Who says Jainism cannot be practised in Modern Life | Diksha Shah | Varshitap

Those who follow DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter would know how much I love and respect my Throwball friends at the Goregaon Sports Club. After all, they are the reason I returned back to sports & fitness after 25 years.

I first met Diksha in 2018. We were in the same Throwball team together. I found her to be one of the most positive human beings I have met. She is full of life and vivacity, kept motivating the team to do better than their best each time.

DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter believes that Diksha is an epitome of the contemporary woman.

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On one hand, she is a devoted daughter-in-law, loving wife & doting mother of two wonderful kids. On the other hand, she is a well-read, well-educated, former head of a call centre, committed sportsperson, a modern woman and the life of any party. But there is a 3rd angle to her personality: she is deeply spiritual.

On a rainy day in Mumbai, I had a chance to meet Diksha over a cup of coffee. The next one and a half hour, I was introduced to Jainism in a way I have never experienced before. Read on to know more…

Before we begin talking about your spiritual journey, please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

I am born- and- raised as a simple Mumbai girl. At present, I am in my late thirties and an avid sportsperson. I started my career as a telecaller in a multinational bank and later in my career playing the role of an Operations Leader. I am married with two adorable kids, Reha and Aryan. I quit my job in August 2017 as I wanted to change my 9 to 5 life into something that would allow me to give time to things I was passionate about and spend more time with my kids and family.

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“Today, I not only get to spend more time with my children, family and friends but I also devote time to sports and fitness and spirituality along with my other hobbies. It’s been a fulfilling experience so far” Diksha Shah. 

The Life of a Party, Sportswoman, Career woman, Family person – you had your hands full! How on Earth did you get into Spirituality?

(Lets out a short laugh)  A lot of people ask me this question. Well, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been insatiably curious about human potential. I wanted to know, what exactly is it that makes people genuinely happy, drives them and motivates them? Why do some people struggle while others find a way to thrive, often despite the most challenging circumstances? The quench motivated me to try different things.

Soon after I quit my job a friend mentioned that she was going to do the Updhan Tap (उपधान तप), suddenly my inner instinct said I should also join in doing one of the most wonderful and holy tap (तप) in Jainism “Updhan” (Dec’17). And it was the beginning of my spiritual journey I lived like a Jain monk for forty-seven days.

Spirituality? Religion? Isn’t that for the older generation? C’mon, you are not even 40 as yet! Why now?

Until a couple of years ago, even I was also one amongst many people who felt, “What’s the hurry spiritual and religious activities can be done later in life and kept pushing things.” That’s actually what I used to tell my mother about Updhan also.

When I met my mother after finishing my Updhan my first words to her were, “I was late I wished I had done it much earlier in life.”

By then I learnt my lesson, “Don’t wait for the right moment to start, start and make each moment right.”

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Through this tap (तप), I got a chance to live without things that otherwise are called necessities in our daily life. It was an experience of a lifetime. Since we were sort of isolated and living in an ascetic manner, it made me mentally tough.

“Over time I understood that emotional dependence on people and things can be reduced. I learned how to be happy without materialistic possessions and people. Its amazing what can happen when you have time only for your soul. I got a chance to be away from the influence of others and spent time studying my own life, connecting with my soul was amazing! The learnings changed my life and most importantly, I got a Guru for a lifetime. 

We are influenced every day by someone or something that will most likely have an everlasting effect on our lives. During Updhan I met my Guru who inspired me to move out of my comfort zone. He always said, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is in our hands shape it as you want, so let go of the past but keep the lessons it taught you and keep moving forward.”

In Updhan we have to do a lot of activities beginning from four o’clock in the morning till nine o’clock. It’s normal human tendency whenever there are too many tasks to be performed one generally tends to rush through. But then our Guru explained to us and guided us to do at least one activity correctly each day and we saw that gradually one by one we started to daily perform all the activities as they were supposed to be done.

He taught us an important lesson of life, “Whatever you tend to hold in your mind, will tend to occur in your life. Have a positive approach.”

Yes, you mentioned about your Guru and the “Heet Shiksha” (“हीत शिक्षा”) he imparted on your last day of Updhan. What exactly was it?

On completion of the tap (तप) our Guru gave “Heet Siksha” and in that he told us that we must at least do Chauvihar for a year, which is not eating after sunset. Jain scriptures had a concept of Chauvihar since ages. Chauvihar is terminology and practice in Jainism which means one does not take any food or any liquids after the sunset until the sunrise the next day.

