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ANTIQUITY OF JAINISM

Jain Books

Commoness of ethical code

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 sravakas, of the Jaina community. 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 monk 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 disappeared 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 in spite of opposition from other faiths.