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During our life we undertake different activities, some of which are helpful to the soul and some are not. It is in the interest of every living being that we refrain from the unhelpful activities. For this purpose, the religion urges us to adopt various types of restraints, which are conducive to spiritual health. We, however, happen to transgress the same. Such transgressions are known as Atikraman. Wherever Atikraman occurs, we need to turn back. That turning back is known as Pratikraman. It is a mode to atone for the wrong act.
The question may arise when should one perform Pratikraman. In this connection the Pratikraman Sutra states: ‘Padisiddhänam Karane, Kichchänam Akarane Padikkamanam’ It means that when one indulges in what is forbidden or when he fails to do what he needs to do, he should perform Pratikraman. In other words, one should perform it whenever he becomes aware of any lapse or fault.
We, however, happen to indulge in transgressions every now and then, and it is not possible to remain aware of that and to atone for the same. It is therefore laid that we should perform it twice a day. In the morning we should do it for atonement of transgressions during the night. That is called Rai Pratikraman. In the evening we should do it for atoning the transgressions during the day. That is called Devasi Pratikraman.
But most people feel that they cannot afford time for that every day. It is also possible that some of the faults may escape their notice. It is therefore stipulated that one Pratikramanshould be performed every fortnight. That is called Pakkhi Pratikraman. That time they should try to remember the faults that had escaped their notice earlier. For the faults still remaining to be atoned for, there is another Pratikraman to be performed once every four months. That is called Chaumasi Pratikraman. For the faults that still linger there is SamvatsariPratikraman to be performed once a year. That is considered a 'must' for everyone.
There is a reason for this 'must'. The worldly soul happens to be overcome by different types of defilement, like anger, arrogance, deception and greediness. These four types of defilement constitute the root cause of acquiring the bondage of Karma that afflicts the worldly soul. Each of those types is divided into four categories depending upon the duration and intensity of the bondage. The worst of them is Anantänubandhi, which means the bondage of endless duration. That category results in seemingly unending cycle of birth and death. Laymen are therefore expected at least to stay away from that category.
That category is normally defined as the defilement lasting for more than a year. When we perform Pratikraman, we wash off the defilement that we might have harbored. By performing Samvatsari Pratikraman, we wash off every defilement prevailing during the previous 12 months. Thereby, we limit the duration of defilement to less than one year and thus avert the Anantänubandhi category of bondage. Samvatsari Pratikraman is therefore considered a 'must'