Three main Tenets of Jainism

Non-Violence (Ahimsa)

The concept of non-violence has been preached by almost all religions of the world. All great thinkers and founders of religious orders universally accepted non-violence as a core principle of human conduct and a cardinal religious virtue.

In Indian religions in general and Jainism in particular non-violence is considered as a supreme moral virtue.

Non-violence is nothing but to treat all living being as equal. The concept of equality is the core behind the theory of non-violence. The observance of non-violence is to honour every form of life, whether they are living beings with one, two, three, four or five senses. As per the Jaina point of view, all living beings have an equal right to lead a peaceful life. Just like nobody has a right to take our life in the similar way we have no right to take another's life.

Jainism goes a step further and deep dives into Non-violence (Ahimsa) by also laying down ahimsa in thought, speech, intentions, attitude and conduct. Making it stand apart from other religions.

Non-Acquisition (Aparigraha)

Jains believe that acquisitions are an obstacle to liberation. It can be of people, animals, beliefs or non-living materials. Worldly wealth creates attachment which results in greed, jealousy, selfishness, ego, hatred, violence etc. Which results in bondage with the cycle of birth and death. Jain monks have virtually no acquisitions or assests. While the guidance to lay Jains is to try and minimise their acquisitions.

Acquisition does not only mean a collection of things. It is a feeling of ownnership over those things or a sense of attachment towards those things. Non-acquisition and non-attachment are to be observed in speech, mind and deed.

Aparigraha is the first step towards advancement on the road of Dharma - Righteousness. An Aparigrahi is always above self. The Jain doctrine of non-acquisition could lead to more equitable distribution of wealth and resources in society.

Non- Absolutism
Non- Absolutism (Anekantavada)

Anekantavada is one of the most essential and fundamental doctrines of Jainism. It refers to the principle of pluralism and diversity of viewpoints. The notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view. The Jaina philosophers held that everything in the world is complex in nature and as such has many aspects. It would be improper to view something by only one of its characteristics and to hold that view as final. On the contrary, it should be viewed by its varied aspects to properly comprehend it.

A deeper understanding of Anekantavada provides excellent insight into the problems of human interactions which cause conflict, grief, envy and hatred. Similarly, it is highly applicable to understanding social issues and national strife. More importantly, these doctrines provide ways of resolving global differences and conflicts by being open to accept different points of view.

The Five Maha-Vratas (Great Vows) of Ascetics

Jainism has laid down and described in much detail these five great vows for the path of liberation. These are to be observed strictly and entirely by the monks and nuns. The partial observance is laid down for the householders with additional seven vows. Right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct are the three most essentials for attaining liberation in Jainism. To acquire these, one must observe the five great vows:

Ahimsa - Non-violence

Among these five vows, non-violence (Ahimsa) is the cardinal principle of Jainism and hence it is known as the cornerstone of Jainism. Non-violence is the supreme religion (Ahimsa parmo dharma). It is repeatedly said in Jain literature; 'Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.'

According to Jainism, all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, or different spiritual developments are equal. No living being has a right to harm, injure, or kill any other living being, including animals, insects, and plants. Every living being has a right to exist, and it is necessary to live with every other living being in perfect harmony and peace.Jainism has classified all the living beings according to their senses.The five senses are touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.

It is more painful if a life of the higher forms (more than one sense) is killed. Hence Jainism allows laypeople to use only vegetables as food for survival. All non-vegetarian food is made by killing living beings with two or more senses. Therefore, Jainism preaches strict vegetarianism and prohibits non-vegetarian foods.

Jainism explains that violence is not defined by actual harm, for this may be unintentional. It is the intention to harm, the absence of compassion, unawareness, and the ignorance that makes an action violent. Without violent thought, there can be no violent actions. Non-violence is to be observed in action, speech and thought. One should not be violent, ask others to do so, or approve of such an activity.

Satya - Truth

Anger, greed, fear, and jokes are the breeding grounds of untruth. To speak the truth requires moral courage. Only those who have conquered greed, fear, anger, jealousy, ego, and frivolity can speak the truth.

Jainism insists that one should not only refrain from falsehood but should always speak the truth, which should be wholesome and pleasant. One should remain silent if the truth causes pain, hurt, anger, or death of any living being.

The truth is to be observed in speech, mind, and deed. One should not utter an untruth, ask others to do so, or approve of such activities.

Achaurya or Asteya - Non-stealing

Stealing consists of taking another's property without his consent, or by unjust or immoral methods. Further, one should not take anything which does not belong to him. It does not entitle one to take away a thing, which may be lying, unattended or unclaimed. One should observe this vow very strictly, and should not touch even a worthless thing, which does not belong to him. When accepting alms, help, or aid, one should not take more than what is the minimum needed. To take more than one's need is also considered theft in Jainism.

