Five main vows
Jainism encourages spiritual development through cultivation of personal wisdom and self-control through five main vows:
- Ahimsa: Ahiṃsā means nonviolence or non-injury. The first major vow taken by Jains is to cause no harm to living beings. It involves minimizing intentional and unintentional harm to other living creatures by actions, speech or thoughts. The vow of ahiṃsā is considered the foremost among the ‘five vows of Jainism’.
- Satya: Satya means truth. This vow is to always speak the truth. Given that nonviolence has priority, other principles yield to it whenever they conflict: in a situation where speaking truth could lead to violence, silence may be observed.
- Asteya: Asteya means not stealing. Jains should not take anything that is not willingly offered. Attempting to extort material wealth from others or to exploit the weak is considered theft. Fair value should be given for all goods and services purchased.
- Brahmacharya: Brahmacharya means chastity for laymen and celibacy for Jain monks and nuns. This requires the exercise of control over the senses to control indulgence in sexual activity.
- Aparigraha: Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. This includes non-materialism and non-attachment to objects, places and people. Jain monks and nuns completely renounce property and social relations.
Monks and nuns are obligated to practice the five cardinal principles of nonviolence, truthfulness, not stealing, celibacy, and non-possessiveness very strictly, while laymen are encouraged to observe them within their current practical limitations.
Additionally, Jainism identifies four passions of the mind: Anger, pride (ego), deceitfulness, greed. It recommends conquering anger by forgiveness, pride by humility, deceitfulness by straight-forwardness and greed by contentment.