Jain World
Sub-Categories of Antiquity of Jainism
Meaning of Jainism
Tradition of Tirthankara
Historicity of the Jaina tradition
Jaina tradition and Buddhism
  Jaina tradition and Hinduism
  Jaina tradition & archaeological evidence
  Fundamental principles of Jainism
  Philosophy of Jainism
  Tattvas of Jainism
  Doctrines of Jainism
  Three-fold path of Salvation
  Prescription of Ethical Code
  Private distinctiveness of Jaina Ethics
  Importance assigned to five vratas
  Prominence given to Ahimsa
  Easy practicability of ethical code
  Commoness of ethical code
  Rise of sections in Jainism
  The Great Schism of Jainism
  The Digambara and Svetambara sects
  The Digambara sub-sects
  The Svetambara Sub-sects
  Jainism in East India
  Jainism in Northern India
  Jainism in Western India
  Jainism In South India
  Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
  Jainism and other religions
  Significance of Jainism
  Glossary of Jaina terms



Ethics of Jainism: Prescription of Ethical Code

The eleven pratimas or stages laid down for householders are as follows:

  1. Darsana Pratima :

  2. The householder must possess the perfect intelligent and well-reasoned faith in Jainism, that is, he should have a sound knowledge of its doctrines and their applications in life. He must be free from all misconceptions and also from attachment to worldly pleasures of every kind.

  3. Vrata pratima :

  4. The householder must observe the twelve vows, that is, five anuvratas, three gunavratas and four siksavratas, without transgressions of any of them. He must also keep up the extra vow of sallekhana. Such a householder is called a vrati.

  5. Samayika Pratima:

  6. When the observance of the twelve vows is satisfactory, the householder should perform samayika which temporarily assimilates him to the status of an ascetic. Samayika consists in worshipping regularly, in general for forty-eight minutes, three times daily. Here worship means self-contemplation and purification of one's ideas and emotions.

  7. Prosadhopavasa Pratima :

  8. This is a judge of fasting and it involves fasting regularly, as a rule, twice a fortnight in each lunar month. The entire period of fasting has to be spent in prayer, study of scriptures, meditation and hearing of religious discourses.

  9. Sachitta-tyaga Pratima :

  10. The householders should abstain from eating uncooked or insufficiently cooked vegetables and food-stuffs and should also refrain from serving such food to others. Similarly, he should not trample upon any growing plant or pluck fruits from a tree. According to the Svetambara texts this vow is ranked seventh in the list of Pratimas. Unboiled water as well as liquids that contain salts are also prohibited.

  11. Ratri-Bhojana-tyaga Pratima :

  12. In this stage the householder abstains form taking any kind of food after sunset. This practice is extended to include abstinence from taking any kind of drink also at night. According to the Svetambara texts, the sixth stage refers to abrahma- varjana pratima wherein the layman is prohibited from having not only sexual contact but also being alone with his wife and engaging in conversation with her.

  13. Brahmacharya Pratima :

  14. The householder in this stage must observe complete celibacy, maintain sexual purity, put an end to all sexual desires and even avoid the use of all personal decorations which would lead to sexual desires. According to the Svetambara texts, abrahma-varjana pratima is the sixth stage requiring similar restrictions on sexual life.

  15. Arambha-tyaga Pratima :

  16. The stage contemplates has to make further advance in this stage. He must refrain from all activities like commerce, agriculture, service etc. exercised directly or indirectly for livelihood. This he has to do with a view to avoid himsa, i.e., injury to living beings, as far as possible. If he has children, he must give them all their shares and must use what is left with him for his maintenance and for giving as charity to others. In this stage the Svetambara texts, however, do not seem to prohibit activity exercised indirectly through agents or servants for the sake of livelihood.

  17. Parigraha-tyaga Pratima :

  18. This stage contemplates the abandonment of all kinds of attachment. The householder should give up ten kinds of worldly possessions, viz., land, house, silver, gold, cattle, grain, clothes, utensils, maid-servants and male-servants. Even in matters like food, shelter and clothing, he should keep just enough for his mere requirements. In a way he should train himself generally to bear the hardships incidental to a life of asceticism. Hence this stage is essentially one of preparation for the eleventh stage.

    The Svetambara texts use the word presya-tyaga pratima to denote this stage. It requires the householder to lay down the burdens of worldly life and stop carrying on any activity through servants and agents. He reduces his requirements to the minimum and cherishes a longing for final release.

