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Akshay Pandya performs his first Jina Abhishek
in Adinath Temple, JCA NY
Young Askhay Pandya performed his first Jina Abhishek and Shanti Dhara upon celebrating his 8th Birthday in the Adinath Jinalaya, Jain Center of America, New York, reaffirming his heritage as a Jain Shravak. Young Akshay is seen surrounded by other youngsters, teenagers, young adults and many well wishing elders as he gets a unique opportunity as the third generation of his family to be raised in the United States to be able to perform Jina Abhishek in the tradition of his forefathers from India. It is this practice and reaffirmation of his faith that will preserve and grow our Digamber tradition in North America. After Shanti Dhara, young Akshay did Vinay Paatth, Pooja Praramb, Pratigya Paatth, Svasti Mangal Paatth, followed by Samuchchaya Pooja (Dev Shaastra Guru) and then attended Pathshala class with other youngsters.

Every idol-worshipping religion attaches great significance to poojan of the idol and corresponding rituals. A person feels gratified and experiences great joy upon catching a glimpse of the idol he adores for it is the measure of his faith.

The Six Daily Essentials Prescribed for a Jain Household:

  • Pooja
  • Guru Upasti
  • Swadhyaya
  • Saiyam
  • Tap
  • Daan

  • Dev Pooja is the foremost of the essentials for Jains. Pooja is usually done in the presence of an idol and with some offering (Dravya Pooja), but it can also be done in the absence of an idol and with no material offering (Bhava Pooja). Pooja is usually performed in the temple before an idol of an Arihanta, but it can also be performed at home with or without an idol.

    Before visiting the temple, a person must take a bath and put on washed clothes which are usually kept in the temple for this purpose. While going to temple, utmost care should be observed that no living beings are harmed due to ones carelessness. Before entering the temple one must wash his hands and feet. As he enters the temple hall, he should ring the bells slowly so the devas and people around acknowledge his presence.

    As he enters, he should chant Nisahi, Nisahi, Nisahi, Om Jai Jai Jai Namostu, Namostu, Namostu. One then recites the Namokar Mantra three times and bows before the idol. He then walks around the vedi in a clockwise direction three times. He now enters the Gabhara and is ready to do the Pooja.

    The Pooja Consist of:

  • Abhishek or Prakshal (i.e. Bathing the Idol)
  • Shanti Mantra
  • Pooja - Awahanan, Pooja, Jaimala
  • Shanti Path
  • Visarjan
  • Aarti

    Abhishek - Bathing the idol is usually done with pure water. On certain occasions, people perform the Panchamrut Abhishek which consists of five dravyas: water, milk, curd, sandal water, and ghee. However, seeing the way in which milk is obtained these days, many discourage using both milk and its derivatives.

    The main purpose of the abhishek is to wash away any bad thoughts in our mind. It also serves the purpose of keeping the idol clean. The Hindi prayer usually used during this is Papacharan taj nabha karke chitt me ese dharu, sakchayat sri Arihant ka mano nabhansparsan karoo, which is given under Janmkalyanak in Pooja books.

    It reminds us of how Indra felt as he was bathing the new born Tirthankar. We pray to God to remove all evil thoughts, desires, passions and worldly attachments so that what remains of us will be pure self. Then the idol is dried with clean clothes again reciting the prayer "Prabhu Patit Pawan".

    The main pooja is done with astadravya (eight substances).

    Jal (pure water): offered to rid oneself of the cycle of birth, aging and death (Janm Jara Mrityu Vinashnaya). Every living being continuously travels through the miseries of life-birth and death. The jal reminds us to live our life as pure as water; this way one will be able to attain Moksha.

    Chandan (sandal/ saffron water): offered to subside the suffering of the world (Sansar taap vinashnaya). The very nature of Chandan (sandal) is to overcome our miseries thru gyan.

    Akshata (white washed rice without husk): symbolises the end of the life birth cycle (Akshay pad praptaya) just as white rice can not be re-germinated.

    Pushp (flower): symbolizes passion and sensual pleasure. Offering the flower means abandoning all passions which are the root cause for the accumulation of karmas (Kamvaan Vinasnaya). Saffron colored rice is used most of the time instead of picking flowers which causes himsa to plants and carries insects in them.

    Navedya (small white pieces of coconut): symbolizes tasty food. It signifies the desire of the person doing pooja to be able to reduce or eliminate desire of tasty food (Chuda rog Vinasanaya). The ultimate aim of ones life is to avoid the need for any food at all by attaining salvation. Again, to avoid the violence involved in the making of sweets, we use pieces of coconut.

    Deep (small saffron-colored pieces of coconut/ diya): offered to destroy the darkness of ignorance and false beliefs (Mohandhakar Vinashnaya).

    Doop (cloves/sandal dust): offered to destroy all the eight karmas (Astkarma Vindhansanya).

    Phal (almond/ coconut): offered in the hopes of achieving Nirvana (Moksha Phal Praptaya). Here again, whole almonds or coconut are used to minimize possible violence in offering fresh fruits.

    Arghya (a mixture of all eight dravyas): This offering is again to obtain Moksha (Anargh Pad Praptaya). Arghya can be used when one does not have time to do full pooja using all eight dravyas.

    Jayamala (Adoration): In this, we recite the virtues of the Tirthankar Bhawan. While reciting his virtues, we are also reminded that our soul possesses similar virtues and is capable of attaining Moksha by getting rid of Karmas (Siddha Swaroopo Hum; Atma so Parmatma)

    Shanti Paath: Essentially wishing peace and happiness for all the living being.

    Visharjan: This is the conclusion of the pooja. In it we are praying to all of the celestials beings present during the pooja to leave to their respective places and asking for their forgiveness for any mistakes and/ or negligence committed during the pooja.

    Aarti: of Panch parmesti or Thirthankar is also recited to end the pooja.

    Following the Aarti, we may do swadhyaya and meditation. Swadhyaya is also built into the pooja; carefully reciting the pooja can lead to better understanding of the concepts.

    The whole purpose of pooja is that by reciting the virtues of the Tirthankar, we also remind ourselves that these same virtues are also possessed by us and that by taking the path of the Tirthankars, we can also achieve Nirvana. By wanting worldly desires, we keep ourselves trapped in the continuous cycle of birth and death.

    Although poojas are usually directed to Tirthankars, we can also do the Nav Devta Pooja, a prayer to the nine religious leaders: the Panch Parmesti (Arihant, Siddha, Aacharya, Uppadhyaya, and Sadhu) Jin Dharma, Jin Aagam, Jin Chetya and Jin Chetyalya.

    Certain poojas are associated with special occasion or festivals, for example, the Das Laxan pooja, Ratnatrya pooja, Deevali pooja, Sohlakaran pooja, Dhoopdashmi pooja, Rakshabandan pooja, etc. They are associated with the significance of the specific occasion and help to strengthen our belief in our religion.

    Akshay Pandya performs his first Jina Abhishek
    in Adinath Temple, JCA New York

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