The vow of non-stealing insists that one should be honest in action, thought, and speech. One should not steal, ask others to do so, or approve of such activities.

Brahmacharya - Celibacy/ Chastity

Total abstinence from sensual pleasure and the pleasure of all five senses are called celibacy. Sensual pleasure is an infatuating force, which sets aside all virtues and reason at the time of indulgence. This vow of controlling sensuality is very difficult to observe in its subtle form. One may refrain from physical indulgence but may still think of the pleasures of sensualism, which is prohibited in Jainism.

Monks are required to observe this vow strictly and completely. They should not enjoy sensual pleasures and pleasure of all five senses, ask others to do the same, nor approve of it.

Aparigraha - Non-acquisition/ Non-possession

Jainism believes that the more worldly wealth a person possesses, the more he is likely to sin to acquire and maintain the possession, and in the long run, he may be unhappy. The worldly wealth creates attachments, which will continuously result in greed, jealousy, selfishness, ego, hatred, violence, etc. Lord Mahavir has said that wants and desires have no end, and only the sky is the limit for them.

An attachment to worldly objects results in the bondage to the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, one who desires of spiritual liberation should withdraw from all attachments to pleasing objects of all the five senses.

Monks observe this vow by giving up attachments to all things such as:

  • Material things: wealth, property, grains, house, books, clothes, etc.
  • Relationships: father, mother, spouse, children, friends, enemies, other monks, disciples, etc.
  • The pleasure of Five Senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing
  • Feelings: happiness and painful feelings towards any objects

They have the equanimity towards music and noise, good and bad smells, soft and hard objects for touch, beautiful and dirty sights, etc. They do not eat food for taste but for survival with the intention to continue to progress spiritually and ultimately to attain liberation. Non-possession and non-attachment are to be observed in speech, mind, and deed. One should not possess, ask others to do so, or approve of such activities.

Twelve Vratas (vows) of a Shravak (lay person)

The focus for Jain Sadhus (monks) and Sadhavis (nuns) is the upliftment of their souls and hence they sacrifice all worldly enjoyments, family and relationships to adopt the five great vows known as Maha-vratas. For those who want to remain Shravaks and Shravikas(lay person) the complete avoidance of five principle vows is difficult therefore Jain ethics specify twelve vows for them.

Of these twelve vows, the first five are the main vows also known as 'Anu-vratas'. They are somewhat easier in comparison to the great vows or Maha-vratas meant for ascetics. The next three vows are known as Guna-vratas ormeritorious vows as they enhance and purify the effect of the five main vows and raise their value manifold. The last four are called Shikhsa-vratas or disciplinary vows. They are intended to encourage people in their performance of religious duties. The Shiksha-vratas are also preparatory vows tobring discipline on the way to become an ascetic. The three Gunavrats or meritorious vows and four Shikhsa-vratas or disciplinary vows together are known as seven vows of virtuous conduct.

A person may adopt these vows as per his capacity and circumstance with the intent to adopt them ultimately as great vows.


Anuvratas - Five Main Partial Vows
  • Ahimsa Anuvrat -Non-violence
  • Satya Anuvrat - Truthfulness
  • Achaurya Anuvrat - Non-stealing
  • Bhramacharya Anuvrat - Chastity
  • Aparigraha Anuvrat - Non-attachment
Guna-vrats- Three Meritorious Partial Vows
  • DikVrata-Limiting the area of activity
  • Bhoga-UpbhogaVrata-Limiting the use of consumable and non-consumables
  • Anartha-dandaVrata - Avoidance of purposeless sins
Siksha-vratas - Four Disciplinary PartialVows
  • Samayik Vrata - Meditation for fixed duration
  • Desavakasika Vrata- Activity inlimited space
  • Pausadha Vrata-Living as an Ascetic for a limited duration
  • Atithi Samvibhaga Vrata - Charity

In this vow, a person must not intentionally hurt any living being (plants, animals, humans etc.) or their feeling either by thought, word or deed, himself or through others, or approving such an act committed by somebody else. Agricultural, industrial, occupational activities do involve injury to life, but it should be as minimum as possible, through care and due precaution.

Four stages of violence are described as:

  • Premeditated Violence: To attack someone knowingly
  • Defensive Violence: To commit intentional violence in defence of one's own life
  • Vocational Violence: To incur violence in the execution of means of livelihood
  • Common Violence: To commit violence in the performance of daily activities

Premeditated violence is prohibited for all. A householder is permitted to incur violence in self defence and for vocational reasons as far as there is no attachment to achieving the goal. Common violence is accepted for survival, but even here, one should take care in preparing food, cleaning the house etc. This explains the Jainpractice of drinking filtered water, vegetarianism, not eating meals after sun set and abstinence from alcohol. Non-violence is the foundation of Jain ethics.

