Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
  THE NATURE OF KARMA (Karma ka swroop)
  Vairagya Bhavana




     Of the rules prescribed for laymen and saints, those, suitable for the former are divided into twelve vrata (vows) and eleven pratimas, in addition to thirty-five minor directions for general conduct enjoined on every house- holder.


     The layman must begin with the avoidance of the five aticharas (short-comings) of faith, namely, (i) entertainment of doubt after once being convinced of truth, (ii) desire to belong to another faith, (iii) beginning to doubt the efficacy of the Law (Dharma) in moments of suffering, (iv) praising hypocrites, and (v) constant association with those known to follow a wrong faith. This will enable him to observe the vows, which mark the first stage of Right Conduct. The twelve vows* are:--

(*The first five of these vows are called anu vrata (minor or less rigid vows), the next three guna vratas (guna = qualities) because they widen the scope of the five anu vratas; and the last four shiksha vratas (study vratas) because of their being helpful in study and meditation.)


(i) To refrain from killing and destroying. Killing means the forcible separation of the body of gross matter from the two other bodies, the Karma and the taijasa. It is forbidden, because it is the source of pain to the living being concerned, and also because it betrays ignorance of the nature of soul in the destroyer. Hinsa is the immediate cause of hard-heartedness, and leads to re-births in hells and to suffering and pain generally. This vow extends to all kinds of killing whether it be done for sport, science (vivisection), dress (skin, feathers, and the like), food, private revenge, religion (sacrifices), comfort (destruction of insects, and the like), as a punishment to evil doers (capital sentence), in self-defense, or for any other purpose. A king who fights in defending his empire, however, does not violate this vow, for his motive is to protect his subjects. The vow also extends to such acts as tying up animals too tightly, beating them mercilessly, cutting their limbs, overloading them or neglecting to feed them properly. Of the five types of living beings, the one-sensed and the like, a layman is forbidden to kill, or destroy, intentionally, all except the lowest (like one sensed, such as vegetables, herbs, cereals, etc., which are endowed with only the sense of touch).

      (ii)      Refraining from falsehood. This vow is transgressed by revealing the secrets of others, false speech, forgery, and the like.

     (iii)      Stealing or taking what is not freely given is the subject matter of the third vow. Selling goods not up to sample, employment of false weights and measures, adulteration, counterfeiting, receiving stolen property, employment or encouragement of thieves, and harboring dacoits are some of the forms of its transgression.

     (iv) Refraining from indulgence in sex-passion. The Muni is naturally enjoined to practice complete control, since sex-passion is a great enemy of spiritual progress; but the layman only vows to restrict his carnal lust to his married spouse. Artificial gratification, encouraging others in sexual lust, looking lustfully at any woman other than one's own wife, use of aphrodisiac remedies when weak, and the like, constitute a transgression of this vow.

 (v) Putting a limit on one's possessions. This is calculated to lessen the sense of power, pride, and the like.

(vi) Setting bounds to one's travels. This does not apply to a Muni, though he is required to avoid luxury in his traveling.

 (vii) Limiting the number of articles of bhoga (those which can be enjoyed only once, such as food) and upabhoga (which can be enjoyed more than once, such as furniture, clothes, etc.). The object being the control of (nafs = lower nature), the layman should cheerfully place greater and greater restrictions on his senses, remembering always that the aim of life is the attainment of Moksha, but no the pursuit of sensual lust.

(viii) The eighth vow is designed to guard against unnecessary evil befalling others through one's carelessness. One should not hope that some evil should befall another, nor think evil of any one. One should take care not to let oil, milk and other liquid substances lying about uncovered, for flies and other insects get drowned in them and thereby suffer unnecessary pain and loss of life. One should keep as few weapons as possible. The encouraging of another in evil deeds is also prohibited. We should not also fear the loss of any of the good things we have-- wealth, friends, health, etc, etc., --nor imagine that conditions of poverty, disease, ill-luck, and the like are in store for us. Even undue anxiety to get rid of disease, poverty, and other undesirable conditions is to be avoided. The vow also condemns such deeds as rejoicing at the death of another to come into his property, or for one's own safety; giving gratuitous advice, lending dangerous weapons, such as guns, fishing tackle, and the like; sheer carelessness of thought, word, and action; drinking, meaningless chitchat, excessive sleep, talking about things which do not concern one, writing immoral books, selling evil medicines and poisons, buffoonery, abuse, lustful thoughts, sensuality, and all other like thoughts and deeds.

(ix) The Samayika vow. It consists in spending a certain amount of time at least once every day in a particular place, reading Scripture, praising the Master, recounting the merits of the Siddha Atma, repenting of evil deeds, and, in a general way, concentrating the mind on suitable, proper and holy objects of meditation.

 (x) The tenth vow is a severer form of the sixth, and consists in limiting one's movements, at least once a year or so, to one room or, at the most, to one's house. This is transgressed by ordering things from beyond, or by transacting business outside the limits.

(xi) This vow is a severer form of the ninth. Prolonged meditation coupled with fasting is its characteristic. The layman should try to spend a whole day, four times in a month, in holy meditation, and should observe fasting on those days.

 (xii) Sharing one's food with some holy monk, or a pious Sravaka (house-holder), and giving him presents of books and other useful articles at least once a year. This implies that one should also eat the same food as is offered to the guest.

     In addition to these twelve, there is another vow, which a man on the point of death is expected to take. Its object is to be inferred from the following formula in which it is generally worded:


     "I vow to abstain from food and drink and fruits and sopari (betel-nut) as long as I live."


     Terrible and cruel as this last vow may appear to the uninitiated, it is the severest form of austerity, and, therefore, leads to the greatest prosperity in the next life. There is no idea of suicide involved in the operation of this vow, since it is only taken when the last remaining hope of life is given up. At that supreme moment of life, when fate may be said to be trembling in the balance, the successful carrying out of a terrible resolve like this is an ample guarantee of future happiness, for the exertion of will to adhere to its resolve, in the trying moments of a departing life, goes a long way to remove its negativity, and there by enables the soul to attain to the region of heavens where pain and misery are the least known.

     We now come to the eleven pratimas, which may be described as follows:

     (i) The worship of the true Deva (God, i.e., Tirthankara.) guru (preceptor) and shastra (Scripture), and the avoidance of gambling, meat- cutting, drinking (wine), adultery, hunting, thieving and debauchery.

     (ii) The keeping of the vows, and the Samadhi marina (the last vow taken on death bed).

     (iii) The observance of the Samayika vow at least three times a day.

     (iv) The observance of the eleventh vow at least four times a month.

     (v) Refraining from eating uncooked vegetables, plucking fruit from a tree, and the like.

     (vi) Abstaining from taking food, etc., as well as from offering it to others after sunset (to avoid accidental destruction of animal life).

     (vii) Sexual purity; even keeping away from the society of one's own wife, as much as possible, also not decorating ones person.

     (viii) Abstaining from all kinds of occupations and trades.

     (ix) Preparation for Sannyasa, which means withdrawing oneself still further from the world, dividing one's property among one's sons or heirs, or making over its management to some other member of the family, and otherwise generally training oneself to bear the hardships incidental to a life of asceticism.

      (x) Practicing a still severer form of the last pratima --eating only what is permissible, and that only if offered at mealtimes and without special preparation; refraining even from giving advice on matters relating to family honor and business, and the like.

     (xi) The complete renunciation of the house- holder's life, retiring into a forest and adopting the rules laid down for the guidance of Munis.