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 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. 

[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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Discussions with 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

नेकान्तवाद 

Anekāntavāda

स्यादवाद 

Syādvāda

Anekāntavāda can be loosely translated as plurality or multiplicity of truths. 

Syādvāda is the concept that all judgments are conditional and hold good only under certain circumstances.

Medieval_Jain_temple_Anekantavada_doctri

By Romana klee from USA - sammati tarka prakarana, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59461928

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S.M. Nawab, Jain Paintings Vol.I. Ahmedabad1980: Colour Plates 5-6.

क्षमा खरंग करे यस्या दुर्जन किम करिष्यति 
अत्रिनेरे पतितो वह्रि स्वयमेवोपशामवती ||

"Mere vanity is sufficient to bring the downfall

Mere passions are sufficient for the bondage of soul

Hence I counsel you to shun these 

Forgiveness alone is enough to attain Godhood"

पर्युषण = परी  + वासन 

Pāri 

Vasān 

Pāryushān 

Pāri means "recollect yourself" and vasān means "at a place".

So the word Pāryushān closely translates to "recollecting yourself at a place in the spirit"

Kṣamāvaṇī

संवत्सरी / क्षमावाणी 

Saṃvatsarī 

A  day of forgiveness

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  (Dās-Dharmā). There is an increased observance of these virtues (listed below) during the eight or ten daysof the festival.

There are no fixed rules on the rituals and customs. Followers are free to practice according to their abilities 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 whom they may have intentionally or unintentionally caused harm.

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

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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.”

[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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Celebrating reflexivity in design practice

How can we develop an introspective practice to make space for alternative views?

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Radical learning group: I'll be conducting my first meditative reflexivity experiment with this team of academics,  public policy advisors, and design practitioners.

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An experiment on meditative reflexivity

झमा 

We will begin with a 10 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

Forgiveness is one of the greatest virtues. Today we endeavor 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 10 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 “humility”

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

This attribute is the antithesis of ego, arrogance, and disdain, which are the causes of defilement. They arise from the sense of superiority in respect of caste, status, wealth, knowledge, health, beauty, etc., and need to be averted. That can be done by cultivating humbleness.

We will begin with a 10 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 “straight-forwardness”

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

It is the antithesis of Maya, which denotes crookedness, deceit, duplicity, etc. The straightforwardness denotes sincerity and honesty of purpose.

In other words, one should maintain consistency in his thought, speech, and action provided that they are for wholesome purposes.

We will begin with a 10 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 “contentment”

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

This literally means cleanliness. Here, however, it has been used in the sense of removal of attachment that pollutes the soul. The attachment could be for persons or objects and could be admirable or otherwise. The concept of 'shauch' stipulates that one should not have attachment even for the admirable ones. In other words, one should develop external as well as internal detachment.

We will begin with a 10 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 “restraint”

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

This denotes self-control, self-regulation, self-restraint, etc. It is of 17 types, viz. restraining of five sense organs, observance of five major restraints (Non-violence, Truth, Non-stealing, Chastity, Non-possession), overcoming of four defilements (anger, greed, ego, deceit), and restraining of mental, verbal and physical faculties.

We will begin with a 10 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 “austerity”

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

This denotes observance of austerities so as to gain self-control and strength for overcoming the defiling tendencies.

We will begin with a 10 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 “renunciation”

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

This denotes renouncing, sacrificing, giving up, etc. It can be of two types, external and internal. Giving up worldly possessions is external renouncing. That does not consist of merely giving up some tangible object; it should also cover giving up power, authority, influence, etc. Giving up attachment for sense objects and overcoming craving, aversion, anger, animosity, arrogance, etc. constitute internal renouncing.

We will begin with a 10 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 “non-attachment”

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

This denotes the absence of possessions. It is a refinement of renouncing. If one gives up the physical possessions but retains attachment towards the same, it is not going to serve the purpose. More emphasis should be laid on giving up the sense of belonging than on giving up the tangibles.

Gratitude: Zishan Jiwani | Anchal Jain | Nidhi Singh Rathore | Christian Madsbhjerg | Kate McEntee | Rajbala Jain  | Rajil Jain | Himanshu Dadaji | Ashwarya Agarwal | Mom, Dad, and Brother