Lord Mahavirsaid 'One should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture or kill any living being, including animals, insects, plants, and vegetables'. This is the essence of the religion and it embraces the welfare of all animals. It is the basis for all stages of knowledge and the source of all rules of conduct.

The second of the five reduced vows is Truth. It is more aboutabstinence from falsehood. It is seeing the world in its true form and adapting to that reality. The vow of truth puts a person in touch with his inner strength and inner capabilities. In this vow, a person avoids lying, giving false evidence, denying the property of others entrusted to him, cheating etc. The vow is to be followed in thought, action, and speech either by doing it himself or by getting it done through others. Further more he should refrain fromspeaking the truth if it harms others or hurts their feelings. He should under these circumstances maintainsilence.

In this vow, a person must not steal, rob, or misappropriate other's goods and property. He also must not cheat and use illegal means in acquiring worldly things, nor through others or by approving such an act committed by others.

The basic intent of this vow is to conquer passion and to prevent the wastage of energy. Positively stated, the vow is meant to impart the sense of serenity to the soul. In this vow, the householder must not have a sensual relationship with anybody but his own lawfully wedded spouse. Even then excessive indulgence in all kinds of sensual pleasuresshould be avoided.

Non-possession is the fifth reduced vow. A person should understand the richness of joy and peace that comes from within and not fill up his empty and insecure existence with the clutter of material acquisitions. Lord Mahavir said & Security born of material things is a delusion. To remove this delusion, one takes the vow of non-possession and realizes the perfection of the soul. One must impose a limit on one's needs, acquisitions and possessions such as land, real estate, goods, valuables, animals, money etc. All surplus should be used for the common good. One must also limit everyday usage of the number of food itemsor articles as well as their quantity. This Jain principle of limited possession for householders helps in equitable distribution of wealth, comforts etc., in society. Thus Jainism helps in establishing socialism, economic stability and welfare of the world.Non-possession like nonviolence affirms the oneness of all life and is beneficial to an individual in his spiritual growth and to the society as a whole.

By taking this vow the Shravak/Shravika limit their worldly activities to a certain area in all the ten directions; north, south, east, west, north-east, north-west, south-east, south-west, above and below. Dikvrata is a vow to limit how far one travels from homeand by so doing, limit the area in which harm may be done. Jain philosophy is based on doing no harm; therefore, by limiting the scope of worldly activities, this vow serves to curtail internal passions such as greed, further limiting the amount of harm that can be done.

One commitssin by one's enjoyment of consumable (Bhoga) and non-consumable (Upbhoga) objects. Consumables (Bhoga) are object which can only be used once, such as food and drink. Non-consumables (Upabhoga) are object which can be used several times, such as furniture, clothes, ornaments, buildings etc. One should therefore limit the use of these two items in accordance with one's needs by taking these vows. This vow further limits the quantity or number of item to be used which are already limitedby the Aparigraha Anuvrata.

One must not commit unnecessary or purposeless sin or moral offence as defined below.

  • Thinking, talking or preaching evil or ill of others
  • Doing inconsiderate or useless acts such as walking on grass unnecessarily
  • Manufacturing or supplying arms
  • Reading, listening or viewing immoral literature

Every lay person has the flexibility of taking the Samayik Vrataas number of times as they vow to. It calls for sitting down at one place for 48 minutes. Focusing the mind on religious activities like reading scriptures, praying and meditating. This vow may be repeated several times per day. It is to be observed in mind, bodyand speech. The meditation of 48 minutes makes a lay person realize the importance of a life long vow to avoid all sinful activities and is a stepping stone to a life of full renunciation. During Samayik time, one meditates on the soul and its relationship with karma. By giving up Raag (anger and arrogance), Dvesha (illusion and greed), observing equanimity of all objects, thinking evil of no one and being at peace with the world sums up one this vow of meditation (Samayik).

This vow further sets limits within the limitations already set by DikVrata and Bhoga-UpbhogaVrata. The general life long limitation of doing business in certain areas and the use of articles are further restricted on particular days and time of the week. This means that one should not during this specific perioddo any activity, businessor travel beyond a the limits set by DikVrata and Bhoga-UpbhogaVrata.