  19. Anumati-tyaga Pratima:

  20. A householder in this stage has to increase the vigor of his living in the direction of asceticism. As such he should give up all his activities like trade and agriculture, his attachments to property and his concern with any of the family affairs. He should not express either consent or dissent towards any of the activities or functions carried on by any of the members of his family.

  21. Uddista-tyaga Pratima :

This is the highest stage of discipline for a householder. Here he abandons his family house, goes to a forest or a lonely place for shelter and adopts the rules laid down for the guidance of ascetics. He will not accept invitation for food. This is the highest stage of a Sravaka and hence he is called Uttama Sravaka.

According to Svetambara texts, the Uddista-tyaga Pratima is the tenth stage and the eleventh stage is called the Sramana-bhuta Pratima. In this stage the householder observe according to his capacity the rules of conduct prescribed for the ascetics.

A householder is advised that according to his ability and environment he should proceed stage by stage and that he should observe the rules of discipline that are prescribed for each stage. It, therefore, follows that the progress which a householder can achieve would finally depend upon his own convictions and faith in the Jaina philosophy. Psychologically, there cannot be a sudden change in life from the stage of material attachments to the stage of renunciation. That is why the eleven stages of discipline involving practice of vigorous mental and spiritual austerities is quite practical and worthy of realization by every aspirant. The final stage of a householder is, thus, a preparation for asceticism. He practically performs all the austerities and awaits his initiation into asceticism.

It is obvious that these eleven stages are scientifically conceived and practically graded. The graded steps have to be climbed one after the other only after the householder has been firm in the preceding step or steps. The climbing commences with the `Right Belief', and progress is achieved only when he is prepared to observe the more difficult vows and rules of conduct. Thus through these eleven stages a householder is fully prepared for practicing the severe course of ascetic life.

Six Avasyakas

Apart from the observance of twelve vratas, i.e., vows and eleven pratimas, i.e., stages, a householder is also required to perform six Avasyakas, i.e., daily duties. As regards the nomenclature of these six Avasyakas, i.e., daily duties, there is a difference of opinion among different authors. Accordingly, the six daily duties of a householder are commonly listed as follows:

Devapuja gurupastih svadhyayah samyamastapah

Danam cheti grhasthanam satkarmani dine dine.

that is, the six daily activities or duties of householders are : worship of God, worship of the preceptor, study of scriptures, practice of self control, practice of austerities, and giving gifts.

It may be noted that in many authoritative sacred texts, a second set of six Avasyakas is :

  1. Samayika, i.e., Meditation;

  2. Stuti or Chaturvimsati-Jina-stuti, i.e., Praising of the twenty-four Jaina or Tirthankaras who are the religious ideals of all Jaina;

  3. Vandana, i.e., Ceremonial and humble greeting of or salutation to the spiritual teachers or worshipful saints;

  4. Pratikramana, i.e., Repentance of all transgressions (or the recitation of the formulae of confession of past faults);

  5. Kayotsarga, i.e., Austerity performed by standing motionless in a specific posture; and

  6. Pratyakhyana, i.e., renunciation, which means resolving to avoid particular thoughts and actions in future, which tend to disturb the performance of essential duties, (or, the recitation of formulae for the fore-fending of future faults generally expressed in the form of abstinence from food and drink and comforts).

As regards this second set of six Avasyakas it may be noted that while Digambara texts mention these Avasyakas in the order given above, the Svetambara texts reverse the positions of the last two duties of Kayotsarga and Pratyakhyana, that is, the Svetambara texts mention Pratyakhyana as the fifth duty and Kayotsarga as the sixth duty.

The main reason for the constant performance of these daily duties seems to always keep up the eagerness and enthusiasm of the householders in their march towards spiritual progress.

General Principles of Appropriate Conduct

On the basis of the rules of Right Conduct laid down in Jaina scriptures, the prominent Jaina Acharyas or saints and thinkers have enunciated a number of general principles of appropriate conduct as guidance for putting them into actual practice by the sravakas or householders during their entire career as members of the Jaina community. These principles are also termed as Sravaka-gunas, i.e., qualities of an ideal householder. In this connection among the relevant Svetambara Jaina texts, the important treatise entitled Yoga-sastra composed by the renowned Acharya Hemachandra presents a list of the thirty-five attributes of an ideal sravaka or general principles of appropriate conduct of sravakas:

  1. Nyayasampannavibhavah : Possessed of honestly earned wealth.

  2. Sistachara-prasamsakah : Eulogistic of the conduct of the virtuous.

  3. Papabhiru : Apprehensive of sin.

  4. Kulasila-samaih sardham anyagotrajaih krtodvahah : Wedded to a spouse of the same caste and traditions but not of the same Gotra.

