Step-3: The Three Jewels (The Ratna)

First Steps To Jainism

Step-3: The Three Jewels (The Ratna)


(Step Three)

“Then to the rolling Heaven itself I cried,

Asking “What lamp had destiny to guide

Her little children stumbling in the dark?”

And-“A blind understanding” Heaven replied.

Indeed old Omar of Naishapur must have been disappointed with the answer he got from the “rolling heaven”. He had asked for a lamp to guide the humanity stumbling in darkness of the world. What he got as an answer was “a blind understanding.”

Not so with Jainism, which provides rational, objective and logical guidance to the “children stumbling in the dark.” Having analyzed the eternal cosmic phenomena and the two main constituents of the Universe i.e. the living (Jiva) and non-living (Ajiva) elements (matter etc.) with their interplay by way of Influx (Arson) and Bondage (Bundh), Prevention (Sanwar) and Separation (Nirjara), Jainism provides three luminous lamps to guide “the little children” to steer clear of the dangers on the path of life to reach the destination of final liberation. These are correctly termed as Three Jewels of Jainism and are Right Vision (Samayag Darshan), Right Knowledge (Samayag Gyan) and Right Conduct (Samayag Charitra). In these three are contained the entire Jain philosophy as well as the Jain ethics-nay, the entire Jain religion. No wonder, monumental volumes have been written in elaborating and explaining the importance of the Three Jewels. Umaswati, the great commentator of early Christian era, has termed these three as highway to liberation (Moksha) in the opening sutra of his classic work Tattvarth Sutra “Samayag-Darshan-Gyan-Charitrani Moksh marg”. Right Vision, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (together) constitute the highway to liberation.

It implies that the soul which proceeds on this royal road automatically stops Influx by Prevention, over-comes Bondage by Separation and thus achieves Liberation (as explained in the previous chapter). Thus while the Seven Fundamentals provide the theoretical background, the Three Jewels provide the practical path to realize the destiny of the soul.

For the sake of comparative information it may be mentioned that some important religious systems have also summarized their beliefs in three groups e.g. three jewels of Buddha are “The Buddha (Buddham), The Law (Dhammam) and The Order (Sangam). Parsi trio is Holy Mind, Holy Speech and Holy Deed. Mohammedan triad is Happiness, Mercy and Prayer. Christian jewels are Faith, Hope and Love (with reference to a personal redeemer).

The three jewels are described one by one in the succeeding paragraphs. However, it may be clarified that Right Conduct includes Right Penance, though some treat it separately and call it a four-fold path.

Right Vision (Samayag Darshan)

This has been defined and described by various authorities in different terms. Most acceptable, broad and general definition is that Right Vision means to hold truth as truth and untruth as untruth. Elsewhere Right Vision is described as inclination towards validly determining the true nature of things aimed at spiritual development.

To make it more circumspect and practicable Right Vision has been described in a restricted way as:

1. belief in two-fold division of the universe in the distinctive living and non-living elements.

2. belief in the interplay of soul and matter through the process of seven fundamentals; and

3. belief in True Prophets (like Jain Tirthankars) True Scriptures (like Jain Shastras) and True Preceptors (like Jain saints).

The above describes the positive side of the Right Vision. On the negative side, which is equally important, Right Vision requires rejection of untruth and skepticism. One should also not believe in false deities, false books and false teachers.

The importance of Right Vision cannot be emphasized too much. It has been given the first place out of the three jewels because unless one believes in what one knows how will one follow it. It is like digit 1, which, standing before the ciphers following it, gives them value. Without vision, knowledge and conduct are worthless like the ciphers without digit 1 standing before them. Just as one cannot have a tree without seed it is not possible to have Right Knowledge and Right Conduct without Right Vision. It is Right Vision which transforms knowledge into the Right Knowledge and conduct into Right Conduct. The faithful proceeds ipso-facto in the direction of self-restraint in conduct and equanimity in thought, by developing a sense of detachment i.e. freedom from infatuation and aversion to things worldly.

The soul may experience Right Vision as a natural process suo moto due to its qualitative transformation on account of spiritual evolution. In another case it requires the aid of some external agency. This is just like one man learning the art like sculpture with the help of an instructor while another man does the same by himself. These external means leading to Right Vision may be reading spiritual texts or hearing a preceptor or right type of company.

There are five distinctive marks of one who possesses the Right Vision noted below:

1. Spiritual calmness (Prasanna),

2. Desire for liberation (Samvega),

3. Non-attachment to the world (Nirveda),

4. Kindness (Anukampa), and

5. Belief in the fundamentals (Astikya).

Similarly, the person with Right Vision is free from the following eight types of pride:

1. Pride of family,

2. Pride of strength,

3. Pride of beauty,

4. Pride of knowledge,

5. Pride of wealth,

6. Pride of authority,

7. Pride of worldly connections, and

8. Pride of spiritual advancement.

He should also satisfy the eight requirements by striving to ensure:

1. freedom from doubt,

2. freedom from desire for worldly comforts,

3. respect for true believers,

4. freedom from infatuation or aversion,

5. freedom from inclination towards wrong path,

6. redemption of non-believers,

7. establishment of right faith, and

8. propagation of true doctrine.

