First Steps To Jainism
SANCHETI ASOO LAL
BHANDARI MANAK MAL
The Five Worships
(The Panch Parmeshthi)
From the rudimentary knowledge of
Jainism culled in the previous discussions one thing must have become
obvious that Jainism is a religion of self-help : without any outside
agency-even God- coming to the rescue of the soul. The soul is its own
destroyer or liberator. It is the wish fulfilling tree (Kalp Vriksha) and
it is also the poisonous (shalimli) plant. The Soul has to acquire right
vision and knowledge and follow the path of right conduct. Thereby it can
become God itself, but no other God can help it (nor can it help any one
else)except blazing a trail which has to be followed by one�s own effort
and volition. It is a case of pure and simple rationalism- cut and dry,
shorn of any sentimentality which is too evident elsewhere, where God is
not only held as the creator, but also the destroyer and maintainer of
life and therefore, responsible for all that is good or evil in the world.
Jainism should, therefore, have no place
for worship, only knowledge and conduct holding sway. However, we do find
Jain temples, statutes, stupas and caves built over the last two thousand
five hundred years being worshipped devoutly. Also there are hymns and
prayers galore in Jain literature. Every Jain prays morning and evening as
a part of his religious routine, worships in his temples much like his
other brethren - Christians in churches, Mohammedans in mosques, Sikhs in
Gurudwaras and Hindus in their temples.
Much of this praying by Jains is
imitating others, due to the mutual influence between Jainism and other
faiths. Even some Jains bathe in Ganges to expiate the sins. Then there is
the practical approach (vyavhar)due to which Jains, forgetting the
intrinsic beliefs, fall in line and pray like others for boons, after all
this is the easier way than the harder path of right conduct with its vows
and penance. Then the concept of an all powerful creator, preserver, and
destroyer responsible for all that is good and bad is more appealing. As,
thus one can shrink from his responsibility and leave everything to the
will and mercy of such a creator rather than accept full responsibility
for one�s past, present and future.
However, there is a place for worship
and prayer in Jainism and the reason and justification for the same is
admirably summarized by Pujayapadacharya while beginning his commentary
Sarvarth Siddhi on Tatvarth in the following terms:
Moksamargasya netaram, bhettaram
karam bhu bhratham
Gyataram vishvatattavanam,vande tadgun
To the leaders on the path of
Destroyers of mountains of Karmas,
Knowers of the whole of reality,
I bow to acquire their qualities.
Accordingly, worship and prayer is
offered by the Jains to the qualities of the leaders on the path-the
quality of right knowledge and right conduct by which they have destroyed
the bondage of the Karma. The purpose is that such qualities may be
acquired by the worshipper by following in the footsteps of the
leaders-after all one learns by example. Nowhere it is intended, however,
that the leader will carry the follower, or even hold his hand.
Further there is an important place
given to veneration or reverence under penance-as indicated in the
previous chapter-as a means of destroying the bondage of Karma besides
teaching humility and modesty. Thus we find that the Jains offer, a five
fold worship which is universally practiced by all sects of Jains and is
given the name of Namaskar mantra credited with many a miraculous quality.
This Mantra is supposed to contain the cream of all scriptures of the
Jains and is as under :
Arihantanam- I bow to the Arihants - the omniscient personages.
Siddhanam- I bow to the Siddhas- the bodiless liberated souls.
Ayariyanam- I bow to the Acharyas- the Heads of the order.
Uvazzayanam- I bow to the Upadhyays-the head teacher saints
Sav Sahunam - I bow to all the saints in the universe.
One cannot fail to be struck by the
catholicity or universality and the impersonal tone of the above
incantation or Mantra. The worship is given to all souls worthy of
veneration throughout the universe- the Loka. It is irrespective of
any distinction of caste or creed or time or clime. Only the aggregate of
the qualities is worshipped rather than any individual A or B. Whosoever
satisfies the qualifications to be a saint (or any of the five worships)is
worshipped whether he is a Christian or a Buddhist, an Indian or Chinese
(or even belonging to any of the galaxies in outer space).
We can briefly describe each of these
five worships as under:
the word ari means enemies and hant means destroyer, and therefore,
Arihant is destroyer of enemies. but these enemies are not external
enemies, but the internal enemies of the soul- the four passions- anger,
pride, deceit and greed which give rise to Karma bondage. Those living
beings who have destroyed these internal enemies completely and are free
from the Karma bondage of the major types are called Arihants. This is
the highest stage a living being can reach with body. These Arihants
possess perfect vision, perfect knowledge and perfect conduct. Their
very presence spreads peace and prosperity all round. They inspire
veneration in all living beings. They preach and convert by their words
one and all to the noble path of non-violence, self control and penance,
which they propagate. Due to destruction of Karmas bondage like
knowledge obstructing Karmas etc. they possess infinite knowledge (which
enables a perfect knowledge of the past present and future as also of
the entire universe and non-universe)infinite vision, infinite prowess
and infinite bliss.
are liberated souls who have attained salvation having completely
destroyed all the Karmas. They have as such no encumbrance including
that of a body. Besides, possessing perfect knowledge, vision, bliss and
prowess these are neither heavy nor light, have penetrability and are
beyond sense perception as they are non-material. They are free from
cycle of births and deaths. They have thus attained Godhood, but they
maintain their individual identity, though they all being alike, are
indistinguishable like different rays of pure light.
