Kesh Lochan, also known as Kaya Klesh, is a ritual observed by Jain munis (monks) as a form of spiritual purification. The ritual involves plucking out individual hairs from the head, one by one, using a pair of tweezers or hands. This is done as a symbol of detachment from the physical body and a demonstration of spiritual renunciation.
Why will someone pluck their own hair
In Jainism, the body is seen as a temple of the soul and therefore must be treated with the utmost respect and care. One of the ways in which Jain munis show this respect is by not cutting their hair, as they do not use a knife or blade to cut their hair. It is seen as a form of violence against the body. Instead, Jain munis practise “kesh lochan,” which involves pulling out hairs as they appear as a symbol of renunciation and detachment from the material world.
The Jain tradition believes that the body is a source of attachment and desire, and the plucking of hair is seen as a way to detach oneself from physical desires and focus on spiritual pursuits. The ritual is considered an act of self-control and sacrifice, as it can be a painful process.
The Kesh Lochan ritual is typically performed once a year, on the day of Paryushana, a major Jain festival. Munis will gather together in a temple or other designated location to perform the ritual in a group setting. The plucking of hair is done in the presence of the community, which witnesses the munis’ dedication to their spiritual practice.
The ritual begins with the muni taking a vow to observe certain ascetic practises for a specific period of time. They then perform a purification ceremony, which includes taking a bath and making offerings to the Jain deities. Once they are ready, the munis will sit in a meditative posture and begin the process of plucking out their hair.
The hair is usually plucked out in small tufts, with each tuft representing a specific virtue or quality that the muni is striving to cultivate. For example, one tuft may represent non-attachment, another may represent humility, and so on. The munis will recite mantras or prayers as they pluck out each tuft of hair, focusing on the virtue that the tuft represents.
This process of plucking out hair can take several hours, depending on the number of tufts that the muni is plucking out. Once the ritual is completed, the munis will perform another purification ceremony and then begin their period of asceticism.
The kaya klesh practice, though very new, is on the rise. As Muni Vimalsagarji, a senior monk, explains, “There are 12 kinds of penance, six of them external like upwaas (fasting) and six internal. Kaya Klesh is one of them. The most important sacrifice for Jains is the sacrifice of one’s body, putting it through severe endurance tests-it is, for example, about the amount of harsh sun you can take or how much hunger or thirst you can withstand. Kaya klesh, in particular, also teaches you not to ascribe so much importance to your physical self.”
The Kesh Lochan or Kaya Klesh ritual is a powerful symbol of the Jain munis’ commitment to spiritual purification and self-control. It demonstrates their willingness to detach themselves from physical desires and focus on the cultivation of spiritual virtues. It also serves as an inspiration for lay Jains, who may also strive to detach themselves from physical desires in order to progress on their own spiritual path.
While the Kesh Lochan ritual is traditionally performed by Jain munis, it is not limited to them. Lay Jains who have taken the vow of asceticism can also perform the ritual, but it is an optional practice. Additionally, Kesh Lochan is not the only form of physical renunciation in Jainism; there are some other customs too, such as ‘Tirth Prabhavana’ and ‘Sadharmik Bhakti,’ which are also performed by Jains.
In conclusion, the Kesh Lochan ritual is a powerful symbol of detachment from the physical body and a demonstration of spiritual renunciation in Jainism. It is a ritual that is performed annually or twice a year by Jain munis as a form of spiritual purification, and it serves as an inspiration for lay Jains to detach themselves from physical desires and focus on the cultivation of spiritual virtues.
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