Right Knowledge (Samyag Gyan)

The soul is a conscious being and as such is always in possession of some knowledge. But all knowledge is not Right Knowledge. That knowledge which the soul blessed with Right Vision possesses and which reveals with certainty (without exaggeration or inadequacy) exact nature of things and which leads to its spiritual developments is termed as Right Knowledge. Thus Right Knowledge should satisfy the following criteria:

1) It should be necessarily preceded by Right Vision (if the vision is false the knowledge would also be false),

2) It should reveal completely the true nature of things, e.g. knowledge of substances comprising the universe, fundamentals describing the process of liberation etc., and it should lead towards the spiritual development of the soul.

As mentioned above the soul is never without knowledge as the soul’s essential quality is consciousness. however, as soon as the soul acquires Right Vision by any of the two processes mentioned earlier the knowledge becomes Right Knowledge. Alternatively, it can be said that with the separation of the soul from bondage of karma matter (obstructing Right Knowledge), partially or fully it manifests itself.

Right Knowledge is broadly divided into five categories depending upon the progressive development of the soul or increasing manifestation of its power in respect of knowledge or consciousness. These are

1) Sensory (mati)

2) Study (Sruta)

3) Clairvoyance (Avadhi)

4) Telepathy (Man Prayaya) and

5) Omniscience (Kewalya).

The progress of the soul to realize these powers is possible by separating the shadow cast by the karmas on the soul, just as a mirror, which is covered with dust, starts shining and giving clear image when the dust is removed.

These five varieties are divided into two groups viz. direct or indirect or Pratyaksha and Paroksha respectively. The first two i.e. sensory (mati) and study (sruta) are indirect as these are acquired through the medium of senses or mind, while the remaining three are considered direct, as these are acquired by soul directly without any intermediary.

Though it must have become obvious the distinction between non-knowledge- agyan, false knowledge-mithya gyan and Right Knowledge-samyag gyan may be clarified by the example of a pitch dark room, a room with colored light and one with natural bright light. The dark room is like agyan where nothing can be known. In the colored room every thing appears in false color different from what it is, and therefore, is like false knowledge. However, the room with natural bright light shows things in their true form as they are and therefore, is like Right Knowledge.

Now we take up the discussion of five varieties of knowledge one by one.

Sensory knowledge (Mati Gyan)

This is the knowledge derived through the sense organs like eyes, ears etc. and the mind. It can be false or right depending on the truth of the perception and rightness of vision. There are four stages by which sensory knowledge or Mati Gyan is acquired:

1) Avgraha or apprehension-When the object comes in contact with the sense or mind and consciousness is stirred without exactness of the subjects.

2) Iha or speculation-Is the second stage when effort is made by the mind to determine the object specifically.

3) Apaya or Judgment-Is the cognition or knowledge of the true nature of the object.

4) Dharna or retention-Is retention of the knowledge acquired.

On the basis of this four-fold division and applying it to senses and mind and other criteria there are no less than 336 sub-divisions of sensory knowledge. It is also known as Smriti (remembrance) Sangya (recognition) chinta (induction) and abhinbodh (deduction) according to Tatvarth Sutra.

Study Knowledge (Srut Gyan)

Stands for verbal or scriptural knowledge and is derived from ‘sru’ which means ‘hear’ and Gyan which means knowledge. It is of two types e.g. anga knowledge and non-anga knowledge. Of the former there are twelve varieties linked with twelve anga like Acharanga etc. and the latter is of many varieties.

Study Knowledge is always preceded by sensory knowledge. Study knowledge is also called a collection of the best product of sensory knowledge when the latter becomes converted in words, which makes the distinction between sensory and study almost negligible. In Tatvarth Sutra it is stated that if sensory knowledge is milk study knowledge is milk product e.g. butter.

Remote Knowledge (Avadhi Gyan or Clairvoyance)

It is the determinate knowledge of remote physical objects derived directly without instrumentality of senses or mind. It is of two types (i) Bhav Pratyaya i.e. one owing to birth which is manifest in creatures of Narakas and Devas and (ii) Guna Pratyaya which is acquired by destroying karmas.

Mind Reading knowledge (Telepathy or Man Prayaya Gyan)

All living beings with mind or manas when engaged in thinking give different shapes to the mind according to objects thought of. The knowledge which can apprehend these shapes of other minds or thoughts of others is telepathy. If the general form of the thought is known it is called Rijumati and if particular features are apprehended it is called Vipulmati telepathy-the latter being purer than the former.

There are four points of distinction between remote (clairvoyance) and mind reading (telepathy) i.e.

1) the former is less pure than the latter

2) former extends to the entire universe, the latter has limited area of operation

3) former can be acquired by all classes of creatures, the latter can be acquired by some human beings and lastly

4) former can visualize substances and their numerous forms but the latter can visualize only the thoughts of mind.

