higher renunciation. This helps to introduce discipline in our life and prepare mind for ascetic life which can ultimately lead to liberation.
Everyone must understand three very important phenomena for spiritual uplift. They are: 1) Inflow of Karmas to our soul, known as Asrava, 2) Stopage of inflow of Karmas to prevent contamination, known as Samvar, and 3) Eradication of Karmas which are already attached to the soul, known as Nirjara.
So as we realize the importance of these six essentials of a
Pratikraman, we should perform Pratikraman as often as possible, with the goal of liberating our soul from the cycle of births and deaths.