Six Essential Rituals (Ävashyaka)


Jainism is a very practical religion which helps a person in every day affairs of life.  Jainism has to be practiced and lived.  Jain ethics are meant for all men and women in every walk of life. Contemplation of the soul is the main part of Jainism. Contemplation of the soul includes thinking, analyzing and meditating as a part of the right conduct. 


The rituals are interwoven with the daily life of a pious Jain. Acts of charity and non-violence, practice of Sämäyik (equanimity), going to temple for Jinpujä and to listen to our Guru, practice of partial vows, giving alms to our mendicants, living an honest life, performing Pratikraman and many similar acts constitute daily rituals of a Jain.


The soul, in its pure form, has infinite perception, infinite knowledge, infinite vigor, and is non-attached. These attributes are not realized in a worldly soul because it is soiled with karmas. The karmas are mainly due to four passions (Kashäy); anger, ego, deceit and ego. Tirthankars have expounded many ways to free our selves from these four Kashäy (anger, ego, deceit and greed) and, as a result, attain Moksha. One of the ways is practice of six Ävashyak. Practicing six essential rites with true feeling, one begins to free him/her-self of passions and helps progress spiritually. These six essential rites are to be practiced daily. 


These are:  (1) Sämäyik, the practice of equanimity (meditation); (2) Chaturvimsati-stava, praise of the twenty four Tirthankars; (3) Vandanä, veneration (of the mendicant teachers); (4) Pratikaman, expiation (for transgressions); (5) Kayotsarga, abandonment of the body (standing or sitting motionless for various length of time); (6) Pratyäkhyäna, renunciation (of certain foods, indulgences, or activities, for a specified period).


In addition, Digambars developed a list of practices quite similar to these six essential rites:   (1) Devpujä, worship of the Tirthankars; which in fact covers the Sämäyik, Chaturvimsati-stava, and Vandanä; (2) Vartta- the exercise of an honest livelihood; (3) Dän, charity (giving alms to mendicants); (4) Svädhyäy - study of the scriptures; (5) Samyam- the carrying out of the partial vows (anuvrata) with complete self discipline; (6) Tap, austerities which includes Pratikraman, Pratyäkhyäna, and Kayotsarga. It can be seen that the ritual practices recommended here are very close to those mentioned earlier.


1. Sämäyik – Equanimity, to remain calm and undisturbed, to discard all sinful activities and to engage in spiritual activities to be free of all passions, not to have feeling of liking or disliking, no attachment, no desire, no aversion. Sämäyik is the process that enhances the quality of equanimity. The process that takes one closer to the soul is Sämäyik. In brief, Sämäyik is the state of equanimity. From the realistic point of view, Sämäyik is the state of purified soul. It implies evenness of mind and temper.


Spiritually, time spent in equanimity is the only successful time, and all other times are wasted. No one has attained Moksha, no one is attaining Moksha, and no one will attain Moksha without the practice of Sämäyik. To treat all living beings equal is the Sämäyik. To abandon the spiritually wrongful activities, and practice the spiritually right activities is Sämäyik. Sämäyik is the true conduct. Sämäyik is the essence of Tirthankar’s teachings. Soul is Sämäyik. One has to practice Sämäyik to attain right perception, right knowledge and right conduct. Jain monks and nuns are supposed to be in the state of equanimity (Sämäyik) through out their life. Good Shrävaks  practice Sämäyik everyday. There is a great detail on the subject of Sämäyik in the Jain canonical books. One should try to practice at least one Sämäyik a day, if not more. Time spent in Sämäyik is time spent as a Sädhu. In next chapter, Sämäyik will be explained in detail.


2. Chaturvimshati-Stav - Praying and appreciating the qualities of the twenty-four Tirthankars. Logassa Sutra is the Chaturvimshati-Stav. By reciting Logassa Sutra with tree feelings, one purifies the beliefs, and attains the right perception. One who has the right perception attains Moksha in relatively short time. By praising the qualities of Tirthankars, the passions are subdued.


3. Vandanä - Respecting and saluting ascetics. In absence of Thirthankar, our true teachers are our Jain Ächaryas, Upädhyäyas and Sädhus, who show us the path of liberation. They are the practitioners of the true path of salvation. By paying respect to the true Jain monks and nuns, one wins over his/her egos, and develops the quality of humility (vinay). This process subdues our passions, and helps us advance spiritually,


4. Pratikraman - Reviewing our daily activities, and concentrating on retreating from them. Pratikraman is the best of all six Ävashyaka (essential rites). "Prati" means "back" and "kraman" means "to go", i.e. to go back, review, confess, and repent the bad thoughts and deeds from our daily, nightly, biweekly, quarterly and yearly activities. It also means going back to the path of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-attachment, and forgiving the faults of others, asking forgiveness for our faults without any reservation, and extending friendship. This will stop (Samvara) the influx (Äsrava) of karma that cover the true nature of our soul (self, jiva, or ätmä) which has the qualities of perfect knowledge, vision, bliss, and power. It means to disengage from non-soul like activities, and to engage in the soul-like activities. Pratikraman is like a mirror. We see our selves, externally, in mirror the way it is. During Pratikraman, we see our selves, internally, the way it is. We see our faults, and wrong doings. We ask for forgiveness for all wrongful acts, and take vows to minimize such acts.


