Five Ächär of Laity (Codes of Conduct of a Householder)


01.  Jnänächär (Code of Acquiring Right Knowledge)

02.  Darshanächär (Code of Gaining Right Perception)

03.  Chäriträchär (Code of Acquiring Right Conduct)

Five Samitis (Carefulness)

Three Gupti (Controlling One’s Faculties)

04.  Tapächär (Code of Austerities)

Bähya Tapa (External Austerities)

Abhyantar Tapa (Internal Austerities)

05.  Viryächär (Code of Exercising Vigor)



                        Nänammi Dansanammi A Charanammi Tavammi Tahay Viriyammi

                        Äyaranam Äyäro Ea Eso Panchahä Bhanio

                                                --- Panchächär Sutra

Knowledge, perception, conduct, austerities and vigor constitute the fivefold code of conduct


Religion has two major aspects.  One deals with the principles and the other with the practice.  The latter constitutes the observance part of the religion.  Observance of Jainism can again be divided in two broad headings.  One part deals with the observance of the code and the other with the observance of restraints.  Some persons may be intrigued by the use of the term code in the realm of religion, because for them a code would mean the statutory code.  It should, however, be remembered that every religion lays down the norms of behavior for their followers and many of them observe the same more scrupulously than they would observe the statutory stipulations.  Such norms therefore constitute the code of conduct for the people concerned.

Thus, when we talk of the Jain code, we mean the norms of observing the right conduct as laid down by the preceptors of Jainism.  Right conduct is however only a part of the spiritual code.  There are several other aspects like true knowledge, faith etc. that form the parts of the same code.  The ultimate purpose of the right conduct is, after all, to gain liberation, which, in spiritual terms, is known as Moksha.  The aspects mentioned above are also meant to further that very end and are conducive to the attainment of the said objective.

In this connection, Ächärya Umäsväti has therefore stated in Tattvärtha-sutra:

‘Samyag-darshan-jnän-chäriträni Mokshamärgah’

It means that Samyag-darshan, Samyag-jnän and Samyag-chäritra constitute the path of liberation.  Samyag means right or correct, while Darshan stands for faith, Jnän for knowledge and Chäritra for conduct.  The combination of those three aspects leads to liberation.  Since code, in Jain terminology, stands for Ächär, these three aspects are termed as Darshanächär, Jnänächär and Chäriträchär.  They are thus the basic constituents of the Jain code.

There are other two aspects that pertain to observance of austerities and exerting of vigor.  Strictly speaking, they form parts of Chäriträchär.  Being, however, very significant to Jainism, they are traditionally treated as separate parts of the code and are named as Tapächär and Viryächär.  Thus, Darshanächär, Jnänächär, Chäriträchär, Tapächär and Viryächär constitute the fivefold Jain code and are together known as Panchächär.

In this context, it is necessary to make some clarification about the implications of the terms, Darshan, Jnän and Chäritra.  Basically, Darshan means faith, but it also denotes belief, conviction, outlook, attitude, perception etc. Jnän means knowledge, but it also implies enlightenment.  Chäritra means conduct and includes practice, behavior etc.

01.  Jnänächär (Code of Acquiring Right Knowledge)


Käle Vinae Bahumäne Uvahäne Tah Aninhavane

Vanjan Attha Tadubhaye Atthaviho Nänmäyäro

--- Panchächär Sutra

Proper timing, reverence, esteem, required austerities, gratitude and loyalty, reading carefully, grasping the meaning and making out the underlying sense constitute eight-fold code of knowledge.


The first aspect pertains to Jnän or knowledge.  Mati-Jnän, Shruta-Jnän, Avadhi- Jnän, Manah-Paryäya- Jnän and Keval -Jnän are the five categories of the Jnän.  Mati- Jnän means sensory (empirical)  knowledge (cognition) which is derived through the senses and the activities of the mind; is gained through the senses and/or the mind's ability to comprehend what is sensed. Shruta- Jnän  is scriptural (articulate) knowledge, refers to conceptualization through language; is derived through language, symbols, signs, listening (e.g., words which are symbols of ideas, gestures,..). Objects which are known through Mati- Jnän are known in more specific details in Shruta- Jnän. The above two knowledge; Mati & Shruta; are mentioned side by side, as these are governed by the relation of cause and effect.  Scriptural knowledge is preceded by sensory. Difference between Mati- Jnän & Shruta- Jnän are: 1) Both types are derived through the senses and the activities of the mind but it involves language, words and its meanings in case of Shruta- Jnän. While the language, words and its meanings are absent in Mati- Jnän. 2) Mati- Jnän involves only the objects of the present time while Shruta- Jnän involves the objects of all three times, past, present and future. 3) Shruta- Jnän is purer than Mati- Jnän. 4) In case of Shruta- Jnän, one needs the teachings of spiritually advanced persons in addition to the help of all senses and mind. 5) One can acquire Mati- Jnän without Shrut- Jnän but Shruta- Jnän is always preceded by Mati- Jnän.Since use of senses does not directly involve the soul, Jainism considers these two categories as indirect knowledge or Paroksha-jnän.  This type of knowledge is subject to destruction and does not last forever.

