An ongoing study of Jain epistemology

to understand its relevance in building design for pluriverse.

Through the summer of 2020, I started deeply engaging with theories around coloniality and decolonization. Reading through and learning from alternate black and indigenous philosophical frameworks [1]  I found some resonance with my identity as a person of color. But I soon realized, I wasn’t paying attention to something that had been part of my own identity all along - my last name, Jain. It wasn’t just a title I had inherited from my parents, but was also representative of my values and culture that I grew up in. It was a way I learned to look at the world when I was born but somewhere it got lost in the weeds of growing up in a modern world. And so began this deeply reflexive journey of looking inwards. 


The Jain philosophy exists in overlooked archives: books, oral history manuscripts, records tucked away in cardboard boxes, forgotten shelves of a minority of Indian houses and temples, on sporadic online databases and in the research of quiet scholars who have dedicated their lives to recording the disappearing history. Sifting through these sources I grasp whatever I can find and work towards translating them into my practice as a social designer. 

An excerpt from my study sessions with my dad. As I strived to learn about the Jain epistemology we worked together to make collective sense from  Hindi text and it's English translation.

[1] Janet Abu-Lugodh, Selections from Before European Hegemony; Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence, from The Wretched of the Earth ; Paulo Freire, Chapter I, Pedagogy of the Oppressed ; W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, Chapter XIV

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Studying under the guidance of my grandmother and aunt.

In conversations with Anchal Jain who is currently pursuing  Ph. D. on Jain women at The Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

In the Jain tradition, forgiveness (kṣamā) is placed at the highest level of altruism. The value of forgiveness is considered vital to one’s ability to traverse the path of spiritual progression. In fact, the most eminent Jain festival, paryuṣaṇā, is entirely dedicated to the practice of reflection and  forgiveness. [2]

According to Jain text Tattvārtha-sūtra [3] there are ten virtues  (Das-Dharma).

There is an increased observance of these virtues during the eight or ten daysof the festival.

Uttam Kshama (forbearance) - उत्तम क्षमा
Uttam Mardava (supreme modesty) - उत्तम मार्दव
Uttam Aarjava (straightforwardness) - उत्तम आर्जव
Uttam Shoch (purity) - उत्तम शौच
Uttam Satya (truth) - उत्तम सत्य
Uttam Sanyam (supreme restraint) - उत्तम संयम
Uttam Tap (austerity) - उत्तम तप
Uttam Tyaga (renunciation) - उत्तम त्याग
Uttam Aakinchanya (non-attachment) and - उत्तम अकिंचन्य
Uttam Brahmcharya (supreme celibacy) - उत्तम बह्मचर्य

There are no fixed rules on the rituals and customs. Followers are free to practice according to their ability and desires. Based on the sect, either the last day or the first day of the festival is observed as Forgiveness Day (Saṃvatsarī or Kṣamāvaṇī). 
Followers not only seek forgiveness from fellow humans but also from  animals, plants and all other living creatures who they may have intentionally or unintentionally caused harm.

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micchāmi dukkaḍam / uttām kshāmā 

“I pray that all the grief that I have caused (to you) goes in vain, and I ask for an unconditional absolution of my unpleasant deeds.”

* The duration of Paryushana is for 8 days for Śvētāmbara Jains and 10 days for Jains belonging to the Digambara sect.

[2] https://www.parveenjain.com/blog/forgiveness-an-expression-of-the-inner-strength [3] Tatvarthä sutra of Umāsvāti 2nd-5th century AD; English translation by Manu Doshi, 2007

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Building reflexivity in design practice

झमा 

Forgiveness is one of the greatest virtues. Today we endevour to forgive those who may have knowingly or unknowingly wronged us and seek forgiveness from those we may have wronged with our words or deeds. 

We will begin with a 6 minute guided meditation*. Click the audio button to listen. 

Following the meditation, spend some time capturing your thoughts and feelings.

1. Create a personal symbol of “forgiveness.”

2. Take note of what surfaced for you and how you may imbibe it in your process in the future.

You may capture these in the form of letters, postcards, poems, a voice note, collage, mind map, drawings, painting, video, or whatever suits your needs. Please share your reflection with at least one more person, either your partner, a close friend, or your team member.

I would encourage you to experiment with the medium you choose to capture your reflection as we go through the days. If you write a note one day, make a drawing the next day, create a video on the third, and so on.
 

*Meditation designed in partnership with swaheal.org by Shobhali Thapa

more meditations - coming soon -