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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Namokar Mantra

I had all but forgotten that once, in another age , another birth, I had been born a Jain. My second birth  ,after marriage, was as a Gupta and it was as a Gupta that I had been eating , praying and living. Of course, there were times when I would  hazily trace  my roots, such as when we would pass a Jain temple , or when someone would introduce themselves as Jains- and  by now having become a true blue bania – always on the look  out for fayda , with an ingratiating smile I would simper,’ oh ! that’s just so nice- my parents are also Jains”. Here my children would look as surprised as the guests but banias are used to dealing with surprised looks and the meeting would pass off in a very pleasant atmosphere  Post the meeting the Jainism part of me would be wrapped up and cordoned off  till needed again .

It was the evening of choti diwali  and we had gone visiting –  a Jain household. We were plied with   besan laddoos ,  kanji,  green tea and a host of other festive goodies. Just then the matriarch of the family announced that it was puja time. The family  graciously insisted that we were to join them. Shoes were taken off , diyas lit and the puja started. The Navkaar Mantra was to  be chanted nine times.  Faint memories of  the mantra reared their head through a cobwebby maze   of twenty five years . The first round  of the mantra was over before I could even open my mouth.  I listened intently to the words being spoken in the second round. In the third I merely mouthed the mantra. By the fourth round I was able to join in pretty well and by the ninth I had vowed that never again would I allow myself to forget the beautiful words .

Ladies and Gentlemen: Below is the Namokaar Mantra.

Namo Arihantanam
Namo Siddhanam
Namo Ayriyanam
Namo Uvajjhayanam
Namo Loe Savva-sahunam

Eso Panch Namokaro
Manglananch Savvesim
Padhamam Havei Mangala

Namo Arihantanam
I bow in reverence to Arihants
Namo Siddhanam
I bow in reverence to Siddhas
Namo Ayariyanam
I bow in reverence to Acharyas
Namo Uvajjhayanam
I bow in reverence to Upadhyayas
Namo Loye Savva Sahunam
I bow in reverence to all Sadhus

Eso Panch Namoyaro
This five-fold salutation
Savva Pavappanasano
Destroys all sins
Mangalanam Cha Savvesim
And amongst all auspicious things
Padhamam Havai Mangalam
Is the most auspicious one

   The Navkar Mantra is the most important mantra in Jainism. While reciting the Navkar Mantra, we  bow down with respect for the   Arihantas, the Siddhas,  the Acharyas (heads of sadhus and sadhvis), the Upadhyayas  (those who teach scriptures to sadhus and sadhvis), the  Sadhus  (monks, who have voluntarily given up social, economical and family relationships)  and the  Sadhvis  (nuns, who have voluntarily given up social, economical and family relationships).  Collectively, they are called Panch Parmesthi (five supreme spiritual people). In this mantra we worship their virtues rather than worshipping any one particular person or Tirthankar. This mantra is also called  Namaskar or Namokar Mantra as we are bowing down.
There is no mention of any particular God or Goddess in this mantra. We  Jains do not ask for any favors or material benefits from the Tirthankaras or from the sadhus and sadhvis. This mantra serves as a gesture of respect towards those the Jains  believe  are spiritually ahead and  it also  reminds  everyone of their ultimate goal of nirvana or moksha.

My reincarnation as a Jain has well and truly  begun .

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