Jaina path of Purification

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • September 2003

Jaina Code of Conduct   

For Monks - the code of conduct (COC) forbids the monks to use vehicles (railways, aeroplanes & cars etc). They are commanded to move from place to place on foot (Vedic works like Mahabharata, Manusmriti etc contain this very command for ascetics) and to drink boiled water (since monks move from place to place on foot, so it is inevitable for them to drink different waters of different places. Therefore, the rule that they should drink boiled water is good for their health). They are prohibited to ignite fire and to warm themselves with it (Manusmriti VI. 83) and to cook food with its help. There is a command for them to beg cooked food from house to house and to live on it. (Atrismrti). Scriptures do not permit householders to prepare food specially for monks. The purpose behind formulating these rules is certainly that the community of monks may not be a burden on society as also that the monks may not get attached to delicacies.

The religious practice of the monks demand that he should not have possessions, he should live in self-imposed poverty. His vessels should be non-metallic and free from holes. Manu has declared that the vessels of the ascetic should be a gourd, a vessel of wood or of earthenware or of splits. In the rainy season the monk should stay at one place. He should not even touch women.

The Sanskrit term sadhu is employed to convey the sense of a monk. It means a person who has truly renounced the world. It means a spiritually brilliant & pure person in whom there is a good union of right knowledge & wholesome conduct. Not yielding to attachment he is satisfied with whatever necessities of life he obtains easily without incurring any defilement. His spiritual discipline of equanimity, quiescence & austerity is of advanced stage. His every act is guided by the light of right knowledge. Renunciation of this type is the result of the mental state of real non-attachment.

External ascetic dress reminds the monk to live a life in accordance with the path of renunciation willingly accepted by him. If we have blind faith in the external dress, we might be cheated. So also if we do not care to know his life and go by his dress alone we might be dishonoring a real saint.

Layman’s Conduct - The first good quality he should cultivate is that of honesty. He should be honest, straightforward and just in his dealings with others. At this juncture it is necessary to discuss some specific points about his conduct –

1. About Non-Violence: We cannot but do harm & violence to living beings for the sustenance of our body. We cannot live without killing living beings. Even our breathing involves violence. But we must do only that much harm or violence which is necessary for the sustenance of our body. We must keep violence to the bare minimum.

As far as possible one must save the developed beings & kill the undeveloped ones, if it is inevitable to kill living beings for the sustenance of one’s body. Again killing of the undeveloped livings beings should be kept to the minimum is the teaching promulgated by the saints.

Is it bravery to yield to the passion of anger and to enter into fight with one’s adversary? Bravery consists in non-violence, i.e. restraining mind from being under the sway off anger, it consists in keeping the mind cool & calm by using the internal wholesome strength of discretion. Non-violence is a spiritual power. Heroism demands self-sacrifice. To sacrifice one’s self-interest & life while resisting violence & supporting & fostering non-violence is the bravery of the high order. To oppose violence only verbally & to run away out of fear when one is required to face & endure physical sufferings is really not the practice of non-violence. Inspite of his having the courage & strength to fight, the person who controls his passion & excitement on the passion rousing & does not yield to violence is the true practicer of non-violence.

Coward & weak men’s claim to the practice of non-violence is wrong. It is because they lack the courage to oppose the violent person that they keep quiet but within their weak minds are burning with feelings of violence, rage, wrath & fury. The weak mind of a weak person gets easily overcome by the feeling of violence even at the slightest cause. One who wants to practice non-violence properly should have right understanding, mental strength, courage, and bodily strength also. Bodily strength is needed to keep the wicked away and protecting people.

It is the ksatriyas (members of warrior class) who have taught non-violence and those who follow their teachings are the brave men of heroic character. It is this heroic character that attains wordly or spiritual wealth. The saying ‘the Earth is ruled & enjoyed by the brave’ may or may not be suitable to the ideology the present age, but that the practice of non-violence can be undertaken by the strong is the universal truth never contradicted in all the three divisions of time. It is only the brave endowed with the power of discrimination & discretion, who can practice non-violence. This is possibly the reason why all the Tirthankaras belong to the ksatriya class and they do have the heroic character of the highest order.

What is Violence? One commits violence by not contributing to the efforts of stopping violence or by simply remaining indifferent to violence. If one who knows swimming does not rescue a drowning man & simply watches him drown it is violence. Not giving food to the hungry inspite of being rich enough to do so is violence. To remain indifferent to other’s happiness, comforts, and benefits for the sake of one’s own is also a case of violence.

