An Interpretation of Jaina Ethics (Part I)

Posted: 20.09.2011
Updated on: 02.07.2015

The lecture by the German scholar Dr. (Mrs.) Charlotte Krause was printed in a small booklet in 1929 by Phulchandji Ved (Publisher), Secretary, Shri Yashovijaya Jain Granthamala, Bhavnegar (Kathiawar) and reissued by Prof. Sagarmal Jain and Dr. Shriprakash Pandey in the book German Jaina Śrāvikā Dr. Charlotte Krause. Her Life and Literature (Vol. I, Parsvanatha Vidyapitha Series 119, Varanasi 1999, pp. 31-69). To make this online reissue citeable, the page numbers are added to the text (see squared brackets).


An Interpretation of Jaina Ethics (Part I)

A Lecture by Dr. Charlotte Krause


[1] Ladies and Gentlemen,

While judging of Modern Western Civilization, the India is generally full of admiration for our wonderful technical advancement and perfect scientific methods, still, his praises often terminate in a bitter complaint as to our apparent materialistic conception of life. He should not forget, however, that his apparent materialistic conception of life is not a consequence of racial character, but one of cultural development.

It is true that our intellect is, at present, absorbed in technical and scientific problems; but, only a few centuries ago, it was so in the problem of how best to win the grace of God.

It is true that, when we sing or play music, we generally do so for our own pleasure; but, only a few centuries ago, we used to display our musical talents mostly in the praise of God.

It is true that, when we paint, we paint human passions and postures, visions and natural scenes; but, only some centuries ago, our art of painting was nothing but a fervent glorification of “God-Father” and Christ, and Madonna.

It is true that, when we travel, we do so (leaving business travels apart) for our pleasure, or for our health's [1|2] sake, or we undertake dangerous expeditions for the sake of study; but, a certain time ago, we used to make the long and troublesome pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in order to worship at the Holy Sepulchre of Christ, and to protect it from the Saracens.

And it is true that our studying and teaching has all worldly ends, and that our Professors and scholars want nothing but find out, and spread, the truth about things; but, only some centuries ago, there existed no other science but Theology, the knowledge of God, and all the other disciplines were its subordinate branches, cultivated by learned and orthodox clergymen.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Modern India represents exactly the state of Medieval Europe, with its religiocentrical conception of the problems of life, from singing and dancing up to travelling, teaching and studying. Religion is the starting point and aim of all and everything.

So it is with reference to the study of the Sacred Writings of Indian Religions. They are not, for the Indian student, first of all a subject of research, as they are to the Western scholar, but their study is indeed one of practical import. They live, and are being put fully into action, with all their minute and severe prescriptions.

I have been able to watch this phenomenon more particularly with reference to my special subject of study, viz., Jainism, whose ethics still forms the strictly authoritative canon of daily life of the present followers of the Jaina Religion - exceptions being, of course, admitted. This system of Jaina Ethics forms the subject of this paper. It being a complicate and rather bulky matter, many details [2|3] will have to be left away. Still, its main points will be paid due attention to, both from the theoretical and practical side.

I. The Theoretical Side

Striving after knowledge, perception, happiness and power, is a characteristic feature of human nature. But, according to Jainism, it is not an original characteristic of the soul, because the human soul, and every soul whatsoever, is, by its very disposition, omniscient, gifted with perfect perception, happiness and unlimited power. These four qualities, however, cannot manifest themselves, because they are covered by matter, interlaced and amalgamated with the soul since eternal times;  just as the light of a lamp cannot spread, if the lamp is covered by opaque objects.

The matter interlaced with the soul is called Karma. It is bad Karma, or Papa, if it has been heaped up by evil action, and, as such, produces pain. It is good Karma, or Puṇya, if produced by good action, and produces happiness; but only imperfect, vanishing happiness. The Karmas destine the whole chain of existences of an individual. They are divided into two main classes, viz., Ghātī-Karmas or Destructive Karmas and Aghātī-Karmas or Non-destructive Karmas. The Ghātī-Karmas are four in number (viz., Jñānāvaraṇīya, Darśanāvaraṇīya, Mohanīya and Antarāya Karmas), and obscure each one of the four original qualities of the soul from displaying itself. The Aghātī-Karmas, which are likewise four (viz., Vedanīya, Āyuṣya, Nāma and Gotra Karmas), predestine the soul's sufferings and pleasures, the duration of its existences, the quality and shape of the body in which it incarnates, [3|4] (whether as a god, or as a man, or as an animal, whether beautiful, or ugly, short or tall etc.), and its rank and position.