The remaining three categories are not sense based.  They arise by virtue of the spiritual development and are called direct knowledge or Pratyaksha-Jnän.  They are extra-sensual or say, of the occult type that can be experienced without exercising the senses.  Avadhi- Jnän is clairvoyance, refers to the perception of things (matters) that are out of the natural range of the senses, is the psychic knowledge about matters which can be directly experienced by accomplished souls without the medium of senses or mind.  Here it involves the knowledge of objects which can be seen by eyes (Rupi Padärtha) and are limited by substance, area, time and condition (actuality) (Dravya, Kshetra, Käl and Bhäv). Avadhi means limited (Maryädä). It ascertains matter in downward range or knows objects within limits. In humans, clairvoyance is acquired through spiritual discipline whereas, for the inhabitants of heaven and hell, it is inborn. Clairvoyance is also possible, in moments of hardship, for beings that are not human but possess five senses and a mind.This capability is thus not infinite and it is not everlasting.

The 4th category is Manah-Paryäya-Jnän, which is sometimes mentioned as Manah-Paryav-Jnän.  Mana means the mind.  Paryäya means the changing state.  Manah-Paryäya- Jnän is mind-reading (telepathy) knowledge which gives the capability of reading the objects of another's mind.  This knowledge is only acquired by ascetics at a high level of spirituality; is the knowledge of the ideas and thoughts of others.   It is of two types, Rujumati and Vipulmati.  The former can disappear, while the latter stays with the soul till it attains Keval-jnän.

The last one is Keval-jnän.  Keval means only as well as pure.  In the former sense Keval-jnän means exclusive prevalence of knowledge only and nothing else.  In the latter sense, it is pure, untainted knowledge.  Either of these interpretations enables it to operate without any limitations.  The person attaining this knowledge gets infinite capability to know each and every thing, tangible or intangible, and for all the time in the past, present and future.  This knowledge is therefore termed as true (perfect) enlightenment.  The holder of such capability is known as omniscient or Sarvajna.  Keval-jnän is indestructible.  Once it is attained, it stays forever.

The question that would arise is how to gain knowledge.  It should be clearly understood that knowledge does not come without any effort.  As a matter of fact, soul is inherently imbibed with infinite knowledge.  It is however not manifested at present on account of operating unwholesome Karma that obscures its manifestation.  The way to acquire knowledge is therefore to eradicate or suppress that Karma.  This can be done by undertaking wholesome Karma and/or by bearing the consequence of the operating Karma with equanimity.

Let us understand this phenomenon by illustrating the case of Mati-jnän.  Suppose some particular prayer is to be memorized, it is possible that one person may succeed in memorizing it with little effort; another may have to repeatedly recite it for memorizing it; while some one else may fail to memorize it despite all possible efforts.  This means that the bondage of obscuring Karma in the first case is very loose and it gives way by exerting little effort which amounts to undertaking slight present Karma.  In the second case, the bondage is rather tight and needs more efforts or higher countervailing Karma to break it.  In the third case, the bondage is unbreakable and has to be born as such.  Every one should therefore endeavor or undertake such countervailing Karma to break the bondage of the knowledge obscuring Karma.  Such endeavor is termed as Purushärtha.  Whether it succeeds or not depends upon the intensity of the operative Karmas.

Acquisition of knowledge is thus a function of overcoming Karmas.  Purushärtha (efforts) lies in trying to overcome the same.  It has two aspects, external and internal.  Trying to gain Mati-jnän and Shruta-Jnän by developing and exercising physical and mental abilities is external Purushärtha.  Trying to gain spiritual development by achieving Nirjarä (eradication of karmas) is internal Purushärtha.  Avadhi-jnän, Manah-Paryäya-Jnän and Keval-jnän automatically emerge by such Purushärtha.  Every one should therefore devote maximum energy for undertaking internal Purushärtha.

External Purushärtha consists of appropriately selecting the school and subjects of study, undertaking study at the proper time, regular attendance, patiently attending and absorbing what is being taught, carefully following the instructions, doing the required home work, taking proper care of the books and other means of study, reverence for the teachers, observing the discipline etc. Undertaking research, remaining in touch with the latest developments, taking refresher courses, participation in seminars and workshops for the purpose of more intensive study constitute higher type of Purushärtha.

It should be understood that every one do not have the same capacity to absorb what is being taught.  The outcomes are therefore bound to be different.  However, if one is keen to gain knowledge, have trust in him, pursues the goal with diligence and have access to capable teachers and Guides, he can surely gain what he might be seeking.  In other words, his knowledge obscuring Karma would give way in the face of his Purushärtha.

Jain tradition is particularly concerned with acquiring knowledge.  For that purpose it lays down the following stipulations:

01.   Undertaking study at the proper time

02.   Reverence for the teachers and proper care for the means of gaining knowledge

03.   Esteem for the learned

04.   Observance of the required austerities for getting properly equipped

05.   Utmost loyalty to the preceptors

06.   Accurate study of the Sutras (Religious scripture)

07.   Understanding their meanings

08.   Grasping the underlying meaning and purpose.

It would be noted that all the earlier mentioned aspects of Purushärtha are covered in these stipulations.  If they are properly observed, that can lead to the eradication of the knowledge obscuring Karma and thereby to the manifestation of knowledge.