This vow requires a person to live the life of a Sadhu/Sadhavi for a day. During this timeone should retire to a secluded place, renounce all sinful activities, abstain from seeking pleasure through allthe senses and observe due restraint on body, mind and speech. A person needs to follow all five Maha-vratas(great vows) in all theirentirety, during this time. Time should bespentin spiritual contemplation, meditation (Samayik), self-exploration, reading scripturesand worship of Arihantas & Siddhas (Gods). This vow promotes and nourishes the spiritual and religious life providing an understanding of anascetic's life.

As a part of living an ascetics life is following the AtithiSamvibhagavrata. On the subsequent day after the Pausadha Vrata, ascetics and pious people are invited home and food, clothes, medicine and other articles of one'spossessions are given as charity to them. Food offered to them should be pure and with reverence. It should be prepared in such a manner acceptable to the monks and nuns who maintain a great deal of austerity. The food accepted by them should be the very same food consumed by the lay person performing the Atithi Samvibhagavrata. By donating one's food and possession to monks and nunsit provides a greater level of inner satisfaction and raises one's consciousness to a higher level.

Sallekhana (Peaceful Death)

In addition to the above 12 Anuvratsit is also imperative to ensure peace in the final days of life. A householder's aimmust be to ensure a peaceful death and for that SallekhanaVrata is adviced. This peaceful death is characterized by non-attachment to worldly possessions and suppression of passion at the time of death


By performing Sallekhana in addition to the above twelve vows, a lay person may live a righteous life and advance towards moksha by conquering desire.

Concept of God in Jainism

Jainism believes that the universe has no beginning nor an end, with respect to time. The universe runs on its own accord governed by cosmic laws. All substances change or modify their forms continuously. Nothing can be destroyed nor created in the universe and hence there is no need tomanage the affairs of the universe, it takes care of itself. Therefore Jains do not believe in God as a creator, preserver or destroyer in the universe.

Jain Philosophy considers God tobe a perfect being who has destroyed all his karmas and hence become a liberated soul. God lives in a perfectly blissful state or Moksha forever. The liberated soul possesses infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power and infinite bliss. This supreme entity is God to Jains. Every living being has the potential to become God. Hence Jains do not have only one God but innumerable Gods. This number is continuously increasing as more living beings attain liberation.

Jains believe that since the beginning of the time every living being (soul) is attached with karma and is in delusion (ignorant) state of its true nature. The primary purpose of the religion is to remove this delusion, through self-realization and self-help, which will help rid the soul of the karmas associated with it from the beginning of time. When all karmagets removed the soul becomes liberated.

There are many types of karma which are broadly classified into the following eight categories:

  • MohaniyaKarma or Delusion Karma: The word Mohaniya is derived from Moha which means attachment. Mohaniya karma (deluding karma) is the most dangerousof all the eight karmas because 'moha' (attachment) is the root cause of all Kasayas (passions). It is also the most difficult karma to destroy. If Mohaniya karma is destroyed fully, the self becomes free from all the Kasayas and liberation is assured in a few lifetimes.
  • Gyanavaraniya Karma or Knowledge-obscuring karma obscures the knowledge attribute of the soul.
  • Darasnavaraniya karma or Perception-obscuring karma diminishes the powers of Perception of a soul.
  • Antaraya Karma or Obstruction karma the fruition of this karmas creates obstructions to giving donations, obtaining gains and enjoying things.
  • Vedniya Karma or feeling-producing karma causes interruption in the soul's uninterrupted happiness. As a result of this, the soul remains agitated.
  • Nama Karma or Body-determining karma determines the type of body occupied by the soul.
  • Gotra Karma or status-determining karma gives one high status or low status in society.
  • Ayushya Karma or Life span-determining karma determines the subsequent states of existence and life span there in after death. The soul gets locked either into animal (tiryaÄ‚±ca), infernal (nāraki), human (manuá¹£ya), or celestial (deva) bodies for its next birth.

While travelling on the path of spirituality a person destroys all eight types of his karmas in the following sequence. FirstMohaniya (delusion) followed byGyanavaraniya (knowledge) then Darashnavaraniya (perception)and Antaraya (obstruction). At this point the soul attains KevalGyanand the person is known as Arihant or Tirthankara. Jina, Arhat, Kevali and Nirgantha are also synonymous with Arihant. Lastly the remaining four karmas, namely Vedniya (feeling producing), Nama (body determining), Gotra (statusdetermining) and Ayu (life span determining) are destroyed. At this time total liberation is attained and the Sadhu/Sadhvi is known as Siddha.

The first four karmas are called GhatiyaKarmas (harming karmas) as they directly affect the attributes of the soul. The last four karmas are known as AghatiyaKarmas they do not affect the soul directly; rather, they have an effect on the body that houses the soul. When Ghatiya karmas are totally destroyed, the soul attains kevalaJnana or omniscience. Liberation is guaranteed for such souls in the same lifetime as soon the Aghatiya karmas are exhausted in the due course.


