Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions


The Antiquity of Jainism
Jain Heroes
Jaina Order and Literature
Fundamental Beliefs
  The Human Predicament
  The Doctrine of Karma
  The Doctrine of Man
  The Denial of God
  Jaina Ethics and Morality
  Three Spiritual Paths
  Response to Contemporary Issue
  Social Issues
  The Economic Order
  The Idea of Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

Three Spiritual Paths



Jaina religion encompasses a threefold path of spiritual practice.  It includes right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.  The three components are interrelated and interdependent and are known as �The Three Jewels�, because of their value for salvation.

Right faith is primary.  It signifies belief in the omniscience of the spiritual teachers.  It assumes a life of principled morality on the part of the householder.  The scriptures describe the eight organs of right faith.  Yasastilakacampu states that right faith is the �prime cause of salvation.�

Right knowledge follows from faith.  It is obtained by studying the teachings of the Tirthankaras.  Because it is the basis of right conduct, Jaina philosophy explains it minutely.  It ranges all the way from sense knowledge to reasoning, clairvoyance, direct awareness of the thought forms of others and infinite knowledge (Kevalajnana).  These represent progressive stages.

Right knowledge includes the nature of things in this world.  In discussing the qualities of material particles, Jainism finds they are of infinite number and that some of these are apparently contradictory.  Simply stated, the qualities of a thing are not exhausted by our comprehension of it, and there is more than meets the eye.  Philosophically, this is known as the theory of nonabsolutism (Anekantavada) and calls for an attitude of openness.  Our limitations of knowledge dictate a style of relativity.  The linguistic manner of expressing various qualities of matter is called Syadvada (the doctrine of qualified assertion).  The style of Syadvada allows no room for assertions.  This Jaina theory of knowledge, incorporating the two principles of nonabsolutism and relativity, has made an esteemed contribution toward liberalizing the mind of man.  It elevates the mystery of life and denigrates dogmatism.

The third jewel is right conduct.  Jaina scriptures approach this in progressive succession -conduct for householders and for monks.  For the former, the goal sought is the development of the individual and society; for the latter, it is self-realization.  All aspirants dedicate themselves to proper conduct through vows ( Vratas) and subvows.  Vows are at the heart of Jaina morality and are undertaken with a full knowledge of their nature and a determination to carry them through.

Principally, Jaina ethics specifies Five Minor Vows (Anuvratas), Three Social Vows (Gunavratas), and Four Spiritual Vows (Siksavratas) to be carried out by the householder.  Being twelve in number, the texts speak of them as Duvalasaviha Agaradhamma.

The Minor Vows are:  nonvioience, truth, nonstealing, celibacy, and nonpossession.  They are called �Minor� (anuvrata) because the householder observes them in a modified way.  In their full observance by monks, they are called Mahavratas.

Nonviolence is the foundation of Jaina ethics.  Mahavira called it pure, universal, everlasting.  It says:  `one should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture or kill any animal, living being, organism or sentient being.  This is the essence of religion.  It embraces the welfare of all animals, visible and invisible.  It is the basis of all stages of knowledge and the source of all rules of conduct.  The scriptures analyze the spiritual and practical aspects of nonviolence and discuss the subject negatively and positively.

Four stages of violence are described:  Premeditated Violence

--to attack someone knowingly, Defensive Vioience�to commit

intentional violence in defense of one�s own life, Vocational

Violence�to incur violence in the execution of one�s means of

livelihood, Common Violence�committed in the performance of

daily activities,

Premeditated violence is prohibited for all.  A householder is permitted to incur violence defensively and vocationally provided he maintains complete detachment.  Common violence is accepted for all in the business of remaining alive, but even here, one should be careful in preparing food, cleaning house, etc.  This explains the Jain�s practices of filtering drinking water, vegetarianism, not eating meals at night, and abstinence from alcohol.

The primacy given to Ahimsa by the Indian people has nobly contributed to their character, most dramatically by Mahatma Gandhi.  �In the hands of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahimsa�the sword of self- suffering�became a mighty instrument� that wielded enormous social and political power with utmost significance for the future of man kind.  Jaina literature is a treasury of many such characters who exemplify the human potential for living nonviolently in this world.

The second of the five minor vows is Truth.  It is more than abstaining from falsehood; it is seeing the world in its real form and adapting to that reality.  The vow of truth puts a person in touch with his inner strength and inner capacities.  He becomes secure and fearless.  There is then no need to steal�the third vow.