2. About Truth - To describe a thing as it is or an event as it happened it generally regarded as truth. However, if the factual truth is beneficial or atleast not harmful to others, it is worthy of being called the truth. Let me explain, we know the direction a deer has gone in. But when a hunter asks us the direction a deer has gone in by speaking the truth we are endangering the deer’s life so in such a situation being silent or giving wrong direction is our duty & dharma. If the factual truth is harmful to others, it should not be regarded as truth. (The etymology of the term ‘satya’ is sadbhyo hitam satyam’ – ie, that which is beneficial to living beings is the truth).

It is necessary to be cautious & to use one’s power of discrimination & discretion to decide as to whether or not one should make a statement of fact. Further out of hatred & with a view to hurting him if we call the blind a blind one, we incur the defect of untruth. To speak what is factually true but what causes distress to another person is a case of speaking untruth.

3. About Non-Theft - A man who steals himself or finds someone stealing things of another person & does not draw attention of the owner incurs the sin of theft. Employing unfair means in business, owning another man’s property by fraudulent tricks etc, harassing others unnecessarily, distressing the innocent – all these are vicious & sinful acts. When society achieves moral elevation through the cultivation of good qualities like contendness in proper limited possession, self-control, simple living & universal brotherhood, then the sins of immorality, theft etc which have spread over the entire society will automatically disappear.

4. Vicious Professions - Gambling or speculation is neither an honest business nor a profession requiring labor. It fosters idleness & dishonesty. The question is, if one gives donations for religious purposes from the wealth accumulated in this dishonest and unjust manner, can that wash off the sins the donor has incurred by causing distress & sufferings to so many persons? That can, provided the donor gives away all his wealth in donation for the philanthropic activities with the firm resolve of renouncing the vicious profession forever.

5. About Vowing of Limiting one’s Possessions - the practice of this vow is possible only when one limits one’s desire for possessions or one control’s one’s greed. The vow is so reached so that its practice may weaken the attacks of greed, raise the standard of morality and prompt the rich to spend their excess wealth for the good of society. Sharing of excess wealth can resist the feeling of hostility directed against them by the unemployed & the poor. The object of this vow is to limit one’s possessions, cultivate the good quality of contentedness & remove the disparity found among the members of society. The vow should not be used as a means of increasing one’s possessions or allowing one’s desire for wealth to be inordinate & endless.

6. About the Vow of Limiting Quantity of Things We use - this vow concerns the limiting of things we use once or repeatedly or following professions which produce those things. Not only that one should not follow or urge others to follow profession wherein violence on a large scale is possibly involved (e.g. manufacturing cloth with the use of machines in mills) but also that one should not use things produced through them, if one wants to remain undefiled by the defect of large scale violence. Acarya Hemachandra declares that one who kills an animal is no doubt its killer, but those who give permission to kill it and those who sell, buy, cook, serve or eat its meat are also killers.

If I want to wear clothes manufactured in mills, to enjoy things of leather which is obtained after killing animals, to use clothes made of silk which is produced after having killed the four-sensed silk worms etc, then for me there is no way out but to register in that large scale violence.

The essence of this vow: the vow of limiting the quantity of things one uses consists in renouncing the professions in which large scale violence is involved, scrupulously avoiding food, drink, clothes, ornaments, utensils whose production involves large scale violence & limiting the quantity, for one’s use, of even those things whose production involves very little violence.

7. Purposeless Evil Activity of the form of Evil Brooding - the Jaina thinkers have recognized two types of evil brooding or inauspicious concentration i.e. one pertaining to pains (arta) & the other pertaining to terribly harmful ideas (raudra). The latter is a constant reflection related to violence, untruthfulness, theft, protection of an acquisition. It includes brooding over the enjoyment of the forbidden sexual & other worldly pleasures.

8. Purposeless evil activity due to negligence (pramada) - an individual & society meet their necessities by using things whose production involves large scale violence, then they do incur the defect of purposeless evil activity due to negligence.

9. Purposeless evil inactivity due to idleness (pramada) - though one has strength, skill & time to do one’s work for one’s own comforts, yet if one throws the burden of one’s own personal works & comforts on others and remains idle for oneself, then one is defiled by purposeless evil inactivity due to idleness.

10. Purpose of Samayika  - the purpose of samayika is the cultivation of equal goodwill (sympathy), equality and tranquility.

 a) Equal goodwill (sympathy) – towards all religions, races & castes, a man & a
 b) Equality & evenness (samata) to regard all living beings equal with one’s self,
                to maintain evenness (equanimity) of mind on all occasions, favorable &
 c) Tranquillity (sama) to suppress & weaken passions.

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