With all the sub-classes, there are 158 (or 148 resp.) kinds of Karmas, on which the fate of the individual depends like that of a slave on his master's caprices, only with the particularity, that the master of the soul is a self-elected one, drawn near by the actions, committed in its various existences. At the due points of time, the respective Karmas exercise their power, and in the measure in which they do so, they are being automatically reduced: a process which is called Akāma Nirjarā, i.e., Spontaneous Consumption. On the other hand, by reacting upon the various Karma imposed experiences which it has to undergo, the individual binds new Karmas, which, in their turn, manifest themselves, indirectly call forth the binding of new Karmas, etc. in an eternal circle.

Still, man is not quite so helpless in the face of Karma, as it might appear. For though even the passions arising within him, are predestined by Karma, still he can make himself the master of Karma, by his own free will and initiative. He can hinder new Karmas from entering his soul by a process called Saṁvara, i.e., Repression, and he can also reduce the predestined duration as well as intensity of latent Ghātī-Karmas bound before, he can suppress, and keep suppressed, the most obnoxious of them, and he can also definitely annihilate all of them, by efforts of highest energy and self concentration, and, thereby, bring about a complete consumption of the neutral Aghātī-Karmas too: a process called Sakāma Nirjarā, i.e., Intended Consumption. [4|5]

Both the processes, however, Saṁvara, as well as Sakāma Nirjarā, cannot be accomplished by every living being whatsoever. They presuppose a high degree of religious insight, and number of exquisite qualities of body and mind. The very last step to Perfection, moreover, can be done only by a soul outfitted with a human body bearing special marks of outer perfection and strength. Thus, not even the Lord of the highest class of Gods, who enjoys a long existence of infinite bliss, and who commands hosts of celestial beings, can reach the last aim, in spite of all his divine power, unless he be reborn as a human being possessing all the bodily and mental requirements. Now, Jainism teaches that it is given into everybody's hand to acquire those qualities, by performing certain good actions and, thus, securing the good Karma or Puṇya necessary. Thus, the heaping up of Puṇya is another, though auxiliary, expedient for the attainment of perfection, as long as the respective soul has not acquired the bodily and mental qualities necessary.

After all, the problem of Jaina Ethics can be defined like this: How can a living-being, in order to secure its final salvation, cause Puṇya to be bound, on a lower step, and accomplish Saṁvara and Nirjarā on a higher stage of development?


II. The Practical Side

The ethical rules laid down for him who strives after the highest aim in all earnest, are, of course, very stringent. They demand a complete concentration on the struggle against Karma, and a complete renunciation of worldly life and its pleasures and concerns, in short, they are rules for ascetics. They were, once, put in action and promulgated [5|6] by Vardhamāna Mahāvīra, the last of the Jinas of the present age, i.e., the last of those passionless, omniscient, holy promulgators of Jainism, who, having annihilated all their Ghātī-Karmas, and, thereby, reached inner perfection, still lived on for as long a period as their Aghātī-Karmas allowed, and, on the threshold of Mokṣa, preached the great truth.

Ascetics who observed those rules in their strictest form, and without ever having recourse to exceptions, were called “Jinakalpī” Sādhus, a standard which the few Sādhus of the Digambara sect still claim to represent.

The ideal of the Jinakalpī Sādhu, however, so much exceeds the limits of worldly usage, and is so difficult to realize, that only very few individuals can hope to reach it. Thus, the so-called “Sthavirakalpī” Standard, i.e., the way of keeping the ascetical prescriptions in a milder form, and of having recourse, if necessary, to certain allowed exceptions, has now become generally adopted by the numerous Sādhus of the Śvetāmbara sect.

But even this standard is far above the faculties of average man, who is unable to give up the world with its little, but certain joys, for the great transcendental beatitude, but who, still, cannot bear the idea of being completely shut out from striving after the latter. Thus, Mahāvīra himself had proclaimed a third standard, viz., that of the Śrāvaka, or layman, which is a compromise between striving after the last aim, and indulgence in the pursuit of worldly ends, and which, of course, owing to the particular weakness of  compromise liking human nature, has become a factor of highest practical  importance for individual [6|7] as well as for social life in our days. For there exist only about 5000 male and female Jaina ascetics, as against about twelve lacs of Jaina laymen and laywomen.