This is the ideal for which every
living being strives, the Arihants also become Siddhas after leaving
their body (on expiation of minor Karmas). Actually arihanthood is a
stage on the way to siddhahood. Thus strictly speaking Siddhas should
get precedent over Arihants in the order of worship but the first place
is given to Arihants. The reason is that it is the Arihants who having
learnt the whole truth, preach the same to the toiling creatures to
enable them to proceed on the noble path, to the destination of
are Jain monks or saints who are heads of the order or the group of not
only saints but also of the four fold organization of Jains-monks, nuns,
laymen and lay women. They not only follow the rules of conduct for the
monks strictly but also ensure that the monks under them do so-as also
the entire lay community follows the rules framed for them .They teach
the right conduct and punish the delinquents to bring them on the right
path. They are the spiritual heads of Jains and are responsible for the
preservation and propagation of the noble path.
are monks who are responsible for the study of scriptures and
dissemination of their knowledge, amongst the monks and the laity. While
the acharyas are the heads who administer and maintain discipline in the
Sangha, the Upadhyays look after the teaching of the scriptures. They
are thus the spiritual teachers.
Saints or Monks-Those who have
renounced the world for spiritual search are monks. Under right conduct
we have seen the duties prescribed for monks. These are briefly the
observance of five major vows (Mahavrata) three controls (guptis), five
types of vigilance (Samitis), ten commandments (dharma), twelve penances
(tap) etc. The monks are required to observe these rules strictly.
Actually the last three worships-acharya,
upaddhyays and saints are all Jain monks and follow the rules for monks
apart from other duties prescribed. They are also on the path of spiritual
liberation and though worthy of worship by laymen, they worship the
Siddhas and Arihants, who are in the category of Gods as they are realized
souls. Thus this fivefold worship can be narrowed down to three-fold
worship-Arihants, Siddhas and sadhus. From this angle Arihants and Siddhas
fall in the category of gods and the remaining three are teachers (guru).
Coming back to the incantation it is
seen that it begins with namo which means to bow or to venerate. This
veneration is of two types-physical and mental. The former involves
folding of hands, bowing of head and touching the ground. By mental
veneration is meant withdrawing the mind from other attractions and
concentrating it upon the particular worship represented by its qualities.
For complete veneration both the body and mind should participate in it.
This Namaskar mantra or veneration is
also known as Panch Parmeshthi mantra, as the five most esteemed beings
are worshipped by it. Another name given is Navkar meaning nine sentences.
We have stated above the five sentences. The remaining four are:-
Eso Panch Namokaro
Sav Pava Ppnasno
Padhman Hawai Manglam
[This five-fold worship(6),destroyer of
all sins (7), amongst all beneficents (8), this is the best beneficent(9)]
Another tradition adds four more
worships to the five mentioned earlier to make them nine as under-
Namo Nannassa - I bow to knowledge.
Namo Dassanassa - I bow to vision.
Namo Charitassa - I bow to conduct.
Namo Tavassa - I bow to penance.
It needs no mention that knowledge,
vision, conduct and penance mean right knowledge, right vision, right
conduct and right penance dealt with under the chapter "Three Jewels" and
there is no need of repetition of their importance However, it should
again be clear that these also involve worship of the qualities and not
individuals which only reiterates the catholicity of the prayer.
As an abbreviated from this mantra is
recited as "A" "Si" "AA" "U" "SA" and still further as Om, which is
claimed to be the Navkar Mantra in the shortest from as explained in next
The first letter of the five worships is
A B C
Si (Also known as Ashariri-Bodyless)
Sadhu or Muni
M for muni
The short form emerging from column B is
A , Si, AA, U, SA i.e. ASIAA USA. From column C we find A-A-AA-U-M
means Om, the crescent and star on top indicating the liberated soul. Both
these abbreviated forms are called beeja mantra and are frequently used
As stated earlier, recitation of this
mantra is a must for every Jain, morning and evening. He may not know
anything else but a Jain will know the Namokar Mantra. Elaborated this
mantra contains not only the Jain theology but also the Jain metaphysics
and ethics. It is, therefore, rightly claimed that Namaskar mantra
contains the gist of all the Jain scriptures. Its regular timely
meditation in the prescribed procedure with proper posture, dress, diet,
concentration and faith brings numerous benefits, it is claimed. These are
like curing sickness and thwarting dangers, apart from bringing peace,
prosperity and happiness. However, the mantra should be practiced under
proper guidance of a teacher and the aim should be to uplift the soul,
destroy the karma bondage and to follow in the foot-prints of the five
worships on the noble path.