Justice T.U.Mehta

Twelve Vratas of House-holder

(A) Five minor vows - We have noticed above that for a house-holders a liberalised code of conduct called ‘Anuvrata' is prescribed. Anuvratas (Minor vows) are five in number --

(i) Minor vow of non-violence, i.e., abstinence from the killing and misbehaving of mobile living beings.

(ii) Minor vow of truthfulness, i.e., abstinence from saying a lie to fulfil one's vested interest.

(iii) Non-stealing.

(iv) Limiting one's sexual activities to one's own wife or to remain satisfied by one's own wife.

(v) Limiting one's own possessions.


(B) Three supplementary vows - However in order to keep a house-holder constantly on the track some supplementary vows are also prescribed. These are known as ‘Gunavratas', which are three in number -

(i) Digvrata -- ‘Dig' means direction and ‘Vrata' means a vow. Thus Digvrata is a vow to carry out one's activity only within a restricted area.

(ii) Bhogopabhogaparimana - ‘Bhoga-Upabhoga' means sensual enjoyment of material things. This vow prescribed limitations regarding the enjoyment of material objects and these restrictions may also be with regard to the time and place when and where they may be enjoyed. Both the above vows are intended to limit the worldly activities and the extent of the worldly enjoyments, if the total and absolute restriction is not possible.

(iii) Anarthadanda-viramana - This vow is meant to prevent one from indulgence in such acts which are not necessary. A house-holder has to undertake various types of activities. He cannot afford to put a stop to all activities, but using proper direction he can desist from certain acts such as :

  1. Inflicting bodily injuries or killing others ( Apadhyana ).
  2. Advising others to act in such a manner which results in sinful acts (Papopadesa).
  3. Giving weapons which would result in violence (Himsopakari Dana).
  4. Engaging oneself in useless and morally degrading activities such as gambling, reading sex-literature, seeing low-taste dramas and indulging in talks which are morally degrading.

(C) Four educative vows - These are four in number. These vows are meant to give periodic education in right conduct and to keep perpetual vigilance over one's activities. They are of four types :

(i) Samayika - This is the most important daily activity to discipline mind and body, to review and reassess day's activity and to offer prayerful respect to the souls who have achieved liberation as well as to those who are on the path to liberation. Both in the morning, before daily activities are undertaken, and in the evening, before going to bed, one has to sit in meditation with the spirit of forbearance, friendliness and fraternity for all, irrespective of their cast, creed or complexion. One practices equanimity of mind and tries to shed all different types of Kasayas such as anger, pride, deceit and greed. Virtues of great masters who have achieved liberation are extolled and prayers are offered for developing one's capacity to absorb these virtues in actual life.

This vow of Samayika is so important that Bimbisara, the king of Magadha, who was an ardent follower of lord Mahavira, was told by the Lord that if a particular house-holder could give to him only a fraction of the fruit of his daily practice of equanimity (Samayika), his path of liberation would become easiest. The King, like most of the persons possessed of power and riches, thought that it would be easy for him to manage that particular house-holder who was an ordinary layman, living in poverty. The king offered money and other things to purchase a small fraction of the merits achieved by him from Samayika. The house-holder simply smiled at the ignorance of king's arrogance and would have appropriately replied in Biblical terms, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Mathew)

(ii) Desavakasika - This vow is to be taken for further lessening the sphere of Digvrata and Bhogopabhoga-parimana-vrata for a day.

(iii) Prosadha - During this vrata the Sadha accepts all restrictions of a Monk by retiring for a day or two or for more time in the common prayer hall and passes most of his time in meditation and religious study.

(iv) Atithi-Samvibhaga - Giving gifts and donations to needy persons including Sadhus (saints).