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Jain Code Of Conduct

All Jain Shravaks, Shravikas, Sadhus and Sadhvis must follow a jain code of conduct. The jain code of conduct is made up of the following five great vows (Maha-vratas), and all of their logical conclusions:

Ahimsa (non-violence)

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term meaning non-violence. Ahimsa is a rule of conduct that bars the killing or injuring of living beings. 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 aspects and implications of the Jaina vow of Ahimsa.

Ahimsa Mahavrata
Ahimsa means avoidance of Himsa (violence). It has been treated as the first of the five Mahavratas (great vows), prescribed by Jain religion and this Ahimsa Mahavrata has been defined in `Ratnakaranda-sravakachara' as following:

"Abstaining from the commission of five sins, himsa and the rest in their three forms, krita, karita and anumodana, with the mind, speech and the body constitutes the Maha-vrata of great ascetics."

It means that the Ahimsa Mahavrata involves the avoidance of Himsa i.e., injury to sentient beings in every possible manner. The Himsa can be committed by three kinds of Yoga, i.e., modes or means viz., of mind, speech and body. In other words, injurious activity can be committed mentally (by mind, or in thoughts), orally (by speech), and physically (by body, or by action). In addition to these three Yogas, Himsa can be committed by three kinds of Karana (action), as Krita (by doing it oneself), Karita (by getting it done through others), and Anumata or anumodana (by giving consent to others doing it).

Further, by the combination of these Yogas and Karanas it is clear that Himsa can be committed in 9 ways, i.e., by the application of 3 Karanas to each of the 3 Yogas. Thus, the Ahimsa can be observed in full in the following 9 ways:

  1. Mentally not to do injury oneself.
  2. Mentally not to get injury done by others.
  3. Mentally not to approve injury done by others.
  4. Orally not to do injury oneself.
  5. Orally not to get injury done by others.
  6. Orally not to approve injury done by others.
  7. Physically not to do injury oneself.
  8. Physically not to get injury done by others.
  9. Physically not to approve injury done by others.

Obviously, in the Ahimsa Mahavrata, the Ahimsa is observed in a complete or full manner, i.e. in the above nine ways. Since this Ahimsa Mahavrata is extremely difficult to practice, it is prescribed for the observance by the persons in the ascetic order.

Taking into account the extreme severity involved in the observance of Ahimsa Mahavrata, the Jaina scriptures have prescribed the vow of Ahimsa with less degree of intensity for the observance by the householders and called it as Ahimsa Anuvrata. The authoritative sacred book `Ratnakarandas-stravakachara' has defined Ahimsa Anuvrata in following terms:

"Refraining from injuring living beings, having two or more senses, with a deliberate act of the mind, speech or body, in any of the three ways, krita, karita and anumata, is called Ahimsa Anu-vrata by the wise."

Thus, in Ahimsa Anuvrata, a layman does not intentionally injure any form of life above the class of one-sensed beings (vegetables and the like), by an act of the mind, speech or body by krita (by himself), by karita (by inciting others to commit such an act), nor by anumodana (by approving of it subsequent to its commission by others).

Meditations for Ahimsa-vrata
With a view to strengthening the feelings of a person in relation to the observance of the Ahimsa-vrata, it has been laid down in "Tattvartha-sutra" that a person should try to practice the following five Bhavanas (Meditations):

  1. Vag-gupti (preservation of speech)
  2. Mano- gupti (preservation of mind)
  3. Irya (care in walking)
  4. Adana-nikshepana-samiti (care in lifting and laying down things)
  5. Alokitapana- bhojana (care in taking meals by thoroughly seeing to one's food and drink)

Obviously these Bhavanas (meditations) encourage cautiousness in the actual observance of Ahimsa-vrata.

Transgressions of Ahimsa-vrata
In addition to inculcating the above Bhavanas (meditations), a person is also advised to avoid the following five aticharas (defects or partial transgressions of Ahimsa-vrata):

  1. Bandha, i.e., keeping in captivity angrily or carelessly (animals or human beings)
  2. Vadha, i.e., beating angrily or carelessly (animals or human beings)
  3. Chheda, i.e., mutilating angrily or carelessly (animals or human beings)
  4. Ati-bharairopana, i.e., overloading angrily or carelessly (animals or human beings)
  5. Annapana-nirodha, i.e., withholding food or drink (from animals or human beings angrily or carelessly)

Naturally the avoidance of these Five aticharas, i.e., transgressions, would enable a person to practice ahimsavarata without committing many faults.
Renunciation of Drinking Liquor

For the observance of Ahimsa-Vrata it has been specifically laid down that a person should renounce drinking wine because, according to the sacred text of "Purushartha siddhiupaya", "wine stupefies the mind, one whose mind is stupefied forgets piety; and the person- who forgets piety commits Himsa without hesitation." Again, it is impressed that drinking liquor leads to the commitment of Himsa because wine is the repository of many lives which are generated in it. Similarly, it is brought home that many base passions like pride, fear, disgust, ridicule, grief, ennui, sex-passion, and anger arise due to drinking liquor and that these passions are nothing but the different aspects of Himsa.