  5. Prasiddham desacharam samacharan : Following the reputable usages of the country.

  6. Avarnavadi na kvapi rajadisu visesatah : Not denigrating other people, particularly rulers.

  7. Anativyakte gupte sthane suprativesmike aneka- nirgamadvaravivarjita-niketana : Dwelling in a place which is not too exposed and not too enclosed, with good neighbors, and few exits.

  8. Sat-acharaih krta-sangah : Attached to good moral standards.

  9. Mata-pitroh pujakah : Honoring father and mother.

  10. Upaplutam sthanam tyajan : Eschewing a place of calamity.

  11. Garhite apravrtta : Not engaging in a reprehensible occupation.

  12. Vyayam ayochitam kurvan : Spending in proportion to one's income.

  13. Vesam vittanusaratah kurvan : Dressing in accordance with one�s income.

  14. Astabhih dhigunaih yuktah : Endowed with the eight kinds of intelligence.

  15. Dharmam anvaham srnvan : Listening everyday to the sacred doctrine.

  16. Ajirne Bhojana-tyagin : Not eating on a full stomach.

  17. Kale bhokta satmyatah : Eating at the right time according to a dietary regime.

  18. Anyonya-pratibandhena trivargam sadhayan : Fulfilling the three-fold aim of life - that is, dharma, artha and kama - without excluding any of its elements.

  19. Yathavat atithau sadhau dine cha pratipatti-krt : Diligent in succoring the ascetics, the righteous and the needy.

  20. Sada-anabhinivista : Always devoid of evil motives.

  21. Gunesu paksapatin : Favorably inclined to virtues.

  22. Adsa-kalayoh charyam tyajan : Avoiding action which is inappropriate to time and place.

  23. Balabalam janan : Aware of one's own strength and weakness.

  24. Vratastha-jnana-vrddhanam pujaka : Venerating persons of high morality and discernment.

  25. Posya-posaka : Supporting one's dependents.

  26. Dirgha-darsi : Far-sighted.

  27. Visesajna : Discriminating.

  28. Krtajna : Grateful.

  29. Loka-vallabha : well-linked.

  30. Salajja : Actuated by a sense of shame.

  31. Sadaya : Compassionate.

  32. Saumya : Gentle in disposition.

  33. Paropakrti-karmatha : Ready to render service to others.

  34. Antarangari-sadvarga-parihara-parayana : Intent on avoiding the six adversaries of the soul.

  35. Vasikrtendriyagrama : Victorious over the organs of sense.

On the same line among the Digambara texts, the reputed work entitled Sravakachara, i.e., Rules of Conduct for the householders, composed by the most revered Acharya Amitagati has given the following list of eleven gunas, i.e., attributes of a parama-sravaka, i.e., best householder :

  1. Kama-asuya-maya-matsara-paisunya-dainya-madahina : Devoid of lust, envy, deceit, anger, backing, meanness and vain glory.

  2. Dhira : Steadfast.

  3. Prasanna-chitta : Of contended mind.

  4. Priyamvada : Fair-spoken.

  5. Vatsala : Tender-hearted.

  6. Kusala : Competent.

  7. Heyadeya-patistha : skilled in discerning what is to be accepted and what to be eschewed.

  8. Gurucharanaradhanodayata-manisa : Ready in mind to adore guru's feet;

  9. Jina-vachana-toya-dhauta-svantah-kalanka : Having the taints on one's heart washed clean by the Jina's words.

  10. Bhava-vibhiru : Apprehensive of the samsara.

  11. Mandikrta-sakala-visaya-krta-grddhi : Having one's lust for sensual objects diminished.

Thus it is clear that both the Digambara and Svetambara texts have been very particular about impressing on the minds of Sravakas their responsibility to lead proper religious life and to become useful members of society.

As regards these principles of appropriate conduct for laymen it can be said in general that if the householder would carefully observe these principles of conduct, he would come into the possession of following qualities which every true gentleman should possess. He would be serious in demeanor, clean as regards both his person and clothes, good-tempered, popular, merciful, afraid of sinning, straight-forward, wise, modest, kind, moderate, gentle, careful in speech, sociable, cautious, studious, reverent both to old age and ancient customs, grateful, benevolent and attentive to business.