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Pacha-parmesthis of Jainism 

  Pacha-parmesthis of Jainism

Siddhas, arhats, acharyas, upadhyayas and sadhus are called pancha - parameshthis or the five supreme ones, to whom the Jainas pray and bow many times every day with the following invocation (mantra) :-

णमो अरिहंताणं
णमो सिद्धाणं
णमो आयरियाणं
णमो उवज्झायणं
णमो लोए सव्व साहूणं

Namo arahantanam, namo siddhanam, namo ayarianam, namo uvajjhayanam, namo loye sabba-sahunam.

   Panch Parmesthi

  “Salutation to the arhats, to the siddhas, to the acharyas, to the upadhyayas and to all the sadhus of the world”.

  With the above invocation repeated millions of times every day the Jainas bow with hands folded in anjali (worship) in the four cardinal directions, east, south, west and north. The main import of such a prayer is three-fold:

 (1) Worship is given to all human souls worthy of it, in whatever clime they may be, 
 (2) worship is impersonal. It is the aggregate of the qualities that is worshipped rather than   any individual, 
 (3) The arhat, “the living embodiment of the highest goal of Jainism”, is mentioned first and then the siddha who is disembodies and consequently cannot be appealed to or approached by humanity.

As the siddha is without body the Jainas feel that they can never pray to the siddha alone and preeminently. A siddha has, infinite attributes of which 8 are generally mentioned and these the Jainas recite, telling their beads. By this they do not worship or salute the siddha but tell their beads “ only with the object of stirring up their spiritual ambition and in order to remind themselves of the qualities a siddha must possess, in the hope that some day they too may reach their desired goal, and in perfect bliss in the state of mrvana, doing nothing for ever and ever.” Chanting the pancha-namaskara –mantra 108 times and telling the beads purify the soul.


The Jainas include Aum (Om) also in their incantation and interpret it as consisting of the following five sounds, standing for the five superme ones (Pancha-parameshthins): a, a, a, u and m; a stands for arhat; a stands for asarira, i.e., “disembodied”, i.e., siddha ; a stand for acharya ; u stand for upadhyaya ; and m stand for muni, i.e., saint who is the saddu.

  Images and sculptures containing figures of these five supreme ones (pancha-parameshthins) can be seen in Jaina temples. They are invariably in the shape of chakras standing on padmasanas. A very interesting specimen of this symbolic worship is found in the temple at Tiruparuttikunram. The whole is in the form of a chakra, which is supported by a crouching lion and two rearing yalis in turn standing on a padmasana attached to a rectangular bhadrasana. The chakra can compare well with the Hindu chakra, which is associated with Vishnu. Within the chakra is placed an eight-petalled lotus (astadala-padma), each petal bearing a seated figure or some article. The figures are those of the five supreme ones (arhat, siddha, acharya, upadhyaya and sadhu) while the articles are a dharmachakra or the wheel of the law, a wooden rest supporting the Jaina scripture called sruta or sruta-jnana and a temple (Jina-alaya).

In the centre of the lotus where one would expect the seed-vessel of the lotus, is the seated figure of the Tirthankara in all his glory, attended by chamaras, triple-parasol, halo and the like. This chakra is symbolical of the worship of Navadeuatas or the “nine deities,” they being the five panchaparameshthins and dharmachakra, sruta, chaitya and chaityalya. The panchaparameshthins occupy the centre and the four cardinal points of the lotus while the latter four go in the petals alternately in the following order ; preceding clockwise dharmachakra first, then sruta, then chaitya (an idol) and lastly chaityalaya or temple.

  The evolution of souls is based on three fundamental principles, viz., that man is not perfect, but can improve and can achieve perfection, that man’s personality is dual, material and spiritual, and that by his spiritual nature man can must control his material nature. The second of the principles is in striking contrast with the Hindu Advaitic doctrine of Brahman, or one soul, which is in all and is all. When the material nature is entirely subjugated the soul is said to have been liberated or to have attained perfection. In its perfection-condition the soul “enjoys its true and eternal character, whereof the characteristic is the four infinities-infinite perception of faith, infinite knowledge, infinite power and infinite bliss.” And such a soul is called a Siddha.

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