Five Main Vows :
Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmaicharya and Aparigraha these five vows are
considered as main vows. The ascetics have to observe these vows very
strictly, so they are known as Mahavratas. The laymen however are
allowed to practise these vows so far as their conditions permit. Thus
when vows are partially observed they are called Anuvratas.
The first vow Ahimsa anuvrata demands that one must not intentionally
injure the feelings or the life-forces of any other living beings either
through word or deed himself or through an agent or even by approving of
such an act committed by somebody else. The occupational injury should
be limited to the minimum possible through careful- � ness. A lay
aspirant, absolutely abstains only from 1 committing intentional himsa.
The second vow Satya-anuvrata demands that one must abstain from telling
lies and taking recourse to falsehood . ~ in speech or action, to using
harsh, cruel, shocking or abusive language and even to such truth as may
harm �; others or injure their feelings.
The third vow Asteya-anuvrata is to abstain from thieving, stealing,
robbing, looting or misappropriating other�s v property and using
dishonest or illegal means in acquiring any worldly things.
The fourth vow Brahmacharya or Shila anuvrata is to abstain from having
sexual relations with anybody but one�s own lawfully wedded spouse.
The fifth vow Aparigraha anuvrata requires the imposition of a limit on
one�s needs, acquisitions and possessions and implies the use of the
surplus for the common good.
For the fixing of these five vows in the mind, there are five kinds of
Bhavanas or attendant meditations for each of the vows and every Jaina
is expected to think over them again and again. Every Jaina must
meditate that the five faults meant to be avoided in these vows are pain
personified and are of dangerous and censurable character in this as
well as in the next world. Every Jaina must meditate ~ upon four virtues
i.e. Maitri, Pramoda, Karunya, Madhyastha.
Along these five main vows, there are seven shila vratas or
supplementary vows. It has been asserted that just as the encircling
walls guard towns, so do supplementary vows protect Anuvratas. Hence it
has been specifically kid down that in order to practise the main vratas,
the shila vratas also must be practised by the laity among the Jinas.
Among these seven shila vratas the first three are called Guna vratas
and remaning four vows are called Shiksha vratas. The Guna vratas are so
called because, they are intended to enhance the effect and value of the
anuvratas manifold. The four shiksha vratas are so-called because, they
are intended to prepare the aspirant gradually for the discipline of
ascetic life. The three Guna vratas are an follows :
1. Digvrata : This is a lifelong vow to limit one�s world
activities to fixed points in a different spatial direction.
2. Deshavrata : To limit such activities for fixed period only.
3. Anarthadandavrata : Not to commit unnecessary or purposeless
moral offence, such as talking ill of others, preaching evil,
manufacturing or supplying instruments of destruction or read bad
Four Shikshavratas are as follows :
1. Samayika : Pure meditation time
2. Proshadhopavasa : Taking a vow to fast on four days of the
month, namely 2nd, 8th and 2nd, 14th days of the lunar fortnight.
3. Upabhoga-Paribhoga-Parimana : Taking a vow every day limiting
one�s enjoyment of consumable and non, consumable things.
4. Atithi samvibhaga : Taking a vow to take one�s food only after
feeding the ascetics or in their absence a pious householder.
It has been specially laid dawn that there are five aticharas and these
aticharas have also to be avoided by the observers of these vows. In
addition to the above twelve vratas a Jaina layman is expected to
practise in the last moment of his life the process of sallekhana or
peaceful death Sallekhana is described as the giving up of the body on
the arrival of unavoidable calamity, distress, old age and disease. With
a view to increase spiritual merit, Jainism has also laid down certain
gunas or virtues which have to be assiduously cultivated by the
householders. The observance of the five anuvratas and refraining from
the use of three, makaras ( madya, mansa- and madhu ) are regard as
ashta-: mulagunas i. e. eight basic virtues of a householder.
Eleven Stages or Pratimas :
When a householder feels confident that he can undertake the preparation
for the higher spiritual life of the ascetic, he resolves to initiate
himself into the eleven stages, which mark the development of the Right
conduct of a lay aspirant. He goes on step by step from one stage to :
the other, making gradual progress on the path. He does not give up
observance of the rules prescribed for the preceding stage or stages
whilst advancing on to the succeeding ones. Darshana, vrata, samayika,
proshadhopavasa, sachitta-tyaga, ratri-bhojana tyaga. brahmacharya,
arambha-tyaga, parigraha-tyaga, uddishta-tyaga are the eleven Pratimas
or stages, which are necessary for liberation of soul. An ascetic has to
follow various other daily : duties and vratas too.
