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Why Animals Matter: Jainism Quotations

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Page One Introduction and Brief History of Jainism
Page Two Basic Teachings
Page Three Ahimsa and Animal Rights
Page Four Jainism in the Modern World

Page Two

Basic Teachings
Jains believe in the philosophy of interdependence. We depend on animals, we depend on rivers, water, mountains, air. Animals and birds depend on us. We are interdependent. We can’t just go and destroy or kill anything, anyone. It is our duty to look after one another. Animals, birds, the environment, air and water all help us so we must look after each and every thing. In the modern world when we talk about ecology and the environment, we realise how dependent we are and that we should not pollute water or air, or kill animals ruthlessly. We are not masters of the world, but share it with other living things.

Vinod Kapashi from a talk on Jainism and Nonviolence:
North London Interfaith Events

The word Jain is derived from the Sanskrit word Jina which means "conqueror" which refers to the goal of Jainism to reach enlightenment by subjugation of the mind, the passions and the body by means of austere ascetic practices. In addition Jains believe that merit may be gained by for instance temple building and the practice of Ahimsa, non violence, to any being. Consequently Jains are Svetambaras, strict vegetarians. Jainism was the first religion to practice Ahimsa as a rule of life. Before we go on it is important to understand the principle of Ahimsa, the practice of which is central to Jain belief and which has been a great influence in more recent times for great peacemakers such as Gandhi. Ahimsa, a sanskirt term, means to do no harm, literally: the avoidance of violence - himsa. Ahimsa is an important tenet of the ancient religions that originated in India namely Buddhism, Hinduism and most notably Jainism, in Buddhism however Ahimsa is not used in so many words as a technical term, the principle is there nonetheless as Buddhism condemns violence, including sacrifice, and its moral codes emphasize the importance of not taking life. Ahimsa is a rule of conduct prohibiting the killing or injuring any living beings . It is associated with the belief that all kinds of violence result in negative karma*(1). The extent to which the principle of non-violence can or should be applied to different life forms is controversial between various authorities, movements and other factors within the three religions and has been a matter of debate for thousands of years. However in Jainism the principle of ahimsa is practiced to a high degree, particularly amongst ascetics, Jain monks and nuns. Ahimsa is indeed an ancient code of conduct, the exact origins of which are unknown, the earliest references to ahimsa have been found in the texts of the historical Vedic religion, predecessor of Hinduism,  dated to 8th century BCE. Here, ahimsa initially relates to "non-injury" without a moral connotation, but later to non-violence to animals and then to all beings. The connection between the practice of Ahimsa as a means of gaining meritorious karma emerges in the Hindu texts, the Mahabharata and Manu Smriti.

Rather like Buddhism Jainism is atheistic, there is no belief in a creator god as there is for instance in the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Jains believe that the universe is eternal and each person has to work out his own salvation by the merit of his actions and indeed his thoughts. Each person is responsible for finding out the ultimate truth about himself and the universe. The eventual aim of Jainism is to reach enlightenment. To achieve this goal, adherents must practice right thought and right action. Jain monastics and lay people follow the same fivefold path of non violence (ahimsa); truth (satya); non-stealing (asteya); chastity (brahmacharya); and non-possession or non-possessiveness (aparigraha), but to different degrees. In order to do so Jains must take and of course adhere to certain vows depending upon whether the adherent is a monk/nun or a lay person. The rules are stricter for monks and nuns.

A believer who renounces all worldly life and attachments becomes a monk, called Sadhu, Shraman or Muni or a nun, called Sadhvi, Shramani, or Aryä. This is a serious commitment and their renunciation is total, they live an austere ascetic life devoted to both their own spiritual progression and to that of the laity. Both monks and nuns and the laity have a unique and strict code of vegetarianism, the extent of which depends on the individual commitment, again for monks and nuns the the rules are stricter. In additions to the obvious restrictions of meat, eggs, honey and in some cases milk, Jains do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, cassava, sweet potatoes, turnips for example. However, they consume rhizomes such as turmeric, ginger, peanuts. Brinjals, the egg plant or aubergine, are also not consumed by some Jains owing to the large number of seeds in the vegetable, because the seeds are the carriers of new life. Ascetics to more perfectly fulfil the principle of ahimsa consume only fruit, nuts and milk but only milk that is freely given not milk produced in factory farms, more about Jains and veganism further down.

