Publishers Foreword



Bhagawan Mahavir Research Center was established in 1984 in the renowned Educational Complex known as Shravika Sanstha Nagar in Solapur city mainly.

(i) To conduct research in Jaina Religion, Philosophy, Ethics, Literature, History, Society and other aspects of Jaina Culture.

(ii) To bring out the contributions of Jaina Religion and Society to Indian culture and

(iii) To encourage advanced studies in different branches of Jainology.

This Research Center was extremely fortunate as it was inaugurated in a special function by Siddhanta Chakravarti, Acharya Munishri Vidyanand Maharaja, the reputed Scholar-Saint of India, in the angst presence of many learned scholars assembled from different parts of India for participation in the National Seminar on Research in Jainology organized by the Research Center of synchronise with its inauguration ceremony.

It is heartening to note that the Research Centre has got a very well equipped library of old manuscripts, sacred texts, canonical works, research journals and rare books in different branches of Jainology. The Research Center has also statred various progr4ammes like publication of books and Journals, organisation of seminars and workshops, distribution of research and travel grants, provision of library and study facilities etc. Again as a part of nation-wide celebration of 2000 the Anniversar of Acharya Kunda Kunda during 1988-89 the Research Centre arranged to publish in England and to distribute free the new critical edition in English of Acharya KundaKundas standard work Niyamasara. Further the Research Centre has now made available to the scholars the modern study-rook facilities in the newly built spacious and impressive building of Dhyana Swadhyaya Mandir in the Educational Complex area.

Recently the Research Centre launched an important project of publishing a new and useful Series of Monographs dealing with different significant aspects of research studies in various branches of Jainology. It is really a matter of great satisfaction that is this series the first Monograph written by eminent Sociologist and Jainologist Dr. Vilas Sangave on the concept and practice of Ahimsa in Jainism is being published under the title The Jaina path of Ahimsa. It is pertinent to note here that Dr. Vilas Sangave has to his credit a number of standard research publications of Books and Papers on Jaina Society and Religion and that his several books have not only secured international recognition but have also got the distinction of being quoted as authority by reputed scholars all over the world. It is, therefore, hoped that his new Monograph entitled The Jaina Path of Ahimsa would be found useful both by the academicians and the general readers as well.

It is our ardent desire to see that this Series of Monographs on Jainology is continued in right earnest and that the Monographs on different important aspects of Jaina Studies Special written by reputed scholars in the filed are published as soon as possible for the benefit of persons interested in the study of various branches of Jainology.

Sumatibai Shah


Bhagawan Mahavir Research Centre




Authors Preface



Among the religions of the world we find that Jainism is the only religion which has accorded utmost importance to the Doctrine of Ahimsa both from the theoretical and practical points of view. The principle of Ahimsa not only from the basis of Jaina Philosophy but also serves as foundation on which the entire ethical code has been built. This code of conduct, prescribed by Jainism for its lay followers and ascetics, has been designed so was to translate the tenet of Ahimsa into actual behavior to a maximum existent possible. In view of this unique position assigned to the observance of Ahimsa in daily life, the Jaina Religion has become synonymous with Ahimsa Religion and the Jaina culture and termed as Ahimsa Culture. That is why for comprehending the nature and significance of Jainism, it is necessary to have a proper understanding of Ahimsa as envisaged by Jainism. With a view to satisfying this important need, the present Monograph The Jaina Path of Ahimsa has been written. This Monograph discusses in detail the various aspects of Ashima like the vow of Ahimsa, the observance of Ahimsa, the comprehensiveness of Ahimsa, the carefulness in Ahimsa, the practicability of Ahimsa, the positively of Ahimsa, and the social significance of Ahimsa. It is therefore hopped that this Monograph will help in having correct understanding of the unique position of the doctrine of Ahimsa in Jainism and will also encourage further studies in the subject.

I am really very happy to see that Padmasri, mahila-ratna, Balbrahmacharini, Pandita Sumatibai Shah, the Founder Architect of the Educational Complex of Shravika-Sanstha Nagar and the Founder-President of Bhagawan Mahavir Research Centre decided to start a significant project of a new Series of monogrphs on Jainology and to publish the present monograph, viz., The Jaina Path of Ahimsa in this series as its first Monograph under the auspices of Bhagawan Mahavir Research Centre with which I have been very intimately associated from its very inception in 1984 in the Sharavika Sanstha Nagar, Solapur. I am, therefore, extermly7 grateful to respected Pandita Sumatibai Shah for this fine gesture on her part. I am also thankful to Pandita Vidyallata Shah and other members of the Board of Trustee3s of Shravika Sanstha Nagar Trust for giving encouragement to me in this publication and also in my other academic and research activities.

My thanks are also due to my friend and active social worker Shri Suresh Shipurkar, the Proprietor of Bharati Mudranalaya, Kohapur for completing the work of typesetting and printing this Monograph in record time and that too in such a nice manner.

I must also mention my sincere thanks to the Librarians of Rajaram College Library, Kolhapur and Anekant Shodhpitha Library, Bahubali for their valuable and timely help of books.




