1. GRADATION IN ETHICAL CODE
The examination of an outline of Jaina ethics does make clear its certain
outstanding features. In the first place it is evident that there is a
system of gradation in Jaina ethics because the whole course of Jaina
ethics has. been divided into stages and it is enjoined on every person to
put into practice the rules of conduct step by step. The whole life of an
individual, in some of the later works, has been divided into four Asramas,
i.e., stages, namely; (i) Brahmacharya, the period of study, (ii) Grhastha,
the period devoted to household life, civic duties, and the like, (iii)
0anaprastha, the period of retirement from worldly activities, and (iv)
Samnyasa, the period of absolute renunciation.
(1) Brahmacharya Asrama
The first is the stage of study when the pupil must acquire knowledge,
religious as well as secular, and build up a character that will rule
supreme in later life. In this period he is to for the right convictions
regarding the real nature of the soul and the world.
(2) Grhastha Asrama
After completing his studies he enters the second stage. He is ex�pected
to marry and settle down to lead a pious householder�s life. In this stage
he tries to realise the first three of the four ideals or objectives in
life, namely, dharma (religious merit), artha (wealth, position, worldly
prosperity, etc.), kama (pleasure) and moksa (sal�vation). But it has been
specifically stressed that while realising dharma, artha and kama, he must
subordinate artha and kama to dharma. The householder, who aspires for
moksa in the long run, knows that it cannot be attained except by severe
self-discipline of a type which is not attainable by him as a layman. He,
therefore, only aspires to perfect himself in the first instance, in the
performance of his own duties, so that he may adopt samnyasa, i.e., the
stage of renunciation, in due course of time. Even though he is the main
popular support in other three stages, he is to prepare himself bit by bit
for entering the subsequent stages.
(3) Vanaprastha Asrama
In this third stage he retires from worldly activities, abandons efforts
for attaining the ideals of artha and kama and concentrates his attention
on the first ideal of dharma.
(4) Sairinyarta Asratma
After successfully crossing the third stage an individual enters the
fourth stage which is marked by a sense of absolute renunciation and in
this stage he aspires for the last and the most important ideal of moksa.
In this way we find that in Jaina ethics different rules of conduct are
prescribed for different stages in life so that an individual may
gradually attain the final aim in life. Even in one stage the rules of
conduct are divided into several grades, for example, the eleven Pratimirs
in the householder�s stage. This makes the progress on spiritual path very
easy and a person readily understands what his position is on that path:
This scheme is intended for the protection of the individual in the sense
that he is preparing step by step to achieve the real purpose in life.
2. IMPORTANCE ASSIGNED TO FIVE VRATAS
The second distinguishing feature of the ethical code prescribed for the
Jainas is the importance assigned to the five main vratas or vows in the
life not only of an ascetic but also of a householder. The five main vows
of ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha form the basis on
which the superstructure of Jaina ethics has been raised. They give a
definite outlook on life and create a particular type of mental attitude.
The very essence of Jaina philosophy is transformed into action in the
shape of observance of these five vows.
Though these vows on their face appear to be mere abstentions from injury,
falsehood, theft, unchastity and worldly attachments, their implications
are really extensive and they permeate the entire social life of the
community. This is because it has been enjoined that these five faults
should be avoided in three ways termed as (a) krta, that is, a person
should not commit any fault himself; (b) karita, that is, a person should
not incite others to commit such an act; and (c) anumodita, that is, a
person should not even approve of it subsequent to its commission by
In view of this extension of the field of avoidance of five faults, we
find that detailed rules of conduct have been laid down for observance in
the matter of abstentions from these faults in the following way :
Himsa or injury has been defined as hurting of the vitalities caused
through want of proper care and caution: But the meaning is not limited to
this definition alone. It is stated that piercing, binding, causing pain,
overloading and starving or not feeding at proper times, are also forms of
himsa and as such these forms must be avoided.
Asatya, i.e., falsehood, in simple terms, is to speak hurtful words. But
the meaning is further extended, arid spreading false doctrines, revealing
the secrets and deformities of others, backbiting, making false documents,
and breach of trust are also considered as forms of falsehood, and
therefore, these should be abstained from.
Chaurya, i.e., theft, is to take anything which is not given. But a wide
meaning is attached to the term theft. That is why imparting instruction
on the method of committing theft, receiving stolen property, evading the
injunction of the law (by selling things at inordinate prices),
adulteration, and keeping false weights and measures, are all considered
as forms of theft and one must guard oneself against them.
Abrahma, i.e., unchastity, is also considered to have several forms. As a
result, matchmaking (bringing about marriages, as a hobby), unnatural
gratification, indulging in voluptuous speech, visiting im�moral married
women, and visiting immoral unmarried women- are all forms of unchastity,
and they should be avoided.
The fault of Parigraha, i.e., worldly attachments, consists in desiring
more than what is needed by an individual. Hence accumulating even
necessary articles in large numbers, expressing wonder at the pros�perity
of another, excessive greed, transgressing the limits of posses�sion, and
changing the proportions of existing possessions are all forms of
parigraha, and therefore these should be discarded.
It may be noted that the last vow of aparigraha or parigraha�parimana is
very distinctive as it indirectly aims at economic equaliza�tion by
peaceful prevention of undue accumulation of capital in individual hands.
Further, in this vow it is recommended that a householder should fix,
beforehand, the limit of his maximum be�longings, and should, in no case,
exceed it. If he ever happens to earn more than that limit, it is also
recommended that he must spend it away in charities, the best and
recognised forms of which are four, viz., distribution of medicine, spread
of knowledge, provision for saving lives of people in danger, and feeding
the hungry and the poor.
Obviously these five vows are of a great social value as they accord a
religious sanction to some of the most important public and private
interests and rights which are, in modern times, safeguarded by the laws
of the state. It has been specifically pointed out by Jaina scholars that
a due observance of the vows would save a man from application of almost
any of the sections of the Indian Penal Code.