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Glory of Jainism: Jaina Practices

Published: 24.07.2012

For spiritual evolution Jaina aspirants are required to observe five vows of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession. Observance of these vratas by monks and nuns is done rigorously and perfectly, and hence their vows are called mahavrata. On the other hand, observance by householders being partial, their - vows are called anuvrata. In addition to these five anuvratas, householders practise seven supporting vows. The five prime vows are:

1. Abstinence from injury to life (pranatipata-viramana):

This is the fundamental vow from which all other vows stem. Ascetics abstain from all killing, while householders from intentional killing. For food the destruction of the higher forms of life from two-sensed beings upward is strictly forbidden to all the Jainas. So they are strict vegetarians. Many devout Jainas observe further restriction on food by not consuming figs, honey and root vegetables to avoid killing of infinite minute beings. Again, this vow demands that vowers should desist from taking up occupations that involve cruelty to animals and humans.

2. Abstinence from falsehood (mrushavada-viramana):

Ascetics abstain from all falsehood, gross and subtle. But householders abstain from five gross falsehoods relating persons, animals, immovable property, deposit left with them, and evidence either in or out of court. Truthfulness is not speaking what is only factually true, but speaking what is factually true as well as good, pleasant and wholesome.

3. Abstinence from stealing (asatta-adana-viramana):

This vow consists in not taking what is not given by the owner. Monks and nuns may accept a thing given by its owner, only if it is in accord with monastic rules.

4. Abstinence from sexual activities (maithuna-viramana):

Ascetics abstain from all sexual activities. For householders this vow means refraining from all illicit extra-marital sexual activities.

5. Abstinence from possessions or attachment (aparigraha):

Monks and nuns have renounced all possessions. Whatever things they use for the sustenance of their body and for the performance of religious activities in the strict accordance of the monastic rules are not owned by them, nor do they have any attachment for them. For householders this vow means limiting their desire of possessing, and hence actual possessing.

The following are the seven supporting vows householders are required to observe.

6. Vow of limiting the area of one's activities (digvrata):

The vower limits the area within which he will move, conduct trade and business; and will use things produced in that much area only. The vow checks the unimpeded spread of desire and activity.

7. Vow of limiting quantity of things one uses (bhogopabhogaparimana):

Householders use eatables, water, clothes, etc. This vow means to limit the quantity of eatables, water, clothes etc. that the householders use. This refrains one from keeping things more in quantity than necessarily required. The observance of this vow puts restraint on the free play of desire and discourages hoarding.

8. Vow to abstain from purposeless harmful activities (anarthadanda-vira mana):

Householders bring unnecessary evils upon themselves to no purpose, by indulging in thoughts, words or deeds in which there is no benefit to society, to their friends, or to themselves. Giving evil advice, offering means of destroying life, aimlessly digging ground or striking a standing animal with a stick, yielding to unwholesome contemplation, etc. are instances of purposeless, harmful activities. They should be assiduously avoided.

9. Vow of remaining completely equanimous for a fixed period of time (samayika):

The vow consists in sitting at one place and on one seat for 48 consecutive minutes in a peaceful mental state, not allowing passions of attachment, aversion, etc. to rise in the mind. For this period of time, the vower contemplates on the nature of self, reads spiritual works, conducts self-examination, etc.

10. Vow of reducing for a limited period of time the limits of the area set forth by the vower himself in the sixth vow (desavakasika-vrata):

The objective of the vow is to increase the refrainment from worldly activities and to suppress or contract the concessions the vower himself has kept while taking other vows.

11. Vow of observing fast and living like a monk for certain days (poshadha):

The objective of this vow is to make the householder relish the nectar of the life of total refrainment from all worldly activities.

12. Vow of sharing with deserving guests (atithi-samvibhaga-vrata):

To offer necessities of life (food, medicine, etc.) to the saintly monks as also to the benevolent noble persons engaged in the service of the people is the meaning of the present vow. The vow also means to help the miserable and the poor.

Title: Glory Of Jainism

Ashok Saha and Prathana Saha


Shri Anilbhai Gandhi (Trustee),
Palitana - 364270 (India)

Edition: 1998

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anuvrata
  2. Anuvratas
  3. Aparigraha
  4. Body
  5. Celibacy
  6. Contemplation
  7. Digvrata
  8. JAINA
  9. Jaina
  10. Mana
  11. Non-violence
  12. Samayika
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