Śrāvaka (Jainism)

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Jain Śrāvaka praying at Gommateshwara statue

In Jainism, the word Śrāvaka or Sāvaga (from Jain Prakrit) is used to refer the Jain laity (householder).[1][2] The word śrāvaka has its roots in the word śrāvana, i.e. the one who listens (the discourses of the saints).[1]

The tirthankara restores or organises the sangha, a fourfold order of muni (male monastics), aryika (female monastics), śrāvakas (male followers) and śrāvikās (female followers).[3]

In Jainism, there are two kinds of votaries:

  • The householder (one with minor vows)
  • The homeless ascetic (one with major vows)

According to the Jain text Puruşārthasiddhyupāya:

Ascetics who establish themselves in pure and absolute consciousness observe complete abstinence. Those who practice the path of partial abstinence are called Śrāvaka.

— Puruşārthasiddhyupāya (41)[4]

Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra, a major Jain text, discusses the conduct of a Śrāvaka in detail.

Six essentials[edit]

A Jain Śrāvika worshiping

In Jainism, six essential duties (avashyakas) are prescribed for a śrāvaka. These help the laity in achieving the principle of ahimsa which is necessary for his/her spiritual upliftment. The six duties are:[5]

  1. Worship of Pañca-Parameṣṭhi (five supreme beings)
  2. Following the preachings of Jain saints
  3. Study of Jain scriptures
  4. Sāmāyika (Vow of periodic concentration)
  5. Following discipline in their daily engagement
  6. Charity (dāna) of four kinds:[6][7]
    1. Ahara-dāna – donation of food
    2. Ausadha-dāna – donation of medicine
    3. Jnana-dāna – donation of knowledge
    4. Abhaya-dāna – saving the life of a living being or giving of protection to someone under threat

Twelve Vows[edit]

Jain ethical code prescribes five main vows and seven supplementary vows, which include three guņa vratas and four śikşā vratas.[8]


In Jainism, both ascetics and householders have to follow five vows (vratas) compulsorily. These five vows are:

  1. Ahiṃsā – Not to hurt any living being by actions and thoughts. Out of the five types of living beings, a householder is forbidden to kill, or destroy, intentionally, all except the lowest (the one sensed, such as vegetables, herbs, cereals, etc., which are endowed with only the sense of touch).[9]
  2. Satya – to lie or speak what is not commendable[10]
  3. Asteya – Not to take anything if not given[11]
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity) – Refraining from indulgence in sex-passion
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession) – Detachment from material property

One who observes the small vows is a householder


Guņa vratas[edit]

  • digvrata – Restriction on movement with regard to directions
  • bhogopabhogaparimana – Vow of limiting consumable and non-consumable things
  • anartha-dandaviramana – Refraining from harmful occupations and activities (purposeless sins)

Śikşā vratas[edit]

  • Samayika – Vow to meditate and concentrate periodically.[8][13] The sāmayika vrata (vow to meditate) is intended to be observed three times a day if possible; other-wise at least once daily. Its objective is to enable the śrāvaka to abstain from all kinds of sins during the period of time fixed for its observance. The usual duration of the sāmayika vow is an antara mūharta (a period of time not exceeding 48 minutes). [14] During this period, which the layman spends in study and meditation, he vows to refrain from the commission of the five kinds of sin — injury, falsehood, theft, unchastity and love of material possessions in any of the three ways. These three ways are:[15]
  1. by an act of mind, speech or body (krita)
  2. inciting others to commit such an act (kārita)
  3. approving the commission of such an act by others (anumodanā)

In performing sāmayika the śrāvaka has to stand facing north or east and bow to the Pañca-Parameṣṭhi.[16] He then sit down and recites the Namokara mantra a certain number of times, and finally devotes himself to holy meditation. Sāmayika can be performed anywhere- a temple, private residence, forest and the like. But the place shouldn't be open to disturbance of any kind.[17]

  • Desavrata — Limiting movement to certain places for a fixed period of time.[18]
  • Upvas — Fasting at regular intervals
  • Atihti samvibhag — Vow of offering food to the ascetic and needy people

A householder who observes these vows is called viratavirata, i.e., one who observes abstinence as well as non-abstinence.[19]


A householder who has observed all the prescribed vows to shed the karmas, takes the vow of sallekhanā at the end of his life.[8] According to the Jain text, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya, "sallekhana enable a householder to carry with him his wealth of piety".[20] The Sallekhana, a voluntary vow of self-starvation if the vows are impossible to uphold by reducing eating of food and partaking of liquids or die while engrossed in meditation with equanimity of mind. Sallekhana is preserving the loss of karma which would be impeded and prevent the further effacing of grief, fear, anger, affection, hatred, prejudice e.t.c. and other afflictions with or without his knowledge in contravening Right Faith, Right Thought and Right Conduct nearing the end of life after vows and austerities have had their beneficial karma on the world by their sacrifice, giving, restraint, pure thoughts and by listening, forgiving e.t.c.. A Jain man or women with vows spends much time on prayer and scripture freed from pleasure and passion.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Singh, Abhay Kumar; Arora, Udai Prakash (1 January 2007). Udayana. p. 423. ISBN 9788179751688.
  2. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. xiii.
  3. ^ Balcerowicz 2009, p. 17.
  4. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 32.
  5. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. v.
  6. ^ Ram Bhushan Prasad Singh 2008, pp. 82–83.
  7. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 58.
  8. ^ a b c Tukol 1976, p. 5.
  9. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1917, p. 79.
  10. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 61.
  11. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 68.
  12. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2011, p. 101.
  13. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 88.
  14. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1917, p. 44.
  15. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1917, p. 27, 44.
  16. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1917, p. 44, 61.
  17. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1917, p. 45.
  18. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 90.
  19. ^ S.A. Jain 1992, p. 202.
  20. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 114.
  21. ^ Tukol 1976, p. 8.