On the other hand, factors contrary to the said stipulations like ignoring the proper time for study, negligence for the means of learning, careless or casual reading of the Sutras, disrespect for the teachers, not properly maintaining the books etc. would result in knowledge obscuring Karma.  Such factors are therefore termed as transgressions of the code of knowledge and should be scrupulously avoided.


02.  Darshanächär (Code of Gaining Right Perception)


Nissankia Nikkankhia Nivvitigichchhä Amoodhditthia

Uvavooha Thirikarane Vachchhal Pabhävane Attha

                                                                        Panchächär Sutra


Doubtlessness, absence of expectation, unflinching faith, not being unduly influenced, adoration and encouragement, stabilization, affection and creating favorable impression constitute the eight-fold code of conviction aspects of right perception.


The term Darshan has different connotation.  For a common man, Darshan may mean a scene, a devotional glance, bowing to some deity etc. For others, it may mean an ideology.  Here the term is not used in any of those senses.  Here Darshan means perception, faith, and conviction and realization.  These four epithets actually convey increasing level of Darshan one after another.  When a person knows something, he would tend to believe it.  This is termed as perception.  Knowledge and perception thus go hand in hand.  Then, one has to gain faith.  For instance, we come to know from books or teachers that soul is everlasting and we try to believe it.  However, as long as we are not convinced of that nature, our perception of soul remains vague.  For gaining conviction, we have first to keep faith in the concept.  The faith would easily arise, if what we have learnt has come from the reliable sources.  Contemplating and pondering over it with faith would bring the conviction and thereafter comes the realization.  Such realization is the true Samyag-darshan or the right faith.

The code that lays down the method of gaining the right faith is called Darshanächär.  Like Jnänächär, Jainism lays down eight aspects of Darshanächär too.  They are:

09.   Staying above all doubts

10.   Absence of expectations

11.   Unflinching faith

12.   Not to be influenced or swayed by glamorous shows of other religion etc

13.   Adoration and encouragement

14.   Stabilizing the faith of others

15.   Affection for the coreligionists

16.   Raising the esteem for the true faith.


Of these eight aspects, the first one, which denotes the conviction, is of utmost importance.  The remaining seven, which are helpful in raising the intensity of conviction, can rather be considered augmentative.  Now, let us examine these aspects one after another.

The first is called Nissankia or Nihishankitva.  Some people interpret it as not raising any doubt about the scriptural precepts.  The term really means conviction beyond any doubt.  When a person comes to know something, he might still have some doubt about some of its intricacies.  This aspect therefore lays down that one should know it thoroughly so that no doubt lingers about it.  For that purpose, Jainism lays down five stages.  The first is known as Vächanä.  The learning of the text from the books or teachers is called Vächanä.  The second is called Pruchchhanä, which means asking questions and supplementary questions pertaining to what has been taught so as to know the truth from different perspectives.  The third is Parävartanä, which means learning it repeatedly so as to gain lasting impact.  The fourth stage is called Anuprekshä, which means reflecting, contemplating and pondering over what has been learnt so as to realize its underlying meaning.  The fifth is known as Dharmakathä, which means expressing it systematically in writing, or by orally narrating it.  When a person goes through all these five stages, he can gain thorough knowledge.  He does not then harbor any doubt about it.

The second aspect is Nikkankhia or Nihikänkshitva.  It means not to expect any material gain out of the truth.  Most of the people may try to gain knowledge that would be helpful in getting worldly benefit.  The study of different subjects, presently undertaken in schools and colleges, falls in this category.  It is undertaken with a view to gain proficiency that would make the student better marketable.  This may be all right for gaining worldly success.  We are however dealing here with spiritual aspects.  We have therefore to remember that so long as one retains the worldly expectation, his or her knowledge and faith are bound to remain shallow.

The third aspect is Nivvitigichchhä or Nirvichikitsä.  It means unflinching faith and absence of wavering mind.  The true conviction does denote the absence of wavering.  This aspect is however separately stipulated, because even after gaining conviction, a person may come across some new knowledge or information that may be at variance with what he has learnt.  This may tend to waver his mind.  He may not be sure whether what he has learnt is right or wrong.  This term therefore stipulates having firm faith in what one has learnt.

The term has an additional significance for Jains.  Jain monks may be unclad and if they are clad, their clothing may not be very neat, clean or attractive.  It is possible that one may get a sense of disgust, despise or disaffection by looking at such clad or unclad monks.  The spiritual aspirant has however to realize that outward cleanliness is not the criterion for internal purity.  Since the monks are expected to have gained internal purity, there is no reason for being disaffected by their outward appearance.  Thus, absence of disaffection is also a part of Nirvichikitsä.

The fourth aspect is Amoodhditthia or Amoodha-drashti.  It means not to be influenced or swayed by the outward shows, displays etc. Suppose, one happens to witness a grand procession of some sect, it is possible that he may be impressed by such show and may think that the Jain performances are rather dull and dry.  This would tend to shake his faith.  This aspect therefore lays down that his conviction of the true faith should be so strong that he would not be unduly influenced by such outward shows and displays, however glamorous they may be.

The fifth aspect is called Uvavooha or Upabruhan.  It means adoration of virtues and includes appreciating even the minor virtues with a view to encourage the persons concerned.  The healthy encouragement works as an incentive that helps in raising the faith of such persons.  That should however never verge towards undue praise.  Otherwise, it would amount to flattery, which has to be avoided under all circumstances.

