Spiritual Teachings of the Mahavira

The most important attribute of both Jainism and Buddhism is in the adoption of a simple and logical attitude of virtuous behavior for salvation of the soul. Good, ethical conduct takes the place of the mystical power of the Divine. This has been described as rational understanding, or samyak dristi. Jainism does not believe in God as an individual identity but rather as an ideal.57

To their credit, Jain monks roamed across the country, carrying the message of religion and spirituality to the masses, rather than expecting the seekers to come to them in the Himalayas or other distant places. The main teachings of Jainism are presented below:


The Namaskar Mantra (the Fivefold Obeisance):


Salutations to the prophets (arhats).

Salutations to the liberated souls (siddhas).

Salutations to the preceptors (acharyas).

Salutations to the religious instructors (upadhyas).

Salutations to all the saints (sadhus).


  • Supreme forgiveness, supreme humility, supreme straightforwardness, supreme truthfulness, supreme purity, supreme self-restraint, supreme austerity, supreme renunciation, supreme detachment, and supreme continence are the ten characteristics of (Jain) Dharma
  • His forbearance is perfect who does not get excited with anger.
  • A monk who does not boast even slightly of his family lineage, caste, learning, austerity, scriptural knowledge, and character practices humility.
  • He who is always cautious not to insult others truly commands respect.
  • We call him a Brahmin who remains unaffected by objects of sensual pleasures, even while surrounded by them.
  • He who observes the most difficult virtue of celibacy is neither infatuated nor attracted, even on observing feminine charms.
  • Fight your own self. What will you gain by fighting with external foes? One who conquers one’s self, he experiences supreme bliss.
  • One should not be complacent with a small debt, a slight wound, a spark of fire, and insignificant passion.
  • Service to the preceptor, avoiding the company of ignorant people, scriptural study, solitude, contemplation on the meaning of holy texts—these constitute the pathway to emancipation.
  • Those who take wholesome and healthy food in less quantity never fall sick and do not need the services of a physician.
  • As long as the body remains strong, he should use it to practice self-restraint. When the body is devoid of its strength completely, he should renounce it without any attachment, like a lump of clay.
  • After listening to scriptures, a person knows what good and evil deeds are, and having known both, he should practice that which is conducive to reaching the highest goal.
  • The seven vices (from which a householder should abstain) are: (1) sexual conduct with a woman other than one’s own wife, (2) gambling, (3) taking intoxicants, (4) hunting, (5) uttering harsh words, (6) giving disproportionate punishment, and (7) misappropriation of others’ property.
  • One should desist from buying stolen goods, inciting another to commit theft, and avoiding the laws of the State.
  • One should refrain from accumulation of unlimited property due to insatiable greed, as it becomes a pathway to hell and results in numerous faults.
  • Carefulness in speech consists of avoiding slanderous, ridiculous, harsh, critical, boastful, and meaningless talk as such carelessness brings good neither to oneself nor to others.
  • To get up at the arrival of an elder, to welcome him with folded hands, to offer him (an honored) seat, to serve him with a feeling of reverence—these constitute humility.


Both Jainism and Buddhism have adopted simple ethical behavior as a model for religious teaching in place of the mystical power of God. Both also introduced the arrangement of sending monks around to preach instead of the laity traveling long distances to hear and talk to learned sages. This practice too was soon picked up by the Hindu society and has continued to grow till present day. Jain spiritual preachers vow to live a celibate life, and live in most simple and austere manner. They may never get angry, nor be boastful in any manner. Jain priests may not insult anyone, and may not succumb to sensual pleasures anytime.

There is a general appreciation of such conduct in religious persons; as such, setting up and pursuing such lofty standards of moral behavior would always be regarded as most worthy and commendable.
































NOTE: All quotes are adapted from Thus Spake Lord Mahavira