Mahavira mantra is the fundamental prayer of Jainism. In this prayer there is no mention of names, including that of the tirthankara. Jains do not ask for favours or material benefits from the tirthankara or from monks. This mantra simply serves as a gesture of deep respect towards beings they believe are more spiritually advanced and to remind followers of Jainism of their ultimate goal, nirvana.
In Jainism, the purpose of worship or prayer is to break the barriers of worldly attachments and desires, so as to assist in the liberation of the soul. Jains follow six obligatory duties known as avashyakas: samyika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation). Related to the five auspicious life events of tirthankara called Panch Kalyanaka are such rituals as the panch kalyanaka pratishtha mahotsava, panch kalyanaka puja, and snatra puja.
Paryushana is one of the most important festivals for Jains. Svetambara Jains normally refer to it as Paryushana, with the literal meaning of "abiding" or "coming together", while Digambara Jains call it Das Lakshana. It is a time when the laity take on vows of study and fasting with a spiritual intensity similar to temporary monasticism. Paryushana lasts eight days for Svetambara Jains and ten days for Digambara Jains.
Mahavira Jayanti, the birthday of Mahavira, the last tirthankara, is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra, which date falls in late March or early April of the Gregorian calendar.
Diwali is a festival that takes place during the month of Kartik in the Indian lunisolar calendar, around the new-moon day (amavasya). This usually falls in October or November.Mahavira attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon). According to the Kalpa SÅ«tra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BCE, numerous deva were present there, illuminating the darkness. On 21 October 1974 the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava was celebrated by Jains throughout India.
Most Jains fast at special times, particularly during festivals. A Jain, however, may fast whenever it seems appropriate. A unique ritual in this religion involves a holy fast to death, called sallekhana. Through this one achieves a death with dignity and dispassion as well as a great reduction of negative karma. When a person is aware of approaching death, and feels that all his or her duties have been fulfilled, he or she may decide to gradually cease eating and drinking. This form of dying is also called santhara. It can take as long as twelve years of gradual reduction in food intake. Considered extremely spiritual and creditable, with awareness of the transitory nature of human experience, santhara has recently been the centre of a controversy in which a lawyer petitioned the High Court of Rajasthan to declare it illegal. Jains see santhara as spiritual detachment requiring a great deal of spiritual accomplishment and maturity, a declaration that a person has finished with this world and chooses to leave.
Jaina scriptures offer extensive guidance on meditation techniques. Jains have developed a type of meditation called Samayika, which term derives from the word samaya. The goal of Samayika is to achieve a feeling of perfect calmness and to understand the unchanging truth of the self. Such meditation is based on contemplation of the universe and the reincarnation of self. Samayika is particularly important during the religious festival Paryushana. It is believed that meditation assists in managing and balancing one's passions. Great emphasis is placed on the internal control of thoughts, as they influence behaviour, actions and goals.
In Jainism, monasticism is encouraged and respected. Rules for monasticism are rather strict. Jaina ascetics have neither a permanent home nor possessions, wandering from place to place except during the months of Chaturmas. The life they lead is difficult because of the constraints placed on them: they do not use vehicles and always travel barefoot from one place to another, irrespective of the distance. They do not use such basic services as telephones or electricity. They do not prepare food and live only on what people offer them.
There are no priests in Jainism. The monks of Jainism, whose presence is not significant to most jaina rituals, should not be confused with priests. However, sects of Jainism that practice idol-worship often employ a servant, known as a pujari, who need not be a Jain, to perform special daily rituals and other priestly duties.