6, Rajarampuri


Republic Day

26th Jan. 1991





Publishers Foreword

Authors Preface

Diacritical Marks adopted

1. Introduction 1

2. Meaning of Jainism 2

3. Principles of jainism 4

4. Philosophy of jainism 6

5. Moksha-marga According to Jainism 11

6. The Twelve Vratas or vows 14

7. The Concept of Himsa 17

8. Ahimsa-vrata, i.e., the vow of Ahimsa 23

9. Supplements to Ahimsa-Vrata 29

10. Implementation of Ahimsa 34

11. Comprehensiveness of Ahimsa 39

12. Carefulness in Ahimsa 46

13. Practicability of Ahimsa 52

14. Basic Posititivity of Ahimsa 58

15. Social Significance of Ahimsa 68

Bibliography of Selected

Jaina Sacred Texts 76






Of all religions of the world, Jainism is the only religion which has the principle of Ahimsa as its central doctrine. The other religions also speak of Ahimsa whenever convenient but they never offer such loyalty to the principle of Ahimsa as is found in Jainism. In the history of world religions, Jainism alone has given a unique position to the doctrine of Ahimsa and has based its ethical code entirely on the complete observance of the tenet of Ahimsa in all list aspects. Jainism is the only religion in the world which has given maximum attention to the important practical aspects of the theory of Ahimsa so that Ahimsa, in itss minutest details, can be actually observed both by the lay followers and ascetics in their day to day life. At the same time jaina religion has go the Unique distinction, among the religions of the world, of ably presenting in a scholastic and scientific manner the theoretical philosophical side of the doctrine of Ahimsa by discussing it thoroughly not only from internal and absolute points of view but also from external and real points of view. In addition, the Jaina religion has earned special prestige in the world by giving equal emphasis on the negative and positive aspects of Ahimsa. On this basis Jainism has shown to the world in a perfect and convincing way the worth of the doctrine of Ahimsa by stating the basic principle, viz., Ahimsa Paramo Dhamah i.e. Ahimsa is the greatest religion. That is why jaina religion is considered as Ahimsa Religion and Jaina culture as Ahimsa Culture. For understanding this utmost significance attached to the principle of Ahimsa in Jainism, it is quite necessary to see, in brief, the outstanding teatures of Jaina religion and the prominent aspects of the concept of Ahimsa as formulated in Jaina religion.





Jainism is a religion propounded by a Jina. Principles enunciated by a Jina constitute Jainism and the follower of Jainism is known as a Jina. Further, a Jina is neither a supernatural being nor an incarnation of an all-powerful God. The word Jina means the conqueror or the victorious, i.e., one who has conquered the world passions by ones own strenuousefforts. Humans beings are entitled to become Jinas and as such Jinas are persons of this world who have attained supreme knowledge, subjugated their passions and are free from any sort of attachment. Jainism is nothing but a set of principles preached by such persons known as Jinas Hence Jainism is not a apaurusheya religion, i.e., a religion propounded by anon-human being or based on a sacred book of non-human origin. On the contrary. Jainism is a religion of purely human origin and it has emanated from the mouth of a dignitary who has secured the omniscience and self-control by his own personal efforts. In short, Jainism is the substance of preaching of dignitaries who have attained the sate of Jinas.

Further after attaining self-realisation by conquering the five senses and by destroying all the Karmas i.e., bondages of life and after acquiring Kevala Jnana, i.e., the omniscient knowledge, the Jina spends the rest of his time in Dhamaprabhavana, i.e., preaching the principles of religion to the mass of human beings. Not satisfied with his own self-realisation, the Jina engages himself in the noble task of helping his fellow beings with his message of Darma, i.e., religion, which would enable the ordinary mortals to reach the summum bonum of life and attain the same spiritual status of perfection which he himself has acquired by his own personal effects. Because of this noble task of showing the Mokshamarga, i.e., the path of spiritual realisation, Jina is also called Tirthanakara. This term Tirthankara or Prophet means one who helps human beings to cross the ocean of Samsara, i.e., this life by providing them with a vessel to sail with in the form of Dharma. Hence, Jainadharma is the boat which is provided for the human beings for the purpose of crossing the ocean of Samsara and because of this noble task of helping the mankind, Jina is also called Tirthankara.

Thus the people who worship the Jina or the Tirthankara and who follow the religious tenets proclaimed by the Jina are called the Jainas and their religion is Jainism.





The fundamental principles of Jainism can be briefly stated as follows.

(1) The first fundamental principle of Jainism is that, mans personality is deal that is, material and spiritual, Jaina philosophy regards that every mundane soul is bound by subtle particles of matter known as Karma from the very beginning. It considers that just as gold is found is an alloyed form in the mines, in the same way mundane souls are found along with the karma bondage from time eternal. The impurity or the mundane soul is thus treated as an existing condition.