Rejection of Eating Animal Food

Abandonment of use of Honey

Giving up eating of certain fruits

Avoidance of killing Animals

Renouncement of Night-eating

Satya (truthfulness)

Satya is a Sanskrit term meaning truth or correct. But in Jainism it has a more subtle meaning. Jainism defines Satya as harmless truth or we can say those words that are true or correct and importantly, do not harm or hurt any living being. So utmost care must be taken in speaking. The implication of this vow is extended to prohibition of following:

  1. Spreading rumors and false doctrines.
  2. Betraying confidences.
  3. Gossip and backbiting.
  4. Falsifying documents.
  5. Breach of trust.
  6. Denial of the existence of the things, which do exist.
  7. Assertion of the existence of non-existent things.
  8. Giving false information about the position, time and nature of things.

One's speech should be pleasant, beneficial, true and unhurtful to others. It should aim at moderation rather than exaggeration, esteem rather than denigration, at distinction rather than vulgarity of expression, and should be thoughtful and expressive of sacred truths. All unthruths necessarily involve violence.

One should protect the vow of truthfulness by avoiding thoughtless speech, anger, greed, putting others in fear. The idea is to overcome greed, fear, anger, jealousy, ego, frivolity, etc., which are considered breeding grounds of falsehood. Only a person who has controlled these emotions and desires has the moral strength to speak the truth at all times. However, in keeping with the principle of non-violence in speech, if a truth is likely to cause pain, sadness, anger or the death of any living creature, then a Jain is advised to remain silent.

Asteya (non-stealing)

Achaurya is a Sanskrit word meaning "avoidance of stealing" or "non-stealing". A Jain must not take anything that does not belong to him without the prior permission of its owner. This includes even a blade of grass from another’s garden. The implication of this vow is extended to prohibition of following:

  1. Taking another's property without his consent, or by unjust or immoral methods.
  2. Taking away a thing that may be lying unattended or unclaimed.
  3. When taking alms, taking more than what is minimum needed.
  4. Accepting things stolen by others.
  5. Asking/encouraging or approving others for any of the above mentioned prohibitions.

One should observe this vow very strictly, and should not touch even a worthless thing which does not belong to him. Jain monks and nuns who survive by begging for food from laypersons are advised not to acquire more than a few mouthfuls of food per family.

Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

Aparigraha is the concept of non-possessiveness. The term usually means to limit possessions to what is necessary or important, which changes with the time period, though sadhus would not have any possessions. This is based on the belief that desire for material wealth can lead a person to commit sin by giving rise to negative emotions like greed, anger and jealousy. Desires are ever-growing and they form a never-ending cycle. A person who wishes to achieve liberation from the cycle of life and death must acquire control over his senses and avoid attachment to material things, places or persons.

Monks and nuns are required to give up attachment to the following:

  1. Material things such as wealth, property, house, books, clothes, etc.
  2. Relationships such as father, mother, spouse, children, friends, enemies, other monks, disciples, etc.
  3. Feelings such as pleasure and pain, feelings towards touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. They have the equanimity towards music and noise, good and bad smells, soft and hard objects for touch, beautiful and dirty sights, etc.
They do not eat food for taste but for survival with the intention to destroy his karma with the help of this body. Non-possession and non-attachment are to be observed in speech, mind, and deed. One should not possess, ask others to do so, or approve of such activities.

Brahmcharya (chastity)

Total abstinence from sensual pleasure is called celibacy. Sensual pleasure is an infatuating force which sets aside all virtues and reason at the time of indulgence. This vow of controlling sensuality is very difficult to observe in its subtle form. One may refrain from physical indulgence but may still think of the pleasures of sensualism, which is prohibited in Jainism.

Monks are required to observe this vow strictly and completely. They should not enjoy sensual pleasures, ask others to do the same, nor approve of it. For laypersons, brahmacharya means either confining sex to marriage or complete celibacy and they are required to be chaste in their deeds and thoughts. There are several rules laid down for observing this vow for householders.