Omniscience (Kewal Gyan)

This is unlimited knowledge of the whole of reality which the individual soul acquires directly. It extends to all substances and all their modes. It is described as perfect, complete, unique, absolute, pure, comprehensive and infinite. It is the logical conclusion of the theory of progressive removal of knowledge obstructing karmas from the soul completely. Thus when major karmas are completely destroyed the soul shines in full splendor and attains omniscience which perceives all substances with all their modes after which nothing remains unknown.

Much can be said about omniscience but only a few observations will be made. As soon as omniscience appears all other types of knowledge disappear much in the same way as stars of the sky disappear as soon as the sun starts shining. The reason for this is that while omniscience appears when there is total destruction of knowledge obstructing karmas the other four require only a partial destruction thereof.

Once omniscience appears the soul is all set for liberation. It is either Sayoga Kewali as a Tirthankar with only some minor karmas which sustain the body and they preach the truth or Ayoga Kewali which is the last stage on the path is followed by soul’s ascent to Nirvana to become siddha.

Thus omniscience is the culmination point of not only Jain epistemology but also of Jain ethics and Jain metaphysics. In Jainism all the sciences strive forward and meet in omniscience without any contradiction or confusion.

Soul can have at one, and the same time one, two, three or four kinds of knowledge. If one, it is perfect knowledge because having acquired this, nothing remains to be known. If two kinds, it is sense knowledge and study knowledge. If three, it is sense, study and remote knowledge or mind reading knowledge. If four, the soul acquires all types of knowledge except the perfect knowledge.

True to its approach Jainism divides each of these types of knowledge, into numerous divisions and sub-divisions. However, it may be reiterated that essentially all types of knowledge are manifestation of the powers inherent in the soul. These powers have become clouded or over shadowed by matter i.e. karma, due to the soul’s acts of omission and commission since time immemorial. To the extent to which the soul is able to shed the bondage of particular karma, to that extent the particular type of knowledge manifests itself in the soul. This explains why some people are less intelligent than others. Even in the same family -even out of twins- one may be an idiot and another may be a genius. Some people have superior powers of reading others minds and some can visualize things remote or happenings in the past or likely in the future. It is all a manifestation of the extent of bondage of karma accompanying the soul from life to life and world to world.

However, the pilgrim on the path of spiritual development should strive for expanding his knowledge in the light of Right Vision acquired. He should apply his mind and senses to acquaint himself with the true nature of things like soul, non-soul (matter), their interplay and make use of such knowledge for following the path of right conduct including Right Penance. Through right conduct or penance he should try to tear the bondage of karma and thereby gain the higher types of remote and mind reading knowledge and ultimately perfect knowledge after which nothing remains to be known or done. This brings us to the subject of Right Conduct.

Right Conduct-including Right Penance

(Samyag Charitra including Samyag Tap)

As stated above having acquired Right Vision and Right Knowledge the spiritual seeker must proceed on the path of Right Conduct by practicing what has been learnt through the former to achieve success in obtaining self-realization and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Just as a sick person, who has faith in his medicine as well as full knowledge thereof, will not be cured of the disease unless he takes the medicine according to the prescribed procedure, similarly, an individual possessing right vision and right knowledge shall not be successful in his efforts unless he necessarily practices Right Conduct.

Broadly speaking, Right Conduct implies a life of self discipline through self restraint as against life of self indulgence. It requires control over one’s desires (which is generally the message of all the religions), since human desires are insatiable. In other words leading a restrained and disciplined life by disciplining one’s mind, one’s speech and one’s body is the way of Right Conduct.

From another angle Right Conduct is related to the state of mind. If there is equanimity in adversity as well as prosperity, and if one is free from attachment (raga), infatuation (moha) and aversion (dvesh) or hatred (ghrina) all the conduct of such a person will be Right Conduct. It is here that Right vision and knowledge come into play. Vision gives confidence and knowledge clears the mind thus helping in attainment of equanimity, non-attachment and self-restraint.

At the same time positive steps have to be taken to move forward on the road of Right Conduct. These steps are in three groups i.e. practicing (i) non-violence (ii) self-restraint and (iii) penance. These require effort and practice, which has been made easy by prescribing precise rules of conduct in the form of vows (vratas). These lay down the doe’s and don’ts for the day to day life. These rules and vows are not only intelligible but simple, logical and practicable for all types of people. Ultimately the aim is to lead life in such a way that no fresh karma bondage occurs, the past karmas are separated from the soul and at the same time one can live comfortably.

Before proceeding further it may be reiterated that Right Conduct also includes, within its fold Right Penance (Samyag Tap) which is a very important part of Jain ethics and which some schools consider important enough to mention separately, thus declaring the path of liberation being four fold i.e., Right Faith; Right Knowledge; Right Conduct and Right Penance.

The interesting aspect of Right Conduct is that on this path there is a place for every one i.e. for a beginner called the path-follower (Marganusari) to the most advanced seeker-the saints. Further, this disciplined approach encompasses all the aspects of human life, social, personal, economic and of course, spiritual leading to integrated development of the individual.

Again, this high way is open to all irrespective of caste, creed or class, for Jains and non-Jains alike. It has been rightly remarked by the Missionary author Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson that “even Europeans and Americans, although they may never have heard of Jainism, if they follow though unconsciously, the rules and conduct, of necessity, destroy their Karma and so are sped to Moksha like an arrow from the bow.”