(2) The second principle that man is not perfect is based on the first principle. The impair fetches is man is attributed to the existence of Karma in his soul. The human soul is a position to attain perfection and in that true and eternal state it is endowed with four characteristics, viz, Anantadarsana, Ananta-Jnana, Ananta-Vira and ananta-sukha, i.e., infinite perception or faith, infinite knowledge, infinite polwer and infinite bliss.

(3) Even though man is not perfect, the third principle states that b his spiritual nature man can and must control his material nature It is only after the entire subjugation of matter that the soul attains perfection, freedom and happiness. It is emphatically maintained that man will be able to sail across the ocean of births and achieve perfection through the control of senses and thought.

(4) The last basic principle stresses that it is only each individual that can separate his own soul and the matter combined with it. The separation cannot be effected by any other person. This means that man himself, and he alone, is responsible for all that is good or bad in his life. He cannot absolve himself from the responsibility of experiencing the fruits of his actions. This principle distinguishes Jainism from other religions, e.g. Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. No God, nor His prophet or depute or beloved can interfere with human life. The soul and that alone, is directly and necessarily responsible for all that it does. God is regarded as completely unconcerned with creation of the universe or with any happening in the universe. The universe goes on of its own accord. Because of this definite attitude towards God, jainism is accused of being atheistic. It is true in the sense that Jainism does hot attribute the creation of universe to God. But at the same time jainism cannot be labeled as atheistic because it believes in Godhead, in innumerable gods, in Punya and Papa, i.e.,. Merit and demerit, in religious practices, etc. According to Jainism the emancipated soul is considered as God and it is absolutely not concerned with the task of creation of this world.





Jainism emphatically asserts that every soul is capable of attaining perfection if it whlfully exerts is that direction. But the real situation is that from time eternal the soul is bound with matter and it is the aim of every person to get the soul rid of matter so that soul can assume its true state. This spiritual emancipation requires the knowledge of the beatific condition and of the causes which stand in the way of its attainment. To find out these causes it is necessary to understand what are the exisiting elements or substances of nature and mode of their interaction.

Jainism believes that the whole universe can be divided into two categories; viz., Jiva, i.e., soul and Ajiva, i.e., non-soul. These two-Jiva and Ajiva-exhaust between them all that exists in the universe and Jaina philosophy is based on the nature and interaction of these two elements. It can be said in short that the living and the non-living, by coming into contact with each other, forge certain energies which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life; this process could be stopped, and the energies already forged destroyed, by a course of discipline leading to salvation.

A close analysis of this brief statement shows that it involves following seven propositions.

Firstly, that there is something called the living.

Secondly that there is something called the non-living.

Tiredly, that the two (i.e. the living and non-living) come into contact with each other.

Fourthly, that the contact leads to the production of some energies.

Fifthly, that the process of this contact could be stopped.

Sixthly, that the existing energies could also be exhausted; and

Lastly, that salvation could be achieved.


These seven propositions are called the seven tattvas or realities in Jainism.

These seven tattvas are termed as follows:

Jiva (i.e., living substance),

Ajiva (i.e. matter or non-living substance),

Asrava (i.e. the influx of Karmic matter in the soul),

Bandha (i.e. bondage of soul by Karmic matter),

Samvara (i.e. the stooping of Asrava),

Nirjara (i.e., the gradual removal of karmic matter),

Moksha (i.e., the attainment of perfect freedom or salvation).

It is clear that the first two of the tattvas deal with the nature and enumeration of the external substances of nature and the remaining five tattvas deal with the interaction between these two substances, viz., Jiva, i.e., spirit and Ajiva, i.e., matter.

Further, much importance has been given to these seven tattvas as every would be aspirant for maksha has to understand the nature of these tattvas. Again, out of these seven tattvas the substances are really two viz., soul and non-soul and among these two, the non-soul is all that is not soul, i.e., devoid of sentiency. Therefore, among these two substances, the really sentient object is the Jiva, i.e., the soul, Naturally, the living substance, viz. Jiva, assumes highest importance in the context of Ahimsa.

I Jiva:


As regards the characteristics of Jiva, i.e., the soul, it is stated that there is an infinite number of souls; in fact, the whole world is literally filled with them. The souls are substances and as such they are eternal. Again, their characteristic mark is intelligence, which can never be destroyed. Further the soul is ever all perfect, all powerful; but by ignorance it identifies itself with the matter and hence its degradation and troubles start.

Furthermore, souls are of two kinds, viz.,

Samsari, i.e., mundane souls, and

(2) Siddha or Mukta, i.e., liberated souls.

Out of these, the samsari Jivas, i.e., the mundane souls, are the embodied souls of living beings in the world and are still subject to the cycle of Births and Deaths and the siddha of Mukta Jivas are the Liberated souls and as such (a) they will not be embodied in future, (b) they have accomplished absolute purity, (c) te dwell in the state of perfection at the top of the universe, (d) they have no more to do with worldly affairs, (e) the have reached Mukti or Nirvana or Nivtti i.e., liberation, and (f) in their condition they have four enjoyments, viz, Ananta-darsana, i.e., unlimited perception, Ananta-jnana, i.e., perfect knowledge, Ananta-Virya, i.e, infinite power, and Ananta-sukha, i.e., unbounded happiness. In addition from the metaphysical point of view the difference between the Samsari-Jiva, i.e., the mundane soul, and the Mukta Jive i.e. the liberated soul, consts in the fact that the former is permeated with subtle matter known as Karma, while the latter is absolutely pure and free from any material alloy.

