Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions - ASPECTS OF JAINA RELIGION

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Fore Word




The third distinctive fact about Jaina ethics is the utmost promi�nence given to ahinisd or avoidance of hirrisa, that is, injury. It is really remarkable about Jainism that even though the noble principle of ahinisd has been recognised by practically all religions, Jainism alone has preached the full significance and application of ahisua to such an extent that Jainism and ahinisd have become synonymous terms. The Jainas always uplrold that ahinisd paramo dharmah, that is, Ahimsa is the highest religion. The philosophy of Jainism and its rules of conduct are based on the foundation of ahinisd which have been consistently followed to its logical conclusion.

That is why among the five main vows the first place has been given to the observance of ahirrisa. In fact in the Jaina scriptures ahimsa is regarded as the principal vow and the other four vows are considered to be merely its details or extensions. This is made evident in the following ways:

(i) Himsa : The term hinisd has been defined as injury to the vitalities through passionate activity of mind, speech and body. The Jaina scriptures, in this connection, always maintain that the appear�ance of attachment and other passions is hinisd and their non�appearance is ahirrisa, because under the influence of passion, the person first injures the self, through the self, whether or not there is subsequently an injury caused to another being. Thus whatever is done under the influence of passion, that is, through pramada yoga meaning careless activity of mind, speech and body, and without any caution is included under hirirsa.

(ii) Asatya is hirimsa : Wherever any wrong statement is made through prarnada yoga, it is certainly known as asatya. i.e., falsehood. It is, therefore, clear that as pramada yoga, the chief cause of hi�msa, is present in all such statements, hinisd occurs in asatya, i.e. falsehood, also.

(iii) Chaurya is himsa : The taking, by pramitda yoga of objects which have not been given, is deemed as theft and that is himsa because it is the cause of injury to the self in the form of a moral fall and to the person deprived of. There is no difference between himsa and theft. Himsa is inherent in theft, for in taking what belongs to another, there is pramada yoga. Thus all theft, like all falsehood, is included in himsa

(iv) Abrahma is himsa : Indulgence in sex passion always brings about himsa because it originates out of desire. Hence abrahma or sexual impurity is a form of himsa.

(v) Parigraha is himsa : Parigraha or possession of worldly goods is of two kinds, internal and external. The renunciation of parigraha of both the kinds is a himsa and their appropriation is himsa. Internal parigraha, that is, the desire for worldly objects, prejudicially affects the purity of the soul, and this injury to the pure nature of the soul constitutes himsa. External parigraha, that is, the actual possession of worldly objects, creates attraction and love for them, and defiles purity of the soul and therefore amounts to himsa

Thus it is evident that as himsa is implied in falsehood. theft, sexual impurity and possession of goods, all the main five vows of Jainism are based on the principle of ahimsa. That is why supreme im�portance is given to the principle of ahimsa and it is enjoined upon every Jaina to avoid himsa under all conditions.


The fourth distinct feature of Jaina ethics is its simple practicability. It is clear that Jaina ethics lays down very elaborate rules of conduct both for laymen and ascetics. As prescribed rules of conduct are described in minutest details. It is feared that it would be difficult to put them into practice. But on a close examination it will be seen that the fear is unfounded.

(1) Creation of a Graduated Course

In the first place it may be mentioned that even though the rules of conduct are the same for all people; they are to be followed stage by stage. Accordingly, the vratas or vows have been divided into two categories. viz. anuvraras or small vows, and mahavratas or great vows. The householders have to practise the anuvratas and the ascetics, the mahavratas. Similar is the case with other observances. Moderation is the key-note of householder�s life and severity, of saintly discipline. Hence the important hall-mark of Jaina ethics is the fact that a graduated course is prescribed with a view to make it possible for every person to observe all rules of conduct agreeably.