To begin with let us mention the rules of conduct prescribed for a beginner called the path follower (marganusari), which are thirty five in number, which form the path-way of Right Conduct for a beginner.

A path follower (Marganusari):

  1. Gains his livelihood by honesty.

  2. Admires excellence of conduct and follows it.

  3. Has marriage connection with equal and well behaved folk.

  4. Is afraid of committing sin.

  5. Follows the customs of the time and place.

  6. Does not talk ill of others.

  7. Lives in good locality in a secure residence.

  8. Keeps good company.

  9. Worships parents.

  10. Abandons in-secure place or place of evil reputation.

  11. Abjures evil deeds.

  12. Lives within means.

  13. Dresses according to status and custom.

  14. Develops intellect and learning.

  15. Listens to religious discourses daily.

  16. Eats at proper time.

  17. Avoids food when suffering from indigestion.

  18. Gains the three objects-Religion, wealth and pleasure without one interfering with another.

  19. Gives alms to saints and needy.

  20. Is free from obstinacy.

  21. Is partial to good qualities.

  22. Does not visit prohibited territory.

  23. Acts according to his capacity.

  24. Worships the wise

  25. Looks after his dependents.

  26. Is far sighted.

  27. Specializes in his field.

  28. Is grateful to the helpers.

  29. Is popular.

  30. Is modest.

  31. Is merciful.

  32. Has a serene disposition.

  33. Is benevolent.

  34. Fights six internal enemies-passion (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobh), pride (mana), exultation (harsha), envy (matsara).

  35. Controls the five senses.

As stated, this is a beginners approach and prepares one for further advancement. For further progress on the path one should adhere to five major vows or twelve minor vows (mahavrata or anuvrata) ,exercise three types of control (Gupti): observe five types of vigilance (Samiti), obey ten commandments (Dharma), and meditate on twelve subjects (Bhavna), mentioned in the previous chapter as means of prevention and separation of karma from soul. All these are different faces of the same coin or different parts of one whole i.e. Right Conduct.

There are, however, two broad divisions of the pilgrimage on this noble path depending upon the pilgrims capacity to persevere on the high way of right conduct wholly or partly. The first group is that of saints (male or female) and the second consists of laymen or laywomen, the four constituting the four centers of worship (tirthas) of Jain religion. This fourfold set up has been considered as an organizational miracle, each part supporting, guiding correcting and helping the other which has preserved the Jain religious institutions in almost their pristine glory as preached by lord Mahaveera. At the same time this arrangement permitted the individual followers to practice Right Conduct according to his or her capacity, saints and nuns going to full extent by renouncing the world and leading completely spiritual life but laymen and laywomen following the path to a limited extent according to his or her capacity. This brings us to the discussion of three methods and three medias which deals with the range of activity and consequent range of control of such activities.

Medias (Yoga) and Methods (karna)-All living beings are always engaged in some activity depending on their capacity (e.g. trees cannot speak). Such activity takes place through the mind which does the thinking, through speech by uttering sound or words, and through the body which performs the deeds. These are the three medias (yoga) of action viz., mind, speech and body (thoughts, words and deeds) which have to be controlled. Similarly, any person may do the act of thinking, speaking or performing himself, or get others to do so or approve such activity by others. These are the three methods (karna) by which any act is performed and these also require watch and regulation for self discipline.

To illustrate bodily activity one may take the case of a man committing violence with his own hand or asking some one else to do so by giving an indication like raising of hand, or approving of some violence being committed by indication like clapping. These are examples of bodily performance by oneself, by getting done through others and approval of such activity respectively. Similar illustrations can be given for activities of mind and speech.

For practicing Right Conduct the saints who have renounced worldly life abjure all types of sinful activity through the three medias (yoga) as well as three methods (karmas) for all times to come.

However, the laity can withdraw from sinful activity by renouncing such activity to a limited extent e.g. by abjuring violence through one media (say body) and one method (say activity by oneself). This can also be done for a limited time and one can progress in stages.

Though it may make this discussions a bit lengthy, it will be of interest to record the forty-nine combinations of these three methods and three medias, which in turn will show the wide range in which self control can be exercised. This will also show the detailed scrutiny of the subject which is a common feature of Jainism-also known as spiritual mathematics.

There can be seven combination of the three methods and three medias as given below-since we are talking of restricting activity the methods have been prefixed with “not”.





Not do

By mind


Not get done

By speech


Not approve

By body


Not do and not get done

By mind and speech


Not do and not approve

By mind and body


Not get done and not approve

By speech and body


Not do, not get done and not approve

By mind, speech and body

Each of the above seven methods when combined with each of the seven medias will give us forty-nine combinations as given in the statement below, to make which readily intelligible examples has been taken of abjuration of killing.






