Of the many religions indigenous to India, three stand out as the most ancient:
Of these the Jaina religion is the epitome of ahimsa, non-violence at all levels. It is the most pious and most ascetic. Its monks are still today masters of ascetic life.
The religion was established by a succession of twenty-four founding Masters, tirthankaras (fjord-makers) dating back to lost periods of antiquity.
The monks of all three of the above religions wander and then take a period of sojourn at one place during the four months of the monsoons; it is called chaaturmaasya (simply, 'four months'). This is a time for contemplation, meditation, deep study and other onservances. This is also the time when they take new initiates.
For Jaina religion, the start of this period is celebrated with great devotion by the laity. It is called paryusana (lit., fasting). It is eight days of fasting, sacred readings, select recitations, listening to the monks and so forth.
Ninth day is the day of seeking forgiveness. Kshamaapana or kshamaavani (other variations in various state languages of India). It occurs on 4th day of waxing moon in bhadrapada month, appr. August-September.
On this day, everyone (a) grants forgiveness and (b) asks for forgiveness. This includes renunciation of condemnation, judgment of others, irritation, anger.
The word kshamaa is derived from Sanskrit verb root ksham. The verb root means to have capacity, to be capacious. This requires the ability to absorb and dissolve all assaults. The word kshamaa is also one of twenty-one names of earth in the Vedas. It means for one to be as forgiving, as all-absorbing, as the earth that withstands and forgives all our trampling and digging into.
Here I may present an oft-quoted Sanskrit proverb:
kShamaa veerasya bhooShanam
forgiveness is the adornment of the brave.
This concept is re-enforced in other human experiences such as
- holi festival in India celebrated as the day of forgiving the year's aggressions and transgressions;
- in Thailand's culture every child is taught that anger is bad manners and the adults follow that in daily practical life and interpersonal relations;
- in Africa, in the training and initiation of spiritual guides in traditional African religions it is essential for the guide to conquer anger - as per my personal investigations.
- there are many such examples in world cultures that we all need to emulate.
In the Jaina day of forgiveness, the kshamaapana-sutra is recited in the ancient Prakrit (sister of Sanskrit) language:
khAmemi savve jIvA savve jIvA khamantu me.
mittI me savvabhUesu veraM majjhaM Na keNa vi
I forgive all living beings, may all of them forgive me.
I have friendship with all, enmity with none.
evamahaM AloiyaM nindiyaM grahiyaM duguNchhiyaM sammam
tiviheNaM padikkanto vandAmi jiNaM chauvvIsam ..
Thus, I truly reflect, reproach, censure and abhor (my wrong doings)
I atone threefold (for my acts of mind, speech and body) and pay obeisance to the 24 Jinas (Founding Masters of Jaina Tradition).
This festival should become part of the worldwide human community without restriction of nations and religions.
The second festival to which I would like to draw attention is the Nyepi Day of Bali.
It is celebrated as the last day of the year in a 210-day year according to the sacred and complex Balinese calendar known as Isaawarsa (Indian Saka era starting 78 A.D.). In 2012 it occurred on 23rd March.
It is a day of silence from 6a.m. to 6a.m. There is no traffic on the streets. The Ngurah Rai international airport of Den Pasar, the capital, is closed for the twenty-four hours. No fires may be lit and the lights must be kept dim. There is no self-entertainment, only contemplation and silence. Most people fast for the day.
The dharma-shanti, peace of dharma, rituals are performed in the form of listening to scriptures in kakawin (classical Sanskrit-related ancient language of the religion) and other contemplative or ritual observances.
Next day is celebrated as the first day of the year when people visit each other and grant and beg for forgiveness.
I would also like to see the world human community to include this as one of the sacred days of the year in a modified form.
Then there is the thanksgiving day of USA and Canada. Once a year in November, everyone thanks everyone, friends to friends, relatives, parents to children, children to parents, spouses, and any others that one can think of. Thanks for all that one has received in life and through the year. Some friends are invariably invited to evening dinner at one's home.
This, too, needs to be adopted worldwide, except for the killing of the poor turkey bird to eat for the occasion.
Do think of ways of popularizing these sacred days worldwide, starting here - wherever the reader is.
Forgiveness. Silence. Thankfulness.