To achieve Moksha we need the right knowledge, right faith, and right
conduct known as three jewels of Jainism. Regarding right conduct, we
must achieve control over our inner desires and reach a stage where
there is no attachment or hatred. It is not as easy as it sounds, for
we will have to form new habits and discard old habits. In order to
change our habits, we take vows which help us to restrict what we do
and eventually live naturally restrained. Although different people
take different vows and despite the outer differences in the observance
of these vows, the goal of all is to attain right conduct. As we find
in the scriptures, there are different vows for monks and nuns, and for
male and female house holders.
When one makes a resolution to restrain willfully from something with
full understanding and faith then that resolution becomes a vow. The
scriptures have divided these vows into two main groups:
1) Maha Vrats (Major Vows or Absolute Vows)
2) Anu Vrats (Minor Vows or Relative Vows)
1) Maha Vrats
In these vows, non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and
non-possessiveness are observed mentally, verbally, and physically in
total. Each of these three aspects are further observed in three ways:
not committing yourself, not asking anyone else to do so, and not
encouraging anyone else to do so. Those who wish to observe these vows
renounce their worldly lives and become known as sadhus (monks) and
sadhvis (nuns) or Anagari.
2) Anu Vrats
It is difficult for house holders to fully practice the above vows, and
so, the vows that house holders take have some limitations and are
called minor vows. These vows are not as stringent as Maha vrats and
people who that take these vows are called shravaks, shravikas, or
1) Savvao Panaivayao Virman Vrat (Absolute Non-Violence Vow)
In this vow, non-violence is observed mentally, verbally, and physically
in total including for daily needs.
2) Savvao Musavayao Virman Vrat (Absolute Truthfulness Vow)
In this vow, lying is given up mentally, verbally, and physically in
total. Only the truth is spoken.
3) Savvao Aadinnadanao Virman Vrat (Absolute Non-Stealing Vow
In this vow, stealing is given up mentally, verbally, and physically in
total. Nothing is taken unless it is offered by the owner, and meets
the restrictions of the monkshood life.
4) Savvao Mehunao Virman Vrat (Absolute Celibacy Vow)
Celibacy is observed mentally, verbally, and physically in total. Upon
taking this vow, one can not even touch or think about a member of the
5) Savvao Pariggrahao Virman Vrat (Absolute Non-Possessiveness Vow)
Greed and material possessions are given up mentally, verbally, and
physically in total. Only items which are needed on a daily basis are
1) Sthool Panaivayao Virman Vrat (Limited Non-Violence Vow)
Being a house holder, you must carry out house hold and community
activities. Thus, it is not possible to totally avoid violence,
especially against one sensed living beings. However, you should take
the utmost care to observe non-violence.
2) Sthool Musavayao Virman Vrat (Limited Truthfulness Vow)
You should take the utmost care in not telling lies. Another words you
should only speak the truth.
3) Sthool Aadinnadanao Virman Vrat (Limited Non-Stealing Vow)
You should take the utmost care not to steal or borrow the belongings of
others without their permission.
4) Sthool Mehunao Virman Vrat (Limited Celibacy Vow)
You should be satisfied with your spouse only and should avoid sexual
contact with others.
5) Sthool Pariggahao Virman Vrat (Limited Non-Possessiveness Vow)
Your earning for material possessions, and greed for collection should
be as limited as possible.
GUNA VRATS (Supporting Vows)
The following vows support the above five vows so that they can be
carried out more effectively.
6) Disha Pariman Vrat (Geographic Limitation Vow)
Since it is necessary to move only so much to satisfy your needs, you
should limit your desire to perform activities within a needed radius
of area. Therefore, you should set limits within the scope of travel
or business, etc.
7) Bhogopbhog Virman (Consumption and Occupation Limitation Vow)
You should set limits on the consumption of various items, despite
whether they are used once or repeatedly, to avoid incoming sins. Also,
you should limit yourself to the kind of occupation you select because
some occupations have more exposure to sins than others.
8) Anartha Dand Virati Vrat (Purposeless Violence Limitation Vow)
We sometimes carry out activities for fun or to tease our friends and
foes. However, we should realize that all such activities attract
karmas. This vow reminds us not to build unnecessary karma.
SHIKSHA VRAT (Training Vows)
The above eight vows tell us how we can limit our actions in order to
reduce the inflow of karma. The next four vows train us to stop karma
from coming in, and to get rid of existing karmas.
9) Samayik Vrat (Self-control and Equanimity Vow)
Since we live a social life, it may not be possible to spend much time
in shedding karmas, but we should spend at least forty-eight minutes a
day in such efforts. During these forty-eight minutes, we give up all
familial, social, economical, and cultural responsibilities, and we
control ourselves mentally, verbally, and physically. During this time
we should concentrate on religious readings or meditation, which will
help prevent new karma from coming in as well as help get rid of our
old karma. This 48 minutes will also give us a glimpse as to how easy
or difficult it may be to control ourselves. Once we become accustomed
to doing this, we may extend the self-control time to a period of more
than 48 minutes.
10) Dishavakashik Vrat (Day to Day Additional Limitation Vow)
At the time of waking up, we take this vow in order to put definite
limits on our activities for that day, and thus, limit our exposure to
accumulating karma. In this way we learn to live a more controlled
11) Poshadh Vrat (Monkshood Exposure Vow)
This vow teaches us how to live like a monk, or a nun, for a day. By
taking this vow, we give up all our household, social, economical, and
cultural responsibilities for a day. We should practice this vow as
often as possible. By practicing this vow, the inflow of new karma is
slowed down, and existing karmas are eradicated. If this vow is easy to
observe it may eventually lead to monkshood.
12) Atithi Savinbhag Vrat (Selfless Offerings to Unexpected Guests Vow)
This vow teaches us to share. Sharing is more worthwhile when an
unexpected, needy person comes to your door and you offer with an open
heart. Monks and nuns are the best receptors for this type of sharing.
However, while giving, you should not have any regrets or expectations
in your mind. By sharing, you are developing a sense of detachment
with the feeling that nothing is mine. Observing this vow will lead to
liberation from worldly life.
Our thoughts while taking these vows are also very important. They
should be positive and meant to destroy karmas.
There are three common obstacles to our vows:
1) Maya (Deception)
2) Niyanu (Expectations)
3) Mithyatva (Wrong Beliefs)
1) Maya (Deception)
When you take a vow, it should be for the betterment of your soul.
Vows should not be taken to show-off or receive praise. Also, they
should not to be taken to deceive or they will produce inferior
2) Niyanu (Expectations)
Many of us take vows in order to gain something materialistic in return.
Such is not good because not only do we use up what we achieve, but we
lose the main purpose of performing vows, to destroy karmas.
Mithyatva (Wrong Beliefs)
3) This occurs when one, without belief in liberation, takes the vow
that the ultimate pleasure of the body is the prime purpose in this
life. We should not forget that austerities are performed to liberate
the wandering soul from worldly engrossment. We must understand the
value of the vows mentally, verbally, as well as physically, or they
will not bear the proper results.
If you can live with these ethics, then, you will eventually be living
with right conduct.
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