By Mind

By Speech

By Body

By Mind & Speech

By Mind & Body

By Speech & Body

By Mind, Speech & Body


Not kill

Not kill by mind

1 : 1

Not kill by speech

1 : 1

Not kill by body

1 : 1

Not kill by mind & speech 1 : 2

Not kill by mind & body 1:2

Not kill by speech & body 1 : 2

Not kill by mind, speech & body 1: 3 = 7


Not get killed

Not get killed by mind 1 : 1

Not get killed by speech 1 : 1

Not get killed by body 1 : 1

Not get killed by mind & speech 1 : 2

Not get killed by mind & body 1 : 2

Not get killed by speech & body 1 : 2

Not get killed by mind speech & body 1: 3 = 7


Not approve of killing

Not approve of killing by mind 1 : 1

Not approve of killing by speech 1 : 1

Not approve of killing by body 1 : 1

Not approve of killing by mind & speech 1 : 2

Not approve of killing by mind & body 1 : 2

Not approve of killing by speech & body 1 : 2

Not approve of killing by mind, speech & body 1:3 = 7


Not kill & not get killed

Not kill & not get killed by mind 2:1

Not kill & not get killed by speech 2:1

Not kill & not get killed by body 2 : 1

Not kill & not get killed by mind & speech 2 : 2

Not kill & not get killed by mind & body 2:2

Not kill & not get killed by speech & body 2 : 2

Not kill & not get killed by mind, body & speech 2:3 = 7


Not kill & not approve of killing

Not kill & not approve of killing by mind 2 : 1

Not kill & not approve of killing by speech 2 : 1

Not kill & not approve of killing by body 2:1

Not kill & not approve of killing by mind & speech 2:2

Not kill & not approve of killing by mind & body 2:2

Not kill & not approve of killing by speech & body 2:2

Not kill & not approve of killing by mind, speech & body 2:3 = 7


Not get killed & not approve of killing

Not get killed & not approve of killing by mind 2 : 1

Not get killed & not approve of killing by speech 2 : 1

Not get killed & not approve of killing by body 2:1

Not get killed & not approve of killing by mind & speech 2:2

Not get killed & not approve of killing by mind & body 2:2

Not get killed & not approve of killing by speech & body 2:2

Not get killed & not approve of killing by mind, speech & body 2:3 = 7


Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing

Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing by mind 3 : 1

Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing by speech 3 : 1

Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing by body 3 : 1

Not kill/ not get kill-ed & not approve of killing by mind & speech 3 : 2

Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing by mind & body 3 : 2

Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing by speech & body 3 : 2

Not kill not get killed & not approve of killing by mind, speech & body 3:3 = 7

The forty-nine combinations can also be classified according to the medias and methods which is usually done. There are:


combinations of one method and one media marked

1 : 1


combinations of one method and two medias marked

1 : 2


combinations of one method and three medias marked

1 : 3


combinations of two methods and one medias marked

2 : 1


combinations of two methods and two medias marked

2 : 2


combinations of two methods and three medias marked

2 : 3


combinations of three methods and one media marked

3 : 1


combinations of three methods and two medias marked

3 : 2


methods and three medias marked

3 : 3




The above should not be considered as idle jugglery but as an exhaustive analysis throwing light on the subject from all angles on the range of activities possible. Thereby it permits a judicious application of mind and energy to regulate one’s thoughts, words and deeds to practice self -restraint to steer clear of all sinful acts.

It must have been clear that the 49th combination of restrain on three-fold methods as well media is applicable to saints. Laity is free to select any of the 49 combinations, even beginning with one method and one media, for abjuring sins to proceed on the path of Right conduct.

It may be clarified that the 49 combinations are not mutually exclusive. for example the 49th combinations embraces all the 48 others. Similarly 1:1 combinations are covered automatically by 1:2 combinations and so on.

The analysis also shows the simple nature of the path of Right Conduct which has place for everyone a beginner, a follower of middle path and a perfectionist.

We now give below the important steps prescribed in the form of vows of the saints and the laity separately in a tabulated form:


Unqualified Right Conduct for

Qualified Right Conduct for


Saint (Angar Dharma)

Laity (Agar Dharma)


Obeys five major vows (Mahavrata)

Obeys five minor vows (Anurata)


Exercises three controls (Gupti)

Follows three types of qualitative vows (Gunvrata)


Exercises five types of vigilance (Samiti)

Follows four types of educational vows (Siksha Vrata)


Follow ten commandments (Dharma)


Common to both

    1. Practising twelve types of Penance (Tap)

    2. Twelve types of Reflection (Bhavna)

    3. discarding the body (Sallekhana)

The operative or the most important part of the above steps of Right Conduct is the five vows-major or minor, other steps being intended to reinforce one’s resolve, supplement one’s efforts and strengthen one’s steps on this pilgrimage.

The five vows are essentially the same for all, the distinction between minor vows and major vows depending upon the extent to which they are practiced which has been explained earlier. The five vows are refrainment from:

1) Violence (himsa),

2) Untruth (asatya),

3) Theft (chorya),

4) Unchastity (abrahama), and

5) Covetiveness (parigrah)

Jainism believes that these five are the channels of sin which are the source of all troubles in this world, and which also cause influx of karmas into the soul. The five vows are intended to plug these channels of sin.

