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Words of Wisdom

Jain Ethics – Twelve Vows of the Layperson, Part 1 of 2

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The religion of Jainism, traditionally called Jain Dharma, originated in ancient India. Jain Dharma emphasizes the value of right perception, right knowledge, and right conduct. Through inner reflection and sincere practice of these principles, one can attain Moksha, or realization of the soul’s true Nature. The concept of ahimsa, or nonviolence, is also central to Jainism. Thus, with respect for all life, Jain practitioners follow a pure vegan or plant-based diet. The Jain lineage includes 24 Tirthankaras, or Beings who share their enlightenment with others. The Tirthankaras’ teachings comprise the Agam sutras, which are the holy scriptures of Jainism. The 24th and last Tirthankara was Lord Mahavira, whose name means “Great Hero.”

Supreme Master Ching Hai has offered tribute to the spiritual greatness of Lord Mahavira, as during lectures given in Taiwan, also known as Formosa, on various occasions. “I don’t know if anyone in the history of mankind could have done or could be doing or will be doing such an asceticism, such a sacrifice like the Lord Mahavira.” “We really salute Him and are grateful - to all that He had to endure for enlightenment, for the sake of others. All these sufferings are not for naught. They would benefit the world in some way or another, even without the Lord Mahavira knowing or even without the world people knowing or being grateful for.”

We present to you today, excerpts from “Jain Ethics – Twelve Vows of the Layperson.”

“The twelve vows are described as follows: Five Main Vows of Limited Nature: 1. Non-violence vow 2. Truthfulness vow 3. Non-stealing vow 4. Chastity vow 5. Non-attachment vow. Three Merit Vows: 6. Limited area of activity vow 7. Limited use of consumable and non-consumable items vow 8. Avoidance of purposeless sins vow. Four Disciplinary Vows (Siksha-vratas): 9. Meditation vow of limited duration 10. Activity vow of limiting space 11. Ascetic's life vow of limited duration 12. Limited charity vow”

“Nonviolence is the foundation of Jain ethics. Lord Mahavira says: ‘One should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture or kill any living being, including animals, insects, plants, and vegetables.’ This is the essence of religion. It embraces the welfare of all animals. It is the basis of all stages of knowledge and the source of all rules of conduct.”

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