- Do you get bored in the Pratikraman?
- Do you do the Pratikraman every year?
- Would you like to understand every word being said?
- Would you like to go deep into the meaning of the Pratikraman and know why you should do it?
- Would you like to experience the real meaning of Pratikraman?
- Do the youngsters ask a lot of questions about the Pratikraman and you aren’t answer them?
- Do you think there should be a measurable spiritual gain out of the Pratikraman?
- Would you like to know why you do Vaandana and Kausagga?
- Would you like to have an interactive Pratikraman where all participants, even youngsters, participate with enthusiasm?
“If you answered most of the questions is Yes, then you would benefit from this article.”
Bhav Pratikraman (An Experiential Process)
(for the people who do not understand the Sutra meanings)
(for the people who want to experience the essence of the Pratikraman)
This article will help the people – who perform Samvatsari (or any) Pratikraman but don’t understand what is being said. Not only that, but this will also help you in starting a simple Pratikraman explained here which you can perform daily in a few minutes. Even those who perform regularly daily traditional Pratikraman can use this method as a supplement since recitation of the Sutras doesn’t allow any time to contemplate on and ask forgiveness for the wrongdoings; which is the main purpose of any Pratikraman to start with. Fundamentally, thinking a true Real-Time Pratikraman will happen when you ask for forgiveness the moment you realize you did something wrong like hurt someone’s feelings, told a lie, cheated in filing income tax, hit an animal while driving, sprayed chemicals to kill ants, etc. If you make this practice, the instantaneous Pratikraman will become your second nature and will lead to the minimization of your sinful acts.
We have been doing the traditional Sanvatsari Pratikraman in our area (New Jersey, USA) for more than 40 years. More than 100 persons participate from the age of seven to 80. For more than three hours all participants sit patiently even though they understand very little. The older people do Pratikraman because they were raised with this tradition in India. Some of them look forward to the excitement of ‘Zankara Rav Sara—–’. Some participants like the kausagga of 161 navkars which gives them the opportunity to be challenged. Most of the adults do understand Atichaar Sutra which is in Gujarati. However, the majority of the items and situations mentioned in that Sutra were very relevant hundred years ago when an agricultural economy – which makes little sense in today’s world. Most of the urban population would not understand most of the instances described therein. When it comes to youngsters – who are educated in the English medium, they come and sit respectfully with inquisitive gaze in their eyes. I admire their patience for sitting – occasionally standing up with a charavlo for the kausagga, without understanding a single word.
Even for the people who understand the meanings of some sutras, there is very little relevance for activities like ‘Muhapatti Padilehan’ and most of the Atichar items in today’s life of the 21st century even in India, let alone abroad. As a result, the Pratikraman becomes analogous to reading a cookbook recipe in French or Latin where you don’t understand any words, let alone following the recipe instructions and preparing a cuisine dish. Consequently, you stay hungry despite reading the recipe over and over again.
In order to make the Pratrikraman more meaningful and relevant to our today’s life we started an experiment in Modern Pratikraman which has two primary objectives; 1) each participant must understand what is being said and 2) they must participate actively and experience the real essence of the Pratikraman. This process is structured with the following criteria in mind.
- We speak and conduct the whole Pratikraman in a currently spoken language English or Gujarati depending on the participants.
- We concentrate on the key principles and explain them in a manner which makes relevant to our today’s life.
- Each participant must understand the objective of each activity and be allowed to contemplate and do what the Sutras say. Participants must experience the true meaning of Pratikraman.
The steps of our modern Pratikraman are described here briefly for an overview.
First, we discuss the meaning of Prati-kraman. It means coming back to your Self – which is a pure soul, from transgressions which are counter to the scriptural teachings. So, the Pratikraman is supposed to remind ourselves how we should be living our life. Wherever we did not follow the teachings, we need to repent, ask for forgiveness, and resolve not to do it again. So, you ask for forgiveness for 1) for doing what you are not supposed to do and 2) for not doing what you are supposed to do. Thus, if one does such a Pratikraman regularly with proper understanding, the right behavior eventually would become their second nature.
After the objective and meaning of Pratikraman are clearly understood we lead the session through the six essentials which constitute crucial steps of a Pratikraman.
1 st . Essential – Samayik.
Our interpretation of Samayik is maintaining a state of equanimity with all beings in all circumstances. It means perceiving the same pure soul (Shuddhatma) in every being. Even though people look different in color, creed, size, and gender, they all possess the same soul within. Each soul including that contained in animals and vegetation is potentially divine. Karmic covering makes them look, think, and behave differently. After this discussion, the participants are led through an experiential technique with the following instructions.
