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Navakar Mantra  is the fundamental prayer in Jainism and can be recited at any time of the day. While praying by reciting this mantra, the devotee bows with respect to Arihantas, Siddhas, spiritual leaders (Acharyas), teachers (Upadyayas) and all the monks. This worship the virtues of all the supreme spiritual people instead of just worshipping one particular person. It is important to note that the Navakar Mantra does not mention the names of even Tirthankaras and Siddhas. At the time of recitation, a Jain devotee remembers their virtues and tries to emulate them. In this mantra Jains bow down to these supreme spiritual personalities, and therefore, it is also called Navakar Mantra.

Namokâr Mantra, also called the Navakâr Mantra or the Namaskâr Mantra, is the most important mantra used in Jainism

नमो अरिहंताणं
नमो सिद्धाणं
नमो आयरियाणं
नमो उवज्झायणं
नमो लोए सव्व साहूणं
एसो पंच णमोक्कारो, सव्व पावप्प णासणो
मंगलाणं च सव्वेसिं, पडमम हवई मंगलं
Namo Arihantânam I bow to the Arihantâs (Prophets).
Namo Siddhânam I bow to the Siddhâs (Liberated Souls).
Namo Âyariyânam I bow to the Âchâryas (Preceptors or Spiritual Leaders).
Namo Uvajjhâyanam I bow to the Upadhyâya (Teachers).
Namo Loe Savva Sahûnam I bow to all the Sadhûs (Saints).
Eso Panch Namokkaro, Savva Pâvappanâsano
Mangalanam Cha Savvesim, Padhamam Havai Mangalam
This fivefold bow (mantra) destroys all sins and obstacles
and of all auspicious mantras, is the first and foremost one.

In this mantra, Jains salute the virtues of the Pancha Parmeshtin, or five spiritual masters: the Arihantas, Siddhas, Âchâryas, Upadhyâyas, and normal monks. They do not pray to a specific Tirthankara or monk by name. By saluting them, Jains believe they receive the inspiration from them for the right path of true happiness and total freedom from the karma of their soul. Jains do not ask for any favors or material benefits from the Tirthankaras or from sâdhus and sâdhvis. This mantra simply serves as a gesture of deep respect towards beings they believe are more spiritually advanced and to remind followers of the Jain religion of their ultimate goal of nirvana or moksha.

 

Arihantas

The word Arihanta is made up of two words: 1) Ari, meaning enemies, and 2) hanta, meaning destroyer. Therefore, Arihanta means a destroyer of the enemies. These enemies are not people like you, me, or any animal, or plant, etc. These enemies are inner desires known as passions. These includes anger, ego, deception, and greed. These are the internal enemies within us. Until we control our passions, the real nature or the power of our soul will not be realized or manifested. When a person (soul) wins over these inner enemies he/she is called Arihanta. When that happens, the person has destroyed the four ghati karmas namely Jnanavarniya (knowledge blocking) Karma, Darshanavarniya (perception blocking) Karma, Mohniya (passion causing) Karma and Antaraya (obstacle causing) Karma. These karmas are called ghati karmas because they directly affect the true nature of the soul. Arihanta attains: 1) Kevaljnan, perfect knowledge due to the destruction of all Jnanavarniya Karmas, 2) Kevaldarshan, perfect perception due to the destruction of all Darshanavarniya karmas, 3) becomes passionless due to the destruction of all Mohniya Karmas, and 4) gains infinite power due to the destruction of all Antaraya Karmas. Complete knowledge and perception means they know and see everything everywhere that is happening now, that has happened in the past, and that will happen in the future. Arihantas are divided into two categories: Tirthankar and Ordinary. Tirthankaras are special Arihants because they revitalize the Jain Sangh (four-fold Jain Order) consisting of Sadhus (male saints), Sadhvis (female saints), Shravaks (male householders), and Shravikas (female householders). During every half time cycle, twenty-four persons like us rise to the level of Tirthankar. The first Tirthankar of our time period was Lord Rishabhdev, and the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankar was Lord Mahavira, who lived from 599 BCE to 527 BCE. A Tirthankar is also called a Jina. Jina means conqueror of passions. At the time of nirvana (liberated from the worldly existence), Arihanta sheds off the remaining four aghati karmas namely 1) Nam (physical structure forming) Karma, 2) Gotra (status forming) Karma, 3) Vedniya (pain and pleasure causing) Karma and 4) Ayushya (life span determining) Karma. These four karmas do not affect the true nature of the soul; therefore, they are called Aghati karmas. After attaining salvation these Arihants are called Siddhas.

It is very interesting to note that in Namokar Mantra Jains pray to the Arihants first and then to the Siddhas, even though the Siddhas are perfected souls who have destroyed all (both Ghati and Aghati) Karmas, and at a higher spiritual stage than Arihants. Since Siddhas have attained ultimate liberation, we do not have access to them. On the other hand, Arihants are still human beings and offer us spiritual guidance during their lifetime. It would not have been possible for us to know about Siddhas or liberation without them. In order to show our special reverence for their teachings, Jains salute in their prayer Arihants first and then Siddhas.

Siddhas

Siddhas are the liberated souls. They are no longer among us because they have completely ended the cycle of birth and death. They have reached the ultimate highest state, salvation. They do not have any karmas, and they do not collect any new karmas. This state of true freedom is called Moksha. Siddhas are experiencing unobstructed bliss (eternal happiness). They have complete knowledge and perception and infinite power. They are formless and have no passions and therefore are free from all temptations.