Moreover the mundane or embodied souls, i.e., the Samsari Jivas,. Are further classified in different ways and this classification is a subject not only of theoretical but also of great practical interest to the Jainas. As their highest duty is not to injure any living beings, it becomes incumbent on them to know the various forms which life may assume.


(A) Samanska and Amanaska Jivas

The numdane souls are divided into two groups, viz., Samanaska Jivas i.e. those who have a mind (i.e. the faculty of distinguishing right or wrong) and Amanaska Jivas i.e., those who have no mind.


(B) Sthavara and Trasa Jivas

The mundane souls are divided into two groups from another point of view, viz., Sthavara Jivas are the immobile or one-sensed souls, that is, having only one sense, i.e., the sense of touch; and Trasa Jivas are the mobiles, many-sensed souls, that is, having a body with more than one sense, Again, the mobile souls are those which being in fear have the capacity of moving away from the object of fear, and immobile souls do not have this capacity.

The Sthavara, i.e., the immobile or one-sensed souls are further divided into following five kinds;

Prthvikaa, i.e., earth-bodied souls,

Apkaa, i.e., water-bodied souls,

Tejahkaya, i.e., fire-bodied souls,

Vayukaya, i.e., air-bodied souls; and

Vanaspartikaya, i.e., vegetable-bodied souls.


The Trasa, i.e., the mobile or many-sensed souls are also further divided into four classes according to the possession of two or more of the five senses of touch, taste, smell sight and hearing:-

Dvi-indriya fivas, i.e., those which have the first two senses of touch and taste, for example, worms, etc.,

Tri-indria Jivas, i.e., those which have the first three senses of touch, taste and smell, for example, ants, etc.

Chatur-indriya Jivas, i.e., those which have first four senses of touch, taste smell & sight, e.g. humble-bee etc. and

Pancha-indria Jivas, i.e., those which have five senses of touch, taste, smell sight and hearing, for example, man etc.

Thus, in this classification each class has one sense more than the preceding it.


II Ajiva:

Jaina philosophy starts with a perfect division of the universe into living and non-living substances, Jiva and Ajiva. The non-soul substances are of five kinds, viz.

Pudgala, i.e., matter,

Dharma, i.e., Medium of motion,

Adharma,i.e., medium of rest,

Akasa,i.e., space, and

Kala i.e., time


These six living and non-living substances are called Dravas in Jiana-philosophy.

A Dravya has got three characteristics. First, Dravya has the quality of existence. Secondly, it has the quality of permanence through origination and destruction. Thirdly, it is the substratum of attributes and modes.

The Dravya is thus uncreated and understuctible, its essential qualities remain the same and it is only its Paryaya or mode or condition, that can and does change.


III. Asrava:

The third principle Asrava signifies the influx of Karmic matter into the constitution of the soul. Combination of Karmic matter with Jiva is due to Yoga. Yoga is the activity of mind, speech and body. Thus Yoga is the channel of Asrava. The physical matter which is actually drawn to the soul cannot be perceived by the senses as it is very fine.


IV. Bandha:

When the Karmic matter enters the souls, both get imperceptibly mixed with each other. Bandha or bondage is the assimilation of matter which is fit to form Karmas by the soul as it is associated with passions. The union of spirit and matter does not imply a complete annihilation of their natural properties, but only a suspension of their functions, in varying degree, according to the quality and quantity of the material absorbed.

Thus, the effect of the fusion of the spirit and matter is manifested in the form of a compound personality which partakes of the nature of both, without actually destroying either.


V. Samvara:

Effective states of desire and aversion, and activity of thought, speech or body are the conditions that attract Karmas, good and bad, towards the soul. When those conditions are removed, there will be no Karmas approaching the Jiva that is complete Samvara- a sort of protective wall shutting out all the Karmas is established round the self.

Thus Samvara is the stoppage of inflow of Karmic matter into the soul. There are several ways through which the stoppage could be effected.


VI. Nirjara:

Nirjara means the falling away of karmic matter from the soul. The soul will be rendered free by the automatic falling out of the Karmas when they become ripe. But this is a lengthy process. The falling away may be deliberately through the practice of austerities.

Thus, Nirjara is of two kinds. The natural maturing of Karma and its separation from the soul is called Savipaka Nirjara and inducing karma to leave the soul, before it gets ripened by means of ascetic practices is called Avipaka Nirjara.


VII. Moksha:

Moksha or liberation is the freedom from all Karmic matter, owing to the non-existence of the cause of bondage and the shedding of all the karmas. Thus complete freedom of the soul from Karmic matter is called Moksha.

Moksha is attained when the soul and matter are separated from each other. The separation is effected when all the karmas have left the soul, and no more karmic matter can be attracted towards it.