These three standards, that of the Jinakalpī Sādhu, that of the Sthavirakalpī Sādhu, and that of the Śrāvaka, will always have to be distinguished with reference to all the single prescriptions, no matter whether it be explicitly stated or not. Since the two latter standards are mere variations of the former, it will have to form the starting point of the following description, except that of Puṇya.


1. Puṇya

The chapter concerning the acquisition of Puṇya, is rather summarily dealt with in the Jaina scriptures, because collecting Puṇya is a preliminary and auxiliary step only, and concerns laymen rather than ascetics. For the actions by which Puṇya can be acquired, are chiefly such a charity, and therefore, presuppose the possession of property and a certain amount of worldly activity. Both the sects, the Śvetāmbaras as well as the Digambaras, know of nine such actions, which however, differ somewhat in detail, with both of them.

According to the Śvetāmbaras, Puṇya is acquired by five acts of charity, viz., the giving of eatables, of drink, of shelter, of bedding and of clothes to a “pātra”, i.e., a worthy receiver, under which the ascetic, the lay-brother or lay-sister, and, besides, any creature whose condition is able of awakening compassion in our heart, is understood. Moreover, the purity of thought, word and action of the devotee, particularly with reference to his acts of charity, and due respects paid to the Omniscient Ones, to the Gurus, and others, are believed to create Puṇya. [7|8]

According to the Digambaras, all the nine causes of Puṇya, the Nava-Puṇya-Krama, refer to the worship of the Sādhu only. When the ascetic is seen approaching, he should first be welcomed and invited to enter the house, and then offered an elevated seat. The third action is to wash his feet, the fourth to worship him by flowers, light, incense, etc., the fifth, to bow down before him, the sixth, seventh and eighth to think with reverence, speak respectfully and observe respectful manners, and the ninth to offer him pure food. Also the giving of food, medicine, expedients of studying religion and protection to worthy laymen and laywomen, and to people in need of mercy, are counted as actions causing Puṇya.


2. Saṁvara

Saṁvara, or the act of preventing fresh Karma from streaming into the soul, can be accomplished by various ways of ethical conduct, which, in Jaina tradition, are arranged in a system of six classes. All of them are permeated by two commanding principles, viz., Non-injury and Self-control.

In Jaina Ethics, the principle of Non-injury has been developed to an incomparable height. The Jaina dogma teaches that the Universe is filled with souls in various stages of development, or better, degrees of infection through Karma, from irrational Nigodas up to omniscient Siddhas, who, free from the dirt of Karma, live, bodiless, at the top of the Universe, far away from all worldly concerns. Between these two extremes, there are those numberless classes of creatures: beings with one sense, and without the gift of spontaneous locomotion, which comprise the earth bodies, such as earth, stone, metals and all kinds of minerals [8|9] in their natural state; then water bodies such as water, ice, mist; fire bodies, such as flames, sparks; wind bodies such as air, storm, etc. and plant bodies, such as leaves, stems, flowers, roots, seeds, etc. Then, there are the beings with two, three, four and five senses, comprising the whole animal kingdom, the classes of gods, the inhabitants of the hells and men.

In all these various beings, there is one and the same kind of immortal soul, gifted with the four great qualities, and able to display them, under certain conditions. Therefore, it is sin to injure any of its manifestations, in whatever state and condition it might be. It is sin, it creates bad Karma and suffering, and it detracts the soul from the path leading to Perfection. The higher the stage of development of the injured being is, (i.e., the closer it has approached the state of Perfection), the heavier the sin of the injury committed is considered to be. The sin of hurting a plant is smaller than that of hurting a lizard, the sin of hurting a bullock is smaller than that of hurting a man, and the sin of hurting a criminal is relatively smaller than that of hurting a Sādhu. From this standpoint, it can be understood why Jainism forbids flesh-eating, and, on the other hand, objects little to the eating of vegetables.