(2) Allowance for one�s capacity

In the second place it may be stressed that it is not enjoined upon a person to observe all rules of conduct pertaining to a particular stage in life. It has been specifically mentioned that the three-fold path of liberation. consisting of right belief, right knowledge and right conduct, is to be followed yathasakti, that is, according to one�s capacity. It is always emphasised that the severity of rules of conduct is to be adjusted after taking into account one�s own status and capacity. This means that a person can take all the vows or can make a selection of some of them.

This important aspect of simple practicability of Jaina ethical code can be best explained by showing the way of observing the basic rule of conduct, namely, ahimsa

According to Jaina scriptures, ahimsa is abstention from ahimsa and this renunciation of ahimsa may be either autsargiki nivrtti, i.e.. complete renunciation, or apavadiki niv,rtti, i.e., partial renunciation. The complete renunciation is accomplished in nine ways, by self (krta), through agent (karita), or by approbation (anumodita), in each case through mind (manas), speech (vachana) and body (kaya). That which is not complete is partial renunciation. For a householder it is not possible to practise complete renunciation, and therefore he is recommended to discharge his worldly responsibilities with the mini�mum injury to others

For giving further practical guidance in this matter, it is important to note that ahimsa has been analysed, according to the mental attitude of the individual. into four kinds, namely. Rrharambhi himsa (acci�dental injury), udyam�r himsa (occupational injury), virodh7 himsa (pro�tective injury) and sarikalpi himsa (intentional injury).

It has been made clear that grharambhi himsa is that which is unavoidably committed in the performance of necessary domestic duties, such as preparation of food, keeping- the things clean. cons�truction of buildings, wells, etc. Similarly, udya�u hinisd is that which is performed in the exercise of one�s profession or occupation whether of a soldier, or an agriculturist. or a trader, or an industrialist, or a doctor. Further, virodhi himsa is that which is unavoidably committed in the defence of person and property against the assailants and enemies. And, sarikalpi hinisd is that which is committed intentionally or knowingly, for example, in hunting, offering sacrifices, killing for� food, amusement or decoration etc.

In relation to these four kinds of hinisd it has been categorically stated that one who has crossed the stage of the life of a householder should certainly avoid all the four kinds of hiriua. But it is significant to note that it is injoined upon a householder to abstain only from sarikalpr hi�msa or intentional injury and not from the accidental. occupational and protective himsa as it is not possible to do so while in the householder�s stage. However, it may be noted that a house�holder has been advised to avoid as far as possible the first three kinds of hirrisa or injury and to make a steady progress in such endeavour. Thus a householder�s vow of ahiritsa means abstention from intentional injury and this abstention he should put into practice.


The last significant fact about Jaina ethics is the prescription of one common ethical code to all people irrespective of their worldly position and stage in life. It has already been brought out that the rules of conduct are exactly the same both for laymen and ascetics with the only obvious difference that while the former observe them partially, the latter have to observe them strictly. Thus in Jaina religion the ascetic life is considered to be a extension of house�holder�s life and it is pertinent to note that this has fostered intimate relationship between the two main divisions of society viz., Ascetics and Householders, that is, sadhus and srdvakas, of the Jaina commu�nity. Again, it may be emphasized that as the sadhus or ascetics are not generally recruited directly from outside the Jaina community, but are taken from the sravakas or householders, a feeling of oneness is created so far as the spiritual enterprise of the people is concerned.

It is, therefore, worth mentioning that since spiritual upliftment was the main aim of the people, common practices in spiritual enterprise brought the laymen and the monks together and that this was the prime factor in the survival of Jainism. It cannot be doubted that this, between the sravakas or laymen and the sadhus or ascetics affinity brought about by the similarity of their religious duties, differing not in kind but in degree, has enabled Jainism to avoid fundamental changes within, and to resist dangers from without for more than two thousand years; while Buddhism, being less exacting as regards the laymen, underwent most extraordinary changes and finally dis�appeared from the country of its origin.

Thus it can be maintained that the prevalence of one common ethical code among both major divisions of Jainas, viz., the sadhus and the sravakas, has chiefly been responsible for the continuity of Jaina community in India for so long a time inspite of opposition from other faiths.