When a person destroys his four Ghatiya karmas he attains kevalgyana. He has regained the original attributes of his soul, which are perfect knowledge, vision, power and bliss. He is omniscient of the past, present and future forms of all entities (living and non-living beings) in the universe. He is still a human being but remains in ablissful state for the rest of his life. Arihants are classified into two categories Thirthankars and Simple Kevali


Immediately after attaining kevalgyana, if a person establishes the four fold religious order of monks, nuns, shravaks (male householder) and shravikas (female householder) is known as a Tirthankar. He preaches Jain philosophy, religion, code of ethics and conduct to his followers.

Jainism believes that twenty-four Tirthankars are born during each descending and ascending part of the time cycle in this region (known as Bharat Kshetra) in the universe. No two Tirthankar as can exist at the same time. Generally, a Tirthankara is born when the religion is in a state of depression. The new Tirthankar comes and revives the same Jain philosophy. He gives a different form to the religious practice, which depends upon the time, place and social behaviour of human society at that time.

Jain Gods

Both Arihants and Siddhas are considered Gods of Jain religion. Arihants are perfect human beings and preach the Jain religion to the people after attaining kevalgyan. After death, they become Siddhas. All Siddhas are perfectsouls, living forever in a state of bliss or Moksha.

Simple Kevali

The only difference between Tirthankara and Simple Kevaliis that the latter does not establish the religious order.

In the religious scriptures the name Arihantas and Tirthankaras are interchangeably used because Simple Kevalis do not play any active roles in the religious order. Tirthankar is also known as Jina, Arihant, Arhat, Arhant or Nirgrantha

  • Tirthankara: Founder of four-fold order of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.
  • Jina: One who has conquered his inner passions such as desire and hatred.
  • Arihant: One who has destroyed his inner enemies such as greed, anger, desire and hatred.
  • Arhat: One to whom nothing can be secret.
  • Arhant: Acquiring spirituality leading a man to the state of an Arihant.
  • Nirgrantha: A state in which one has gotten rid of all attachments.

Both Tirthankars and Simple Kevalis (all Arihants) become Siddha after nirvana (death). All Siddhas are equal in qualities.


Both the Tirthankaras and Simple Kevalis (all Arihants) destroy the remaining four Aghati karmas at the end of their present life. After their nirvana (death) all of them are known as Siddhas. They are totally free and liberated. They live as pure souls in an everlasting blissful condition at the top of the universe (Lokakas) known as Moksha. The qualities and attributes of all Siddhas are the same, however they still retain their unique identity and form. For example Lord Mahavira's soul as a Siddha possesses the same qualities as Shri Gautam Swami or Shri Bahubali's soul, however their souls remain unique, individual with different forms.

Karma Philosophy

An interesting concept in the philosophy of Jainism which has been elaborately discussed is the theory of Karma. Karma is nothing but the law of moral causation which is that nothing happens without a cause. Each individual is responsible for his or her actions. It is important to understand that good actions generate good fruits and bad actions generate bad fruits. This will motivate a person to refrain frombad actions and perform only good actions.The theory of Karma also explains the role karmas play in our lives. How we accumulate karmas, why we accumulate karmas, what happens with the accumulated karmas and how to get rid of the karmas, both good and bad, as this is the only route to salvation.

Karmas is made up of Karman particles. Karman particles are non-living matter scattered all around us and all over the universe. They are very fine particles that cannot be seen even with a microscope. A cluster of innumerable Karman particles is called Karman Vargana. Whenever we think, speak, or act, Karman Varganas around us are attracted to our souls. (This process is called Asrava in Sanskrit.) The Varganas become bonded to our soul and once they are bonded, they are called Karma(The bondage is called Bandh in Sanskrit.) Depending on our passionate emotions of attachment, anger, ego, greed, and deceit Karman Varganas are attracted towards our soul. Karman Varganas that are attached to your soul are called karmas.

There are three primary ways to perform activities; mental, verbal andphysical. Taking these a step furtherwe can perform each of the above activities ourselves, ask someone else to perform the activities on our behalf or encourage someone else to perform the activities. Hence there are nine ways to perform theactivities mentioned above, so for example we can do the metal activity on our own, ask someone else to perform it on our behalf or encourage someone else to do it. Out of all of the three primary activities, mental activities have the farthest-reaching consequences on our soul. Under certain circumstances, we are constrained and disregard the Law of Karma and are forced to perform evil actions against our will. In such cases too karmas get bound to our soul however the duration may be short, and the bitterness less intense.