The other great principle permeating the prescriptions of Saṁvara, is Self-control. It is clear that only the calm, sober mind that does not allow himself to be subdued by the four Passions (the “Kaṣāyas”), viz., Anger, Pride, Illusion, and Covetousness, but masters them, that only such a mind can hope to master Karma too. Therefore, it is understood that the indulgence in intoxication articles, which confounds the intellect, and [9|10] awakens low passions, as well as over indulgence in sleep, or in any other thing what-so-ever, whether it be joy or grief or attachment, is contrary to Jaina Ethics. There should be soberness, measure, wakefulness in everything and in every action, even in austerities, which have to be performed exactly in the way and to the extension fixed before. Nothing is more contemptible to the striver after true perfection than drowsiness on one, and ecstasy on the other side.

Now, it is time to consider the different prescriptions for Saṁvara themselves. They are as follows:


A. The Five Samitis

The five Samitis are prescriptions for the regulation of the movements of the body in accordance with the two principles, more particularly the principle of Non-injury. They are:


  1. The Īryā Samiti, i.e., regulation of walking. It commands the individual, which, of course, must needs, with every movement, destroy some lower life, to walk in a way as to cause the least possible injury. Thus, a Jaina monk will walk only on barren earth, avoiding the touch of plants and of water, and after having carefully examined the way before him. He will avoid going out at night or, if forced to go, he will slightly move a kind of soft broom before him, in order to sweep away whatever higher form of life there might happen to be; he will never use any kind of vehicle, and will never walk over a carpet.
  2. By the Bhāṣā Samiti, i.e., regulation of speaking, the speaker shall avoid not only hurting anybody's [10|11] feelings by offending words, but he shall also take care not to injure the air-bodies physically. Thus, the Śvetāmbara Sādhus keep the “Mukha-vastrikā”, a piece of cloth, before their mouth, in order to limit the reach of their breath, while speaking. Besides, the Mukha-vastrikā also prevents the book or manuscript perused from getting defiled by breath and particles of saliva.
  3. By the Eṣaṇā Samiti, the regulation of begging, particularly one's food, the ascetic has to make sure that the food he is offered, is in conformity with the prescriptions of the Jinas, i.e., that it does not contain any living substance, such as unboiled water, uncooked or underdone vegetables, uncut and unprepared fruit, seeds capable of germination etc., that is free from forbidden substances such as alcohol, honey, butter, meat, decomposed food, and that it has not been prepared expressly for him, etc., etc.
  4. The Ādāna-Nikṣepa-Samiti regulates the actions of taking or using, and of putting away, anything whatsoever. Before filling a vessel with a liquid, one should ascertain that it is free from small insects; or, before sitting down, the seat should be wiped clean. Thus, an ascetic will never sit down on upholstered furniture, will never use cushions, and never lie down on a mattress, for fear lest he might hurt some hidden life.
  5. The Utsarga or Pariśthāpanikā Samiti regulates the action of disposing of things, such as old clothes, broken vessels, excrements, saliva, etc., under the same motivation as before. Since every action of disposing of things is necessarily connected with some injury, it should be avoided as far as possible. This is why, e.g., [11|12] Jaina ascetics never accept more food than they can expect to eat at a time.


All the five Samitis, though they can be strictly observed only by ascetics, are of some influence also in the daily life of Śrāvakas. A devoted Śrāvaka will, e.g., avoid treading on green grass, he will always ascertain the ritual purity of whatever eatables are put before him, he will never leave a vessel filled with a liquid substance uncovered; nor will he ever use an open light, for fear lest insects might rush into it and be killed, nor will he ever be seen spitting about him without regard to place and circumstances.


B. The Three Guptis

The three Guptis are regulations with reference to controlling one's inner nature, i. e., they are dictated by the principle of self control.


  1. The first of them is the Mano-Gupti, by which the mind is to be controlled, either in the shape of “Akuśala Nivṛtti”, i.e., exclusion of both grievous and cruel thoughts, or in the shape of “Kuśala Pravṛtti”, i.e., giving room only to pure thoughts, or in that of “Yoga Nirodha”, i.e., complete suppression of all mental activity whatsoever, a stage which only the omniscient ascetic can fully reach.
  2. The second Gupti is the Vāk-Gupti, i.e., regulation of speech. It consists either in “Maunāvalambha”, i.e., taking and keeping the vow of silence for a certain time, or in “Vāk-Niyama”, i.e., speaking only as much as is absolutely necessary.
  3. The third Gupti is the Kāya-Gupti, i.e., regulation of one's bodily activity. It consists either in [12|13] “Ceṣṭā-Nivṛtti”, i.e., stopping all physical activity for a certain time, as far as it is in one's power, or in “Yathāsūtraceṣṭā-Pravrtti”, i.e., executing only such bodily movements as are in exact conformity with the prescriptions of the Jinas.


