Right Knowledge, Right
Faith, and Right Conduct are the three most essentials for attaining
In order to acquire
these, one must take the five great vows:
1. Ahima (Non‑injury)
2. Satya (Truth)
3. Asteya (Non‑stealing)
Among these five vows
"Ahimsa" is the cardinal principle of Jainism and hence it is called the
highest religious principle or the cornerstone of Jainism.
Bhagavan Mahavira has
said that all living beings desire life and not death. Therefore no one
has a right to take away life of any other being. Therefore killing of
life is the greatest sin. There are people who believe in not killing
human beings, but they do not mind animals being killed. According to
Jainism, killing of animals is also a great sin. Jainism goes still
further and says that there is life in trees and plants, and there is life
in air, water, mold etc., and all living beings have an equal right to
exist. Therefore we should not kill life of even lower or lowest state.
Life is dearer to everyone and therefore we must have respect for life.
Not only "Live and let Live" but "Live and help others in living" should
be our principle. Just as a head of the family looks after the welfare of
the family members, a human being, who enjoys the highest place in the
evolution of life, should look after the welfare of the other lower living
Jainism further says
that sometimes you may not kill a living being, but may speak something
which may hurt the feelings. Sometimes you may not kill a living being,
but you may think of killing it. Therefore you also commit sin when you
speak hurting words or the moment you start thinking of killing some
life. Hence, according to Jainism, the sin is committed not only by
action, but by speech and by thought also, which again is threefold.
(1) you may commit sin
(2) you may ask someone
to commit sin on your behalf or
(3) you may support or
praise the sin committed by someone.
Hence one should refrain
from committing this nine‑fold sin.
The universe is full of
living beings, big and small, and therefore it is impossible to exist
without killing or injuring some of the smallest living beings. Some
lives are killed even when we breathe or drink water or eat food.
Therefore, Jainism says that minimum killing should be our ideal.
Moreover, it is more serious where killing is done intentionally or
through indifference. Therefore great care should be taken in all our
daily activities so that minimum violence is committed by our deeds,
speech and mind.
In the universe, there
are different forms of life, such as human beings, animals, insects, trees
and plants, bacteria, and even still smaller lives which cannot be seen
even through the most powerful microscope. Jainism has classified all the
living beings according to their sense organs, i.e., having five senses,
four senses, three senses, two senses and one sense. It is more serious
if life of the highest form is killed. Therefore Jainism preaches strict
vegetarianism and prohibits flesh‑eating.
Jainism firmly believes
that life is sacred irrespective of caste, color, creed or nationality and
therefore not only physical or mental injury to life should be avoided,
but one should have all possible kindness towards all the living beings.
This should be the spirit of Ahimsa.
To speak truth requires
moral courage. Only those who have conquered greed, fear, anger,
jealousy, ego, vulgarity, frivolity etc., can speak the truth when
required. Jainism insists that one should not only refrain from
falsehood, but should always speak the truth which should be wholesome and
The vow of Non‑Stealing
insists that one should be honest and should not steal anything or rob
others of their wealth, belongings, etc. Further, one should not take
anything which does not belong to him. It does not entitle one to take
away a thing which may be lying unattended or unclaimed. One should
observe this vow very strictly and should not touch even a worthless thing
which does not belong to him.
Total abstinence from
sex‑indulgence is called Brahmacharya or Celibacy. Sex is an infatuating
force which obscures the right path of Moksha and sets aside all virtues
and reason at the time of indulgence. This vow of controlling sex passion
is very difficult to observe in its subtle form, because one may refrain
from physical indulgence but may still think of the pleasures of sex.
There are several rules laid down for observing this vow, both for monks
and for householders.
Jainism believes that
the more a person possesses worldly wealth, the more he may be unhappy and
the more he is likely to commit sin, physical and mental, because worldly
wealth creates attachments which would continuously result in greed,
jealousy, selfishness, ego, hatred, violence, etc. Bhagavan Mahavira has
said that wants and desires have no end and only the sky is the limit for
Attachment to worldly
objects results in the bondage of the cycle of birth and death.
Therefore, one desirous of spiritual liberation should withdraw from all
attachments to the pleasing objects of all the five senses.
This Jaina principle of
limited possession helps in equitable distribution of wealth, comforts,
etc., in the society. Thus Jainism helps in establishing socialism,
economic stability, and welfare in the world.
Jainism has laid down
and described in much detail these five great vows for the path of Moksha.
These are to be observed strictly and entirely by the monks and nuns.
Partial observance is laid down for the householders with additional seven
vows. There are other thirty‑five rules of conduct laid down for the
In addition to these
five great vows, Jainism has laid great stress on the following four
reflections (Bhavana), and ten‑fold code of conduct.
Ten‑fold Code of
(5) Purity of mind
(6) Control of senses
Jainism has thoughts of
the gradual evolution of the soul and has described fourteen stages (Gunasthana)
for the liberation of the soul. With the help of the above‑mentioned vows
and virtues a soul can gradually liberate itself and attain Nirvana,