Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions - ASPECTS OF JAINA RELIGION

Front Page

Fore Word

Preface
CONTENTS
Illustrations
ANTIQUITY OF JAINISM
FUNDAMENTALS OF JAINISM
DOCTRINES OF JAINISM
  SALVATION - PATH OF JAINISM
  ETHICS OF JAINISM
  DISTINCTIVENESS OF JAINA ETHICS
  DIVISIONS IN JAINISM
  STATUS OF JAINISM IN INDIA
  CONTRIBUTION OF JAINISM TO INDIAN CULTURE
  JAINISM AND OTHER RELIGIONS
  SIGNIFICANCE OF JAINISM
  GLOSSARY OF JAINA TERMS

DISTINCTIVENESS OF JAINA ETHICS



1. GRADATION IN ETHICAL CODE

The examination of an outline of Jaina ethics does make clear its certain outstanding features. In the first place it is evident that there is a system of gradation in Jaina ethics because the whole course of Jaina ethics has. been divided into stages and it is enjoined on every person to put into practice the rules of conduct step by step. The whole life of an individual, in some of the later works, has been divided into four Asramas, i.e., stages, namely; (i) Brahmacharya, the period of study, (ii) Grhastha, the period devoted to household life, civic duties, and the like, (iii) 0anaprastha, the period of retirement from worldly activities, and (iv) Samnyasa, the period of absolute renunciation.



(1) Brahmacharya Asrama

The first is the stage of study when the pupil must acquire knowledge, religious as well as secular, and build up a character that will rule supreme in later life. In this period he is to for the right convictions regarding the real nature of the soul and the world.


(2) Grhastha Asrama

After completing his studies he enters the second stage. He is ex�pected to marry and settle down to lead a pious householder�s life. In this stage he tries to realise the first three of the four ideals or objectives in life, namely, dharma (religious merit), artha (wealth, position, worldly prosperity, etc.), kama (pleasure) and moksa (sal�vation). But it has been specifically stressed that while realising dharma, artha and kama, he must subordinate artha and kama to dharma. The householder, who aspires for moksa in the long run, knows that it cannot be attained except by severe self-discipline of a type which is not attainable by him as a layman. He, therefore, only aspires to perfect himself in the first instance, in the performance of his own duties, so that he may adopt samnyasa, i.e., the stage of renunciation, in due course of time. Even though he is the main popular support in other three stages, he is to prepare himself bit by bit for entering the subsequent stages.



(3) Vanaprastha Asrama

In this third stage he retires from worldly activities, abandons efforts for attaining the ideals of artha and kama and concentrates his attention on the first ideal of dharma.



(4) Sairinyarta Asratma

After successfully crossing the third stage an individual enters the fourth stage which is marked by a sense of absolute renunciation and in this stage he aspires for the last and the most important ideal of moksa.


In this way we find that in Jaina ethics different rules of conduct are prescribed for different stages in life so that an individual may gradually attain the final aim in life. Even in one stage the rules of conduct are divided into several grades, for example, the eleven Pratimirs in the householder�s stage. This makes the progress on spiritual path very easy and a person readily understands what his position is on that path: This scheme is intended for the protection of the individual in the sense that he is preparing step by step to achieve the real purpose in life.


2. IMPORTANCE ASSIGNED TO FIVE VRATAS

The second distinguishing feature of the ethical code prescribed for the Jainas is the importance assigned to the five main vratas or vows in the life not only of an ascetic but also of a householder. The five main vows of ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha form the basis on which the superstructure of Jaina ethics has been raised. They give a definite outlook on life and create a particular type of mental attitude. The very essence of Jaina philosophy is transformed into action in the shape of observance of these five vows.

Though these vows on their face appear to be mere abstentions from injury, falsehood, theft, unchastity and worldly attachments, their implications are really extensive and they permeate the entire social life of the community. This is because it has been enjoined that these five faults should be avoided in three ways termed as (a) krta, that is, a person should not commit any fault himself; (b) karita, that is, a person should not incite others to commit such an act; and (c) anumodita, that is, a person should not even approve of it subsequent to its commission by others.

In view of this extension of the field of avoidance of five faults, we find that detailed rules of conduct have been laid down for observance in the matter of abstentions from these faults in the following way :


(1) Himsa

Himsa or injury has been defined as hurting of the vitalities caused through want of proper care and caution: But the meaning is not limited to this definition alone. It is stated that piercing, binding, causing pain, overloading and starving or not feeding at proper times, are also forms of himsa and as such these forms must be avoided.



(2) Asatya

Asatya, i.e., falsehood, in simple terms, is to speak hurtful words. But the meaning is further extended, arid spreading false doctrines, revealing the secrets and deformities of others, backbiting, making false documents, and breach of trust are also considered as forms of falsehood, and therefore, these should be abstained from.



(3) Chaurya

Chaurya, i.e., theft, is to take anything which is not given. But a wide meaning is attached to the term theft. That is why imparting instruction on the method of committing theft, receiving stolen property, evading the injunction of the law (by selling things at inordinate prices), adulteration, and keeping false weights and measures, are all considered as forms of theft and one must guard oneself against them.



(4) Abrahma

Abrahma, i.e., unchastity, is also considered to have several forms. As a result, matchmaking (bringing about marriages, as a hobby), unnatural gratification, indulging in voluptuous speech, visiting im�moral married women, and visiting immoral unmarried women- are all forms of unchastity, and they should be avoided.



(5) Parigraha

The fault of Parigraha, i.e., worldly attachments, consists in desiring more than what is needed by an individual. Hence accumulating even necessary articles in large numbers, expressing wonder at the pros�perity of another, excessive greed, transgressing the limits of posses�sion, and changing the proportions of existing possessions are all forms of parigraha, and therefore these should be discarded.

It may be noted that the last vow of aparigraha or parigraha�parimana is very distinctive as it indirectly aims at economic equaliza�tion by peaceful prevention of undue accumulation of capital in individual hands. Further, in this vow it is recommended that a householder should fix, beforehand, the limit of his maximum be�longings, and should, in no case, exceed it. If he ever happens to earn more than that limit, it is also recommended that he must spend it away in charities, the best and recognised forms of which are four, viz., distribution of medicine, spread of knowledge, provision for saving lives of people in danger, and feeding the hungry and the poor.

Obviously these five vows are of a great social value as they accord a religious sanction to some of the most important public and private interests and rights which are, in modern times, safeguarded by the laws of the state. It has been specifically pointed out by Jaina scholars that a due observance of the vows would save a man from application of almost any of the sections of the Indian Penal Code.