From the basic principles of Jainism it is evident that the inherent powers of the soul are crippled by its association with Karmic matter and that is why we find every person in an imperfect state. The real and everlasting happiness will be obtained by a person only when the karmas are completely removed from the soul and Jainism firmly believes that eve3n though man is imperfect at present, it is quite possible for him to rid himself of the Karmas by his own personal efforts without any help from an outside agency. The highest happiness is to escape from the cycle of Births and Deaths and be a liberated soul, that is, to obtain Moksha. This worlds is full of sorrow and trouble and it is quite necessary to achieve the aim of transce3ndental bliss by a sure method.

When the goal haws been fixed the next question arises regarding the way how to achieve that objective. To this question Jainism has a definite answer. It emphatically states that

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Samyag-darsana, i.e., right belief, Samyag-jnana, i.e., right knowledge, and Samyak-charitra, i.e., right conduct together constitute the path to salvation. Right belief, right knowledge and right conduct are called Ratnatraya or the three jewels in Jaina works.

According to Jainism these three things must be present together to constitute the path to salvation. Since all the three are emphasized equally and since the Mokshamrga is impossible without the comprehension of all the three, it is obvious that Jainism is not prepared to admit anyone of these three in isolation as means of salvation. This position in Jainism is quite distinct from many religious faiths in India. For example, three are religious schools in Hinduism which lay all the emphasis on Bhakti, i.e., devotion, or on Jnana, i.e., knowledge, or on Karma, i.e., moral conduct. The sect of Bhagavatas mostly emphasizes the Bhakti aspect, the sect of Advita Vedantins the Jnana aspect and the sect of Purva Mimamasaksa the Karma aspect. But according to Jainism no such one-sided emphasis can be accepted as the correct path.

In this respect Jainism has clearly laid down that with a view to attaining liberation all the three must be simultaneously pursued. It is strongly contended that to effect a cure of a malady, faith in the efficacy of a medicine, knowledge of its use, and actual taking of its, these three together are essential, so also to get emancipation, faith in the efficacy of Jainism, its knowledge and actual practicing of it: these three are quite indispensable. This Jaina path to liberation is compared to a ladder with its two side poles and the central runts forming the steps. The side poles are right belief and right knowledge and thr rungs or steps are the gradual stages of right conduct. It is possible to ascend the ladder only when all the three are sound. The absence of one makes the ascent impossible.

Thus, a simultaneous pursuit of right belief, right knowledge and right-conduct is emphatically enjoined by Jainism upon the people. Obviously on this path, Jainism has based its distinctive ethical code for its followers-both householders and monks.


I Right Belief:


Of the three jewels right belief comes first and forms the basis upon which the other two rests. On must, by all possible means, first attain right belief or the basic conviction on the fundamentals, because only on its accession, knowledge and conduct become right.

Right belief means true and firm conviction in the seven principles or tattvas of Jainism as they are and without any perverse notions. The belief that the Jaina Tirthankaras are the true Gods, the Jaina Sastras the true scriptures, and the Jaina saints the true Preceptors, is called right belief. It is laid down that such right faith should have eight, Angas, i.e., requirements or pillars to strengthen or to support the belief, that it must be free from three types of Mudhas i.e., superstitious ignorance and eight kinds of Madas, i.e., pride or arrogance.

The Jaina works describe at length the glory of right faith and enumerate the benefits, which can be accrued by a person possessing right faith. They go to the extent of describing that asceticism without faith is definitely inferior to faith without asceticism and that even a low-caste and possessing right faith can be considered as a divine being. In short, right faith is given precedence over right knowledge and conduct, because it acts as a pilot in guiding the soul towards Moksha.


II. Right Knowledge:


On attaining right belief it is considered desirable to strive after right knowledge. Although right belief and right knowledge are contemporaneous there is yet a clear relation of cause and effect between them, just as three is between a lamp and its light. Right knowledge is that which reveals the nature of things neither insufficiently, nor with exaggeration nor falsely, but exactly as it is and that too with certainty. Such knowledge must be free from doubt, perversity and vagueness. Jainism also insists that right knowledge cannot be attained, unless belief of any kind in its opposite, that is in wrong knowledge is banished. Further like right belief, right knowledge also has got eight Angas, i.e., pillars or requirements which support the right knowledge.


III Right conducts:


Right conduct includes the rules of discipline, which restrain all censurable movements of speech, body and mind, weaken and destroy all passionate activity and lead to non-attachment and purity. Right conduct presupposes the presence of right knowledge which presupposes the existence of right knowledge which presupposes the existence of right belief. Therefore, it is enjoined upon the persons who have secured right belief and right knowledge to observe the rules of right conduct as the destruction of Karmic matter can be accomplished only through the right conduct.

Further, Samyak Chantra, i.e., right conduct is divided into two kinds, viz, Sakala Chanta, i.e., perfect or unqualified conduct, and vikala Chantra, i.e., imperfect or qualified conduct, and of these two kinds the unqualified is observed by ascetics who have renounced wordly ties and the qualified by laymen still entangled in the world.