Though the five vows explicitly prescribe refraining from five channels of sin, yet these also include within their scope positive aspects of virtuous activity and are not to be interpreted as inactivity only. Hence observance of vows can also be described as practicing of:

  1. Non-violence (ahimsa),

  2. Truthfulness (satya),

  3. Non-theft (achorya),

  4. Chastity (brahamacharya), and

  5. Non-covetiveness (aparigrah).

These are, however, two sides of the same vows and to fulfill the requirements of these vows one has not only to refrain from the evils but also positively engage in the virtuous activities. These will be clarified while elucidating each one of the five vows which is attempted in the subsequent paragraphs.

First vow-Refrainment from violence or practicing Non-violence (Ahimsa)

Violence has been described as causing injury to any living being due to non vigilant conduct. To undertake to refrain from the violence wholly and for all times or partly even for a limited period is to take the major vow or minor vow of non-violence respectively. On the positive side to help the needy, save the dying, charity, kindness to the deserving etc. are means to actively pursue the vow of non-violence.

Non-violence is the sheet anchor of Jainism. In its wide spectrum it includes all other vows i.e. truth, non-theft, chastity and non-attachment say, the entire Jain ethics. It is synonymous with Right Conduct. It is the main hallmark of Jainism to be discussed in the next chapter. Without non-violence Jainism is like a body without the soul. It is also the main contribution of Jainism to humanity and living beings. It is manifested in the entire Indian continent in the form of vegetarian habit of eating of millions of people of all castes and all creeds, Jains or non-Jains, who never taste or think of tasting flesh, fish or even eggs. It is wider in scope than the first commandment “Thou shall not kill” and it is extension of the golden rule to all living beings.

To pierce, to bind, to over-load, to cause pain and to starve are five faults (atichar) pertaining to the vow of non-violence and have to be guarded against by the laity.

Second vow of Refrainment from falsehood or practicing truthfulness (Satya vrata)

To deliberately or negligently transmit what is false or improper is untruthfulness. Refraining from such transmission is practicing vow of truthfulness which on the positive side also requires refraining from truth which may cause affliction to others. To wholly adopt this vow is the major vow. The distinction of the wholesale adoption of vow or partly practicing of the vow has been explained earlier in this chapter which will be applicable to all vows.

There are five transgressions (atichar) of this vow which are spreading false doctrine, back-biting, forgery, disclosing secrets and non-honoring the promises. These are to be avoided by the laity.

Third vow-Refrainment from theft also known as vow of non-stealing (Asteya vrata)

To intentionally take what has not been given has been defined as theft by Vachak Umaswati and to refrain from such action is the third vow. On the positive side, it will extend to avoid taking or giving to some one else the property not belonging to oneself or belonging to another, placed, dropped, forgotten or deposited with one.

There are five possible infringements of this vow which have to be guarded against by the laity (a) suggest methods of stealing (b) receiving stolen property (e) smuggling or evading law (d) adulteration and (e) use of false weights and measures. These also suggest the vast scope of the vow of non-stealing.

Fourth vow of Refraining from Incontinence or practicing chastity (Brahamcharya vrata)

Any act mental, verbal or physical impelled by sexual passion on the part of a couple or an individual is called incontinence. To refrain from the same in the fourth vow of chastity. The importance of this vow is obvious and it has been emphasized not only in Jainism but by all religions more or less. Adherence to this vow requires that saints observe it wholly and the laity (men or women) observe it partly by contenting with sexual relations with one’s spouse only.

The five faults peculiar to this vow are (a) sex out of wedlock; (b) unnatural sexual gratification; (c) lewd behaviour; (d) excessive passion for one’s spouse and (e) association with immoral persons. These have to be guarded against for proper observance of this vow by the laity.

Fifth vow of non-attachment to property (Aparigraha)

Non-attachment or non-attraction towards possessions is the real criteria behind the vow of non-attachment to property. Saints try to overcome all attachment or involvement with any type of property while the laity prescribe limits to their property of different types which they do not exceed under this vow.

Laity can limit their possessions in three ways (a) By providing limit at the level higher than what one possesses. This is inferior type of non-attachment. (b) By providing limit at a level what one actually possesses, this is medium type and (c) By fixing limit at a level lower than what one possesses, this is the best type.

The concept of major and minor vows of Jainism which are synonymous with right conduct has already been clarified. To recapitulate, in brief, five major vows prescribed for ascetics require complete renunciation of violence, untruth, theft, non-chastity and attachment to possessions or complete adherence to non-violence, truth, non-theft, chastity and non-attachment to possessions. By complete renunciation is implied abjuration of all the five sins for all times to come through three medias i.e. thought, word and action as also through three methods i.e. neither one should himself commit a sin, nor get others to do it, nor approbate when another does it, as detailed earlier.

So far as minor vows are concerned, the laity should refrain from five sins in any way out of forty-nine ways described earlier even for a limited duration of time. The vows can be even microscopic as indicated in the case of thirty-five qualities of a beginner. Jain vows once taken are sacrosanct and sanctity attached to them is well known. It may be recalled that the mother of Mahatma Gandhi, apostle of non-violence in modern times, persuaded her son before his departure to England to take a vow in front of Pujya Becharji, Jain saint, that he would abstain from flesh, wine and women.