Karmas which are bound to the soul have four characteristics governing them:


Prakriti Bandh depends on the type of activities in which we indulge. Each karma particle can give a specific type of fruit to the soul when it matures. The nature of the fruit that Karma will give at maturity is determined at the time the karmas get bound to the soul. There are eight major categories and 158 sub-categories of the nature of Karma. These 158 varieties of karmas lead to various type of pleasant and unpleasant experiences and circumstances for the Jiva (living being).

The eight types of karmas are as follows:

  • Gyanavarniya - Knowledge-Obscuring Karma
  • Darshanavarniya - Perception-Obscuring Karma
  • Antaraya - Obstructive Karma
  • Mohniya - Deluding Karma
  • Naam - Body-Determining Karma
  • Gotra - Status-Determining Karma
  • Vedniya - Feeling-Producing Karma
  • Ayushya - Age-Determining Karma
Nature of Karma



Karma particles that get bound to the soul become a part of the karmic body, which accompany the soulinto future births. The duration of times till which these karmic particles will stay bound to the soul is called Stithi Bandh. The intensity of our desire at the time of the activity decides the duration till which this karma particle will be bound to our soul. The milder the intensity the shorter is the duration and the stronger the intensity, the longer is the bondage. The time,karma can stay bonded to the soul could range from a fraction of a second to innumerable number of seconds.



Karma particles give mild or intense fruits to the Jiva (living being) on maturity. The intensity of karma depends upon how intense our passions are at the time of the activity. The lesser the intensity of our passions, the less severe is the result of the bondage; the greater the intensity, the more severe the result of the bondage.



Karma enters the soul and becomes part of the karmic body. The exact number of karmic particles that get assimilated in the karmic body at a point of time is called Pradesh bandh.

From the four distinct characteristics, Prakriti bandh (nature of karma) and Pradesh Bandh (quantity of karma) are dependent mainly on Yoga (mental, verbal and physical activities). On the other hand the time or duration and intensity of bondage(Sthiti and Anubhagbandh) are mainly dependent on the intentions behind the mental, verbal and physical activities.

When karmas attach to the soul, there are four levels of bondage:

  • Sprusta or Sithil (Loose): Karmas can be easily shed by regret
  • Baddha or Gadha (Tight): Karmas can be shed by offering an apology
  • Nidhatta (Tighter): Karmas can only be shed by extreme effort, like performing austerities
  • Nikachit (Tightest): Karmas can only be shed by bearing the results

It should be noted that it is not always true that we have to wait to bear the result of our karmas; we can change the course of our karmas before they mature. They can be changed in duration and intensity as well as in nature too. This is a very important point because it means that not only do we have control over our karmas, but that we can also change our fate.

Karmas obstruct these eight attributes of a pure soul:

  • Kevalgyana (Perfect Knowledge) -The state in which the soul knows everything, past, present, and future of what is happening in the world, all at the same time. Gyanavarniya Karma obscures this attribute.
  • Kevaldarshan (Perfect Perception) -The state in which the soul can see, hear, and perceive everything from the past, present, and future all at the same time. Darshanavarniya Karma obscures this attribute.
  • AnantVirya (Infinite Power) -The state in which the soul has infinite power. Antaraya Karma obstructs this attribute.
  • Vitraga (Victory Over Inner Demons) -The state in which the pure soul has no attachment or hatred towards anyone. Mohniya Karma obscures this attribute.
  • The aforementioned four attributes of the soul are experienced by Arihants. The following four attributes are experienced only when the soul is liberated which is when Arihants become Siddhas upon their death.

  • Infinite Bliss (No Joy or Sorrow) -The state in which there is no pain, suffering, or happiness; the soul has ultimate peace. Vedniya Karma obscures this attribute.
  • Ajaramar (End of the Cycle of Birth and Death) -The point at which the soul is never again born. Ayushya Karma obscures this attribute.
  • Arupi (No form) -The state in which the pure soul no longer occupies a body and is without form. Nam Karma obscures this attribute.
  • Agurulaghu (End of Status) -The fact that all liberated souls are equal; none is higher or lower in status than any other. Gotra Karma obscures this attribute.

To manifests the above attributes and become a pure Soul, one needs to get free from all the 8 types of Karmas.

Concept of Life after Death

If we look around us, we see living things everywhere people, cats, dogs, birds, insects, plants, etc. There are various forms of living beings in this universe. As one can see, nothing is permanent, every minute something dies, and something is born. It makes one wonder what happens after death and what decides our next birth. Is there a law that governs this outcome?

