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



Celibacy is the fourth vow, applicable to monks and householders in differing degrees.  Its basic intent is to conquer passion and to prevent the waste of energy.  Positively stated, the vow is meant to impart the sense of serenity to the soul.  The householder fulfills this vow when he is content with his own wife and is completely faithful to her.

Nonpossession is the fifth miner vow.  As long as a person does not know the richness of joy and peace that comes from a consciousness of the soul, he tries to fill his empty and insecure existence with the clutter of material acquisitions.  But, as Lord Mahavira said, security born of things is a delusion and must come to nought.  To remove this delusion, one takes the vow of nonpossession and realizes the perfection of the soul, Nonpossession, like nonviolence, affirms the oneness of all life and is beneficial both in the spiritual and social spheres.

In addition to the Five Minor Vows, the householder observes three Social Vows that govern his external conduct in the world.  Then there are four Spiritual vows that reflect the purity of his heart.  They govern his internal life and are expressed in a life that is marked by charity (dana).

The Jaina householder who observes twelve vows progresses upon the spiritual path until he comes to the place where he must decide whether to observe the discipline of the monk�s life.  To enter this higher domain, he must pass through eleven successive stages called Pratimas, Where the eleventh stage is reached, he can begin the conduct of a monk.

In order to preserve the integrity of the principal vows listed above, Jain thinkers have prescribed sub-vows as precautionary means.  First, there is reference to the Salyas or disturbing factors such as ignorance, deceit, and self-interest, from, which a person should free himself.  The salyas represent the negative requirements for the perfect practice of the vratas.  In addition, there are the four Bhavanas (virtues) that represent the positive means of supporting the Vratas.  These qualities, which a votary of nonviolence must possess, are maitri (love, friendship), pramoda (joy and respect), karunya (compassion), and madhyastha (tolerance toward living beings).  Third, there are the twelve sub-vows known as anupreksas (reflections).  Broadly stated, they are twelve topics of meditation that cover a wide field of teaching.  They are designed to serve as aids to spiritual progress, produce detachment, and lead the devotee from the realm of desire to the path of renunciation.  They are reflections upon the fundamental facts of life, intended to develop purity of thought and sincerity in the practice of religion.

In this way Jaina ethics prescribes thirty-five rules of conduct for the householder.  They are meant for the good of his entire personality.  By observing these rules, he comes to possess all of the twenty-one qualities that a fully developed individual must manifest.

Having observed all the rules of conduct and having passed through the eleven religious stages (pratimas, the householder is now qualified to become an ascetic.  The life of a monk is marked by the spirit of detachment.  Through the practice of yoga and meditation, he finally attains the highest knowledge and becomes an enlightened soul.  This is the ultimate end of Jaina ethics.

Viewed from the level of the life of a monk, Jaina ethics appears to be a rigorous discipline for the individual, aimed at cultivating his detachment from the world.  From a broader view, including the life of the householder, Jaina ethics is not just individual and spiritual, but inclusive of all forms of life for the total upliftment of existence.  The person who subjects himself to this form of ethics will be serious, good tempered, merciful, straightforward, wise, and modest.  he will be sociable, careful in speech, reverent to age and custom.  Renouncing ego and possessions, he will endure all manner of hardships until he attains the highest ideal of perfection.