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
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")
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
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.
WHAT IS KILLING?
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
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
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:
Hunting, shooting and fishing.
For dress: Skins, feathers, etc.
For food: fish, game, meat, etc.
For private revenge.
For so-called religious purposes: sacrifices, for instance.
Insects, flies, etc., because we think they trouble us.
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,
an absence of thought of the pain and harm he is inflicting on the
he is entirely taken up with his own pleasure;
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:
Those that can move from place to place.
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
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.