Obviously Jhainism attaches great importance to actual observance of the ethical coddle or the rules of conduct prescribed both for the ascetics and the householders with a view to attaining their ultimate objective in life, i.e., Moksha.









Among the detailed rules of conduct prescribed for Jainas for their actual observance, the prominent place has been given to the observance of twelve Vratas or vows. The Vrata or vow is a specific rule of behavior which has to be put into practice for a particular intention. That is why in Sagara-Dharmamrta the standard Jaina book dealing with the ethical code of householders, the term Vrata has been defined as

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that is, Vrata or vow is a (religious) rule (of behavior) observed with determination (for a particular or indefinite period) and it always indicates aversion or abstinence from doing foul or shameful acts or deeds and it reveals inclination or disposition towards doing good or virtuous acts or deeds. Jainism has laid down a number of such vows for actual observance and among them the twelve Vratasd or vows are considered very significant both from religious and social points of view. Even among the4se twelve Vratas or avows, the first five vows are regarded as main vows and the remaining seven vows are treated as supplementary vows.

The five main Vratas or vows of Jainas are

Ahimsa, i.e., to be free from injury,

Satya, i.e., to be free from falshood,

Asteya, i.e., to be free from theft,

Brahmacharya, i.e., to be free from unchastity, and

Aparigraha, i.e., to be free from worldly attachment.

If these vratas or vows are very strictly observed they are known as Mahavratas, i.e., great or full vows and naturally these are meant for the ascetics. Laymen, however, cannot observe the vows so strictly and therefore, they are allowed to practise them so far as their conditions permit. The same vratas or vows when partially observed are termed as Anuvratas, i.e., small or partial vows.

Again, for the fixing of these five vows in the mind, there are five kinds of Bhavanas or attendant meditations for each of the vows and every Jaina is expected to think over them again and again.

Further every Jaina must meditate that the five faults meant to be avoided in these vows are pain personified and are of dangerous and censurable character in this as well as in the next world.

Moreover, every Jaina must meditate upon the following four virtues which are based upon the observance of these five vows.:

Maitri i.e., Friendship with all living beings,

Pramoda, i.e., Delight at the sight of beings, better qualified or more advanced than ourselves on the path of liberation,

Karunya, i.e., compassion for the afflicted beings, and

Madhyastha, i.e., Tolerance or indifference to those who are uncivil or ill behaved.

Along with these five main vows or vratas, there are seven Silavratas or supplementary vows. It has been asserted that just as the encircling walls guard towns, so do supplementary vows protect Anuvratas or small vows. Hence it has been specifically laid down that in order to practise the main vratas or vows, the Silavatas, supplementary vows, also must be practiced by the laity among the Jainas.

The seven Silavratas or supplementary vows are:

1) Digvrata, i.e., Taking a lifelong vow to limit his worldly activity to fixed points in all directions,

2) Desavrata, i.e., Taking a vow to limit the above also for a limited area,

3) Anarthadanda-vrata, i.e., Taking a vow not to commit purposeless sins.

4) Samayika, i.e., Taking a vow to devote particular time everyday to contemplation of the self for spiritual advancement,

5) Proshadhopavasa, i.e., Taking a vow to fast on four days of the months, namely the two 8th and the two 14th days of the lunar fortnight,

6) Upabhoga-paribhoga-parimana, i.e., Taking a vow ever day limiting ones enjoyment of consumable and non-consumable things, and

7) Atithi-samvibhaga, i.e., Taking a vow to take ones food only after feeding the ascetics, or, in their absence, the pious householders.


Out of these seven Silavratas or supplementary vows, the first three are called Gunavratas, i.e., multiplicative vows, because they do raise the value of the five main vows; and the remaining four vows are called Sikshavratas, i.e., disciplinary vows, because they are preparatory for the discipline of an ascetic life. Thus

a) the five Anuvratas,

b) the three Gunavratas, and

c) the four Sikshavratas,

Constitute the twelve vows of a layman.

Further, it has been specially laid down that there are five aticharas, i.e., defects or partial transgressions for each of these twelve vratas or vows and that these aticharas have also to be avoided by the observers of these vows.

In addition to the above twelve vratas or vows, a Jaina layman is expected to practise in the last moment of his life the process of Salleki and or peaceful death. Sallekhana is described as the giving up of the body on the arrival of unavoidable calamity, distress, old age and disease, with a view to increase spiritual merit. This Sallekhana is added to act as an extra vow to the existing twelve vows of a householder. Like other vows, Sallekhana has also got five aticharas. I..e., partial transgressions which are to be avoided by a householder.

Further Jainism has laid down certain gunas or virtues which have to be assiduously cultivated by the householders. The observance of the five anuvratas, i.e., small vows, and refraining from the use of three makaras i.e., ms viz., mada, i.e., wine, mansa, i.e., flesh and madhu, i.e., honey, are regarded as ashta-mulagunas, i.e., the eight basic or primary virtues of a householder. For minimizing injury to living beings, complete abstinence of wine, flesh and honey is advocated and every householder must necessarily possess these eight fundamental virtues.