The sixth aspect is called Thirikarane or Sthirikaran.  It means stabilization.  We have mentioned about the unflinching faith while discussing Nirvichikitsä.  The difference between these two aspects is that the former deals with one’s own faith, while this one deals with stabilizing the faith of others.  This can be done by providing the right information or by otherwise extending help in understanding the true essence.  Religious classes, training camps, bringing out publications, audiovisual discussions, study circles, discourses, seminars etc. are helpful in this respect.  The factor of encouragement mentioned in the fifth aspect also helps in stabilizing the faith and can therefore be considered a part of this aspect.

The seventh is Vachchhal or Vätsalya.  Literally, it means affection.  However, it also denotes sharing, caring, loving, helping etc. The person having the right faith would have innate affection for others belonging to the true faith.  He would spontaneously try to help those who are in distress or are any way afflicted.  Such help can take the form of financial, medical, and educational or any other aid.  Such help should be extended secretly so that the person getting the aid is not in any way embarrassed in availing of the same.  The help can also be extended in solving some problems or in redress of the grievances etc. Sädharmik Vätsalya, health fair, collection of usable clothes for distribution among the poor and needy are illustrative of this aspect.

The last aspect is known as Pabhävane or Prabhävanä.  It means raising the esteem for the faith.  Undertaking activities that would make favorable impression can do this.  Thereby, the people can be attracted towards the true faith and they can be induced to realize the importance of truth.  Pratishthä Mahotsav, processions, conventions, cultural programs, exhibitions and other displays, giving awards, distribution of publications and other gifts to the people, impressive participation in the religious functions are the different modes of Prabhävanä.  The purpose of Prabhävanä is to make favorable impression in the minds of the people.

These eight aspects are vital to attainment of the right perception or Samyaktva on which Jainism lays all possible emphasis.  The reason is that it is impossible to have the proper insight without gaining right perception.


03.  Chäriträchär (Code of Acquiring Right Conduct)


Panihäna-Jogjutto Panchahim Samiehim Tihim Guttihim

Esa Charittäyäro Atthaviho Hoi Näyavvo

--- Panchächär Sutra

Observance of five Samitis and three Guptis with balanced mind is considered the eight-fold code of conduct.

We have so far examined Jnänächär, the code of knowledge and Darshanächär, the code of perception, faith and conviction.  After gaining conviction, one has to put it into practice.  That practicing is known as Chäriträchär.  In Jain tradition, Chäritra normally denotes renouncement and its scope is usually restricted to the monastic code of conduct.  The term however really means right behavior or right conduct.  As such, it deals with the day-to-day activities of the monastic as well as the worldly life.  We would first consider here the monastic code and then the lay code.

Five Samitis (Carefulness)

Iryä Samiti:

This meticulosity pertains to making movements.  Whenever one has to make movements, he should remember that there happen to be living beings everywhere.  He has therefore to remain vigilant enough to see that he does not press, crush, trample or otherwise hurt any living being by making movements.  Since some minute violence is however bound to occur in spite of all precautions, it is laid down that after every movement, one should undertake a short Käusagga for atonement of violence inadvertently caused by such movements.

Bhäshä Samiti:

This meticulosity pertains to vocal or oral activities.  Even exercising vocal faculty can hurt the minute living beings that pervade every place.  This Samiti therefore lays down that every spiritual aspirant should speak or utter slowly and that too, when necessary.  Harsh utterance that can cause mental hurt has to be avoided altogether.  Moreover, the utterance has to be truthful as well as beneficial.  Otherwise, one should observe silence.

Eshanä Samiti

This meticulosity pertains to obtaining food and water, which are essential for survival.  The aspirant has to get such food and water by going for alms.  He should however be careful and vigilant even while accepting such food and water.  The offer for alms should be by will and should not involve any type of force or compulsion on the part of the giver.  The food and water being offered should have been made out of the vegetable or other acceptable ingredients that involve minimal violence.  They should have been procured by innocent means and should not have involved gross physical violence.

Ädäna Nikshepa Samiti:

This meticulosity pertains to taking or placing any thing.  Reckless pulling, pushing, lifting, laying or otherwise handling can hurt living beings.  If one is not careful, such activities can thus result in avoidable violence.  Utmost care and vigilance should therefore be exercised while undertaking such activities.  One often comes across the use of the term ‘Upayoga’ during Jain rituals and performances.  Staying vigilant and taking care for the safety of other living beings, while undertaking any activity, is called Upayoga.

Utsarga or Pärishthäpanikä Samiti:

This meticulosity pertains to disposal of wastes inclusive of excretion and urination.  Jainism does not permit reckless modes even in the case of disposal.  It is therefore laid down that excretion etc. should be carried out in a lonely place, where the people have not to move and which is not habited by live beings.  Since latrines and urinals happened to be the breeding grounds for variety of germs and insects, Jainism forbade their use for the monastic order.  This Samiti lays down the mode of disposing all the wastes in a way that would not cause any violence, hurting or inconvenience to others.

