Easy practicability of ethical code

Easy practicability of ethical code

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.

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., anuvratas or small vows, and mahavratas or great vows. The householders have to practice 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.

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 yathashakti, that is, according to one’s capacity. It is always emphasized 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 himsa and this renunciation of himsa may be either autsargiki nivrtti, i.e., complete renunciation, or apavadiki nivrtti, 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 practice complete renunciation, and therefore he is recommended to discharge his worldly responsibilities with the minimum injury to others.

For giving further practical guidance in this matter, it is important to note that himsa has been analyzed, according to the mental attitude of the individual, into four kinds namely, grharambhi himsa (accidental injury), udyami himsa (occupational injury), virodhi himsa (protective injury) and sankalpi 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, construction of buildings, wells, etc. Similarly, udyami himsa 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 defense of person and property against the assailants and enemies. And, sankalpi himsa 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 himsa 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 himsa. But it is significant to note that it is enjoined upon a householder to abstain only from sankalpi himsa 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 possib1e the first three kinds of himsa or injury and to make a steady progress in such endeavor. Thus a householder’s vow of ahimsa means abstention from intentional injury and this abstention he should put into practice.