Jainism has an explanation, it is the result of the karmas associated with our souls which makes one go through the cycle of birth and death since time immemorial. Until the soul gets rid of its karmas, it will never be free. When a living being dies it can be reborn into one of four given below which are known as Gatis or destinies:

Human beings, Heavenly beings, Tiryancha beings, Infernal beings

Modern science is inconclusive about life after death or so-called rebirth. However, Jinas has explained that there is life after death and it is we and no one else who decides what will happen to us after our death. No God or superpower decides our future. It is our past and current deeds that trigger the accumulation of the karmas, which in turn, govern what we will be reborn as in our next life. Let us learn about this Gatis or destinies.

Human Beings

As human beings, we have been endowed with the ability to think and we can differentiate right from wrong. We can decide what is good for us and what is not. We can also control our minds and actions. We can learn of the wholesome religious principles of Jainism and put them into practice by adopting appropriate vows and restraints. We can also renounce worldly life for monkhood, which can lead to liberation or salvation from worldly life (Samsar).

Heavenly Beings

Heavenly being, have superior physical capabilities, a variety of supernatural powers, and access to luxuries. Heavenly life is transient, and when it comes to an end, heavenly beings feel very unhappy. They cannot adopt restraints or renounce their lives to become monks or nuns. Therefore, certainly, there is no salvation in heavenly life, and such beings will have to be reborn as human beings to attain liberation.

Tiryancha Beings

Tiryancha beings are born as animals like lions, elephants, birds, insects or plants, etc. One is considered to be of a lower lifeform. Animals and birds may be able to think, but not nearly as well as humans, and they do not have the ability to differentiate right from wrong. There is a great degree of suffering and dependency in their lives. Only some animals and birds with a higher level of wisdom may be able to observe certain levels of restraint. The rest of the Tiryancha beings passively go through the suffering destined for them. A life of this kind is not analogous to a life aimed at attaining salvation.

Infernal Beings

Infernal being lives in hell. One has to undergo continuous suffering. Most of the time, infernal beings fight among themselves and cause more suffering to one another. Such a life is, therefore, absolutely unsuitable for spiritual pursuits.

Thus, it is clear that out of these four Gatis or destinies, only human life is suitable for spiritual pursuit and freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

Let us now consider what leads to birth in different destinies

Those who enjoy excessive violence, lying, stealing, and sensuous pleasure or are too possessive, angry, egoistic, greedy, deceptive, or intensely attached to worldly life are likely to be reborn as infernal beings in hell.

Those who are disciplined and straight forward, observe vows and restraints, behave well, have good character, have faith in true teachers, attempt to gain true knowledge, and follow a good moral life are generally reborn as heavenly beings.

Those who are selfish, cause trouble, or wish evil onto others are likely to be reborn as Tiryancha beings.

Those who are simple, straight forward, and are admirers of truth, have few attachments, control their anger, greed, or deception, and try to follow religious teachers are generally reborn as humans.

In short, we are the masters of our destiny and existence, therefore we should not blame anyone or anything else for our destiny. Let us be inspired to lead a spiritual life without delay, so that we may be reborn as human beings and continue to tread on the path of liberation.

Jainism And Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is understood with different connotations in different contexts. Viewed with Jainism as a backdrop it amounts to eating a diet which causes no harm or injury to living beings directly or indirectly. It is closely linked to three fundamental principles of Jainism: Ahimsa or Non-violence, Sayyam or Self-control and Tapas or Austerity.

Ahimsa or Non-violence

Ahimsa is the basic principle on which the Jain moral code is built. In simple words, 'Live and let live' is the creed of Jainism. As life is precious, each one of us wants to live, enjoy pleasures and escape pain. If we want to exercise our right to live, we must give the same right to others as well. It is a simple moral law of reciprocity. Therefore, human beings have no right to slaughter animals for theirfood or pleasure. If they does so,due toa belief in their superiority, then in the cadre of biological evolution, these actions are not justified. To lead a life of justice and equality in society, a human must have the highest respect for the entire animal world, and the sanctity of life per se. This necessitates for taking up a vegetarian diet.

Sayyam or Self-control

A human is endowed with the faculty of discrimination between right and wrong, just and unjust, and fair and unfair. Our superiority over other living beings dependon our ability to exercise these faculties with the utmost sincerity. As enlightened beings, humans cannot afford to grant themselves privileges and prerogatives not available to others living things. We cannot enjoy any rights without the responsibilities accruing from them. In fact, every respectable citizen has more duties than rights and is expected to lead a life of self-control. Such self-control, according to Jainism, amounts to various kinds of restrictions in matters related to food, in acquiring possessions, and enjoying pleasures. Moderation is the first step on the path of self-control. By observation, Jain teachers have concluded that animals as a source of food not only involve the destruction of life, but also stimulate animalistic passion. Therefore those who wants tolead a sober, sensible and religious life should live on a vegetarian diet.

