First Steps To Jainism(Part-1)


The Five Worships (The Panch Parmeshthi)

(Step Five)

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 labdhye.

To the leaders on the path of liberation,

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 :

1.Namo Arihantanam- I bow to the Arihants - the omniscient personages.

2.Namo Siddhanam- I bow to the Siddhas- the bodiless liberated souls.

3.Namo Ayariyanam- I bow to the Acharyas- the Heads of the order.

4.Namo Uvazzayanam- I bow to the Upadhyays-the head teacher saints

5.Namo loye 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:

  1. Arihants-Literally 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.
  2. Siddhas-These 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.
  3. 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 Siddhahood.
  4. Acharyas-They 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.
  5. Upadhyays-They 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.
  6. 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:-

  1. Eso Panch Namokaro
  2. Sav Pava Ppnasno
  3. Manglanancha Savesin
  4. 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-

  1. Namo Nannassa - I bow to knowledge.
  2. Namo Dassanassa - I bow to vision.
  3. Namo Charitassa - I bow to conduct.
  4. 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 paragraph.

The first letter of the five worships is given below-


    One form Second form







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 for meditation.

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.