Today is the first day of an important Jain observance called paryushan. Sometimes called a festival, I think it resembles a period of retreat more than a party, with religious discourses, rituals of self-reflection and repentence and various types of fasting, including upvas, eating nothing, eating only once (ayambil) but without the spices, oils and sweets that make food so addictive, and eating once (ekasanu) or twice (besanu), with some restrictions but including the spices,oils and sweets. Some people give up something that they love during this period. The objective of these observances is to come back to the self, the essential spiritual core underneath our distracted, consumptive, busy outer-directed lives. It is a wonderful period of retreat when we enter it with our full intention and with mindfulness ( a word used often by Buddhists, but one that Jains might well appreciate in practice as well). If you are moved by all the violence that goes on in the world to give us milk products, (as well as the eggs and meat that we traditionally avoid), try going vegan for Paryushan. You will have given the cows your gift of compassion and lessened their suffering for this time. In the process, you might discover other ways to eat. Coincidentally, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also has a 21 day Vegan Kickstart program that starts Sept 6, with lots of resources including nutrition webcasts, Indian vegan recipes, conference calls with doctors, and more. Check it out here.
Two of my cousins ate only one vegan meal a day for Paryushan. Hurrah for them and their vegan ekasanus!
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