Monks and nuns have no property, do not remain in one place and are required to wonder and are celibate, practicing austerities of fasting, with firm adherence to the practice of ahimsa. Jain monastics abide by a very strict rule of conduct concerning daily living which includes where they sleep and eat and even where, when and how they walk. Monks and nuns must walk with complete awareness that each step involves the death of hundreds of tiny beings, before they tread they must brush the ground with a special soft brush to gently brush away insects and other small beings. Jains avoid walking in mud so as not to accidentally harm living beings who inhabit the soil or may be in the mud such as frogs, worms and insects. This is the reason that Monks and nuns do not travel during the monsoon season. Some wear a face mask to avoid inhaling minute creatures. Because of the commitment to not having possesions some monks as already mentioned earlier may not wear clothing, others may not wash. Meals should not be taken after dark should a fly enter the mouth whist eating and be inadvertently consumed.

The three guptis, vows seven, eight and nine below, the controls of mind, speech and body and the remaining five vows, the samiti or regulation of walking, speaking, begging of food, keeping items and disposal of items are there to help monks and nuns observe the vow of ahimsa.

Such behaviours by monks and nuns may appear to non believers to be extreme; this behaviour however comes from the belief that every action no matter how subtle, has a karmic effect which can bind the soul to repeat the cycle of rebirth and inhibit the attainment of Moksha, liberation, especially those that result in any violation of Ahimsa

Monks take the vow of Ahimsa as does the laity but as you can see from the above information, for monks and nuns however the rules are more strict.

"I renounce killing of living beings whether subtile or gross, whether movable or immovable. Nor shall I myself kill living beings (nor cause others to do it, nor consent to it)."
The first vow of a Jaini Monk, c. 5th century B.C. in Sacred Books of the East, Vol.22 

At initiation both monks and nuns take the twelve vows below which include five major vows or great vows known as the mahavrata which they have to adhere to in strict accordance. These vows taken by monastics are prescribed by ancient texts such as the Acharanga sutra, religious texts based on the teachings of Lord Mahavira which have been passed on down to the present day.

Below are the twelve vows taken by monks and nuns

Five Mahavratas
  • Ahimsa: Non-violence in thought, word and deed
  • Satya: Truth which is (hita) beneficial, (mita) succinct and (priya) pleasing
  • Acaurya: Not accepting anything that has not been given to them by the owner
  • Brahmacarya: Absolute purity of mind and body
  • Aparigraha: Non-attachment to non-self objects

Three Guptis

  • Managupti: Control of the mind
  • Vacanagupti: Control of speech
  • Kayagupti: Control of body

Five Samitis

  • Irya Samiti: Carefulness while walking
  • Bhasha Samiti: Carefulness while communicating
  • Eshana Samiti: Carefulness while eating
  • Adana Nikshepana Samiti: Carefulness while handling their fly-whisks, water gourds, etc.
  • Pratishthapana Samiti: Carefulness while disposing of bodily waste matter



The first five vows are considered major vows.   A Jain monastic or ascetic is expected to adhere to the law of ahimsa considered the most important of the five to a strict and very high standard even at the cost of his own life. The other remaining four vows – truthfulness, non-stealing, non-possession and celibacy – are also important as they are extensions of the first vow of complete non violence

“All sins like falsehood, theft, attachment and immorality are forms of violence which destroy the purity of the soul. They have been separately enumerated only to facilitate their understanding”
Puruārthasiddhyupāya 4.42

For the laity who own property, have an occupation and marry there is a corresponding set of five vows called Anuvrata or minor vows, these vows are similar but less strict. For a lay person going about his daily business it is more difficult to avoid violence to certain beings particularly to single sensed immobile beings (plants). In Jain belief living beings called Jivas are divided into two broad categories, non mobile creatures that cannot move and have only one sense and mobile beings that can move and have two or five senses. Non mobile beings, have only the sense of touch and are plants, water beings, fire beings, air beings and vegetable beings. Mobile beings are creatures with more than one sense and possess, two, three, four or five. Two sensed beings are creatures with the sense of touch such as worms and animals which live in shells for example. Creatures with three senses, those of touch taste and smell  are centipedes, snails and  some insects such as months and white ants.  Beings with the four senses of touch, taste, smell and sight include scorpions, spiders insects such as locust crickets, beetles  and butterflies. Animals in the five sense category, touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing include of course humans and also mammals, birds, reptiles and so on. This is a complex subject and if your require more information please click :

