Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Jainism  -  Respect For All Life

The birth of Jainism
Mahavira the Path-Maker
The Enlightenment
The Rise of Jainism
  The Two Sects
  The Scriptures
  Rise and Fall
  Jain Beliefs-The Universe
  The Soul
  Karma and Rebirth
  The way of Salvation
  The Everyday Life of a Jain
  The Life of an Ascetic
  Ways of Worship
  Temples and Domestic Shrines
  Ninian Smart

The Everyday Life of a Jain



Jains go through special ceremonies at birth, marriage and death as do members of most religions.  But there is a difference, The rites through which the Jain passes are Hindu rather than Jain.  And it is often Hindu priests or officials who perform them.

The Life of a Layman

Full salvation is not possible for the layman unless, as the end approaches, he takes the vow of old age, containing the promise to die by voluntary self-starvation.  And, according to the Digambaras, it is never possible for a woman unless she is first of all reborn as a man.

Jainism recognizes four sources of karma:

  • Attachment to things of this life, such as food, clothing, lodging, women and jewels;

  • Giving rein to anger, pride, deceit and greed;

  • Uniting the body, mind and speech to worldly things;

  • False belief.

Karma can be controlled by renouncing all activity, Jainism also recognizes eight kinds of karma, three tenses of karma and fourteen steps to liberation from karma, Between steps one and four a person acquires knowledge and faith, but only on the fifth step does he realize the importance of conduct.

become able to take the twelve vows which mark the layman�s religious life.

First in the series of twelve vows are the five `limited vows� :

  • Non-violence to souls with more than one sense.

  • Truthfulness.

  • Non-stealing.

  • Chastity.

  • Non-attachment or the limitation of possessions and worldly goods.

Next in the series are the three `assistant vows� which help a person to keep the first five:

  • Restriction of travel (so curtailing sin by restricting the area in which it can be committed).

  • Restriction on the use of certain things, so discouraging lying, covetousness, stealing and so on.

  • Discouragement of carelessness in speaking ill of others, taking life, keeping weapons and having an evil influence.

The remaining four vows in the series are intended to encourage the laity in the performance of their religious duties:

  • To spend at least forty-eight minutes every day in unbroken meditation (samayika), thinking evil of no one, being at peace with the world and contemplating the heights which may be reached by the soul, and if possible to repeat this exercise three times, morning, afternoon and evening.

  • To set aside at least one particular day to be more serious about the vows of travel restriction and meditation.

  • To live as a monk for a temporary period of twenty-four hours, touching no food, drink, ornaments, scents or weapons and remaining celibate while using only three cloths by day and two by night-thus forging a link between the lay and monastic communities (called posadha).

  • To support the ascetic community by giving its members any of the fourteen articles which they may accept without blame, such as food, water, clothing, pots, blankets, towels, beds, tables and other furniture.

Jains believe that to keep the twelve vows brings great physical and moral advantage.  The body becomes fit and healthy and the soul is freed from love and enmity.

The layman wanting to reach a higher stage in the upward path towards liberation must undertake to keep a further eleven promises:

  • To worship the true deva (i.e, a Tirthankara), reverence a true guru (teacher), and believe in the true doctrine (dharma, i.e.  Jainism), while avoiding the seven bad deeds of gambling, eating meat, wine-bibbing, adultery, hunting, thieving and debauchery.

  • To keep the twelve vows, facing death by voluntary self-starvation in complete peace.

  • To engage in meditation at least three times a day.

  • To live the life of a monk temporarily at least six times a month.

  • To avoid uncooked vegetables.

  • To refrain from eating between sunset and sunrise and from drinking water before daylight, in case an insect is accidentally eaten.

  • To keep away from his own wife and never to scent his body so as to seduce her.

  • Never to begin anything that might entangle him in worldly pursuits which might lead to destruction of life.

  • To be a novice for his remaining days.

  • To eat only leftovers.

  • To wear the dress of an ascetic, live apart in a religious building or in the forest, and live according to the rules laid down in the scriptures for ascetics.

By the time he has taken the last of these eleven promises, the layman is virtually an ascetic.

As the layman endeavors to reach this exalted state, he will strive to develop the twenty-one qualities which distinguish the Jain `gentleman�.  He will always be `serious in demeanor; clean as regards both his clothes and his person; good-tempered; striving after popularity; merciful; afraid of sinning; straightforward; wise; modest; kind; moderate; gentle; careful in speech; sociable; cautious; studious; reverent both to aid age and old customs; humble; grateful; benevolent; and, finally, attentive to business�.