Bad grades, sleepless nights, a bad relationship, or unexplainable irritation; every student in Stuyvesant experiences these problems sooner or later. We can’t find the answers within ourselves, with our friends, or even with our guidance counselors. So, perhaps it’s time to look somewhere else: namely, religion. Often, we think of religion as being superstitious or a spiritual supplement to our daily lives. However, the logic behind the tenets of a religion can, in many cases, be positively implemented. The religion that allowed for me to control my thoughts, emotions, and manage my time is Jainism.
As the sixth largest religion in the world, Jainism is based on non-violence, truth, and the concept of a soul. Unlike other religions, a god or other sort of supreme-being is not part of the belief system because it is deemed illogical. The first known Jain leader, Lord Rishabhdev, lived around 6500 BCE and was, according to some theories, the founder of the Indus Valley Civilization. Some traditions established back then are still followed today.
From Thursday, August 25, to Monday, September 5, Jains celebrated their most important festival, “Payurshana,” which is similar to Judaism’s Yom Kippur or Islam’s Ramadan. The festival encompasses two primary aspects: fasting and a ceremony called “Pratikamana.” The translation of “Pratikamana” is “returning from violations.” In essence, this means looking back at the previous year and analyzing the mistakes we made so we do not repeat them in the future. This core idea behind “Pratikamana” can be to every student’s life and act as a beneficial experience.
Analyzing one’s actions allows one to avoid making the same mistakes twice. If a certain study method for a test does not work and we do not think about it after receiving the bad grade, we will continue repeating the mistake and getting bad grades. But by analyzing the method after employing it once, we can better tailor it for a successful outcome and be better planners for the future.
To identify your mistakes, look through the lens of three main vows of Jainism: Non-Violence, Truthfulness, and Non-Attachment. Non-violence simply means not obstructing anybody’s life physically or mentally. Examples include insulting someone verbally, bullying, and fighting. To practice non-violence is simply to treat all creatures and persons with the utmost respect and care. Following this practice would allow students to interact more openly with the people around them and build friendships, as well as useful connections. Offering respect to teachers will earn a student greater respect in return—which can be helpful when report cards come around.
Truthfulness, though seemingly clichéd, actually has a distinct meaning in Jainism. Truthfulness is defined as being completely aware of one’s conscience and being careful of everything one says. One’s conscience in Jainism is defined as our ability to be completely aware of the reasoning behind each thought, each emotion, each action, and also our ability to control these things. For example, saying, “The jeans have become too small for you,” is technically a lie. In reality, the height of the person increased and the jeans size remained the same. Though trivial, it illustrates how we do not understand everything we say. Truthfulness decreases mistrust and suspicion, allowing teachers and friends to believe and understand you in situations where there is a capacity for doubt, such as when your printer is actually broken.
Lastly, Non-Attachment means only using or buying what we will actually use and controlling our endless desires. This is probably the hardest vow of Jainism to follow, but there exist vast number of benefits as well. It allows someone to save and be more responsible with our money, avoid negative feelings like jealousy, and have less cluttered rooms. Controlling one’s desires also allows one to control one’s volatile emotions and reactions, which Jainism states are at the root of all major problems. Distractions, obsessions, and panic often lead to stress and are all attachments or emotions that practicing non-attachment can solve.
Just this short analysis of one festival in one religion gives a lot of guidance in how to go about our work and improve social interaction. Learning more about one’s religion or any religion can teach one even more. I am not saying that everyone should learn the mantras and prayers involved in their respective religions; simply trying to understand the logic behind certain practices and beliefs is enough. Do not think of religion as a superstition, but as a philosophy of living.