Spiritual Teachers

(Jain Sadhus and Sadhvis – Monks and Nuns)

Those who teach us are called teachers. Those who teach religion are called the spiritual teachers. Among Jains, they are called Sadhus (monks) or Sadhvis (nuns).

To be a Jain Sadhu or Sadhvi, people have to undergo training. During that training they learn about the Jain philosophy, the Jain scriptures, and the special code of conduct for monks and nuns. They learn to detach themselves from all their worldly ties. They learn to give up their families, businesses and social aspects. They must also learn to live without any money.

Once they get used to this life of detachment, they will decide to become Sadhu or Sadhvi. They should not be and are not under any pressure to make this decision. They have to listen to their self. This decision gives them the inner strength they need to be initiated as a true Sadhu or Sadhvi.

Once an Acharya decides to accept them as a Sadhu or Sadhvi, the ceremonial initiation (Diksha) takes place. This is the time when they renounce their worldly life, and break their social and economic ties forever. They voluntarily accept five great vows:

1) I will not commit any violence. (Ahimsa) 2) I will not lie. (Satya)

3) I will not steal. (Asteya)

4) I will not indulge in any sexual activities. (Brahmacharya)

5) I will not have any possessions. (Aparigraha)

They observe these vows in nine ways. They are:

1) Physically,

2) Verbally,

3) Mentally.

Each of these three are further divided into three more ways

1) By not doing themselves above five tasks,

2) By not asking anyone else to do above five tasks,

3) By not encouraging any one else to do above five tasks.

If monks and nuns get involved in a social-economic life styles, they are defeating the whole purpose of their renunciation. Involvement in worldly affairs would amount to breaking their vows, since they are suppose to be involved in spiritual uplift. Because of their detachment and spiritual uplift, monks and nuns are considered a part of the Panch Parmesthy (the five supreme beings), that we recite in the Namokar Mantra.

Monks and nuns no longer consider their fathers or mothers as fathers or mothers any one. They interact with them the same way they interact with any other householders. Similarly, they have given up other relationships like a husband, wife, brother, sister, son, or daughter. They have also given up all their belongings like money, houses, cars, jewelry, or anything else that belongs to them.

They have given up the comforts of life, and have adopted a very simple lifestyle. Monks who wear only white clothes are called

Svetamber Sadhus. Those who have given up all clothes are called Digamber Sadhus. The nuns in both groups always wear white clothes.

Sadhus and sadhvis walk barefooted and do not travel by car, train, plane or any other type of vehicle. They don’t live in one place, they move from place to place to live. oweverHowever, they do not travel before sunrise, after sunset, or while it is raining.

For food, sadhus and sadhvis go to different houses accepting very little food from each house. They do not accept any food which was made especially only for them. They accept food that was cooked for the householders consumption. They can not accept any raw green vegetables. Svetambar monks keep a set of wooden bowls to accept food in. While Digambar monks eat the food offered to them out of their own hands. Svetamber monks eat twice a day. They only drink boiled water. Except for boiled water, they do not consume anything between meals. They never eat or drink before sunrise or after sunset. Digambar monks eat and drink only once a day and from only one house. Many monks and nuns observe austerities by fasting.

Monks do not touch any females, and nuns do not touch any males. Those monks and nuns who wear clothes, keep only two or three plain white clothes. Some monks wear a white cloth (Muhapati) covering their mouth, some hold it in their hands, while others do not use a muhapati at all. Some keep Rajoharan (a small broom made of fine threads) to clean the area around them. Others keep a small broom made of peacock feathers. The feathers used for these broom were naturally shed by the peacock. They do Pratikraman twice a day, once in the morning and the other in the evening. They perform various austerities. They also teach religious beliefs to householders.

They have a great deal of discipline in observing their vows. If a householder offers a sadhu or a sadhvi something which they can not accept, they calmly explain to the householders that they cannot accept

certain things. They are highly respected everywhere.

People like us who are ignorant of the real truth and are involved in worldly aspects can get religious advice from these monks and nuns. They explain the message of Lord Mahavira. We should bow down to such monks and nuns to show our reverence. When we bow down, we should kneel so that our lower legs, both hands and head touch the floor, and then we should say “Mathen Vandami” which means , “I am bowing down my head.” While bowing down, males should not touch the nuns, and females should not touch the monks. We should try to follow the example set by sadhus and sadhvis.

In conclusion, while renouncing their worldly aspects, there are three conditions they must fulfill to attain monkhood or nunhood. They are:

1) Voluntary renunciation of all worldly possessions, social, and economic aspects of the life.

2) Voluntary adaptation of the five great vows and their nine fold observance.

3) Wearing only white clothes or not wearing any clothes at all.

All nuns wear white clothes.  


1) Who are our spiritual teachers?

2) To become a monk or a nun what do you have to do?

3) When they renounce their worldly lives, what do they give up?

4) Name the five vows they take?

5) Are monks and nuns spiritual leaders or are they social workers?

6) What kind of water do they drink?

7) How many times do they eat in one day?

8) Do they eat at night?

9) How do they get their food?

10) Do they accept raw green vegetables?

11) Do monks and nuns touch people of opposite sex?