Three Gupti (Controlling One’s Faculties)

Monks and nuns are supposed to devote their entire life in spiritual pursuit.  Since they have renounced the worldly life, they are not supposed to get involved in any worldly activity.  They have to spend their entire time and energy for gaining salvation and are not expected to use their mental, vocal or physical energy for any other purpose.  Such exercising the energy solely for that purpose is known as Gupti, which can be translated as total control of one’s faculties.  The control over mental energy is known as Mano-gupti, and that over vocal energy is known as Vachan Gupti and the one over physical energy is known as Käya-gupti.  Such control must be associated with proper discretion.  Lord Umäsväti has stated in Tattvärtha-sutra: Samyag-yoga-nigraho Gupti.  It means that the right exercise of control is Gupti.  One should therefore exercise appropriate discretion in controlling his mental, vocal as well as physical faculties.  These three Guptis are known as Tigutti or Trigupti.

It is however hard to stay totally tuned to the spiritual aspects all the time.  As long as there is body, there are bound to be its demands for food, shelter etc. Such demands cannot be avoided and appropriate activities have to be undertaken for satisfying the same.  For spiritual aspirants, however, Jainism restricts such activities to obtaining the necessities of life by going for alms and taking temporary shelter, when necessary, at Upäshray or such other lonely places.  Jainism lays maximum stress on the observance of nonviolence.  Therefore, even the badly needed activities like accepting food, communicating, taking anything or putting it at any place and those pertaining to excretion and other disposal have to be undertaken with extreme care and vigilance so as to avoid all possible violence.  For such purposes, Jainism lays down the observance of the five carefulness activities that are known as Pancha Samitis.

These three five Samitis and Guptis constitute the eight-fold monastic code of conduct.  In Jain terminology, these eight aspects are collectively known as Ashta Pravachan Mätä.  It means that these eight aspects of the Lord’s teaching are as beneficial to the spiritual aspirants as the usefulness of mother for the growth of children.

Implicit in the above code is the observance of five major vows (restraints) of non-violence, truth, not taking anything without the express permission of the owner, celibacy and non-possessiveness.  The monks from the other faith observe the first four as well.  However, total non-possessiveness is the distinguishing feature of Jain monks.  If they need to wear, they can, of course, accept the bare minimum clothing from the lay followers.  They can also keep a couple of wooden bowls for accepting food and water.  The wooden articles are laid down, because they are light in weight and can be easily cleaned with little amount of water.  Similarly, the monks can also have spiritually oriented books for the sake of study.

The greatest disciplinary practice that helps the observance of nonviolence is Sämäyika.  The term literally means staying in equanimity.  The person observing Sämäyika has to stay away from all the worldly involvement and from all sorts of craving and aversion associated with that.  That practice should ultimately lead to the fusion of psyche with the Self by developing detachment towards all external objects.  Those who renounce the worldly life are therefore required to take the vow of staying in Sämäyika for the rest of their lives.

Jain monks and nuns are not supposed to stay long at any place so as to avoid developing attachment to any particular place or the persons.  During the monsoon, however, there is generation and breeding of lot of germs and insects that can be hurt by trampling etc. During that period, the monks and nuns are therefore required to stay at one place so as to avoid causing such violence, and this period is called Chaturmäs.  Jain monks and nuns do not do the Chaturmäs at the same place for next three years. During the rest of the year, they should continue to move barefooted from place to place.  Such movements have to be made without making use of any vehicle, because manufacture, maintenance and plying of vehicles as well as its use can cause lot of violence.

This is no doubt a rigorous code.  No other religion lays down such discipline.  Jain monks and nuns however willingly observe the same.  They are oriented towards the well being of the soul.  They know that physical comforts or discomforts are transitory and soul is not affected by such ever-changing situations.  They can therefore easily stay unconcerned about the physical well -being.  Moreover, they train themselves for undergoing the rigors of the monastic code by undertaking fasts and other austerities.  On account of the observance of such rigors, Jain monks and nuns are held in high esteem.  The laity considers them as enlightened entities and revere them as spiritual guides.

Recently however, we have been witnessing a tendency towards avoiding the rigors of this code.  Many monks now make use of light footwear.  There are also monks who do not mind the use of vehicles, who stay with their hosts and willingly avail of their hospitality.  In addition, some of them stay at one place more often which leads to mutual attachment with the local community. This tendency towards relaxation has to be examined in the present perspective.

Many Jains have now settled in countries outside India.  They need the guidance of the monks for ritual performances and other religious activities.  They invite monks to their new countries that cannot be reached without the use of vehicles.  In western countries, where climatic conditions necessitate adequate protection, the traditional monastic wear of wrapping the body with two pieces of cloth does not work.  Nor is it feasible to go for alms from home to home. Realizing the need of the hour, Ächärya Tulsi has created a new cadre of male Shamans and female Shamanis.  They are well trained in various aspects of Jainism; they learn English and communicate well with the people.  Such Shamans and Shamanis renounce the worldly life but are permitted to use vehicles and stay with their hosts.  They seem to have been well received by some Jains in America.

Many Jains outside India believe that the vows taken by Jain monks and nuns should not be compromised because of their individual needs. As an alternative, they invite Jain scholars. For the needs outside India as well as in India where Jain monks and nuns are not accessible, Upädhyäya Chandr Shekharji Mahäräj promotes the use of trained Jain Shrävaks who are called “Vir Shainik”.