Jainism Simplified Chapter 3 - Jiva (Living Beings)

For the lay person in the course of daily life such as cooking for example it is not possible to always avoid violence to single sensed beings. Therefore the lay person has to vow that he will not kill without a necessary reason, for example over eating. Jains are realistic and realise that for the laity the code of absolute non violence as practiced by a monk or nun is not possible for the lay person as lay people have to eat with less restriction than a monastic, and they have to cook, wear clothing and travel. These activities inevitably involve some degrees of violence albeit unintentional. While taking such action however Jain lay people are required to use as little violence as is possible. For example not waste water and obviously not eat meat, eggs, honey or other animal products which results in obvious violence which can easily be avoided.

Lay members are prohibited from any kind of cruelty or animal abuse including the infliction of injury, or mutilation, neither are they to use animals as labour to carry burdens, nor deprive them of food or water. Moreover to harm any creature with a mind polluted by anger and other passions are the five aticāra or transgressions of the vow of Ahimsa. For the laity though the lesser commitment means that their spiritual progress is ultimately limited and adherence to the lesser vows only serves in bringing about a more favourable incarnation but does not lead to enlightenment, Moksha, freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Jains both past and present have and continue to respect both animals and the environment. Therefore both the laity and monastics as already mentioned are required to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and indeed Jainism is probably the only religion in the world that emphatically makes this requirement. The influences of Jainism in this regard has been responsible for the adoption of a vegetarian diet in various sects of Hinduism. However, although the term vegetarianism is used when speaking of the code of dietary conduct, Jain cuisine is more close to western veganism.  Many Jains now practice a dietary lifestyle similar to veganism in response to factory farming, and milk once drunk is no longer consumed if it originated from factory farming, more about this further down.  Strict Jains abstain from eating root vegetables because the plant, considered to be a living organism, is uprooted and killed when it is harvested and also because of the tiny creatures that would be harmed by the pulling up of root vegetables.  Some interpret that to mean consuming only those foods that can be harvested without killing the plant. Nuts, milk and fruit are examples.

The principle of ahimsa means for a layperson the necessity of going about his business mindful to cause the least harm possible to any living being. Jains should choose occupations or business pursuits that do not involve injury to living beings. The laity are required not to wear, fur, wool, plumes or silk. Leather may be worn but only if it came from an animal that had died naturally, an animal must not be killed purposely for leather. Like the monks food is only eaten by lay people during the daytime unless it is absolutely impossible to do so. A Jain adherent must not use an open flame to cook and must cover a container of liquid with a lid should any insect be harmed, also water must be strained before using should it contain any insect larvae.

The basic principle of Ahimsa is present in both the five main and seven supplementary vows prescribed for the observance of the Jain laity or householders as the Jain laity are often referred, and it is empathically stressed in the sacred texts of Jainism the dire necessity of exercising utmost care by Jain householders in the actual observance of Ahimsa in their daily life.

Below are the codes of conduct, the twelve vows for Jain laity called the lesser vows

The five Anuvratas

The Anuvratas are known as the Lesser or Limited Vows:

  • Non-violence - Ahimsa:
    • Jains must do their best to avoid any intentional hurt to living things. In daily life harm can be minimized by filtering drinking water, not eating at night, and so on. Intentional hurt includes cases of avoidable negligence.
    • Jains must be vegetarians.
    • Jains may use violence in self-defence.
    • If a Jain's work unavoidably causes harm (e.g. farming) they should try to minimize the harm and maintain complete detachment.
  • Truthfulness - Satya:
    • Jains must always be truthful.
    • Jains must always conduct business honestly.
    • Dishonesty by not doing something is as bad as being actively dishonest.
  • Non-stealing - Achaurya or Asteya
    • Jains must not steal
    • Jains must not cheat
    • Jains must not avoid paying tax
  • Chastity - Bramacharya
    • Jains must have sex only with the person they are married to.
    • Jains must avoid sexual indulgence even with that person.
    • Jains must give up sex, if possible, after the marriage has yielded a son.
  • Non-possession - Aparigraha
    • Jains must only possess what they need.
    • Jains must use surplus possessions to benefit others.
    • Jains must live simply.
    • Jains must not use too many resources.

