ETHICAL CODE FOR ASCETICS
Enunciation of Rigorous
When a layman consistently
observes the rules of conduct prescribed for the householders and
especially attains all pratimas, i.e., stages, he is qualified to become
an ascetic. The admission into the order of monks is accompanied by the
impressive ceremony known as diksa or initiation ceremony. This ceremony
makes the layman a member of the order of ascetics (including nuns) is one
of the two orders in which Jaina community has been divided from the very
beginning, and other order is that of layman (including lay-women)
It is worth nothing that
there is a close connection between these two orders and the stages of
Sravakas, i.e., laymen, has been preliminary, and, in many cases,
preparatory to the stage of sadhus, i.e., ascetics. Because of this
intimate relationship we find that the rules prescribed for laymen and
ascetics do not differ in kind but in degree. The same rules of conduct
observed by laymen practice them partially or less vigorously, the
ascetics have to observe them fully and more rigorously. That is why we
have seen that the main five vows of householders are known as anuvratas
or small vows, and the same become mahavratas or great vows when practiced
This is obvious that the
ascetic stage signifies absolute renunciation of the world and the only
objective in this stage is to concentrate energy on the attainment of
moksa, i.e., final salvation. Asceticism is a higher course in spiritual
training and it is in this stage that real efforts are made to achieve
samvara ( the stoppage of influx of karmas ) and to have nirjara ( the
shedding of existing karmas) with a view to attain nirvana (salvation of
the soul). It is laid down that to attain nirvana a man must abandon all
trammels, including his clothes. Only by a long course of fasting,
self-mortification, study and meditation., he can rid himself of karmas,
and only by the most rigorous discipline he can prevent fresh karmas and
from entering his soul. Hence a monastic life is quite essential for
Therefore very minute rules
of conduct are prescribed for the ascetics who have to observe them
without any fault or transgression. Obviously in these rules, prominence
has been assigned to the rules meant for achieving samvara (stoppage of
influx of karmas) and nirjara (shedding of existing karmas).
Rules for Samvara
Samvara is the stoppage of
influx of karmic matter into soul and this stoppage is effected by the
observance of three kinds of gupti (control), five kinds of samiti
(carefulness), ten kinds of dharma (virtues), twelve kinds of anupreksa
(meditations or reflections), twenty-two kinds of parisaha-jaya, (subdual
of sufferings) and five kinds of charitra (conduct).
The flow of karmas into the
atman or soul is caused by the activities of body, speech and mind : so it
is quite necessary for the ascetics to keep these channels of influx under
strict control, i.e., to observer the guptis. The three guptis are
regulations with reference to controlling one's inner nature, that is,
they are dictated by the principles of self-control.
Mao-gupti is regulation
of mind in such a way as to give room only to pure thoughts.
Vag-gupti is regulation
of speech; it consists in observing silence for a particular period or
in speaking only as much as is absolutely necessary.
Kaya-gupti is regulation
of one's bodily activity.
It is just possible that
even in performing the duties of an ascetic, the vows might be
transgressed out of inadvertence. Hence as a precautionary measure the
samitis (acts of carefulness) are prescribed. The samitis are designed
with a view to cultivate the habit of carefulness in accordance with the
principle of ahimsa (non-injury). The samitis are prescriptions for the
regulation of the movements of the body and are of five kinds as follows:
Irya-samitis : It aims at
regulation of walking, so as not to injure any living being.
Bhasa Samiti : It
regulates the mode of speech with a view to avoid the hurting of other's
feelings by the use of offensive words.
Esana-samiti : It
regulates eating food in a prescribed manner and especially with a view
to avoid faults.
Adana-niksepa samiti : It
regulates the actions of taking or using, and of putting away, of his
accessories like kamandalu, pichchhi, sastra, etc.
Utsarga-samiti : It
regulates the movements connected with the answering of call of nature,
It is pertinent to note
that although these five samitis can be strictly observed only by
ascetics, these are also desirable to some extent in the daily life of
sravakas or laymen. For example, it is expected that a devoted laymen
should avoid treading on growing plants, should never leave a vessel
filled with a liquid substance uncovered, and should not ever use an open
light, lest insects might rush into it and be killed.
Both the three guptis and
the five samitis are sometimes grouped together under the name of
ast-pravachana-matrka, i.e, 'The Eight Mothers of the Creed', on account
of their fundamental character.