The six daily duties of a Jaina householder are adoration and worship of
the deity, veneration of and attendance on the gurus, study of
scriptures, practice of self-discipline and sense control, meditation,
observance of fasts and, curbing desires and charity. This daily charity
usually consists in providing food to holy persons and to the, indigent,
medicine and medical help to the ailing, educational facilities to those
who are in need of it, and sense of security and fearlessness to those
under duress or who are persecuted, exploited or tyrannised. These
duties comprise selfless service of humanity, as a pious duty done out
of love for those in want or distress.
The Doctrine of Ahimsa :
If Jainism has been described as an ethical system pat excellence,
Ahimsa is the keynote of that system. The principle of Ahimsa or
non-injury to life, is one of the extreme importance and universal
application. It pervades the entire length and breadth of the Jain code
of Right conduct, the path. If an action or the conduct of a person is
Ahimsa, it is good and right, but if it involves himsa, it is bad and
wrong. The degree of its badness depends on the character and extent of
the himsa involved. In fact Ahimsa is the nature of the soul. It is
essential, intrinsic and inherent nature of a pure soul. No wonder that
Ahimsa has been described by the ancient Jaina sages as Parama-Brahma,
the very God.
Thus as soon as an individual soul departs from the spiritual nature of
its own, it becomes himsaka. So long us soul remains Vitaraga, it is
Ahimsaka. As soon as it gets corrupted and develops personal states like
anger, greed, sexual desires, jealousy, hatred etc., it becomes himsaka,
causing injury in the first instance to its own spiritual nature. This
is subjective himsa and it generally manifests itself in that person�s
gestures, facial expressions and often causing even physical injury to
himself, he does not stop here. Under the influence of that subjective
himsa, more often he causes injury, mental, physical to other living
beings. This is the apparent gross or objective himsa.
Keeping in view both these aspects, the Jaina text defines himsa as the
severance by a person, of his own or somebody else�s life-forces, under
the impact of his passional developments or in pursuit of sensual
pleasure or due to ignorance, mistaken belief or superstition or on
account of negligence or carelessness. These conditions have to be
satisfied for an act or omission to be called himsa and the person
responsible for it a himsaka. The act must be violent in spirit, if not
in appearance and it must be intentional or motivated or due to the lack
of carefulness or for the sake of fun unless it is so, the injury done
is accidental and person supposed to be instrumental for it, is not
responsible morally and spiritually. All the numerous rules so
meticulously woven into systematic ethical code of Right conduct both
for the laity and the ascetics to serve for them as the practical path
and the way of living a religious and righteous life, revolve around
this central doctrine of Ahimsa. Various aspects of himsa and ahimsa
have been discussed at length in the Jaina-texts.
An ascetic observes complete Ahimsa, while a layman or woman is granted
many exemptions. As a matter of fact, accidental, occupational,
vocational, protective, types of himsa would be considered a dereliction
of duty on the part of a lay house-holder. It is only himsa for himsa�s
sake, for more pleasure, without any thought, without any higher end in
view, that the lay aspirants are asked to guard themselves against. If
the injury involved is necessary they try to avoid more than the minimum
possible injury to life. The rule of minimum injury should ever be the
In every civilised religion, sanctity of human life has been recognized
but few go beyond that, Jainism recognizes the sanctity of all life
including beasts, birds, fish and the smaller creatures down to the
lowliest of the lowly. With it life is sacred in whatever form it is
found to exist. Non-injury to life is therefore, the highest ethical
principle. The true gentleman is one who has no tendency to do violence
to anybody nay to any living being. Thus the doctrine of Ahimsa is a
great contribution of Jainism to the world and path to world peace.
It is said that �War is necessary to end war or Himsa is necessary to
establish Ahimsa� but this is a wrong method and interpretation.� C. F.
Andrews observed that, � One war follows another and there seems to be
no escape. Surely there must be something wrong in western civilization
itself, which causes self destructive tendencies to recur without any
apparent means of prevention. � If the aim of religion is to bring peace
on earth and good-will amongst mankind, it must always emphasise the
ultimate good and declare evil as evil, even if it may appear to be
unavoidable at a particular time or in a particular set of
circumstances. Good cannot come out of evil. The Ahimsaka way of life is
the sure panacea for all moral, social, economic and political ills.
Ahimsa is the highest religion and where there is Ahimsa there is
Thus Jaina philosophy and the Jaina way of life envisages the salvation
of all living beings. The transformation of man into super human,
provides the concept of �live and let live� and founds a pure spiritual
base upon which the permanent world peace could be achieved. Thank you
again for your presence and participation in the conference. I must also
thank the Rotary Club, Solapur for their co-operation and participation
in organizing this World Peace Conference.