- The ancient Prakrit phrase is often recited during the festival of Paryushana, dedicated to self-reflection, fasting, and seeking forgiveness for any harm caused intentionally or unintentionally to other living beings.
On September 20, the Jain community observed Samvatsari, marking the conclusion of the Paryushan festival. This day of forgiveness is popularly known as Michami Dukkadam, where people seek forgiveness and also forgive other people from their heart. Let’s delve down and understand the history behind this inward cleansing practice.
We know that one of the most difficult words in the English vocabulary is saying “sorry.” It hurts our ego deep down to accept a mistake or hurt caused unknowingly or sometimes even knowingly. It is quite a rarity to find someone who apologizes duly, and with a full heart. A huge salute and appreciation for the rare breed who do so, but for the rest of us who cannot, please read on.
Why is that we get defensive to say sorry, make up excuses about why the other party must have triggered the rift or just blame anyone else except ourselves. Looking glass is not always easy to glance at. Maybe, deep down we worry that apologizing too often can project an image of a weak personality and affect our relationship with others in the future.
This is where this beautiful Jain tradition comes in.
“Michami Dukkadam” is an ancient Prakrit (an early form of the Indo-Aryan languages) phrase that translates to “I seek forgiveness” or “May all the evil that has been done be fruitless.”
In Jainism, forgiveness is considered a highly virtuous and important practice. The phrase “Michami Dukkadam” is often recited during the Paryushana festival, which is a significant event in the Jain religious calendar dedicated to self-reflection, fasting, and seeking forgiveness for any harm caused intentionally or unintentionally to other living beings.
By saying “Michami Dukkadam,” Jains seek forgiveness from all sentient beings whom they may have harmed, knowingly or unknowingly, through their thoughts, words, or actions. It is an expression of humility, remorse, and a commitment to not repeat those mistakes in the future.
There are many other angles to this tradition.
- ïBy seeking forgiveness, individuals recognize their interconnectedness with all living beings. This fosters a sense of gratitude for the intricate web of life and the understanding that one’s actions can have a profound impact on others. This also includes forgiving ourselves and relieving any guilt lingering inside.
- Both seeking forgiveness and expressing gratitude require a degree of humility. Recognizing one’s shortcomings and expressing gratitude for the forgiveness received are acts of acknowledging one’s limitations and imperfections.
- The practice of “Michami Dukkadam” also encourages individuals to be mindful of their thoughts, words, and actions, promoting an intention to do no harm. This intention is rooted in gratitude for the opportunity to be more mindful and compassionate in their interactions.
My own personal awareness of this practice is through a neighbor when we lived in the Bay area, California. It was fascinating to learn how the family had a week devoted to saying “Michami Dukkadam” to their immediate and extended family members way back in India. Having brought up in South India and read about Jainism only in history books, I never knew these nuances till then.
My daughter, who is autistic with limited verbal expression has, over the recent years, started the most profound way of saying “sorry” after every meltdown or anger outburst once she calms herself down. It’s not a perfunctory one, but with full remorse and honesty in her voice She will keep saying it repeatedly and make sure we say, “It’s ok”, and then stop. We have never asked for it or have no idea why she decided to say it. I have even talked to her and said we totally understand her, and she has nothing to feel bad about. But, she will say it. Every single time without fail.
So, if a child who has difficulties handling her body and emotional regulation can feel deeply about hurting someone, what’s the excuse for the rest of us?
Jayashree Srikanth lived in the United States for 16 years, then moved to Bangalore with her husband and two daughters. She is a proud homeschooler of a special needs kid, who has a successful art career now and has won several awards including carrying the torch for the Rio Paralympics, in 2015. Her younger daughter is studying Neuroscience and Psychology at UCLA. Social work, writing, and traveling are her passionate hobbies.