Among the twelve vratas or vows prescribed for continuous observance in daily life by Jaina religion, the first five vratas or vows are regarded as the main vratas or vows and even among these main vratas or vows the first and the prominent position has been assigned to the vrata or vow of Ahimsa. Since this Ahimsa-vrata is based on the fundamental principle of avoidance of or abstention from Himsa, i.e., injury to sentient beings, it is quite necessary to understand the concept of Himsa as delineated by Jainism.


(1) Himsa: Sthula and Sukshma


In Jaina scriptures a distinction has been made between Sthula Himsa and Sukshma Himsa. The Sthula Himsa entails the destruction of the higher forms of life from dvindriyas, i.e., two-sensed beings upwards and it is forbidden to all Jainas. On the other hand, the Sukshma Himsa means taking of life in any form including even the killing of ekendriyas, i.e., one sensed beings and it is obligatory for the Jaina ascetics to obtain from this kind of Himsa. The lay Jaina is also enjoined to avoid as far as possible the kill of ekendriyas, i.e., one-sensed beings and the useless destruction of Sthavara-Jivas, i.e., immobile souls.


(2) Himsa: Dravya and Bhava


It has been stated that Himsa does not depend on acts alone: the vrata or vow will be broken merely by the absence of compassion shown when a man allows himself to be carried away by anger. Hence a distinction has been made between Dravya Himsa, i.e., the actual hurt or injury and Bhava Himsa, i.e., the intention to hurt or injury to the Prana meaning vitality.


(3) Himsa : Bahya and Antargata

In Jaina scriptures Himsa is also classified on the basis of Bahya i.e., external aspects and Antargata, i.e., internal aspects. Obviously the Bahya Himsa relates to the external or actual acts of killing or injury and Antargata Himsa relates to the internal or intentional side of committing of injury.


(4) Himsa : Vyavahara Point of view

The concept of Himsa has been discussed in detail in the Jaina scriptures both from the Vyavahara Naya i.e., the practical point of view and from the Nischaya Naya, i.e., the real point of view.

From the practical point of view the Tattvarthasutra, the classic Jaina text, has defined Himsa as follows.

ϴֵ֢֟ ֝־־ִָ֝ || 7/13

that is, Himsa or injury is the hurting of the vitalities by personal vibrations. It means that Himsa or injury is to hurt the Prunes, i.e., the vitalities, through Pramattayoga, i.e., vibration due to the passions which agitate mind, body or speech.

On the same lines, another classic Jaina Text viz., Purushartha siddhi-upaa asserts that passion is the moving cause which leads to Himsa and gives the meaning of Himsa in following terms;

ֻ֟ ֵֵ֟ ֭֝ ־ִֹ֝ |

ָ֯֝õ ִָ ׭ۿ֟ ־ן || 4/43

that is, any injury whatsoever to the material or conscious vitalities caused through passionate activity of mind, body or speech is assuredly Himsa.


(5) Himsa : Nischaya point of view


From the Nischaya, i.e., real point of view the act of injury, i.e., Himsa, is related to the internal aspects or to the international side of injury and it is stated that Himsa is caused even when passions to hurt others arise in the mind. That is why, the essence of Himsa and Ahimsa, according to the Jaina scriptures, has been clearly put forwards in the authoritative text of Purusharthasiddhi-upaya in the following terms.

֤Ծ, ֻ ֐֤ߐ ־֟ן |

ִ꟯עָ ן ו֭֐ִõӁ: || 4/44

That is Assuredly, the non-appearance of attachment and other passions is Ahimsa, and their appearance is Himsa. This is the summary of the Jaina scripture.


(6) Classification of Himsa :


Himsa has been classified into 2 categories as,

a) Arambhaja or Arambhi Himsa, i.e., Occupational Injury, and

b) Anarambhaja or Anarambhi or Samkalpi Himsa, i.e., Nonoccupational or Intentional Injury.


In this occection Acharya Amitagati, the famous, Jain saint and author, in this authoritative treatise entitled Sravakachara has given the two major kinds of Himsa and their application in actual practice by the people in following terms.

֯ꌟָָ֭֕֟֟ : |

֟ ׭־ sׯ ֵ֟ || 6/6

ָ֭ Ӥֵ: Ͼָٟ֟: |

ָ֕ ֌ן ׁ֟ ׭ִֵ֟ || 6/7


that is, Himsa has, by the learned, been said to be of two kinds, Arambhaja, arising from occupations, and Anarambhaja, not due to any occupation. He, who has renounced the life of householder, certainly avoids both kinds of Himsa. One with mils passion, while living the life of a householder, cannot of course avoid Arambhaja Himsa when performing various occupations.

It means that the Himsa of injury involved in the actual execution or conduct of occupations is known as the Arambhi Himsa and that the Himsa not inherent or unrelated to occupations but committed with the objective of fulfilling certain desires is termed as Anarambhi or Samkalpi Himsa, i.e., international injury. Hunting offering animal sacrifices, killing for food, amusement or decoration are illustrations of Anarambhi or Samkalpi Himsa and it can be avoided by ever thinking person without any difficulty or harm to himself.