It is always asserted that
mainly due to the kasyas (passions) the soul assimilates karmas. Hence it
is laid down that the four kasyas, of krodha (anger), mana (pride), maya
(deceptions) and lobha (greed), must be counteracted by cultivating ten
uttama dharmas, i.e., supreme virtues : uttama-ksama (supreme
forgiveness), uttama-mardava (supreme humility or tenderness),
uttama-arjava (supreme honesty or straightforwardness), uttama-saucha
(supreme purity or contentment), uttama-satya (supreme truthfulness),
uttama-samyama (supreme self-restraint), uttama-tapa (supreme
austerities), uttama-tyaga (supreme renunciation), uttama-akinchanya
(supreme non-attachment) and uttama- brahmacharya supreme chastity).
With a view to cultivate
the necessary religious attitude, it is enjoined on the ascetics to
constantly reflect on twelve religious topics known as anupreksas
(meditations or reflections). It is laid down that these anupreksas should
be meditated upon again and again. These twelve anupreksas are as follows
Anitya : everything is
subject to change or is transitory.
unprotectiveness or helplessness. The feeling that soul is unprotected
from fruition of karmas, for example, death etc.
Samsara : mundaneness.
Soul moves in the cycle of births and deaths and cannot attain true
happiness till it is cut off.
Ekatva : loneliness. I am
alone, the doer of my actions and the enjoyer of the fruits of them.
Anyatva : separateness.
The world, my relatives and friends, my body and mind, they are all
different and separate from my real self.
Asuchi : impurity. The
body is impure and dirty.
Asrava : inflow. The
inflow of karmas is the cause of my mundane existence and it is the
product of passions.
Samvara : stoppage. The
inflow of karmas must be stopped by cultivating necessary virtues.
Nirjara : shedding.
Karmic matter should be destroyed or shaken off the soul by the practice
Loka : universe. The
nature of the universe and its constituent elements in all their vast
variety proving the insignificance and miserable nothingness of man in
time and space.
Bodhi-durlabha : rarity
of religious knowledge. It is difficult to attain Right belief, Right
knowledge and Right conduct.
Dharma : reflection on
the true nature of religion and especially on the three-fold path of
liberation as preached by the Tirthankaras or conquerors.
These anupreksas are also
termed as bhavanas, i.e., contemplations.
With the view to remain
steady on the path of salvation and to destroy the karmic matter, it has
been laid down that ascetics should bear cheerfully all the troubles that
might cause them distraction or pain. These troubles or hardships or
afflictions through which the ascetics have to pass are called the
parisaha, i.e., suffering. These are twenty-two parisaha which monks are
expected to face unflinchingly. They are : ksudha (hunger), pipasa
(thirst), sita (cold), usna (heat), damsamasaka (insect-bite), nagnya
(nakedness), arati (absence of pleasures of disagreeable surroundings),
stri (sex-passion), charya feeling (tired from walking too much), nisadya
(discomfort of continuous sitting in one posture),sayya (discomfort in
sleeping or resting on hard earth), akrosa (censure or scold), vadha
(injury), yachana (begging), alabha (failure to get food), roga (disease),
trna-sparsa (thorn-pricks or pricks of blades of grass), mala (body dirt
and impurities), satkara-puraskara (disrespect shown by men), prajna
(non-appreciation of learning), ajnana (persistence of ignorance), and
adarsana (lack of faith or slack belief), for example, on failure to
obtain super-natural powers even after great piety and austerities, to
begin to doubt the truth of Jainism and its teachings.
These parisahas should be
ever endured, without any feeling of vexation, by the ascetics who desire
to conquer all causes of pain.
The ascetics are also
expected to strive to observe five kinds of conduct : samayika
(equanimity), chhedopasthapana (recovery of equanimity after a fall from
it), parihara- visuddhi (pure and absolute non-injury), suksama-samparaya
(all but entire freedom from passion) and yathakhyata (ideal and
These five kinds of conduct
help to maintain the spiritual discipline of ascetics.
Rules for Nirjara
Along with samvara (the
stoppage of influx of the karmic matter into the soul) the ascetics have
to strive to effect nirjara (the gradual removal of karmic matter from the
soul), if they have to proceed further on their path of salvation.
