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Scale of living beings

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Thirty-five rules of conduct


Fourth stage of development-part-2


Fifth stage of development


Twelve special rules of conduct


Sixth to fourteenth stages of development

  Synthesis or Recapitulatiion


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The twelve special rules, which were referred to as one of the things done by a person practicing a moderate degree of self-control are the following:

It is the means of becoming what we are potentially, that is, the present subject in hand; these special rules are one of these means. We are injurious beings, we are to become non-injurious beings. These rules help to that end.

The Sanskrit word for these twelve rules is "vrata". It is derived from "vr", which means to select, or choose; so, literally, the word "vrata" means a kind of choice. In the technical or idiomatic sense in which the word is here used, however, there is also the meaning of 1) choosing a right course of conduct, 2) exercising the judgment to see what is the right course out of several possible courses, and 3) the effort of will implied (conation).

As it is persons of the fifth stage of development that are now in consideration, who are in the right attitude of mind towards life and truth, the selection which they will make will be a right and proper one - persons in a state of delusion and who dislike truth, will not choose the path of rectitude.

The choosing of a right course of conduct from among many ways, necessitates the exercise of judgment and discrimination.

And, as doing this, is not following the path of least resistance, or living a life where no such choice is made, there is an effort of will ("virya") or conation.

So, there are the above three meanings to this word "vrata", as technically used here.

The choice is a very strict matter, requiring the exercise of much care. And the idea is peculiarly Jain; there is no oath to a superior, or to a Deity. Neither is it a decree or command, issued by a Deity to his subjects or creatures. The vedic idea of a "vrata" is very different.

These twelve special rules or vows may be divided into three class; the first five vows are called "lesser" vows, as compared with the more strict vows of the monk. the next three vows (gunavrata) are of a kind which helps or supports the first five. And the last four vows are disciplinary (siksavrata); the practice of them forms a sort of preparation for the monk life.

FIRST VOW (Sthula-Prantipat-Viramana Vrata)

It is a vow to refrain from killing or destroying life but not in a literal or strict sense.

We need to know what killing is - seeing that the soul cannot be destroyed; and we need to know what particular kinds or forms of killing shall be refrained from.


It is separating the life forces through negligent activities.

Negligent activates are those which take place when we are in a state in which we cannot use care and caution. The term "negligent" is used here in a technical sense. When a person is in any of the following five states, he does not exercise care and caution, and his activities, when in these states, are here called negligent. Pride, through which a person kills; it implies arrogance, and is a state in which the person ignores the rights of others. The second is any sense-pleasure, which leads to killing (visaya). The third would be intense passion, in which state the reason is lost or put aside, as in wrath and anger; also intense greed, also deceit. The fourth is sleep; we cannot exercise care and caution when asleep. And the fifth kind of negligent activity, through which we may separate the life forces of a living being, is undesirable conversation which leads to passion, lust, or excitement of the mind, thence to killing, as in duels, and rows.

Destroying life means separating the life forces through these negligent activities. Now, with regard to what life forces are. The life forces are the power and means of being able to touch, i.e., the sense of touch, of taste, smell, seeing, and hearing; bodily force, force of speech, force of mind, capacity of respiration, and duration of life.

Different living beings have different numbers of these ten forces. Beings with only one organ of sense, the skin or surface, have only four out of these ten forces, viz., the sense of touch, force of body, respiration, and duration of life (ayuh). Vegetables, trees, plants, water, air, earth, and fire beings have these four life forces.

Beings, with only two of the senses, have six life forces, viz., touch, taste, force of body, force of speech, - they have a means of communicating among themselves,- capacity of respiration, and duration of life. Protozoa, and hell beings.

Beings, with only three senses, have the same six with the addition of smell, making seven life forces. Lice, bugs, ants.

Beings, with only four senses, have the same seven forces, with the addition of eyesight, making eight. Wasps, bees, scorpions.

Beings, with nine life forces, have the same eight, with the addition of the sense of hearing. These beings with five senses and no mind, are very minute.

Beings, with ten life forces, have the same nine, with the addition of the force of mind, making ten. Men, fish, birds, animals.

Thus we see the order in which the five senses are developed. A being, with only two senses, never has only hearing, with touch, for instance.

So, when we are in any state in which we do not exercise care and caution, and in that state we tear asunder (to pieces) any of these life forces, then we kill. This can be done also in the hell state, only the forces come together again after separation; the pain of the separation is felt.

The next thing to know is, which particular forms of killing can be refrained from by the persons in this fifth stage of development, because he cannot refrain from all forms. The various ways in which life is destroyed, can be learned by observation of people's conduct; but a few may be mentioned here:

  1. Hunting, shooting and fishing.

  2. Vivisection.

  3. For dress: Skins, feathers, etc.

  4. For food: fish, game, meat, etc.

  5. In war.

  6. For private revenge.

  7. For so-called religious purposes: sacrifices, for instance.

  8. Insects, flies, etc., because we think they trouble us.

  9. Capital punishment.

  10. Self-defense, etc.

It may be added here that, according to the Jain view, a king may fight in self-defense, as will be seen later on, under the first vow.

If we analyst the state of mind of a person who is hunting for sport, we find three factors,

  1. an absence of thought of the pain and harm he is inflicting on the innocent creatures;

  2. he is entirely taken up with his own pleasure;

  3. he has no feeling for the pain and suffering of the animals. Thus we find thoughtlessness, selfishness, and heartlessness.

Vivisection is done to gain certain physiological knowledge. We have no right to gain knowledge at the expense of other living beings, and further, our lack of knowledge is due to some unnatural activities in us (karma), and if we remove it, we shall have the knowledge, without injuring the living beings; and injuring these in vivisection is not the way to remove the knowledge-obscuring "Karma". In the Jain idea of morality, relations with all living beings are considered, and not merely relationships with man.

Now, from the point of view of the protection a layman can afford to life, living beings can be divided into:

  1. Those that can move from place to place.

  2. Stationary living beings, such as trees, vegetables, etc.

The layman cannot take a vow to remain from killing the latter. And to compare the protection to life afforded by a layman with that afforded by a monk, we may represent full protection by the number 16, so in this first division the layman's protection covers, roughly speaking, only half the living beings, and can therefore be represented by the figure 8.

Now, taking moving living beings, how much protection can the layman give to these? There is destroying them with determined intention, where he thinks, "I want to kill them, and I am killing them." There is killing them in household and personal matters, cooking, digging, foundations, etc. The layman cannot refrain from the later kind, and so, again, the protection he can afford to living being is reduced to 4.

How much can he avoid killing moving living beings with determined intention? These may be either innocent or guilty, so far as the layman's interests are concerned. He cannot say he will not kill the guilty ones. A lion, if he attacks you, is guilty; so is a burglar. Again, the figure is reduced to 2.

Therefore, disregarding the guilty, we must consider only the innocent. Men, when they kill innocent living beings intentionally, do so either without a necessary cause, or else for a special necessary cause. The layman cannot undertake to refrain from the intentional killing of innocent beings, when there is a necessary cause for doing it. So, again, the figure is halved, and the protection which a layman can undertake to afford to life is, in comparison with that afforded by the monk, as 1 is to 16.

The layman, then, can undertake to refrain from intentionally killing innocent moving living beings, when he has no necessary cause for killing them. So the first vow of the layman would be : I shall not without a necessary purpose kill with determined intention a moving living being when it is innocent.