Code of conduct for laymen is known as Shrävakächär, which is supposed to be practiced after the rise of right faith.  Most of the stipulations of the monastic code are applicable to them to a modified extent.  For instance, laypersons also should control their mind, speech and body to the extent possible.  As householders, they are of course required to undertake various worldly activities.  While doing so, they should not, however, lose sight of the right faith.  If they happen to transgress the limits of Shrävakächär, they should atone for the same.  Shrävak Pratikraman Sutra, which is popularly known as Vandittu, lays down the transgressions of the right perception as follows.

Sankä Kankha Vigichchhä, Pasansa Taha Santhavo Kulingisu

Sammattassaiäre, Padikkame Desiam Savvam.

If I have indulged during the day in any transgressions of Samyaktva like harboring doubts, expectations, wavering faith, adoration of wrong faith or close contact with mis-believers, atone for the same.

Shrävaks should of course not do any injustice to others and should stay vigilant to avoid hurting any living being.  They cannot remain without any possession, but they should lay voluntary limitations on their possessions.  In place of the major restraints, they have thus to observe five minor ones called Anu-vratas.  Moreover, they should observe three auxiliary restraints and four disciplinary restraints.

04.  Tapächär (Code of Austerities)


Bärasavihammi Vi Tave Sabbhintar-Bähire Kusal-Ditthe

Agiläi Anäjivi Näyavvo So Taväyäro

--- Panchächär Sutra

External and internal austerities laid down by Omniscients, are of twelve types; enthusiastic observance thereof without regard for livelihood is known as the code of austerities.


Now we would consider the austerity, which is popularly known as Tapa.  Jain tradition lays considerable emphasis on the observance of Tapa.  Really speaking, Tapa is a part of Chäritra.  In view of its special importance to the spiritual aspirants, it has however been considered as a separate part of the spiritual code and is called Tapächär.  Let us examine its significance in spiritual pursuit.

Since the time immemorial, the worldly soul has been found associated with Karmas.  Consequently, it has been entangled in an apparently unending cycle of births and deaths.  It can however be liberated from that cycle by the eradication of Karmas.  This is known as Nirjarä.  It is of two types.  One that can be achieved automatically by simply bearing the consequences of old Karmas is Akäm Nirjarä.  During such Nirjarä, however, the person happens to react to the given situation with craving or aversion.  That Nirjarä therefore leads to acquisition of new Karmas and as such cannot lead to liberation.  The other one that can be achieved with the purpose of gaining liberation is Sakäm Nirjarä, which does not lead to new Karmas.  One of the ways to achieve such Nirjarä is to resort to austerities.  Sakäm Nirjarä should be accompanied by closing of all the doors of karmas and remaining equanimous.  Upaväs is the most well known mode of the austerities.  Since it is significantly helpful in achieving Nirjarä, Jainism exhorts its followers to observe Upaväs to the utmost extent.

However, it is hardly remembered that observance of austerities is a means, and not the end.  In order to avoid misconception of the term, Jainism has laid down the concept of Tapa or the austerities in great details.  Austerities have been actually conceived as external or Bähya Tapa and internal or Abhyantar Tapa.  Since internal austerities are concerned with inner aspects, it would be evident that they are meant for spiritual development.  External austerities, on the other hand, are useful only to the extent they are helpful in undertaking the internal ones.  Both these categories of Tapa are divided into six sub-categories each.  There are thus twelve types of Tapa in all.  Let us examine them into two broad headings.

Bähya Tapa (External Austerities)


Panchächär Sutra lays down external austerities as under.

Anasan-Moonoariyä Vitti-Sankhevanam Rasachchäo

Käya-Kileso Sanlinayä Ya Bajzo Tavo Hoi

Fasting, eating less, curtailing the desires, avoiding the tastes, facing physical hardships and occupying restricted space are the external austerities.  Let us consider them one after another.



This is the first category of Tapa.  Ashan means to eat and Anashan means not to eat which is known as fasting.  Such fasting is usually termed as Upaväs.  As mentioned above, however, that is misleading, because Upaväs has a totally different connotation.  Upaväs means staying close to the soul.  That way, when a person stays tuned to the nature of soul, he does not care for the body or other physical aspects like appetite etc. So refraining from food can be a consequence of Upaväs, but is not the essential part of it.  Instead of using the term Upaväs, the seers have therefore specifically used the term Anashan for this category of the external restraint.  Fasting is of course useful, because the spiritual pursuit may entail going without food.  The practice of fasting would therefore be helpful in staying unperturbed and in retaining the peace of mind under such adverse circumstances.

Unoariä or Unodari:

This means eating less than what is needed for satisfying the appetite.  Normally, people tend to fill the belly, when they eat.  It is however possible those spiritual aspirants may sometime not get enough to eat.  Observance of this austerity therefore enables them to prepare for such eventualities.  They can thereby stay unperturbed even when they do not get enough food.  This austerity has a hygienic consideration too.  A recent research has shown that eating less than appetite is conducive to health and can even increase the longevity.

Vitti-Sankhevanam or Vruti-Sankshep:

This means curtailing the mentality to extend the requirements.  Human beings have the tendency to acquire, as many things as possible, so that they can be used to satisfy the current or future needs.  Gaining too many things, however, does not necessarily make one happy.  Happiness is a function of mind and can be attained only by contentment.  By observing this austerity, one can learn to stay contented with the minimum requirements. One meaning of this austerity is to resterict the number of food items per meal, and avoid eating the items liked the most.