5. Käyotsarga - Stopping attachments to the body, and tuning with yourself. The main reason for our misery is that, since the beginningless time (Anädi-käl) we have been considering our body as our self, not the soul. This process of Käyotsarga involves, making all non-soul items like body, mind and emotions as steady as possible so that one can concentrate on and experience that the soul is different than the body. This process helps reduce the attachment to the material things. This gives the experience that our self is our soul.


6. Pratyäkhän/Pachchhakhän - Renouncing certain activities for some time to discipline one's self. To take vows according to one’s capabilities, to disengage from foreign substances and to engage in the self-substance. The Shrävaks take partial vows, and ascetics take the great vows.

Importance of Pratikraman

Among all six essentials, the Pratikraman ritual is the most important one. It covers the other five essentials during the performance of its rites as follows:


One is required to do Sämäyik before Pratikraman rituals. During Pratikraman rituals, by reciting Logassa and Namutthunam Sutras one salutes the twenty-four Tirthankars and their qualities. By reciting Panchindiya and Khamäsamanä Sutras one salutes the ascetics and their qualities. Thus, Pratikraman includes Chaturvimshati-Stav and Vandanä essentials. The Pratikraman ritual is done while sitting or standing in the meditating position, and this is Käyotsarg. During the Pratikraman ritual one is required to take Pachchhakhän according to one's capacity covering Pratyäkhän essential.


The Pratikraman procedure includes many Sutras. The original texts are written in Ardha-maghdhi (language of common people during Mahävir’s time) and Sanskrit languages which consist of many hymns in praise of Lords and many verses of repentance and confession.


Jains are required to perform Pratikraman twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. The evening Pratikraman is for the sins committed during the day. Pratikraman is for the sins committed during the night. However, if someone cannot perform the daily Pratikraman there is a provision for biweekly, quarterly, or yearly Pratikraman. The yearly Pratikraman is called Samvatsari and the scriptures indicate that all Jains must do Samvatsari Pratikraman.

Spiritual Meanings Behind the Items Used in Sämäyik & Pratikraman

Charavalo: is used to gently clean the floor (to make the space free of subtle living beings). It also allows the aspirant to move when it is necessary during the Sämäyik or Pratikraman. Its spiritual meaning is to remind us that we need to clean our soul of all karma particles. It reminds us of non-violence. Its stick is 24 fingers tall and it reminds us that we have been punished 24 different ways because of our karma. Its white-wool string-group is 8 fingers tall, to remind us that we are entrapped in the worldly existence (journey of misery) because of the eight main karma. Charavalo and Muhapatti, both constantly remind the aspirant that he/she is in Sämäyik,  he/she has to exercise equanimity during the Sämäyik. 

Katäsanu: It is also known as Äsan. Katäsanu means the piece of mat on which one sits and experiences discomfort (kasht). It should be of white wool. Wool indirectly helps in abandoning the bad elements, and attract the good elements. It insulates body from loosing the energy that is generated due to the practice of Sämäyik. It protects subtle mobile living beings underneath. White color promotes peace and enhances the spiritual environment.


Muhapatti: It is a small piece of white cloth folded in a particular way, used in front of the mouth about 2 to 3 inches away while reciting Sämäyik Sutras. Because of Muhapatti, one becomes careful about what he/she speaks, and stops him/her from saying lies, and making provocative and non-beneficiary speech to others. One controls his/her speech, and speaks only when it is necessary. Uncontrollable spits are stopped by the Muhapatti from falling on the instruments of knowledge such as books. Insentient and worm air that is coming out of the mouth is also stopped from mixing with sentient and cold air of the outside, thus becomes the act of non-violence. By use of Muhapatti, one becomes humble and courteous. Muhapatti is about 10 to 12-inch square white cloth piece, folded in half, then folded about one inch from the closed side, and then it is folded laterally. This way it has three open sides and one closed side, and it symbolizes that living beings attain Moksha through only one destiny - human beings, and not from other three destinies.


Sthäpanächärya: The preceptor’s seat that is installed when the right guru is not present by putting a religious book that contains Navakär Mahämantra  on a Säpada (book stand) with Navakärväli on it. The aspirant sits facing East or North in front of the preceptor’s seat. This enables the aspirant to maintain the discipline, and develops the quality of humility. One does not gain spiritually without the proper guidance from the right guru.