To strengthen the process of abiding with the vows-major or minor-number of other steps are prescribed separately for the saints and laity.

So far as saints are concerned they have to exercise three types of control called gupties are mentioned below:

  1. Control over one’s mind (Mano gupti)

  2. Control over one’s speech (Vachan gupti)

  3. Control over one’s body (Kaya gupti)

Saints should also exercise five types of vigilance (Samities) as under:

  1. Vigilance in walking Saints should look ahead, for 10½ ft. before proceeding further (Irya samiti).

  2. Vigilance in talking (bhasa samiti)-A saint should speak relevantly and in accordance with the scriptures.

  3. Vigilance in eating (esna samiti)-A saint should take pure food which is permitted by rules.

  4. Vigilance in handling equipment (adan bhand samiti)-A saint should handle the items permitted like bowl or brush carefully.

  5. Vigilance in evacuation (vyutsarg samiti)-A saint should carefully dispose of human excreta and other things which he does not require.

Saints should also follow the ten pious duties (dharma) mentioned below:

  1. Highest forgiveness (uttam kshama)

  2. Humility (mardava)

  3. Straightforwardness (arjava)

  4. Truth (satya)

  5. Purity (souch)

  6. Self-control (sanyam)

  7. Penance (tap)

  8. Renunciation (tyag)

  9. Non-attachment (akinchanya)

  10. Chastity (brahamcharya)

Coming to the additional requirements prescribed for laity besides the minor vows we find that there are seven more vows-three known as qualitative vows (gun vratas) and four known as educational vows (shiksha vrata) briefly mentioned in the succeeding paragraphs.

Qualitative vows (Gun Vrata)

  1. Direction limiting vow (dig vrata)-Under this vow a layman sets the boundaries in ten directions beyond which he or she will not travel.

  2. Usage limiting Vow-(upbhog pariman vrata)-Under this a layman prescribed limits of items that he or she will use.

  3. Unnecessary evils limiting Vow (anartha dand vrata)-This vow prescribes restriction on purposeless activity by thought, word or deed.

Educational Vows (Shiksha Vrata)

  1. Samayak Vrata-This requires refrainment from all un-virtuous acts whatsoever and engagement in meditation, prayer, reading scriptures etc. for a limited period of time not less than forty-eight minutes.

  2. Deshavakasik Vrata-To contract boundaries of one’s movement further the layman prescribes limits beyond which he will not travel during the course of one day or during any prescribed period of time.

  3. Paushad Vrata-This vow brings a layman very near the saints. Under this he undertakes to go without food and or even without drink for twenty-four hours forgoing all other activities except spiritual pursuits.

  4. Atithi Sambhag Vrata-According to this vow a layman shall provide food, drink, cloth, medicines, accommodation etc. to the saints.

These seven vows together with the five minor vows make twelve vows for the laity who are known as Sravakas. These are intended to enable leading a peaceful, and disciplined life as already explained. These are practicable and with their practice the householder can proceed on the path of Right Conduct.

Common duties for saints and laity

Then we come to some duties commonly prescribed for the saints as well as laity. Here again there is a difference of degree depending upon the capacity as well as level of the individual proceeding on the path. The foremost amongst these is Right Penance which is as important as Right Knowledge, Right Vision and Right Conduct to justify separate place along with three jewels. However, as already mentioned we have included this as a part of Right Conduct.

Right Penance

Right Penance is of twelve types as mentioned in the previous chapter. As mentioned earlier to become Right Penance it should be combined with Right Vision and Right Knowledge. Twelve types of Right Penance are only named below again. However, these will defined in detail in the next chapter.

External Penance (Bahiya Tap)

  1. Fasting (anshan)

  2. Reduced consumption (of food etc.)(unodari)

  3. Begging for living (bhikshachari)

  4. Tastelessness (ras parityag)

  5. Tolerance of body pain (kaya klesh)

  6. Withdrawal from external pursuits (Sallinata)

Internal Penance (Abhiyantra Tap)

  1. Repentance (prayschita)

  2. Humility (vinaya)

  3. Service (vaiya vritya)

  4. Study (swadhyay)

  5. Meditation (dhyan)

  6. Renunciation (viyuut-sarga)

Right Contemplation-Twelve Reflections-Just like right penance Right Contemplation is also the duty prescribed for the saints and laity to control the mind or thoughts on the one hand and to direct them into the right channel on the other. Twelve subjects have, therefore, been prescribed for reflection (bhavna) which uplift the soul to take its ship to the shore beyond misery, which are as under:

  1. Reflection of Transitoriness (Anitya Bhavna)-This means that worldly existence is not permanent.

  2. Reflection of helplessness (Asaran Bhavna)-This implies that except true religion there is no shelter, help or protection for soul.

  3. Reflection of world cycle (Sansar Bhavna)-This requires reflection on the cycle of birth and death the soul is undergoing since times immemorial.

  4. Reflection of singleness (Ektva Bhavna)-This means that the soul is to find its way all alone. Nothing accompanies it.

