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THE JAIN DECLARATION ON NATURE

THE JAIN TEACHINGS
JAIN COSMOLOGY
THE JAIN CODE OF CONDUCT

THE JAIN CODE OF CONDUCT

 

Author -  Dr. L. M. Singhvi


1. The five vratas (vows)

The five vratas (vows) in the Jain code of conduct are:

Non‑violence in thought, word and deed,

To seek and speak the truth,             

To behave honestly and never to take anything by force or theft,

To practise restraint and chastity in thought, word and deed,

To practice non‑acquisitiveness.

The vow of ahimsa is the first and pivotal vow.  The other vows may be viewed as aspects of ahimsa which together form an integrated code of conduct in the individual�s quest for equanimity and the three jewels (ratna‑traya) of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.

The vows are undertaken at an austere and exacting level by the monks and nuns and are then called maha‑vratas (great vows).  They are undertaken at a more moderate and flexible level by householders and called the anu‑vratas (`atomic� or basic vows).

Underlying the Jain code of conduct is the emphatic assertion of individual responsibility towards one and all.  Indeed, the entire universe is the forum of one�s own conscience.  The code is profoundly ecological in its secular thrust and its practical consequences.


2. Kindness to animals
 

The transgressions against the vow of non‑violence include all forms of cruelty to animals and human beings.  Many centuries ago, Jains condemned as evil the common practice of animal sacrifice to the gods.  It is generally forbidden to keep animals in captivity, to whip, mutilate or overload them or to deprive them of adequate food and drink.  The injunction is modified in respect of domestic animals to the extent that they may be roped or even whipped occasionally but always mercifully with due consideration and without anger.


3. Vegetarianism

Except for allowing themselves a judicious use of one‑sensed

life in the form of vegetables, Jains would not consciously take

any life for food or sport.  As a community they are strict

vegetarians, consuming neither meat, fish nor eggs.  They

confine themselves to vegetable and milk products
 

4. Self‑restraint and the avoidance of waste

By taking the basic vows, the Jain laity endeavor to live a life of moderation and restraint and to practice a measure of abstinence and austerity.  They must not procreate indiscriminately lest they overburden the universe and its resources.  Regular periods of fasting for self‑purification are encouraged.

In their use of the earth�s resources Jains take their cue from �the bee [that] sucks honey in the blossoms of a tree without hurting the blossom and strengthens itself�.  Wants should be reduced, desires curbed and consumption levels kept within reasonable limits.  Using any resource beyond one�s needs and misuse of any part of nature is considered a form of theft.  Indeed, the Jain faith goes one radical step further and declares unequivocally that waste and creating pollution are acts of violence.


5. Charity

Accumulation of possessions and enjoyment for personal ends should be minimized.  Giving charitable donations and one�s time for community projects generously is a part of a Jain householder�s obligations.  That explains why the Jain temples and pilgrimage centers are well‑endowed and well‑managed.  It is this sense of social obligation born out of religious teachings that has led the Jains to found and maintain innumerable schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, lodging houses, hostels, orphanages, relief and rehabilitation camps for the handicapped, old, sick and disadvantaged as well as hospitals for ailing birds and animals.  Wealthy individuals are advised to recognize that beyond a certain point their wealth is superfluous to their needs and that they should manage the surplus as trustees for social benefit.

The five fundamental teachings of Jainism and the five‑fold Jain code of conduct outlined in this Declaration are deeply rooted in its living ethos in unbroken continuity across the centuries.  They offer the world today a time‑tested anchor of moral imperatives and a viable route plan for humanity�s common pilgrimage for holistic environmental protection, peace and harmony in the universe.