It is a matter of course that these regulations can be practised, to a certain extent, by the layman too, i.e., as far as the limits of worldly propriety admit. Both, the five Samitis and the three Guptis, are often grouped together under the name of “Aṣṭa-Pravacana Mātā”, i.e., 'the eight mothers of ethics', on account of their fundamental character.


C. The Twenty-two Hardships (Parīṣahas)

The next expedient for the effecting of Saṁvara consists in willingly undergoing and enduring hardships, more especially such as the condition of a Sādhu generally involves. Twenty-two of them are enumerated (the “Twenty-two Parīṣaha”) viz., hunger; thirst; cold; heat; insect-bites; nakedness (which is understood by the Digambaras in its literal sense, whereas the Śvetāmbaras allow the meaning of “the wearing of scanty clothes”); experiences fit to arouse the feeling of despondency, which, however, must not be allowed to gain ground; disturbances of one's asceticism through the opposite sex; constant roaming about without any fixed dwelling place; unsuitable places for one's study and meditation; uncomfortable bedding; being scolded, abused etc.; being beaten and ill-treated; the arising of shame while begging one's food and whatever one requires, especially with people of high rank and breeding, many of whom used to be initiated as Jaina monks in former times; begging in vain; sickness; being hurt by the [13|14] blades of thorny grass or hay which forms one's bedding; dirt; the necessity to remain, inwardly and outwardly, indifferent towards good as well as bad reception; the necessity of remaining humble in spite of one's high learning; that of never loosing courage if one happens to become aware of one's ignorance in metaphysical things; and that of remaining firm in one's belief in the words of the Jina, in spite of all difficulties and temptations.

It is, of course, only to a small extent, and more by the way of cultivating the respective spirit, viz., that of endurance, that the layman may be willing and able to put these rules into action, whereas most of them act at least some part in the daily life of the ascetic.


D. The Ten Virtues

The next class of prescriptions comprises the “Daśavidha-yatidharma”, i.e., the ten-fold duty of the striver after Mokṣa, which consists in the cultivation of the following ten virtues:

  1. Forgiveness;
  2. Humility;
  3. Candour;
  4. Non-covetousness;
  5. Austerity;
  6. Restraint, with reference to the Great Vows, to the activity of the five senses, to the four great passions, and with reference to the activities of thinking, speaking and acting;
  7. Truthfulness;
  8. Interior and Exterior Cleanliness;
  9. Total Lock of Property;
  10. Abstinence from all sexual activity, in whatever form.

To some extent, all these virtues can be cultivated by the Śrāvaka too, in whom at least several of them appear distinctly, such as, e.g., the spirit of forgiveness and [14|15] humility, which sometimes manifests itself in touching forms, or the virtue of Cleanliness, whose exterior variety can be seen in fullest display in the Jaina house and the Jaina temple, which latter has become proverbial for its neatness, and the slightest uncleanliness of which would be counted as a downright defilement.


E. The Twelve Reflections

The next group of ethical rules form the Twelve Bhāvanās, i.e., Reflections, which one should constantly turn over in one's mind. They are as follows:

  1. Beauty, Fortune, Love, and all that exists is transitory. Therefore, nothing is worth striving after but the permanent happiness of Mokṣa.
  2. In the face of pain and death, man is completely helpless. Therefore, one should endeavour to make them cease, by annihilating one's Karma.
  3. Existence, with all its stages, is like a drama, in which man acts only a temporary part, as a father, or as a lover, or as a son etc. Therefore, one should not keep one's mind attached to any person or to any thing.
  4. In the act of consuming its Karma, by undergoing the various sufferings predestined to it, the soul is alone. Nobody can assist it therein. Therefore, one should make powerful efforts to get rid of Karma by one's own initiative.
  5. Body and Soul are heterogeneous things, therefore one should not mistake the body and its demands for part of the self, nor allow it to rule over us.
  6. The body contains many disgusting elements, thus one should endeavour to become a pure, bodiless Siddha.[15|16]
  7. Constantly, Karma streams into the soul and is bound by it, therefore one should try to stop it.
  8. The way of stopping new Karmas entering the soul is Saṁvara.
  9. The way of consuming Karma bound before is Nirjarā.
  10. The Universe has the shape of a standing man, with the hells in its lower, the world of men in its middle, and the heavens in its upper parts. It is composed of the six eternal substances Soul, Space, Time, Matter, Medium of Rest and Medium of Motion. The three conditions of coming into existence, lasting and perishing, eternally alternate with one another. Thus, the world is transitory with reference to these three conditions, but eternal with reference to the six substances. Therefore, one should judge of all things from the standpoint of substance as well as from that of condition, if one wants to define them thoroughly and impartially, or, in other words, one should always apply the standard of relativity, which acts a prominent part in Jaina Logic, known under the name of “Syādvāda”.
  11. Instruction with reference to metaphysical truth, and faith in the latter are difficult to obtain. Therefore, having attained them, one should direct one's ethical conduct accordingly.
  12. Taking into account the combination of particular Karmas necessary, it is very difficult to come into contact with a Jina, or with another competent teacher of metaphysical truth. Therefore, one should avail one's self [16|17] of his spiritual guidance, if one has been lucky enough to meet one.

All these reflections are, of course, practicable by laymen too. They permeate, moreover, the whole of Jaina literature, in its various parts, from the beautiful and sublime stanzas of certain Āgamas, or Sacred Writings, full of the spirit of sweet renunciation, down to the hymns and religious ballads (the “Sajjhais”), with their soft and touching world-weariness.


F. The Five Cāritras

The last group of regulations prescribed for the attainment of Saṁvara, comprises the five Cāritras, or steps of discipline for ascetics, and the discipline for laymen, as a kind of addendum, though, from the practical standpoint, one of highest import.

The first of the Cāritras of ascetics is the Sāmāyika Cāritra. It is being realized by the adoption of Sarva-virati, i.e., the complete giving up of all evil, with reference to doing it, causing it to be done, and approving of its having been done, by thought, word and action. In contra-distinction to the Sarva-virati of ascetics, the layman discipline is based on Deśa-virati, i.e., partial giving up of evil, as will be seen later.

On the stage of Sāmāyika Cāritra, the aforesaid Sarva-virati is adopted only temporarily, and under the reservation that certain trespasses of its rules will not be counted as breaches, i.e., they will be liable to a milder form of atonement than positive breaches would be. The adoption of Sarva-virati in this mild form is the very entrance gate to monkhood, since it makes an ascetic, [17|18] though not a full one, out of the novice. The latter promises solemnly, and under certain rites, to keep the five great vows of Sarva-virati, or the Mahāvratas. This solemn act of adopting the five great vows in their milder form, is called Laghu Dīkṣā, i.e., small initiation.

If the novice proves true, within a certain period, he is promoted to the next step, the Chedopasthāpanā Cāritra, by being made adopt the Sarva-virati rules for life-time, and without any reservation. The rites under which this is done, are called “Vaḍī Dīkṣā”, i.e., great initiation, by which the novice becomes a full ascetic, and from the date of which his seniority is counted.

Monks who have been punished for violations of the great vows, have to undergo Vaḍī Dīkṣā once more, their seniority being completely, or partially, cut. In the former case, they have to begin the stage of Chedopasthāpanā Cāritra once more, which has got its name from this cutting (cheda) of the seniority, and the act of ordaining the monk a new (upasthāpanā).

According to Jaina Tradition, there are certain cases, when the novice at once took, and takes, Sarva-virati in its strict form, i.e., when only the great initiation is performed, and the standards of Sāmāyika and of Chedopasthāpanā Cāritras, as described, fall together. But purposes, being limited to certain far-off countries, of which only the scriptures know, and to former ages, when, in this country too, only the great initiation used to be performed.