Rasachchäo or Rasatyäg.

This means giving up attachment for tastes.  The tongue is an organ that looks for a variety of tastes.  Our attention therefore stays attached to the different types of tasty foods and drinks.  This turns out to be more or less an insatiable craze.  Such hankering for the tastes does not allow the peace of mind.  Some brake has to be applied to it.  That is the reason for laying down this austerity.  Our Äyambil Vrata is specially devised for this purpose.

Käya-Kileso or Käyä-Klesha:

This literally means bearing physical affliction.  In practice, it amounts to courting physical hardships.  During spiritual pursuit, one comes across many hardships.  If he is not accustomed to bear the same, he cannot maintain peace and there cannot be spiritual uplift without the peace of mind.  It is therefore necessary that the aspirants get used to bearing hardships and physical discomforts.

Sanlinayä or Sanlinatä:

This is also referred to as Vivikta-shayyäsan.  It means staying in a forlorn place and occupying minimum space.  Normal human tendency is to gain maximum possible amenities in the life.  The purpose of this austerity is to curtail that tendency and to practice feeling comfortable within a restricted area.  The term can also mean staying tuned.  Maintaining the attentiveness thus comes within the purview of this restraint. Another meaning of this austerity is to avoid the pleasure subjects of senses and mind.

It would be evident that the purpose of these external austerities is to make the aspirants to be victorious over the food needs, physical needs, and subjects of snses and mindso that they can engage in the spiritual pursuit easily.  That can enable them to observe peace and tranquility of mind even in adverse circumstances.  Now let us turn to the internal austerities, each of which is devised to lead to liberation.

Abhyantar Tapa (Internal Austerities)

Panchächär Sutra lays down internal austerities as under.

Päyachchhittam Vinao Veyävachcham Tahev Sajzäo

Jhänam Ussaggo Vi A Abbhintarao Tavo Hoi


Repentance, modesty, selfless service, study of Self, meditation and staying beyond the physical aspects are the internal austerities.  Let us consider them one by one.


Päyachchhittam or Präyashchitta:

This means atonement or repentance.  During our life, we happen to indulge in wrong and undesirable physical activities and evil tendencies.  This may be due to addiction, weakness of mind, pitfalls or shortsightedness.  Spiritual aspirant has to stay constantly aware of all such indulgences.  Whenever he notices any thing wrong on his part, he should repent and atone for the same.  His sense of remorse should be strong enough to avoid the recurrence of such indulgences.  If this is undertaken with sincerity, one can surely reach the state of perfection sooner or later.


This means modesty on one’s own part and respect for others.  Respect has to be appropriate and may even take the form of worship for the deserving entities.  This would help the aspirant to proceed towards spiritual development.  For instance, if one has regard for his preceptor, he would not undertake any activity without seeking the guidance from such preceptor.  This would automatically keep him away from indulging in any wrong or undesirable activity.  He would also get inclined to develop the attributes of the deserving entities and this can lead him towards perfection.

Veyävachcham or Vaiyävruttya:

This means selfless service.  The spiritual aspirant should realize that all the living beings have the same type of soul.  He should therefore feel the sense of amity and fraternity for everyone.  He would then be willing to serve others without expecting anything in return.  This sense of selfless service would not arise, unless one has developed the sense of dedication to the cause of serving.  Such servicing can result in elimination of arrogance and lead towards modesty.  The utter degree of such modesty can bring forth the faultlessness. This austerity begins with the selfless services to Jain monks and nuns, and then to Shrävaks and Shrävikäs.

Sajzäo or Swädhyäy:

Literally, this means study of oneself.  It takes two forms.  One is to get conscious of one’s own faults and limitations with a view to avoid the same.  The other is to understand the nature of the true Self.  The aspirant learns that the soul is inherently pure, enlightened, flawless and imbibed with infinite perception, knowledge and bliss.  Thereby, he would strive to manifest those attributes and the total manifestation is liberation. This austerity involves listening, learning, understanding, contemplating and discussing the Jain scriptures.

Jhänam or Dhyäna:

This normally means meditation.  By this term, Jainism however means attentiveness and specifies the four types of Dhyäna known as Ärta-dhyäna, Raudra-dhyäna, Dharma-Dhyäna and Shukla-dhyäna.  The first two categories are unwholesome and do not form part of this austerity.  The remaining two are wholesome and are akin to meditation.  Dharma-Dhyäna means contemplating about the spiritual aspects so as to get rid of the defilements.  Shukla-dhyäna is one’s absorption within the nature of soul.  When one attains this state, he is not far away from the liberation.

Ussaggo or Käyotsarga:

Literally, this means giving up the body and all associated karmas.  It actually denotes giving up all the physical, verbal and mental activities and staying absorbed in the true nature of soul.  When such absorption is complete and remains uninterrupted, it is called liberation.

It would thus be clear from the above description those undertaking internal austerities amounts to observing Upaväs.  As stated earlier, the concept of Upaväs seems to have been misunderstood.  The term denotes remaining tuned to the true nature of the soul.  If a person can stay so tuned, he would have no time to care for the physical, sensory, mental and other worldly aspects.  Nirjarä can thus be easily achieved by such Upaväs.  Karmas cannot withstand the impact of the force inherent in staying so tuned and would automatically give in.  Lord Umäsväti has therefore rightly stated: Tapasä Nirjarä Cha.  It means that Nirjarä can be achieved by Tapa.  This primarily conveys the observance of internal restraints while resorting to the external ones as means for the internal austerities.