When our Guru imparted the “Heet Shiksha” I decided to do Varshitap since Chauvihar seemed difficult keeping in mind my lifestyle. So exactly after completing Updhan I began Varshitap in March 2018.

What is Varshitap?

Varshitap is an important ritual amongst the Jains. It starts on the eighth day of the Amavasya period or the dark half of the lunar month of Falgun and ends on the third day of the first half of the month of Vaisakha, on the day of Akshaya Tritiya. The duration of Varshitap is around thirteen months and thirteen days. Since 2018 had an extra month (Adhik Maas), Varshitap was for 14 months this year.

Varshitap involves:

    • Upwas (fasting): Drinking only boiled water on 1 day
    • Beshna: Eating twice a day, sitting in one place
    • Usually lasts for 13 months & 13 days but due to Adhik Mas (extra month) Diksha practised it for 14 months
    • Twist: 2 consecutive days Upwas if Beshna falls on a chaudas (tithi)

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My gosh! How did you manage? Varshitap must have applied brakes to your entire life!

(Shakes her head, pauses and looks out of the window) It is a common belief that one needs to give up everything while fasting but I personally feel if one is determined and has faith and belief in themselves they can live a balanced life. I am passionate about sports and I played several throwball and cricket tournaments during this period and even got rewarded for my performance in a few of them. I also went to Turkey for a 20-day vacation during my Varshitap.

Vacation in Turkey during Varshitap! How did you manage with the travel, sightseeing and tempting food?

(Lets out a full-throated laugh!) With a lot of difficulty! I am no saint, so it was extremely tough for me to manage. I did it by taking one day at a time. My husband supported me immensely.

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14 months of eating every alternate day! It’s unbelievable!

(Smiles shyly) As I said, I’m no sage and I made mistakes, had a share of my terrible days where I got mired in fear and self-doubt, just like the rest of humanity. But I bounced back due to immense support from my Guru, family and friends who made me believe that no matter what your obstacles are, you have the power to overcome them. One needs to stay focused on the goal and put in consistent efforts and have a strong will and desire to achieve the end result.

How did the Varshitap benefit you and your family’s life?

(Takes a deep breath, her face shining with positivity & happiness) Now I feel I am living a more balanced life and doing the religious and social activities which make me truly happy from within. I am glad that even my kids have picked that up and are following in the same footsteps. As a family, we are experiencing the rarest thing in this competitive world: Inner peace and satisfaction.

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“I found peace in myself. Fasting made me learn many lessons, but most important was being able to control craving for tasty and outside food. There is no end of craving. But now I am contented and understand that one has to eat to stay healthy and not to satisfy taste buds.”

How has life changed after Varshitap?

My Guru helped me realize that my unusual combination of interests and skills was a strength, not a liability. It is remarkable what a little faith can do, and it is the faith that my Guru, had in my ability which gave me the confidence to translate books written in the Gujarati language to English.

Currently, I am concentrating my efforts on book translation, learning religious things and the Sanskrit language also trying out different recipes, reading books, playing sports, my kids and of course partying with friends is what keeps me occupied otherwise…!

How did your husband support you during your spiritual journey?

I strongly believe you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to fulfil your dream in today’s world. That includes your unique qualities, your personality, your sense of humour and most importantly your heart and soul. I am blessed to have Piyush as my better half who always supports me, believes in me and lets me live my dreams…!

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I don’t plan things, I like to go with the flow and follow my heart, and anything that inspires me challenges me, and quite simply makes me happy is what I do. Sharing my experiences and inspiring others in any way is what ticks me…!!

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I left the interview feeling happy, positive and fulfilled. There is so much to life that is yet to be explored. People like Diksha tell us that living a modern life doesn’t mean one lives with a disconnect to the inner self. At the same time, if one is spiritual it doesn’t mean one needs to apply brakes on one’s life.

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Do let me know if Diksha’s story inspired you. If you have a story to share, please mail me on diaryofaninsanewriter@gmail.com.

Penned by:

Mayura Amarkant 

I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Who says Jainism cannot be practised in Modern Life | Diksha Shah | Varshitap

  1. A beautiful and inspirational post. Anything is possible when a person puts his / her heart and soul into it. Deeksha ji is a perfect example. It appears she is by nature a positive and cheerful person. She could adapt to her new discipline during the period of tapas. At the end of the day, we forget that our life turns out the way we decide to look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

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