Serving as Paryushan Chair this semester on Penn’s Hindu and Jain Association was a very spiritual and rewarding experience for me. Paryushan is an 8-10 day Jain holiday to renew faith where people take the time to think about their year, contemplate their spirituality, and ask forgiveness for any harms caused through their words, thoughts, or actions. Digambar Paryushan lasts 10 days and is also known as Das Lakshan. Each day is assigned a specific virtue for reflection. This Paryushan at Penn, I really took some time to think about each virtue.
Growing up learning Eastern religious philosophies at home while studying Western religious philosophies at school, I always looked for similarities. I realize and appreciate that the greatest similarities I find among various faiths are virtues. Religious or not, I believe virtues are applicable to each person’s daily life. Therefore, for this Paryushan, I decided to post blurbs about each virtue according to the appropriate day and challenge my peers to perform various deeds aimed to do good to others or themself (the soul) Although Paryushan is over now, I hope you enjoy reading through some basics about each virtue and can perform some of these acts of kindness throughout the year.
Uttam Kshama (Forgiveness): Think about the times that someone has hurt you or that you have hurt someone else. Forgiveness is to observe tolerance wholeheartedly, while shunning anger. We tend to ignore our own faults and magnify the faults of others; often, we know our own mistakes but pride makes it difficult for us to to admit them.
Challenge: Identify someone who has wronged or hurt you and perform an anonymous act of kindness towards them. For example, you could leave them a small gift like candy or a motivational message at their door.
Uttam Mardarva (Humility): Humility means letting go of ego, feelings of superiority, and feelings of inferiority. We often measure our worth by the material and temporary but we need to acknowledge that at the core of all beings, the soul, we are all equal. This realization will bring true happiness.
Challenge: Send a thank you note to someone who has had a meaningful impact in your life, whether it has been towards your academic, professional, or personal growth. Acknowledge that others have a had a role in your success. And also just try to say Thank You more often 🙂
Uttam Arjava (Straightforwardness): We often find inconsistency between our thoughts, words, and actions which leads to deceit. To practice straightforwardness, all of our engagements, those with ourself and with others, must be in harmony. Practicing this harmony will help to become more reliable and trustworthy.
Challenge: Pledge to be totally, completely, and radically honest with yourself and others. Don’t withhold statements or give half truths during your daily engagements. Also, be honest with yourself. Ask questions like “Do I really want to do this or I am doing it for the sake of others/popularity?” “Am I actually comfortable with my dress, speech, diet, etc?”
Uttam Sauch (Contentment): Nowadays, we always want things, and we want more and more of them. Desires turn into greed and we become eluded into feeling content for the short term. Take time today to think about what actually brings happiness. Know that the material is transient while the soul is permanent.
Challenge: Identify one possession that you wear or use regularly (like a piece of jewelry or a watch) and give it up for today. Reflect on your attachments to worldly things.
Uttam Satya (Truthfulness): We often find it is easier to lie but in the long run, sustaining a lie takes many more lies and leads to unreliability. Truthfulness is not only about lying, but also includes refraining from speaking when unnecessary or harming others with our words. Being truthful brings us closer to our soul’s true nature.
Challenge: Truly think about the conversations you are having and at least 3 times, refrain from superfluous speech or consider about whether your words are harmful in any way before speaking (if they so, change them!)
Uttam Samyam (Self-Restraint): This means restraining from injuring any life form, from the smallest of one sensed organisms to our own self. We often injure life by physical or emotional means due to carelessness. To practice self restraint, we must be mindful and aware of all our actions, words, and thoughts. Controlling our own attachments and passions will also lead to ultimate happiness.
Challenge: Refrain from eating your favorite food item (like ice cream or soda). Reflect on how you are practicing self- restraint by controlling worldly desires.
Uttam Tap (Penance): Penance, or austerity is performing mental and physical exercises to help our soul attain a more peaceful and spiritual mindset. Common practices include fasting, avoiding indulgent foods, praying, and meditating. When we practice penance, we have more time to think and cleanse our soul.
Challenge: Take 10-20 minutes out of your day to meditate. Close your eyes, take slow even breaths, and try to abandon yourself from the body and worldly burdens. Let go of desires and passions and be absorbed with the nature of the soul.
Uttam Tyag (Renunciation): Renunciation means letting go of worldly possessions and desires. The strength of a person is not defined by the wealth they accumulate but rather the wealth they renounce. Think about the things you truly value and determine whether they are a quality of your soul or just a momentary deviation from a perfect state.
Challenge: Renounce your stress and anxiety about classes, internships, or jobs. Instead, take time to contemplate how material or academic success is transient and will not provide you with lasting happiness.
Uttam Aakinchanya (Nonattachment): Think about all the things you are attached to. This can range from all material possessions to friends, family, or your body. Detachment allows us to obtain the truest form of compassion for them and that does not mean to stop caring. Being detached helps us control desires and leads the soul to purification.
Challenge: Turn off social media for a few hours to reduce attachment to social networks, social image, and need for constant connection and communication.
Brahmacharya (Celibacy): This virtue does not only pertain to sexual pleasures, but also any desires that have to do with the five senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. Controlling our senses allows us to separate our soul from our passions and thus truly dwell within our soul.
Challenge: Do not adjust the thermostat in your room for today. Let your body experience the natural temperature and push yourself to control desires of the senses.
Arranged by Shivali Govani | College Class of 2018