The three Gunavratas

The Gunavratas are known as the Subsidiary Vows:

  • Limited area of activity - Dik vrata
    • By this vow a lay Jain restricts the extent to which they travel, so as to reduce the area in which they may do harm.
  • Limited use of resources - Bhoga-Upbhoga vrata
    • Jains should limit their use of things like food and clothing according to what they need.
  • Avoidance of pointless sins - Anartha-danda vrata
    • Thinking or speaking badly of other people.
    • Being inconsiderate (and not just to people).
    • Being self-indulgent.
    • Reading, watching or listening to immoral material.

The four Siksavratas

The Siksavratas are known as the Vows of Instruction or Discipline:

  • Meditation vow - Samayik vrata
    • Jains should carry out sitting meditation in one place for 48 minutes each day.
  • Limited duration of activity vow - Desavakasika
    • Jains should restrict certain activities to specific times.
  • Limited ascetic's life vow - Pausadha vrata
    • Jains should regularly adopt the life of a monk for a day.
  • Limited charity vow - Siksavratas
    • Jains should give to monks, nuns and the poor.

The above extraction was quoted from BBC website where you can find considerable information concerning Jainism
BBC - Religion & Ethics - Jainism

As you can see there is quite a commitment for even the Jain laity

"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 by approving such an act committed by somebody else."

His agricultural, industrial, occupational living activities do
also involve injury to life, but it should be as minimum as
possible, through carefulness and due precaution.

Nonviolence is the foundation of Jain ethics. Lord Mahavir 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. The scriptures analyze the spiritual and
practical aspects of nonviolence and discuss the subject negatively
and positively.

The passage above concerns nonviolence to both non human and human creatures and also plants. You can read by clicking the link below the entire article, Twelve Vows of Layperson, by Pravin K. Shah, including the complete explanation of the vow of Ahimsa:


Concerning whether Jains are vegan or vegetarian depends upon the harm caused to animals. Many Jains who live outside India become Vegan because of the cruelty of factory farming where a cow spends her entire life pregnant and her calves are taken away from her at birth and after her usefulness as a milking machine is over she is slaughtered. Here is what a Jain doctor living in San Francisco has to say about why she became vegan in response to factory farming :

An extract from an interview of Jina Shah by David Ian Miller

Finding My Religion


Jinah Shah, a Jain living in San Francisco, talks about the challenges of treading lightly on our Earth


"One of the basic tenets of Jainism is the idea that you treat all living things as sacred. What does that mean to you?

Every living being has a soul. Every spirit is equally worthy of our respect and care, and so a central ethical principle is not harming things. Traditionally, it's been narrowly practiced in terms of being vegetarian, avoiding the killing of even small insects in the home and other practices around food and consumption.

How do you decide what's OK to eat when pretty much everything you would want to consume was alive at some point?

It's challenging. I became a vegan about 15 years ago because I felt that simply being a vegetarian wasn't enough. I made that decision after attending a conference at a Jain ashram when I was in college. There was a group there from the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, and I learned about the way cows are treated, about factory farming and the dairy industry.

The reason Jains don't eat meat is because we try to avoid killing anything more than what's necessary for our food, and the reason that traditionally Jains do eat dairy is that you didn't have to kill the cows. But the way that it works in modern factory farming is that the lactating cows, once they cannot give milk anymore, are killed and used for hamburger meat. Their baby male calves, which can never be dairy cows, are raised for veal. It took a little while to actually become vegan after realizing that, but that's why I did it. To me, there is a kind of obvious line about not wanting to be part of killing any animals."


To read the rest of the interview:

FINDING MY RELIGION / Jina Shah, a Jain living in San Francisco, talks about


Next: Page Three  Ahimsa and Animal Rights


References :


1)"Karma in Jainism conveys a totally different meaning as commonly understood in the Hindu philosophy and western civilization.[30] In Jainism, karma is referred to as karmic dirt, as it consists of very subtle and microscopic particles i.e. pudgala that pervade the entire universe.[31] Karmas are attracted to the karmic field of a soul on account of vibrations created by activities of mind, speech, and body as well as on account of various mental dispositions. Hence the karmas are the subtle matter surrounding the consciousness of a soul. When these two components, i.e. consciousness and karma, interact, we experience the life we know at present."

Scource Wikipedia

Karma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Click to read the rest of the explanation concerning Karma and how it applies to Jainism

Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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