Again the Arambhi Himsa is further sub-divided into the three types, viz.,

(a) Udyami Himsa, i.e., industrial injury,

(b) Grharambhi Himsa, i.e., domestic injury, and

(c) Virodhi Himsa, i.e., defensive injury.


(a) Udyami Himsa is injury which is unavoidable committed in the exercise of ones profession. According to Jaina writers permissible professions, in general, are-

1) Asi, i.e., the profession of a soldier,

2) Masi, i.e., the profession of a writer,

3) Krshi, i.e., the profession of an agriculturist,

4) Vanija, i.e., the profession of a trader,

5) Silpa, i.e., the profession on an artisan, and

6) Vidya, i.e., the profession of an intellectual.


(b) Grharambhi Himsa is the kind of injury which is invariably committed in the performance of necessary domestic acts, such as preparation of food, keeping the house, body, clothes and other things clean, construction building wells, gardens, and other structures, keeping cattle, etc.

(c) Virodhi Himsa is the kind of injury which is necessarily committed in defense of person and property, against thieves, robbers, dacoits, assailants and enemies, in meeting their aggression, and in causing the least possible injury, necessary in the circumstances, in which one ma find oneself.

Thus in general, Himsa is divided into four kinds, viz.,

1. Udyami Himsa, i.e., industrial injury,

2. Grharambhi Himds, i.e., domestic injury,

3. Virodhi Himsa, i.e., defensive injury and

4. Samkalpi Himsa, i.e., international injury.


In this regard it has been ordained by Jaina religion that one, who has renounced all household connection and has adopted the discipline of a saint, should avoid all the four kinds of Himsa. At the same time it has also been laid down that one, who is still in the householders stage, should abstain from Samkalpi Himsa, i.e., intentional injury, and should try ones best to avoid three kinds of Arambhi Himsa, i.e., occupational injury as far as it is possible, since it is quite unable for a householder to abstain completely from arambhi Himsa.


(7) Denunciation of Himsa


Taking into account the bad and reprehensible nature of Himsa, the Jaina sacred texts have condemned the observance of Himsa in strongest possible terms. In the Acharanga Sutra it has been specifically mentioned that as Himsa is a great impediment in spiritual awakening, a person who indulges in doing injury to living beings will not get enlightenment and it has been asserted that


֋ ||

Which means that (i.e., injury to living beings) is always harmful and injurious to himself (i.e. the wrong-doer), it is the main cause of his non-enlightenment. Similarly , in the Sutrakrtanga sutra all injurious activities have been categorically denounced as follows


Ӳ㕗ִ֝ ָ և ־ֈ ֝ ׭־֤

֯և և ֢ ֭֝ם ֵם


That is, knowing that all the evils and sorrows arise from injury to living beings, and (knowing further) that it leads to unending enmity and chatter, and is the (root) cause of great fear, a wise man, who has become awakened, should refrain from all sinful activities.

On the same lines, in the Uttaradhyayana sutra any kind of injury to living beings is censured in the following terms-


֟ ־ֆ ־ פ ֝ ׯֵֵ֋

ם֝ ֝ ֵ־ֆ ָ


that is seeing that everything that happens to somebody concerns (i.e affects) him personally, one should be friendly towards (all) beings; being completely free from fear and hatred, one should never injure any living beings.

In a similar strain, in the Dasavaikalika Sutra practice of Himsa is prohibited on the following ground that.

־ ߾ ׾ ן ׾ֈ ׸ەֈ

ִ ם־ ׭֐ӣ ֵ֕ן


That is, All living creatures (that are in this world) desire to live Nobody wishes to die. And hence it is that the Jaina monks avoid the terrible (sin of) injury to living beings.

Similarly, the most reprehensible nature of Himsa has been emphatically brought out in the Jnanamava in the following words







That is, Himsa alone is a gateway to the miserable state, it is also the ocean of sin, it is itself terrible hell and it is surely the most dense darkness.

In the same sacred text Jnanamava the futility of Himsa has been very vividly brought out as follows.


ֿ  ֯:

ֵ֌ӿ ֭



That is, if a person is accustomed to commit injury, then his (all virtues like) selflessness, greatness, desirelessness, difficult penance,

Bodily suffering and liberality or munificence are worthless.





Since the very idea of Himsa, i.e., injury to sentient beings, in any form has been considered quite abominable and has been condemned in strongest possible terms in Jaina philosophy, the ethical code laid down for the Jainas has given maximum importance to the observance of the Ahemsa-Vrata, i.e., the vow of Ahimsa, which puts into practice the principle of avoidance of Himsa in actual life. Naturally, Jainism has assigned the first position to the vow of Ahimsa among the five main vows prescribed for continuous observance by its followers. It is, therefore, necessary to see and understand the various aspect and implication of the Jaina vow of Ahimsa.