Home » Vows for a healthy, ethical and sustainable economy

Vows for a healthy, ethical and sustainable economy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Jains have a tradition of taking vows, which they take extremely serious. One should not take a vow lightly. Once one has decided to take a vow, it will bring great responsibility, and it will bring lasting damage for the reincarnating soul when the vow is not kept. On the other hand, if kept, it furthers one’s spiritual progress tremendously because one needs great strength of character to keep vows under all circumstances. Many things happen in life towards which the reactions and any action taken could be much easier than keeping the vow. One may be faced to have to abandon attachments or receive boons which one can not oversee at the moment one takes a vow. A true vow is taken before one’s higher self or soul, and can externally be taken before an initiated person.

There are lay vows or ‘small vows’ which everyone can take even when living a life in the world; the are great vows to be taken by ordained monks.

A lot of vows are quite down to earth, such as the vow of non-smoking or not drinking alcohol or other measures of physical self-disciple. Others may be more abstract, such as ‘not to ever speak or think bad about any other person.’ The keeping or not keeping of a vow is not so much meant to be checked by the world around, but has a karmic implication which can not be refused.

Vows in Jainism are meant for the well-being of others, to avoid harm and suffering. They are also meant for self-discipline, to enhance one’s quality of character.

Though traditionally vows have been personal, in modern times, where Jains stand in the middle of the global community and are co-responsible for the management of the planet, some Jain spiritual leaders have proposed small vows (i.e. anuvrats – atom vows – which can be taken by anyone (also non-Jains) for the benefit of the larger world.

Even if a vow is taken by oneself alone in silence, it is a true vow according to dedication and the heart-felt seriousness with which the vow is taken. A vow is more serious than a good intention. A person who feels not (yet) capable of or is not (yet) fully convinced of the value of such vows, can take them on, not as true vows, but as firm good intentions. The ideas represented by the vows can always be in the back of one’s mind, and be brought to surface in applicable circumstances. Or one can read them, seriously think about them and their use and implications (and possibly modify them) and, above mere thinking, meditate on them, i.e. ponder about them quietly without disturbance by other thoughts wishing or tending to pop up during the meditation.


Here an example of such vows:


1. The Right Concept of Development

a) I will adhere to the balanced concept of development.

b) I will practice a non-violent life style.

c) In education I will strive to a balanced emotional development.


2. The Right Attitude towards Wealth and Consumption

a) I will abstain from earning such wealth and from such a level of consumption that these [potentially] create social problems.

b) I will abstain from earning such wealth and from such a level of consumption that these [potentially] create reactive violence.

c) I will abstain from earning such wealth and from such a level of consumption that these [potentially] bring forth poverty and hunger.

d) I will abstain from such use of money and a pattern of consumption that give rise to social disparity.

e) I will refrain from engaging myself in such occupations and consumption that lead to pollution and destruction of the environment.


3. The Right Attitude of Consumption:

a) I will refrain from unnecessary consumption.

b) I will exercise self-discipline and discretion even within necessary and essential consumption.

c) I will try to reform criminal mentality.