According to Jains, Siddhas have eight specific characteristics or qualities (8 guñas) [3] They are described as Ananta jnāna, Ananta darshana, Ananta labdhi, Ananta sukha, Akshaya sthiti, Being vitāraga, Being arupa and Aguruladhutaa. For people who know Tamil language, they are: அனந்த ஞானம், அனந்த வீரியம், கோத்திரமின்மை, அனந்த தரிசனம், அனந்த குணம், அழியா இயல்பு, நாமமின்மை, அவாவின்மை.

For English viewers, the eight characteristics of Siddha may be translated as having infinite knowledge, infinite power, infinite vision, infinite discipline, without any change (permanence), impartial and having no name or form.

Thiruvalluvar in his Tamil book Thirukural refer to the eight qualities of God [4], in one of his couplet poems.

Acharyas

The message of Jina, Lord Mahavira the last Tirthankara, is carried on by the Acharyas. They are our spiritual leaders. The responsibility of the spiritual welfare, but not social or economical welfare of the entire Jain Sangh, rests on the shoulders of the Acharyas. Before reaching this state, one has to do in-depth study and achieve mastery of the Jain scriptures (Agamas). In addition to acquiring a high level of spiritual excellence, they have the ability to lead the monks and nuns. They know various languages with a sound knowledge of other philosophies and religions of the area and the world.

Upadhyayas

This title is given to those Sadhus who have acquired a special knowledge of the Ägams and philosophical systems. They teach Jain scriptures to sädhus and sädhvis.

Sadhus and Sadhvis

When householders become detached from the worldly aspects of life and get the desire for spiritual uplift (and not worldly uplift), they give up their worldly lives and become sädhus (monk) or sädhvis (nun). A male person is called sädhu, and a female person is called sädhvi. Before becoming sädhus or sädhvis, a lay person must observe sädhus to understand their life style and do religious studies. When they feel confident that they will be able to live the life of a monk or a nun, then they inform the Ächärya that they are ready to become sadhu or sadhvi. If the Ächärya is convinced that they are ready and are capable of following the vows of sadhu or sadhvi, then he gives them Deekshä. Deeksha is the initiation ceremony when a householder becomes a monk or a nun. In Deekshä, the sadhu or sadhvi makes the following commitments:

  1. Commitment of Total Ahimsa (Non-violence) -not to commit any type of violence. Non-violence is the greatest of all virtues, the core of all sacred texts, and the sum and substance of all vows and virtues .
  2. Commitment of Total Satya (Truth) -not to indulge in any type of lie or falsehood. A person who speaks the truth becomes trustworthy like a mother, venerable like a preceptor and dear to everyone like a kinsman. Truthfulness is the abode of austerity [5].
  3. Commitment of Total Asteya (Non-stealing) -not to take anything unless it is given. One should desist from buying stolen goods, inciting another to commit theft, avoiding the laws of the State, use of false weights and measures, adulteration and counterfeit currency [5].
  4. Commitment of Total Brahmacharya (Continence) -not to indulge in any sensual activities. The soul is Brahman. So the activity regarding the self of a person who is free from body consciousness is called Brahmacharya or Continence [5].
  5. Commitment of Total Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness) -not to acquire more than what is needed to maintain day to day life. One should refrain from accumulation of unlimited property due to insatiable greed as it becomes pathway to misery and results in numerous faults. Lord Mahavir has said that the ownership of object itself is not possessiveness; however attachment to an object is possessiveness.


A person becomes a Jain monk by equanimity, a Brahmana by celebacy, a sage by knowledge and an ascetic by austerities. The true monks are free from attachment, self-conceit, companionship and egotism. They treat all living beings, whether mobile or immobile impartially and equally. A monk maintains equanimity in success and failure, happiness and misery, censure and praise and honour and dishonour. In other words, a monk remains completely unaffected by honour, passions, punishment, affliction and fear. He or she is undisturbed and unbound and is free from laughter and sorrow. A monk should bear hunger, thirst, an uncomfortable bed, cold, heat, fear and anguish with an unperturbed mind. An enlightened and self-restrained monk should go to towns and villages with equanimity and preach the path of peace.
Some other things they observe are:

  • They do not accept the food cooked specially for them; and accept vegetarian food only.
  • They do not eat "kand mool" i.e. food which grows under the ground which includes onion, garlic, potato, ginger, carrot, radish, beetroot ; they also constraint from eating coriander and other green vegetables where a lot of living beings are present to not cause them any harm.
  • They do not eat before sunrise or after sunset;
  • They drink boiled water;
  • They walk bare footed carefully so as not to harm even small insects and therefore do not use vehicles for transportation;
  • They do not stay in one place for a longer time;
  • They do not touch any person of the opposite sex;
  • They do not get involved in social or society affairs;
  • Some monks wear no clothes while others wear white clothes;
  • All nuns wear white clothes;
  • They offer spiritual guidance;
  • Self-discipline and purity.


Digambars and Sthanakvasis regard the first five lines as the main mantra, the following two lines are explanatory. In inscriptions inside the Orissa Hathigumpha cave, a text corresponding to the first two lines are given.

 

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