- Close your eyes and contemplate for five to ten minutes
- Whoever comes before your mind’s eye ‘see a pure soul in that person or being’. e.g.
- If you see your friend, see a pure soul in him/her.
- If you see your parent or child see a pure soul in that person
- If you see a person who insulted you or cheated you in business, see a pure soul.
- If you see your pet, see a pure soul in it.
- If you see a neighbor who fought with you last week, see a pure soul in her
- Even if you see your staunch enemy, see a pure soul in that person
- If you see a neighbor’s dog who barks at you every day, see in him a pure soul.
- If you see the political leader you hate, see in him a pure soul.
Such a Samayik, if practiced this way frequently, should bring equanimity in our mind i.e. perceiving the fundamental sameness of all souls. This practice will increase your tolerance. As a result, you will have a more forgiving nature with a proper understanding of daily life.
2 nd Essential – Reverence to Masters (Chausattho)
The 24 Masters (Teerthankar) uncovered the ultimate knowledge, lived by the principles they preached, and gave us the path of salvation. So, we pay our homage (Namaskar) to them.
- Close your eyes and contemplate for a few minutes
- Think of your favorite temple and image (Pratima), may it be Mahavir swami or Parshvanath or any one of the Tirthankaras
- Keep them in front of your mind’s eye.
- Fold your hands, bow your head, and give your homage by tuning your mind and heart.
- Contemplate on their virtues and teachings.
- If your mind wanders away, think of their life events – e.g. Lord Mahavir forgiving cowherds for piercing thorns in His ears or the instance of Parshvanath and Kamath.
- Pray that your life becomes like theirs.
- Ask for their grace.
3 rd Essential – Homage to Guru (Vandana)
Our gurus are our spiritual guides in absence of the Tirthankara. They renounce amenities of family life, live an austere life, and help the society by teaching and preaching. We must respect them and take care of all their necessities Technique:
- Close your eyes and pay homage to the Guru for a few minutes
- Think of your favorite guru or teacher who helped you in your spiritual endeavor.
- Imagine he /she is standing in front of you
- Then bow your head at his feet, and take his feet dust on your head. (these are Vandanas)
- Pay your respect in your mind and heart.
- Think that his grace powder (Vaskshep) falling on your head.
- Ask for forgiveness if you disobeyed any of his/her wishes or ignored your duty to them.
- Pray and promise that next time you are with the guru you will act dutifully and obediently.
- Ask for their grace.
4 th Essential – Returning to the Self (Pratikraman)
Pratikraman is supposed to be a cleansing process for all our misdeeds. This is the heart of the whole process. There are many Sutras for this Kshamapana, but we focus on Eighteen Sin Causes (Addhar Papa-Sthanaka). According to our scriptures, there are eighteen primary causes of our sinful deeds. We generally think that sin is caused by our physical action. In reality, violence can also be caused by a thought or word. In fact, the degree of violence by thought is considered to be much higher than a reactive physical action, because a thought leads to a pre-meditated action. We lead the participants through a discussion of these sin causes one by one giving them time to contemplate and beg for forgiveness for any sin they have committed.
In this article, for the sake of brevity, only a few examples of the sin-causes are discussed. You should select all 18 or whichever you think are suitable for your participants depending on their age and background.
1st Sin-cause – Violence (Praanatipaat) means taking the life of or hurting others being which include vegetable life as well as the animal kingdom.
- Close your eyes and contemplate and ask for forgiveness for a few minutes.
- Think of a one-sense soul like a tree, plant, grass, and ask for forgiveness for the hurt caused by us.
- Think if you have hurt a bush or tree by being careless or thoughtless while working in a garden.
- Think of mowing a lawn with a blade which is not sharp which hurts grass (like a barber cutting your hair with blunt scissors).
- Think of two sense souls. Driving over earthworms or bugs or animals. Think of animals like cats, dogs, deer, etc hurt by your car; ask for forgiveness.
- Then comes asking for forgiveness from your fellow humans. Think of the people you abused or hurt physically and ask for forgiveness.
- If you wished evil for someone you don’t like, this is the time to ask for forgiveness.
- If you ever wished for someone to die, ask for forgiveness.
2nd Sin cause – Telling a lie (Mrushaavaad)
- Close your eyes and contemplate and ask forgiveness for a few minutes.
- You may have lied while filing your income tax and sales tax returns, or preparing expense vouchers, or lying to custom officers.
- Lying to a parent, spouse, friend, or relatives for different reasons.
- Lying or cheating in a business deal or transaction.
- Lying to your spouse.
- Lying to your teacher.
- Ask for forgiveness.
