The Everyday Life of a Jain
Jains go through special ceremonies at
birth, marriage and death as do members of most religions. But there is a
difference, The rites through which the Jain passes are Hindu rather than
Jain. And it is often Hindu priests or officials who perform them.
The Life of a Layman
Full salvation is not possible for the
layman unless, as the end approaches, he takes the vow of old age,
containing the promise to die by voluntary self-starvation. And,
according to the Digambaras, it is never possible for a woman unless she
is first of all reborn as a man.
Jainism recognizes four sources of karma:
Attachment to things of
this life, such as food, clothing, lodging, women and jewels;
Giving rein to anger,
pride, deceit and greed;
Uniting the body, mind
and speech to worldly things;
Karma can be controlled by renouncing all
activity, Jainism also recognizes eight kinds of karma, three tenses of
karma and fourteen steps to liberation from karma, Between steps one and
four a person acquires knowledge and faith, but only on the fifth step
does he realize the importance of conduct.
become able to take the twelve vows which
mark the layman�s religious life.
First in the series of twelve vows are the
five `limited vows� :
Next in the series are the three `assistant
vows� which help a person to keep the first five:
Restriction of travel
(so curtailing sin by restricting the area in which it can be
Restriction on the use
of certain things, so discouraging lying, covetousness, stealing and so
carelessness in speaking ill of others, taking life, keeping weapons and
having an evil influence.
The remaining four vows in the series are
intended to encourage the laity in the performance of their religious
To spend at least
forty-eight minutes every day in unbroken meditation (samayika),
thinking evil of no one, being at peace with the world and contemplating
the heights which may be reached by the soul, and if possible to repeat
this exercise three times, morning, afternoon and evening.
To set aside at least
one particular day to be more serious about the vows of travel
restriction and meditation.
To live as a monk for a
temporary period of twenty-four hours, touching no food, drink,
ornaments, scents or weapons and remaining celibate while using only
three cloths by day and two by night-thus forging a link between the lay
and monastic communities (called posadha).
To support the ascetic
community by giving its members any of the fourteen articles which they
may accept without blame, such as food, water, clothing, pots, blankets,
towels, beds, tables and other furniture.
Jains believe that to keep the twelve vows
brings great physical and moral advantage. The body becomes fit and
healthy and the soul is freed from love and enmity.
The layman wanting to reach a higher stage
in the upward path towards liberation must undertake to keep a further
To worship the true
deva (i.e, a Tirthankara), reverence a true guru (teacher), and believe
in the true doctrine (dharma, i.e. Jainism), while avoiding the seven
bad deeds of gambling, eating meat, wine-bibbing, adultery, hunting,
thieving and debauchery.
To keep the twelve
vows, facing death by voluntary self-starvation in complete peace.
To engage in meditation
at least three times a day.
To live the life of a
monk temporarily at least six times a month.
To avoid uncooked
To refrain from eating
between sunset and sunrise and from drinking water before daylight, in
case an insect is accidentally eaten.
To keep away from his
own wife and never to scent his body so as to seduce her.
Never to begin anything
that might entangle him in worldly pursuits which might lead to
destruction of life.
To be a novice for his
To eat only leftovers.
To wear the dress of an
ascetic, live apart in a religious building or in the forest, and live
according to the rules laid down in the scriptures for ascetics.
By the time he has taken the last of these
eleven promises, the layman is virtually an ascetic.
As the layman endeavors to reach this
exalted state, he will strive to develop the twenty-one qualities which
distinguish the Jain `gentleman�. He will always be `serious in demeanor;
clean as regards both his clothes and his person; good-tempered; striving
after popularity; merciful; afraid of sinning; straightforward; wise;
modest; kind; moderate; gentle; careful in speech; sociable; cautious;
studious; reverent both to aid age and old customs; humble; grateful;
benevolent; and, finally, attentive to business�.