The main step to nirjara,
i.e. shedding of the karmas, is the observance of tapas (penance of
austerities), which is included in the Right Conduct. Tapas is of two
kinds, viz., (a) bahya tapa i.e. external austerities referring to food
and physical activities, and (b) abyantara tapa i.e. internal austerities,
referring to spiritual discipline. Each of these two types if tapa is of
The Bahya Tapa
The six external
austerities are as follows: anasana (fasting), avamaudarya (eating less
than one's fill, or less than one has appetite for), vrtti-parisamkhyana
(taking a mental vow to accept food from a householder only if certain
conditions are fulfilled without letting anyone know about the vow),
rasa-parityaga (daily renunciation of one or more kinds if delicacies,
namely, ghee i.e. clarified butter, milk, curd, sugar, salt and oil),
vivikta-sayyasana (sitting and sleeping in a secluded place, devoid of
animate beings) and kayaklesa (mortification of the body so long as the
mind is not disturbed).
The Abhyantara Tapa
The six kinds of internal
austerities are: prayaschitta (expiation or confession and repentance of
sins), vinaya (reverence or modest behaviour), vaiyavrttya (rendering
service to other saints), svadyaya (study of scriptures), vyutsarga
(giving up attachment to the body) and dhyana (concentration of mind).
These external and internal
penances show what a rigorous life of self-denial the ascetics have to
lead. The ascetic is to sustain the body with minimum feeding and to take
maximum work from it in the attainment of his spiritual ideal. In Jainism
an elaborate technique of fasting has been evolved and the ascetic is
trained all along his career so efficiently that when the hour of death
comes, he accepts voluntarily fasting and gives up the body as easily as
one would throw off the old garment. The ascetic has always to take
exercise in fasting by observing series of fasts variously arranged.
Among the internal penances
special significance is attached to dhyana (meditation) because it is
considered as the most important spiritual exercise whereby alone the soul
can make progress on the path of salvation and can destroy all the karmas.
Feelings like attachment for beneficial and aversion from harmful objects
have to be given up to attain concentration of mind, which is the
prerequisite of successful meditation. It is always emphasized that the
sukla dhyana (pure meditation) ultimately leads the soul to salvation
because in sukla dhyana an attempt is made for complete cessation of
physical, verbal and mental activities. When the entire stock of karmas is
exhausted by following the rules of conduct laid down by Jaina ethics, The
soul shoots up to the top of the universe where the liberated souls stays
It is evident that the
rules of conduct and the austerities which a Jaina ascetic has to observe,
are of an extremely difficult character and that only a person who is
mentally prepared for a life of renunciation can be initiated into the
stage. Obviously, only a person who is imbued with full faith in the
validity of Jaina philosophy and is possessed of right knowledge of soul
and matter in all their aspects and is prepared for a life of penance and
austerities can be a successful Jaina ascetic.
Attributes Of Ascetics
According to Jainism an
ascetic is expected to expected to possess certain mula-gunas, i.e.,
primary attributes or basic qualities. The concept of the Mula-gunas has
been greatly developed by the Digambara sect of Jainas. It is prescribed
in the Digambara texts that a sadhu (ascetic) must possess the following
twenty-eight mula-gunas or basic attributes, the rigor of which is
increased stage by stage.
mula-gunas are : 1-5. The five great vratas or Vows; 6-10. The five
samitis, or carefulness; 11- 15. Controlling of five senses; 16-21. The
six Avasyakas or essential duties; 22. Removal of hair with one's own
hands periodically; 23. Nakedness; 24. Non-bathing; 25. Sleeping on hard
ground; 26. Refraining from cleansing the teeth; 27. Taking food standing,
and 28. Eating not more than once a day.
These virtues are termed
root-virtues, because in their absence other saintly virtues cannot be
Classes of Ascetics
The ascetics are divided
into different classes according to the strictness with which they observe
the rules for ascetics life and their standing or position in the order of
monks. The Jaina ascetics are broadly divided into two categories, viz.,
the ascetics who observe the rules of conduct in their strictest form,
without ever having recourse to exceptions are called Jainakalpi sadhus,
and those who practice the ascetic prescriptions in a milder form are
known as sthavirakalpi sadhus.
Further, the heads of the
groups of saints are called Acharyas, those in charge of instruction are
termed as Upadhyayas and the rest of the ascetics are known as mere Sadhus.
Moreover, there are
different grades among ascetics according to the approved stages through
which the rigor of ascetics life is increased.