The five great vows which form the basis of the two forms of Cāritra in question, are the following ones:

  1. [18|19] By the First Mahāvrata, the Sādhu vows to avoid injuring life in even its slightest form. This explains why a Jaina Sādhu does not touch green plants, nor unboiled water, nor fire and light, and why he even avoids using artificial light, viz., because all these forms of life, even in the most subtle manifestations, would suffer in some way by the touch of the human body. The five Samitis are splendidly fit to help the monk in keeping this Vrata.
  2. By the Second Mahāvrata, he promises to avoid telling even the slightest 'Untruth', but, under the silent reservation that, by speaking truth, the higher interests of non-injury must not be endangered. This conception is, by-the-bye, very characteristic of the difference between Western and Indian Ethics, Western Ethics, which demands absolute truthfulness, without regard to its consequences, and Indian Ethics (for this conception is not restricted to Jainism), which places the principle of non-injury above all. It is well-known of what a high importance this factor is, in the intercourse of Indians and Europeans with each other and in the judgement of each others' peculiarities.
  3. By the Third Mahāvrata, the Sādhu promises to avoid appropriating, or using, anything that he has not explicitly been given, or its use allowed, by the lawful proprietor. This goes so far that a Jaina Sādhu, even if starving, would never pick up even a wild fruit from the ground (which would, it is true, imply the further sin of hurting plant life), nor would he use even a blade of dry grass lying about, nor a stone.
  4. By the Fourth Mahāvrata, the ascetic promises to avoid even the slightest form of sexual activity. Even the touch, not only of a human person, but even of an animal, of the [19|20] opposite sex would be counted as a kind of trespass. The present Jaina Sādhus take this vow, therefore, so strictly as to anxiously avoid even the indirect contact with a woman, such as by a carpet, or by a piece of furniture, or by a book etc., always keeping in mind that certain substances, such as wood, paper, metals, cloth etc. are considered as better conductors than others, such as stone, or earth. Amongst all the ascetic rules, the fourth vow is said to be the one which allows no exceptions at all.
  5. By the Fifth Vow, the ascetic promises to give up even the slightest form of attachment to whatever it may be whether lifeless things or persons. Practically, this vow demands not only the giving up of all property, but also that of all family ties, i.e., the adopting of the life of a mendicant. It is well-known in which strict way the present Jaina Sādhus keep this vow, the Digambara monks, who roam about, always alone, without clothes, without even vessels to eat from, and the Śvetāmbara Sādhus with their scanty clothes and equipment, who will not accept but what they can use at a time, the acceptance of money being, of course, strictly forbidden.

After having reached a certain standard of firmness in the keeping of Sarva-virati, and of religious learning too, a monk can climb up to the next step of discipline, the Parihāra-viśuddhi-cāritra, which can be reached by undergoing certain practices requiring a high degree of self-control and firmness. It is prescribed that always groups of nine monks should devote eighteen months to these practices, changing places with one another in the alternate performing of austerities, and service, in obedience to a self elected Guru. During these eighteen months, the discipline to be observed is so [20|21] strict that it would, e.g., be forbidden to take any care of one's body even in the case of severe sickness.

The fourth standard is the Sūkṣma-sāmparāya-cāritra, which requires the complete annihilation of one's Anger, Pride and Deceit, and a partial one of the fourth great passion, viz., covetousness, of which only a small fraction is allowed to remain.

The fifth standard, the Yathākhyāta Cāritra, demands a complete annihilation of all the four passions, and a strict Jinakalpī conduct, completely in accordance with the monastic discipline, once put in action, and promulgated, by the last Jina.

The last three standards can no more be attained by monks of the present age, in which the strength of bodily and mental constitution as required for the fulfilment of the respective rules, is no more to be found. Since the time, when all such heroic accomplishments were possible, and were indeed put in action, a great degeneration has taken place according to Jaina tradition.

The lowest standard of discipline is the Deśa-virati-cāritra of Śrāvakas, the rules for which are the twelve laymen vows, the so-called Dvādaśa-vrata, or, in the vernacular, the Baḍā-vrata, which play a great part in the life of the single Jaina as well as that of the whole community.

Besides being, in themselves, milder than the respective prescriptions for ascetics, the laymen vows can be taken only with reference to not doing and not causing to be done, bad thoughts, words and actions. Moreover, one or other of these factors, such as “not causing to be done” or “bad thoughts” etc. can optionally be left away, or instead [21|22] of taking all the vows, a selection of some of them can be adopted. Consequently, the layman who adopts the twelve vows, or some of them, is left ample freedom to fulfill all his worldly duties, and to remain in fullest concordance with worldly propriety and etiquette, even if he happen to be a judge, or a king even, or to occupy any other responsible post which requires energetic and even violent acting, in the interest of the State.



Continuation of the article ►An Interpretation of Jaina Ethics (Part II)

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