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Who is a Jain Shravak: 16.2 Awakening of the Consciousness of Vow

Published: 29.02.2020

How to Prevent Crimes?

The aforementioned incidences highlight the need of spirituality in life. In the absence of spirituality or abstinence, there is no way to sojourn the crimes because there will hardly be any authority to control them. Often bureaucrats and officials are appointed to control the rate of crime within the country. The most astonishing fact is that those who are supposed to keep an eye on the corruption or crime are themselves indulging in such deeds. Income tax officers audit others' financial records, but it is so surprising to learn that often the investigating officers themselves possess an abundance of jewellery and acres of illegal property. Religion can play an extremely important role in such contexts. One would often wonder about the need of religion in life. If there were no religion or vow in life, it would be almost impossible to prevent crimes. Until the spiritual consciousness or the consciousness of vow is awakened, the cycle of corruption and crimes cannot be broken.

The best approach of combating crimes at its root is the consciousness of vow. The power of police, jail or punishment cannot prevent or uproot crimes absolutely. Today, it seems necessary to awaken the awareness of vows. When the concept of anuvrat reached abroad, people working in the field of ahimsa and world-peace highly appreciated it. They laid emphasis on this concept of vows for controlling the crime as hitherto the only option was punishment or policing. They were not familiar with this noble concept. When they understood it, they respected the power of vows.

Non-abstinence is a Danger

There is no limit for an avrati (non-abstinent person) and it is very dangerous. Such people have no control. They do whatever they want. Such people cannot fence out negative urges or impulses and the resultant behaviour is often despicable.

Each person should accept some vow in their life. In the morning, after listening to the 'mangal-paathh' (an auspicious prayer), it is advised to take one resolution of giving up one thing for the day. One can give up any negative behaviour for the day. Some examples are, not consuming any food item, not doing any negative action or not quarrelling with anyone. Taking a small vow will encourage peaceful behaviour. If someone abandons quarrels, abuse, back­biting, criticizing and other such activities, then it would lay the foundation of harmony within the family and society. If such a vow continues, the person will always be at peace and abandonment of the vice will be a boon for them. Those who are used to intoxicants such as tobacco can start with a daily vow of avoiding such things. Gradually, over a period of time, the duration of the vow can be increased and non-consumption of such intoxicants will become a habit. The person will find it easy to overcome his addiction. Since such habits are addictive, there are always temptations and thus they cannot be quit without a vow. 'vraten dikshaamaapnoti' - the diksha (initiation), can be acquired by a vow. Therefore, the idea of vows propounded by BhagawanMahavira is very significant.

The Vow of Celibacy

The fourth anuvrat is that of celibacy. Presuming a person's life span to be of a hundred years, it is divided into four phases of twenty-five years each. These are:

  1. Brahmacharya- student life
  2. Gaarhasthya- family life
  3. Vaaanaprastha- retiring into a forest
  4. Sanyaas- ascetic life

The practice of celibacy is the main constituent for the first quartet.

This stage is for studying and training in Gurukul [1]. To achieve a higher state of consciousness, special sadhana is required. This is why they emphasize on avoiding the contact of male and female and practicing celibacy.

In Jain scriptures, there is no such system of Gurukul, but celibacy holds a significant place. It is considered as a unique efficacy by ancient sages, which provides a divine and long life. Virile semen (veerya) is the prominent constituent (dhaatu) out of seven of the human body and is a prime cause of oja (vitality). It is the source of life force.

To observe complete celibacy is not impossible for a householder, though it is extremely difficult. For this reason, the word svadaar-santosh is used for the spiritual practice of a householder. Accordingly, sexual impulses are centred on one point analogous to the Garudi mantra which removes the serpent's poison pervaded throughout the body by accumulating it at one point. Similarly, by observing svadaar-santoshvrat, sexual instinct is limited to just one person that can be overcome eventually.

The concept of marriage emerged to harmonise the social system in a meaningful way. The vow of svadaar-santosh plays an important role in establishing the foundation of this system. Societies or culture where this vow is ignored, unrestrained sex continues even after marriage. Due to multiple sexual partners, before and even after marriage, spouses tend to quarrel often and families are broken. From this point of view, the vow of svadaar-santosh can be credited as the foundation of strong and healthy family life.

hai brahmachary apane se apana rakshan,
bhogechchha parisiman ka saghan prashikshan.
apane ghar mein santusht niyam mein nishtha,
shravak jeevan ki saba se badi pratishtha.

i.e. celibacy is a way of self-protection and a personal challenge of limiting sexual impulses. By limiting oneself with his spouse and with firm determination in this conjugal resolution, a shravak can make his life meaningful.

Having knowledge of celibacy is very essential in the present age. Very few people know its importance. If understanding about celibacy is developed right from childhood, then a person can live a better life. Those who are ignorant about it, deteriorate their health and strength by satisfying their sensual urges. Today's society is a victim of sexually produced diseases. AIDS is a life-threatening disease and its prime cause is lack of celibacy. There was a time when tuberculosis was considered as an incurable disease, but it is now under control. Cancer is also dangerous, but it is also not incurable to some extent. Cancer however is not contagious. AIDS is alarmingly contagious that even using the cloths of the patient of AIDS can spread the disease to another person. It is very painful disease leading to premature death for the patient. The main reason is uncontrolled sex. Thus, practising celibacy or restricting sexual activities to only one person can prevent the spread of many such diseases.