05.  Viryächär (Code of Exercising Vigor)


Anigoohia-Bal-Virio Parakkamai Jo Jahuttamäutto

Junjai A Jahäthämam Näyavvo Viriäyäro

--- Panchächär Sutra

When one applies his unrestricted capacity and vigor for practicing the spiritual code, as laid down, it is known as Viryächär or the code of exercising vigor.


After properly understanding first four aspects, the next step is to use one's energy for putting the same in practice.  This has to be done vigorously and enthusiastically without any way restricting the energy.  Such practice is known as Viryächär, the code of exercising vigor.  Like Tapächär, Viryächär also is a part of Chäriträchär.  In view of its importance, however, Jain tradition treats it as a separate part of the spiritual code.

For undertaking any activity, one has to exercise vigor.  That applies to the worldly as well as spiritual aspects.  This is obvious and well known to every one.  The question would therefore arise why do we need a code for something that is so obvious and plain.  The reply is simple.  All of us are, of course, aware that exercising vigor is necessary for gaining any thing.  How many people, however, actually exercise it appropriately?  While undertaking any activity, most of the people are overcome by indolence.  They are frequently led by the tendency to indulge in lethargy, sluggishness etc. For instance, a student might be aware that for securing admission to the course that he aspires, he needs to gain a high score.  He would also be aware that if he properly exerts, he could gain the required score.  Somehow, he may be led away by lethargy and would not put in the required amount of work.  Thereby, he may miss the chance of getting admission to the course.

Incidents of losing opportunities on account of lethargy occur in all walks of life.  Such lethargy usually arises out of indolence, laziness, overindulgence etc. Doing anything on time needs vigilance and motivation.  There is however no motivation comparable to the self-motivation.  Only that type of motivation is really helpful in correctly undertaking and successfully finishing any work.

If a high degree of self-motivation is required for worldly success, a far higher degree is necessitated for spiritual purposes.  The scriptures mention that Mithyätva or wrong perception, Avirati or absence of restraints, Kashäya or defilements, Pramäda or indolence and Yoga or physical, verbal and mental involvement are the main factors that inhibit the spiritual growth.  Detailed analysis of these factors would indicate that laxity, laziness and lethargy, which are the principal constituents of indolence, are inherent in those inhibiting factors.  Religion therefore emphasizes that the spiritual aspirant should undertake every activity efficiently and without any way indulging in indolence.

Five Major Indolence:

17.   Vishay, which means indulgence in sensuous objects like sound, sight, smell, taste and touch

18.   Kashäya, meaning the defilement of anger, ego, deception and greed

19.   Vikathä meaning the unnecessary talks pertaining to politics, nation, food and sex

20.   Nidrä, meaning the excessive sleep (non-alertness)

21.   Pranay meaning too much attachment.


These aspects tend the people to remain indolent and thereby lead them away from seeking the well being of the soul.  Every aspirant is therefore required to avoid all these types of indolence and to practice the spiritual code with vigor and enthusiasm.  The verse from the Panchächär Sutra, quoted at the top of this chapter, therefore states that the spiritual aspirant needs to practice the code vigorously and without limiting or restraining his energy and capability.

This leads us to a more or less controversial issue.  It is sometimes contended that Jainism being Karma-oriented, it believes in the inexorable law of Karma; living beings get different types of situations as a result of their Karma and there is no escape for them but to bear the consequences of their Karmas.  Jainism is therefore viewed as endorsing the inactivity and discouraging the energetic effort.  How can we reconcile that view with the above-mentioned description of the Viryächär?  This question is closely associated with the controversy between Prärabdha and Purushärtha or destiny vs. endeavor.  Let us therefore consider it at some length.

Prärabdha or destiny is usually seen as resulting from Karma, while Purushärtha is viewed as the effort to overcome such destiny.  Thus, Prärabdha and Purushärtha apparently seem to be contradicting each other.  Really speaking, both of them are the different facets of the operative part of Karma.  Prärabdha denotes the consequence of Purva or earlier Karma, while right Purushärtha involves the process of stopping karmas (Samvar) and eradicating karma (Nirjarä).  Purushärtha has to be powerful enough  to have an edge over Purva Karma.

Viryächär asks us to undertake intensive Purushärtha for overcoming the impact of Karma acquired earlier.  One would be successful in overcoming the same to the extent the bondage of earlier Karmas is not too strong.  Viryächär lay down that one should try his best to gain the trio of right knowledge, right faith and right conduct.  That would lead to Nirjarä or the eradication of Karmas.

Simultaneously, Jainism stresses that those three attributes cannot be gained easily and the aspirants have to work hard for gaining them.  On the other hand austerities as a part of right conduct are even harder ecause its observance necessitates a very high degree of physical, mental and internal strength.  That is however not impossible.  As a matter of fact, Jains are known to undertake acute austerities.  This is actually a form of Viryächär that lay down that all the aspects of the spiritual code should be observed with utmost vigor.  Moreover, exercising of such vigor is the real Purushärtha.