Acara of the House holders

Acara of the House holders

The austere life of a monk is indeed extremely difficult and rare souls dare to observe it.  It is practically not possible for laymen to adopt this path.  Thus, for the benefit of laymen, another easy path is shown and it is known as Sravakadharma-duties of householder.  The common man is expected to observe certain vows and disciplines and to gradually train himself for the ardous path of asceticism.  Reaching perfection in the Householder dharma is considered as a gate-way to non-attachment (vairagya) and complete renunciation.

Prasamarati is primarily addressed to the life of a monk.  The acara of the householders occupies a subordinate position to that of a monk.  It devotes only seven verses (Pr.  302-8) to describe the duties of the householder.  Here Umasvati does not give exhaustive details about these rules which are already explained in Tattavarthasutra and Svopajnabhasya.  He just enlists, these rules in this work.  But its important contribution to householder duties is that it promises laymen to attain Svarga (heaven) as a reward of their good conduct, and also promises that the laymen reaching perfection in practice of these householders duties, becoming completely detached from wordly attachment attain moksa or Siddhapada within eight births (Pr. 308).

The rules prescribed for householder are divided into twelve vratas (vows) viz. panca anuvratas (five small vows).  Three are gunavratas (virtuous vows), four siksa vratas (disciplinary vows).  The householder has certain family and social responsibility.  So he cannot observe the great vows (mahavratas) in an absolute manner like an ascetic.  In this case, the great vows are prescribed with limitations and qualifications.  Householders are expected to observe five small vows (anuvratas) partial observance of the five moral principles of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and limited non-acquisition.  He should not voluntarily injure any beings, tell lies, steal others property; he should restrict his sexual desire to his married wife and may not gratify his lust with other women and may not coveting for others property and putting a limit to ones own possessions.  In addition to these main vows, there are certain supplementary vows known as gunavratas, which discipline the external movements and increase virtues and the siksa vratas, which emphasize on internal purity and are preparatory to the discipline of an ascetic life.  These supplementary vows are collectively known as Sralvratas (vows of conduct).  Gunavratas are three in number, viz., Digvrata, desavakasikavrata and anarthadancaviramana.  Digvrata, consists in fixing the limits of ones own movements in the ten directions.  The householder has to put restriction on his movements, wordly activities to fixed points in order to avoid, violence to the maximum extent.  Desavakasikavrata is limiting ones own movements to the region determined by certain villages and as renouncing the rest of the places.  It is meant to minimise ones own greed and to limit wordly activities for a fixed period only.  Anarthadanda viramana consists in taking vow not to commit purposeless sin, such as, thinking ill of others, preaching evil of thers, uselessly breaking the boughs of trees, supplying weapons to attack, reading and listening to improper literature and so on.  Siksavratas are divided into four viz., samayika, posadha, upabhogaparimanya and atithisamvibhaga (or Dana).  Samayika consists in spending a certain amount of time in a day in sitting at a particular place, reading Scriptures, praying and self meditation.  Pausadha vow is prescribed to have control over food.  The householder has to perform fast on certain days to purify his soul.  While on fasting he has to study scriptures, meditate on their meanings, worship Jinas and sadhus.  He has to observe strict celibacy on these days.  Upabhogaparimanyavrata means putting limitations to the use of objects of wordly enjoyment, such as food, drink, ornaments, bed, seat, perfume and so on.  Dana-vrata or atithisamvibhgavrata consists in sharing ones own possession with others.  The householder is expected to earn his livelihood in a just way and share it with holy monks a pious householder.  It also includes serving of the Sadhus, sick and needy people.

In addition to these main rules the householder is expected to practice many rules such as offering salutation to the Jinas, guras and monks; establishment of Jina Temples and daily worship of Jinas.

These major and minor vows should be observed regularly by the householder.  In addition to the abovementioned twelve vows, there is another very important vow which is to be observed by the householder either in special circumstances, i.e., when the householder is not able to observe religious vows on account of unavoidable bodily infirmities and the like or on the occasion when the time of natural death has been known in all probability.  That is known as Samlekhanavrata in which step by step everything is renounced by abandoning food, fear, dissatisfaction and sorrows etc.  and give up the body.  It is a kind of invitation to voluntary spiritual death.  It should be practiced mentally, vocally and physically.  Practicing all these vows, the householder obtains heaven after death and perfection of these householder obtains heaven after death and perfection of these householders duties make them perfectly pure and lead them to liberation within eight births.