The culture of discos and nightclubs has trodden the rules and systems of pious family and society. There is neither any discipline nor self-restraint. This situation is an indication of increasing problems as a result of undisciplined sexual desires. The anuvrat of celibacy is the right way of self-protection and it secures a person from unruly sexual activities. The practice of this vow is a special practice of control over sense organs.

The vow of svadaar-santosh is a way to limit non-celibacy. Complete celibacy is possible for monks. If a householder or ordinary person wants to lead a good and peaceful life, they should consider this vow of svadaar-santosh and thus limit their sexual urges.

The Vow of Disciplining the Desires (Ichchha Parimaan)

The fifth anuvrat is control over desires which means not accumulating more than one's requirements which is difficult in the current age of materialism. Today, one's needs have become limitless. The possession of extreme wealth creates problems.

Once a wealthy merchant passed away. After his funeral, the son asked his accountant, 'How much property did my dad leave behind?' The employee answered, 'Don't worry; your father has left behind enough property for seven generations to live comfortably.' The son then said, 'What about the eighth generation?'

Such thinking reflects unlimited ambition. We do not know about the next generation, yet people are worried about the eighth generation. This unlimited ambition drives people towards crimes and destroys peace of mind. Vow of controlling desires is the vow of restraining accumulation and ambition.

ichchha-parimaan anuvrat aparigrah ka,
ho jaata shaman svayam aarthik vigrah ka.
aavahsyakata aakaanksha ek nahin hai,
aakaanksha par ho ankush, yahi sahi hai.

i.e. the vow of non-possessiveness controls economic crisis. Need and greed are not the same. There must be control over greed.

The ideologies are also changing with time. Modern economics focuses on expansion of the needs. It suggests that an increase in desires increases production and this will lead the nation on the path of development. This economic growth model is the concept of development in the 20th century.

To glance back in the age of BhagawanMahavira, we will have to go back around twenty-five centuries. The classification of sadhu dharm and shravak dharm was the fundamental contribution of Bhagawan Mahavira. He propounded a complete format of the lifestyle of a shravak. An important maxim of code of conduct of a shravak is to control or limit desires.

These are two opposite poles - one is expansion of desires while the other is limitation of desires. But the philosophy of anekant suggests that every ideology contains partial truth. Thus, today's concepts are not meaningless. It has surely brought progress, but in the materialistic world. It's true that material development always creates complications. For solving these problems, now the ideas of regulating the desires are being appreciated.

Bhagawan Mahavira introduced the principle of non-possession. Some people claim that Jains emphasize on non-possession, though on the contrary they are more inclined towards possession. On account of this contradiction, Jains become the subject of gossip. Such conversations are caused by misunderstanding the reality. BhagawanMahavira never said that a householder must be non-possessive. There are three maxims of non-possession in the context of a householder:

  1. Morality in earning - Not to use impure means
  2. Limitation on earning - To retire from business after attaining a certain stage
  3. Limitation of personal consumption - Control over the individual consumption of the earned wealth

An observer of anuvrat of non-possession does not only restrain themselves from consumption and accumulation of wealth, but also protects themselves against craving and ego.

Hit Pause on Unlimited Desires

A person who has faith in religion but does not awaken the consciousness of practicing non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession is religious at an external level. However, in the true sense, his religious consciousness is dormant.

In Shravak Sambodh, AcharyaTulsi has elaborated five anuvrats applicable to the present context. To uproot the crimes, the attitude of limit or restraint needs to be spread. Greed for wealth is the root cause of crimes such as terrorism, extremism, kidnapping etc. Excessive accumulation of wealth is unsafe. Earning and accumulation are not the same. When earned wealth is used for the good cause of the society, it does not create any problems. When people spend the money in crores (millions) unnecessarily just for personal consumption, marriages and ostentatious display, it stimulates the emotion of envy and inequality in others and thus ignites the flame of violence. This leads to crimes.

Therefore, it becomes vital to give importance to the five anuvrats and live a life with some vows. Each faithful shravak should think and resolve of being a vrati (abstinent). Desires should not be endless. One should learn to control over their temptations and to put a brake on unconstrained wants. If a driver does not know how to apply the brake, an accident is inevitable. Therefore, man should truly consider the path of restraint and gradually inhibit increasing materialistic desires. This will lead to a path of inner and outer peace.


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Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?

Acharya MahaPragya


Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahimsa
  2. Anekant
  3. Anuvrat
  4. Anuvrats
  5. Body
  6. Celibacy
  7. Consciousness
  8. Dharm
  9. Diksha
  10. Discipline
  11. Greed
  12. Gurukul
  13. Mahavira
  14. Mantra
  15. Niyam
  16. Non-violence
  17. Sadhana
  18. Sadhu
  19. Shravak
  20. Violence
  21. Vrati
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