This invocation repeated several times every day the Jains bow with hands folded in anjali (worship) in the four cardinal directions, East, West, South and North.
While reciting the Navkar Mantra, we are bowing down with respect Arihantas, Siddhas, Acharya(heads of sadhus and sadhvis), Upadhyaya (those who teach scriptures to sadhus and sadhvis), Sadhus (monks, who have voluntarily given up social, economical and family relationships) and Sadhvis (nuns, who have voluntarily given up social, economical and family relationships). Collectively, they are called Panch Parmesthi (five supreme spiritual people). In this mantra we worship their virtues rather than worshipping any one particular person or Tirthankara. This mantra is also called Namaskar or Namokar Mantra as we are bowing down.
The word Arihanta is made up of two words: 1) Ari, meaning enemies, and 2)hanta, meaning destroyer of the enemies. These enemies are inner desires known as passions such as anger, ego, deception, and greed within us. When a person (soul) wins over these inner enemies he/she is called Arihanta. Arihanta destroys the four ghati karmas namely Jnanavarniya (knowledge blocking) Karma, Darshanavarniya (perception blocking) Karma, Mohniya (passion causing) Karma and Antaraya (obstacle causing) Karma. Arihanta attains: 1) Kevaljnan, perfect knowledge due to the destruction of all Jnanavarniya Karmas, 2) Kevaldarshan, perfect perception due to the destruction of all Darshanavarniya karmas, 3) becomes passionless due to the destruction of all Mohniya Karmas, and 4) gains infinite power due to the destruction of all Antaraya Karmas.
Siddhas are the liberated souls. They are no longer among us because they have completely ended the cycle of birth and death. They have reached the ultimate highest state, salvation. They do not have any karmas, and they do not collect any new karmas. This state of true freedom is called Moksha.
Acharyas carry the message of Jina. They are our spiritual leaders. Acharyas must have to do in-depth study and achieve mastery of the Jain scriptures (Ägams). In addition to acquiring a high level of spiritual excellence, they have the ability to lead the monks and nuns. They know various languages with a sound knowledge of other philosophies and religions of the area and the world.
The title Upadhyayas is given to those Sadhus who have acquired a special knowledge of the Ägams and philosophical systems. They teach Jain scriptures to sadhus and sadhvis.
When householders become detached from the worldly aspects of life and get the desire for spiritual uplift (and not worldly uplift), they give up their worldly lives and become sadhus (monk) or sadhvis (nun). A male person is called sadhu, and a female person is called sadhvi. At the time of Deeksha, the sadhu or sadhvi voluntarily accepts to obey following five major vows for the rest of his/her life: