Concept of Six Essentials – Sadh Avashyaka

September, 2020 by Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain

The religious thoughts are shaped by its philosophy. The philosophy cannot last unless it has the support of conduct. Conduct is the reflection of the immaculate soul within. The human body is a blessing but only when it leads to blissfulness. It is given to man to rise high or fall below. The seminal thing is ever to remain human and humane.

Each religion has its codes of conduct. Most religions enforce moral behavior through positive and negative reinforcement by infusing ‘god-fearing’ elements in scriptures, such as the concept of karma and reincarnation in Hinduism, heaven-hell and salvation in Christianity, paradise, and hell in Islamism, peaceful afterlife and reincarnation in indigenous Chinese folk religions, and release from the cycle of reincarnations and reaching enlightenment in Buddhism. The approach of Jainism is never superstitious but always scientific. Jainas do not believe that any higher authority hands down a ‘system of laws’ or commandments. Jainas are expected to study the scriptures and grasp the concepts of rational perception, rational knowledge, and rational conduct. The Jainas ‘Charitra’, the Vedas ‘Aachar’, and the Buddhists ‘Vinaya’ are Synonymous but their ways differ.

Jainism is a very practical religion, which helps us in everyday affairs of life. Jainism must be practiced and lived. Jain ethics is meant for all men and women in every walk of life. The Jainas emphasized that knowledge could be perfected by the right conduct. Knowledge without the right conduct was mere futile and conduct without the right knowledge was blind.

The Jainas said that one could achieve complete mastery over oneself by subduing the passions. Emancipation was to be acquired not by observing rituals, prayers, and sacrifices but by regulating moral and spiritual discipline. For this reason, they attached great importance to the five vows – non-violence (ahiṁsa), truth (satya), non-stealing which implies not to take anything to which one was not entitled (aṣteye), celibacy or abstention from self-indulgence (brahmacharya) and non-possession or renunciation (aparigraha). Non-violence was accorded the utmost importance among these principles. The three doctrines of Right faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct which were known as three jewels constituted the foundations of Jainism. 

American Philosopher and Author Dr. Dale Riepe observes: “The ethics of Jainism is naturalistic in so far as it is humanistic. The Jain does not depend upon any supernatural deliverance or intervention to achieve moksha. He realizes bliss based on his powers as a human being.” (The Naturalistic Tradition in Indian Thought, p. 114)

To understand the soul and absorb ourselves therein is the real remedy and in fact, that is our Essential duty. Remedy to destroy grief and obtain real happiness is common to all. It is another thing that monks by dint of their strong determination achieve greater happiness and householders according to their background achieve partial happiness. 


In terms of ritual, the canonical texts outline six obligatory duties (Aavashyakas) for the monastic community to observe but which have also been recommended to the laity. The rituals are not monotonous, senseless activities, but each one has deep meaning behind them. Virtues like non-violence, forbearance, simplicity, and straightforwardness are cultivated during religious rituals. Rituals are performed daily and on certain occasions. The rituals which are must, are called Essentials (Aavashyak), meant for Sadhus and Shravaks. An amended version of the monastic format is performed regularly in Jain households. It is widely accepted that both the Digambaras and Svetambaras have “Aavashyakaa” lists.


In ‘Bhagawati Aradhana Vijayodaya Commentary’ Aacharya Aparajitsuri specify about Aavashyakas                     

“Āvāsayanti ratnatrayamapi iti āvashyakāh”- 116

Those actions are essential, which make the Habitat of the Ratnatraya’s in the soul.


In Anuyogadvar Sutra (29) ‘Aavashyakaa’ explain as – 

 “samṇeṇa sāvaeṇ ya avassakāyavvam havati jamha,

anto aho-nisissa u tamaha āvassayam nām”- 29

The action or method which Sramana and Shravak consider indispensable obligatory is Essential.


Aacharya Jinbhadragani KshamaSramana also asserts in the ‘VisheshAavashyakas Bhaashya’ – Gatha (870) that ‘The action that must be done to remove the soul from bad qualities and subdue it with virtues and shaded the soul with Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, etc. is Aavashyakaa.’ 


Jain Shramanas practice Six essentials of Sadhana in our daily life. I found that almost everywhere there is a lot of confusion about the subject that the six essentials of Shvetambara and Digambara are different. But the reality is that the Ascetic Monks of both traditions perform Samayika, Chaturvinshati Stava, Vandana, Pratikraman, Kaayotsarga & Pratyakhyana, these six essentials throughout each and every day; even the householders also try to follow it as often as possible, which is accepted in both Digambar and Shvetambar Traditions, with only some differences in their order. In Shvetamber tradition the four essentials of the beginning are the same as Digambar, only in the last two essentials is the order of ‘Pratyakhyan’ after ‘Kaayotsarga ‘ according to Uttaradhyayan Sutra (Adhyayan 29) and Aavashyakas Sutra. The other six essentials such as Dev-Pooja, Gurupasti, Swadhyaya, Sanam, Tapa and Daan; which are mentioned by Aacharya Padmanandi in ‘Padmanandi Panchvinshatika’, considered to be of Digambar traditions, initially perform by Digambar Householders (Shravakas) only.