  5. Reflection of separateness (Anyatva Bhavna)-This means that the soul is separate from body.

  6. Reflection of Uncleanness (Asuchi Bhavna)-Human body is nothing to be proud of. It is always dirty inspite of all efforts to clean it. It is full of blood, bones and prone to sickness.

  7. Reflection of Influx (Asrava Bhavna)-This is third fundamentals discussed in the previous chapter involving entry of karma into the soul.

  8. Reflection of prevention (Sanvar Bhavna)-This is fifth fundamental discussed earlier.

  9. Reflection of Separation (Nirjara)-This is the sixth fundamental discussed in the previous chapter.

  10. Reflection of Universe (Lok Bhavna)-To contemplate upon the nature of the Universe with its different constituents as discussed in Chapter One.

  11. Reflection of difficulty in Right Path (Bodhi Durlabh Bhavna)-This requires one to reflect on the difficulty with which one acquires Right Knowledge, Right Vision and Right Conduct.

  12. Reflection of Right Path (Dharm Bhavna)-To reflect on the true nature of religion of nonviolence, self-control and penance.

Discarding the body (Sallekhana or Samadhi death)-Lastly, Jain religion prescribed that the saints or laity should meet death boldly and bravely. Indeed, considerable importance is attached to the way one dies and it has been prescribed that having led the life of Right Conduct, a true follower should welcome death. This is done through observance of Sallekhana or vow of Samadhi death, and this is something distinctive about Jain way of dying.

When the body is no longer able to perform its duties, when death is imminent and certain due to inescapable calamity or disease, to relinquish the body willingly is Samadhi death or Sallekhana vow. This is to be distinguished from suicide which is done out of despair and fear of life and leads to fruitless death (akam maran) leading to further bondage of the soul. Sallekhana is to be practiced with complete composure without attachment or aversion, with pure mind, renouncing all sins and asking and giving forgiveness to all. Such death is called fruitful death (Sakam maran) and reduces the bondage of soul.

Even today, 2500 years after Lord Mahaveera, Sallekhana is practiced by number of saints and laymen and it is the heartfelt desire of every true Jain to welcome death in this manner by discarding the body as one throws away old clothes. The latest example well known is that of Saint Vinoba Bhave who gave up the body in this manner.

Prohibition on eating after sunset-This chapter cannot be closed without a mention of prohibition on eating after sunset which though not found in the original vows, has been given importance equal to other vows, to be known as Refrainment from eating after sunset (Ratri Bhojan Virman Vrata). Advantages of eating during day light hours only are so obvious, even for physical well being, that even today numberless people, Jains or otherwise, adhere to this practice.

To the seekers, whom Right Conduct may appear too elaborate, complicated, impracticable or difficult Lord Mahaveera has given the famous answer mentioned in the Dashve Kalik Sutra. Since the whole universe is full of life and living beings, a question was raised how one should walk, sit, stand or lie down and how one should eat and talk so that one may avoid getting involved in violence and consequent karma. The answer is contained in just one word that one should eat and sleep and stand with Jayna which means vigilance, circumspection, prudence and care all taken together. Thus if one were to act with Jayna even one may get involved in violence one shall not acquire karma bondage.

Thus we conclude this discussion on Right Knowledge, Right Vision and Right Conduct. All the three together form the Jain code of conduct. The relationship between the three jewels is one of complementariness. They are incomplete and ineffective individually as a means of salvation but form the three parts of one whole. It has rightly been remarked that without vision, knowledge and conduct are sterile, without knowledge, vision and conduct are blind and without conduct, vision and knowledge are lame.

On the other hand the three are inseparable. Steadfast Right Vision results in Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, similarly true illumination of Right Knowledge brings Right Vision and Right Conduct, and strict observance of Right Conduct ensures Right Vision and Right Knowledge sooner or later.

True vision results in equanimity of the mind and detachment from the world. It frees the soul from infatuation (raga) and aversion (dhvesh) which bind the soul with karma. Consequently every action of the faithful is free from the taint of karma. Similarly true knowledge imparts to one a clarity of vision which shows all his actions in their true light. He is, therefore, full of self-restraint, vigilant, prudent and circumspect which again keep the karma away.

The distinctive aspect of this approach is its essential simplicity and logic. It combines interests of the individual with those of the society. Indeed it has been mentioned that incidence of criminality in Jain community is comparatively less as compared to others. At the same time following this path does not in any way obstruct the development of the individual in worldly affairs. Actually, Jains have not lagged behind in the field of education, business, politics, professions etc.

Lastly, the Three Jewels show complete unity of approach between Jain metaphysics and Jain ethics. There is no conflict or contradiction between the two.

The chapter has become rather long, though a number of aspects have been touched upon only in passing in a very brief manner and some items have been left out. However, if the reader is interested to learn more about this subject volumes and volumes of “inexhaustible stock of Jain literature” is available on the subject. It can only be assured that any effort to further probe this subject will be amply rewarded. If such interest is aroused in the readers, the present writers will also feel amply rewarded and grateful, the whole aim and object of the present effort being to create interest in this magnificent subject and its study.