Tapas or Austerity

Austerities of various kinds are prescribed in Jainism, and a pious Jain is expected to observe various austerities such as fasting, eating less than one's fill, putting restrictions on the use of certain food items, and renouncing delicacies. The underlying principle is 'Eat to live but, not Live to ea'.

These doctrines of Non-violence led the Jain Teachers to study in detail the animal kingdom and classify various living beings under different classes based on their level of development and faculties of sense. If injury to a living being was to be avoided, it became necessary to study and classify living beings.


Living beings fall into two broad classes, Trasa or mobile and Sthavara or immobile. Trasa beings are those who possess two, three, four and five senses. Sthavara beings are those who have only one sense namely, that of touch. Sthavara beings are of five kinds: earth-bodied, water-bodied, fire-bodied, air-bodied, and vegetables. Jain Teachers had realized long back that plants had life, and hence treated them as one-sense beings.

When Jain Teachers studied the animate world in detail, they realised that complete abstinence from injury to living beingswas practically impossible. Naturally, every individual might not be able to avoid injury to living beings in the absolute sense. Jains are broadly divided into two groups, Ascetics and House holders. Ascetics are to observe the vow of Ahimsa in the strictest sense. They cannot cause injury to living beings, even in their diet. To put it plainly they cannot use seeds in their food which are capable of growing into plants. Thus Ascetics avoid all kinds of harm to both Trasa and Sthavara beings.

The case of a householders it is slightly different. They have social obligations and practical duties, therefore vow to avoid injury to Trasa beings. It is not always possible for him to prevent violence on Sthavara beings, but the main aim is to minimise harm.

Root Vegetables

Root vegetables and anything that grows below the soil including onion, garlic, potatoes and carrots are forbiddensince they contains infinite living souls and some of them are Tamsik (foods that are old, foul, or unpalatable, and thought to stimulate violent and negative behaviour) in nature.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods which use live yeast or rennet is not allowed. Alcohol is shunned as fermentation is involved in the production, and also because it clouds one's judgement, leading to violence.

Eating after Sunset

Eating after dark is frowned upon in Jain Dharma and there is a perfectly philosophical as well as scientific reason for it. Germs and microbes that disappear when there is sunlight do not really get destroyed; they take shelter in shadowy places and after sunset, they enter and pervade the atmosphere. These microbes are invisible to the naked eye, get into our food. Consuming this food after sunset will lead to killing these germs and bacteria. Thus to avoid himsa against these living beings it is suggested not to consume food or water after sunset.

The scientific reason is that our biological clock is set according to the sunrise-sunset. When the sun is right above us, our digestive fire is at it's peak. The food eaten at night does not get digested since the digestive system becomes inactive during the nightand we face problems of indigestion. The metabolic rate also slows down at night as we do not indulge in any physical activity which aids digestion. Hence, due to these reasons the food taken at night does not get digested properly; and its put refaction in the body is harmful to health. This leads to increase in weight, as undigested food gets stored in the form of fats. It also leads to foul smell in the breath, put refaction of teeth, constipation, pain in knee joints and several diseases of the throat.


In a heartening, rallying, cry to those protesting the excesses of the industrial dairy industry, some Jains will only accept milk and other dairy products from sources where cattle is treated in an ethical and humane manner.

Multi Seeds

Multi-seeded fruits and vegetables, such as figs and egg plants are avoided. The promise of inherent life,in multitude, in such produce, is more important than the sacrifice of lust to the palate.


Honey is a forbidden food, since removal of it from the honeycomb involves the death of thousands of bees.

Silver Varkh

As for the thin silver foil that is used as a decorative coating for cardamom seeds and sweets, Jains don't touch it, since the metal has been beaten paperthin between layers of soft leather, or the intestines of cows.

The above details make it abundantly clear that Jainism not only insists on a strict vegetarian diet but prohibits even those vegetarian foods which cause harm directly or indirectly to subtle organisms and hence are to be avoided by pious Jains.

Merits of Vegetarianism

Apart from the religious aspect, vegetarian food has its merits. A vegetarian diet is conducive to a dispassionate and balanced mind and a detached and equable attitude. In a vegetarian diet baser emotions and animalistic instincts are sublimated resulting in nobler virtues of universal kindness, equality, and brotherhood.

India and Vegetarianism

It is universally accepted that nowhere else but in India, do we have the doctrine of Ahimsaor non-violence. It has significantly and long-continued to influence the national character. It is therefore our national history and heritage, that outstanding men and women of our land have adhered to vegetarianism so that they might create a kindlier atmosphere and prove themselves to have standards of high thinking and simple living.