FIVE VOWS OF JAIN RELIGION
The values of Jain religion are based on five vows viz.- non-violence, devotion to truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession. The entire life style of the Jain Shravak and the Jain Sadhu emanates from these vows and the foremost are non-violence and truthfulness. Ahimsa, non-violence, has been the sheet-anchor of Jainism. Ahimsa is one of the basic virtues. No where else in the other religious traditions has this basic virtue been so scientifically, scrupulously and thoroughly integrated with the main doctrine. Another great vow is the vow of non-stealing. Man should abandon all kinds of stealing. We should not take anything that is not given to us. Nor should we help anyone take what is not given to him.
The fourth great vow is that of celibacy. Bhagwan Mahavir added this great vow to the four of Parshvanath's and estabished its distinct importance. He said that all physical and mental miseries of the world are caused by the thirst for sensual pleasures. For all sensual pleasures are ultimately harmful. The fifth great vow is of non-possession. Possession is the source of evil. Possession is not only the acquisition or accumulation of things but also temptation for and attachment to things. No wonder C. Rajgopalachari wrote, "Restraint is the mark of Indian Culture." This sense of possession is the source of all the five evils viz. violence, untruthfulness, stealing, sensual pleasure and attachment. Today we see that the chief cause of the boundless miseries of the present world is man's uncontrolled tendency to possess. Man believes that possession brings happiness. But in fact possession is thecause of miseries and bondage. Possession enslaves man to external things. As the bee sucks honey from the flower without destroying it, so the welfare seeking man should do the least possible harm to another in his worldy life. Thus, expounding the five great vows Bhagwan Mahavir says, "As the wind blows across flaming fire, so ideal people observing these vows will pass through the Samsara (transmigratory existence) and attain eternal joy." Lord Mahavir has said that wants and desires have no end and only the sky is the limit for them.
Jaina ascetics lead a life of purity, celebacy, simplicity, selfless service and perfect austerity. They have nothing to claim of their own and all the living beings are their friends par excellence. One vow of spiritual discipline (shikshavrata) that the householder takes is that of hospitality to the monks (Atithi-Samvibhaga-Vrata). This involves the supply of food, books, medicine, etc. Acharya Samantabhadra calls the vow of hospitality physical service (Vaiyavratya). It makes the householder the parent of the monk. Monks who are sick, aged, and helpless are thus taken care of in their time of need. The ideal of such physical service was practised particularly in the area of medical help (Aushadhi Dana) and created a communal sense of security (Abhaya Dana).
Women have been accorded equal status in the Jain religion. In fact, there were more women in the order of Lord Mahavir than men. The scriptures record many tributes to exceptional women. The care of women, especially in critical situations, is given a higher priority than that of men. Mothers of the Tirthankaras are given special honourthrough communal worship. Legends abound in which women of high spiritual merit such as Brahmi, Sundari, Mallikumari, and Rajimati have come to the aid of men. Women have been recognized for their exceptional contributions in the field of education, culture and religion.
Jainism permits no distinction between religion (Dharma) and morality because both are concerned with the well-being of the individual in the world. The practice of Dharma enables them to achieve this end. In the words of the well-known Acharya Samantabhadra, "Religion is something which takes the living beings out of the worldly misery and establishes them in the highest bliss." This interconnection between religion and morality imparts to Jainism its distinctive feature.
Aparigraha has an economic aspect according to which one should set a limit to one's own needs, it is also enjoined that whatever surplus one may accumulate beyond these needs should be disposed of through charities. Aparigraha is the only means whereby the growing gulf between the rich and the poor can be peacefully bridged and a fair distribution of wealth achieved. Therefore, business dealings must be conducted in the non-acquisitive spirit of Aparigraha.
Jainism's ancient advocacy of vegetarianism is receiving global attention today due to severe food shortages in certain parts of the world and to the researches of the scientific community. Vegetarianism is the only viable answer to world hunger. It is now a fairly well established fact that whatever is necessary or desirable for human nutrition in meats or flesh foods equally well found in and at times actually derived from vegetable products. Thus Jaina ethics train good, dutiful and morally conscious citizens who can help in maintaining world peace. Jainism asks us to subdue our passions and always act with mindfulness and caution. The neglect of these ethical rules results in individual and national crimes. By stressing the importance of pure, simple and honest life for the house-holders Jainism paves the way for the world peace.
The life style of the Jain Shravak is also remarkable. When the Kings were given to amorous pastime, drinking and gambling, it is noteworthy that the Jain community could remained aloof from all these vices. It was because of their strong will power, moral devotion and honesty that Jain Shravaks were appointed as Ministers by the Kings. Honesty is characteristic trait of the Jain Shravak heritage. Temperamentally the Jainas are averse to vices. The ancient Acharyas themselves conducted a drive so as to keep the Jain gentlemen away from seven vices that is alchoholism, non-vegetarianism, gambling, hunting, theft and keeping harlots. Ultimately this has come to stay as the symbolic life style of Jainas through the centuries.
The social heritage of the Jainas is equally remarkable. The inscription of Chittodgadh bears evidence to the fact that Emperor Kumarpal gave donation for Shiva temples. The temples at Sopara constructed by Vastupal refer to a mosque built by Vastupal. Jagdushah gave land to the Muslims. Vijay Vallabhasuriji Maharaj was helpful in the construction of a gurudwara. Buddhisagarji Maharaj provided inspiration for constructing hostel for Harijans.
For world peace Ahimsa becomes an absolute necessity. It must be practised throughtout the world in every city, village and town. Man must be made conscious of the supreme value of his soul and the utter uselessness of destructive weapons and armaments.
Nowadays people seem to think that religion has little importance in modern life, and that it cannot play any significant part in shaping the character of the people. To this, we could say in the words of Joseph Gear, "Those who have lived among the Jainas find them very kindly people, and better men because of their religion."
We should unite at this crucial juncture of world history and carry on ceaseless efforts to save humanity from extinction. It is essential that we try our best to revitalize our religious and moral principles and unite to ensure peace and harmony. Jainism preaches amity towards all beings, compassion for the miserable and detachment towards possessions.
In order to discourage violence, Bhagwan Mahavir proclaimed that the entire human race is one. At a time when communalism, hatred, violence and terrorism have become rampant in contemporary times, this preaching of Bhagwan Mahavir should be our true ideal. Indeed, we have many ideals before us but it is time to practise them.
If a world religion of this order is made to emerge, I have no hesitation in saying that most of the tenets of Jainism will always find a proud of pride in it. The Greeks used to say, "Call no man happy until he be dead." Whereas Jainism on the other hand, claims : "Call every man happy who lives his life following truthfully the principles of Jainism."
The message of Jainism has even a greater relevance today. By following this path, it will be possible for us to make a meaningful use of the wonderful inventions of science and technology and make them truely blissful and create global society free from hunger and hate - at peace with itself and with its environment. Thus there will be a heaven on this earth. What more does a human being want ?
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