3rd Sin Cause – Unlawful Possession (Adattadaan)
This means not only stealing but taking or possessing anything which is not earned by you or lawfully given to you.
- Close your eyes and contemplate, ask for forgiveness for a few minutes.
- Think of any department store like Macy’s or Sears where the cashier punched one item less or wrong price and you were glad since it was in your favor.
- Took someone’s belongings and kept them without their permission.
- Stole someone’s idea, money, or things.
- Saying ‘finder the keeper’ you kept some money or valuable found on the street.
- Ask for forgiveness for these kinds of deeds.
(I have skipped 4 and 5 here just to keep this article shorter)
6th Sin cause – Anger (Krodh)
- Close your eyes and contemplate, for a few minutes.
- Think of those with whom you became angry, may it be a spouse, parent, relative, co-worker, boss, policeman, politician, or others involved. Ask for forgiveness.
- Regardless of what the other person did, anger is our weakness and bad for our body, mind, heart, and soul.
- Since it is our nature which was formed by the Karmic history of our several past lives, it cannot change quickly. So, don’t feel guilty if it happens over and over again. Any time you are in the state of anger, ask for forgiveness and pray for the grace of God and guru so that you get freed from this weakness.
- Think of Mahavir Swami, he was not angry when bitten by a cobra; instead, he prayed and enlightened him.
Note: – Sin causes no. 6 to 9 namely Anger (Krodh), Ego (Maan), Deceit – Cheating (Maya), and Greed (Lobh) are very relevant to the modern life. Discussion and meditation on these four will help tremendously in today’s stressful life. You should expand this as you see it fit.
This way we continue through eighteen sin-causes. Depending on the time constraint and nature of participants, you can focus on just 1st sin-cause or first five or first nine or six to nine or all eighteen. The idea is to have a discussion of a sin cause and giving them time to contemplate and ask for forgiveness from the other party in their mind. As a result of this experience, if they want to go to the people and ask for forgiveness, it is well and good. If they can’t do it in person, that is also OK too.
5th essential – Meditation (Kausagga)
The objective is to go beyond our body consciousness which binds the soul, and creates a false belief that ‘I am Body ‘. This is the same as the material ego (Ahankar). The ego is an attachment to a false image of one’s self. Once you go beyond your mortal mind, your material ego is dissolved, and you experience the bliss of your soul. You may even feel oneness with all souls in the universe, and then you will not or cannot cheat or harm any other being. Technique:
- Close your eyes and contemplate and meditate for a few minutes.
- Chant Navkar Mantra or any mantra is given by your guru.
- Concentrate on the letters of the Mantra.
- Then contemplate the meaning of the Mantra.
- If that does not work, think of the Tirthankara or your favorite guru; and contemplate one of their virtues.
- If mind still wanders watch the inhaling and exhaling of your breath.
- Practice any meditation technique that works for you.
6th Essential – Vow (Pachakkhan)
During the Pratikraman (contemplating the 18 sin causes) you may have noticed many weaknesses in your self. They could include over-indulgence, anger, insulting other people, jealousy, inferiority or superiority complex, false ego, or impulse to steal. So now you need to resolve to correct anyone or two which you prefer. Take a vow that you will try to eliminate or minimize the selected weaknesses. If it still repeats, decide what corrective action you will take. Then, you may decide that you will take some time daily to introspect and analyze your behavior, and make an effort to correct your weakness.
Close your eyes and contemplate for a few minutes on your Resolution, and ask for the grace of Tirthankara and Guru so that you will have the strength to carry out your resolution…
Along with Arvindbhai’s Article,
Anop vora’s 50 Slide Presentation explaining the board meaning of Samvatsari Pratikraman.
The real Pratikraman is to ask for forgiveness immediately after you realize your mistake or misdeed. If you can’t do it instantly, fine, then do it daily or periodically. The sooner you do the better chance you have for elimination of the karma. If you do such Pratikraman regularly, your mistakes may happen, but the intensity may be less and less and ultimately the right behavior will be your second nature. Then Pratikraman will happen automatically on an on-going basis as soon as you do something wrong. When such a Pratikraman is performed frequently, the spiritually desired behavior will result in calming your mind, normalizing your health, and getting closer to your soul which inherently is full of bliss.
The author is not a religious scholar or authority. He is simply a seeker of the meanings that are hidden in our scriptures and camouflaged under the rituals. He is available to discuss this further or lead an experiential session. The author will appreciate your feedback.
Arvind Shah is a retired management consultant. He currently is managing the USA based Ratna Global Foundation which provides humanitarian, medical, and educational services through their sister NGO called Ratnanidhi Charitable Trust in Mumbai.