Here, with the same difference, I have tried to explain the six essentials of Shramana and Shravakas propounded in the scriptures in a concise and simple language –

Six Essential Observances of Sramana’s (Ascetics) in both Jain Sects:

  1. Samayika – The Practice of Equanimity:The term Samayika is made up of the words `Sam’ meaning equanimity and `Ay’ meaning incoming. The termination ‘Ik’ is applied to show that what brings forth equanimity is Samayika. Alternately, the term can be derived from Samay which means soul. As such, the activity that deals with the soul is Samayika. In other words, when a person remains soul-oriented, he can be said to be staying in Samayika. Meditative awareness and equanimity at every moment; stay in equanimity for forty-eight minutes, Self-control and pure aspirations are some of the major activities to perform Samayika.
  2. Chauvisattho (Chaturvinshati Stava) a Hymn in praise of the twenty-four Tirthankaras:Jains believe in the Tirthankaras or enlightened souls. Chauvisattho (Chaturvinshati Stava) means adoration of the twenty-four Tirthankaras. By reciting it, we show our respect for the twenty-four Tirthankaras.
  3. Vandana – Offering Obeisance to Guru Maharaj: Guru Bhagwants are bridges between us and dharma shown by Tirthankaras. Vandana, in which we bow down to monks and nuns and express our reverence for them. Guru-Vandana is inter-connected with humility.
  4. Pratikramana – Repentance and Confession of Sins: “Prati” means, “back”, and “Kraman” means “to go”. To go back, review, confess and repent for bad thoughts and actions in our daily activities. It also means going back to the path of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-attachment, and forgiving the faults of others, asking forgiveness for our faults without any reservation, and extending our friendship.
  5. Kaayotsarga – Meditation: It is made up of two words, Kaya meaning the body and Utsarga meaning giving up. So, the term means giving up the physical activities. By implication, it means suspending all physical (Non-attachments to the body) and mental involvement and getting absorbed in spiritual aspects by concentrating and meditating about the Self.
  6. Pachchakkhan / Pratyakhyana – Complete Renunciation:
    1. Renouncing certain things by a vow is called Pratyakhyana. Bringing order and discipline into life through some daily vows both large and small is especially important. The mind also can attain discipline if the body is kept under discipline and control. The vows can be taken by an individual’s ability, desire, and circumstances. This is called the austerity of performing Pachchakkhan. 

    Apart from these observances, Daśavidhā-dharma (ten supreme duties) and Pariṡahjay (to bear with all the hurdles on the path of spiritual practices) are mentioned in Tattvārthasūtra. These all are performed by Ascetics as well as Householders.

Six Essential Observances of Householders (Shravaka’s) in Digamber Tradition:

In ‘Padmanandi Panchvinshatika’ Aacharya Padmanandi state the six essentials of the Sravakas –

 “Devpooja Gurupaastih Swadhyayaah sanyamastapah,

Danam cheti grihasthāṇām ṣatkarmaṇi dine dine”.

These six essential tasks are required to be done by the householder every day. Therefore, abandoning all worldly tasks, first, human beings should do these essential shortcomings.

  1. Devpooja – Adoration, and Worship of Jina  – : Devapooja means worship of Tirthankaras. It is done in front of icons of any liberated souls (Siddha) such as Tirthankara, or ArihantSthanakavasi opposes idol worship. They believe in meditation and silent prayers.
  2. Gurupaasti – Veneration of and attendance on the Gurus : The Sadguru (preceptor) is a person who teaches and makes us understand true divinity (Sat – Devatā) and real teacher (Sad–Guru) because he has traversed the path and therefore is aware of the path and the hurdles in self- realization. Gurupaasti is nothing but paying reverence to the eminent preceptor
  3. Swadhyaya – Self Study of Jain Agama’s (Texts): Swa = self, adhyay = study. Hence the study of own soul is called Swadhyaya. It is the spiritual study which includes reading, learning, teaching, listening, discussing & contemplation of real & holy scriptures preached by Lord Jinendra, narrated by Ganadharas & scripted by Aacharyas.
  4. Sanyam – Self-Restraint: Sanyam i.e., Supreme self-restraint is one of the virtues to be cultivated by a man to counteract the four passions (Kashayas) i.e., anger, pride, deceit, and greed. Therefore, an aspirant for happiness is advised, “Fight with your (own) self: what is good in fighting the external foe? By conquering one’s ‘self’ through one’s self, one obtains true happiness.”
  5. Tapa – Austerity or Penance: Ceasing or restricting physical/trans migratory desires is called Tapa or Austerity. The purpose of penance is to keep desires and passions in control. Over-indulgence inevitably leads to misery. Tapa reduces karmas. Hence austerity is followed to destroy karmas & to control the desires.
  6. Daan – Charity: The Jain religion recognizes the fundamental natural phenomenon of inter-dependence known as “Parasparopagraho Jivanam”- interdependence. Charity of Ahara (Food), Aushadhi (Medicine), Shashtra (Knowledge), Abhay (protection of life) – These four gifts together are termed as Chaturvidha–Dāna, i.e., four-fold charity and it has been enjoined on householders that they should make special efforts to give these charities to needy beings belonging to both human and other sub-human categories. Besides, helping sad poor & orphans as per need is called ‘Karuna daan’ i.e. Compassion donation.

Jaina ethics are rooted in their utility regarding the soteriological objective of liberation. The purpose of Jaina ethics is clearly to cast off malignant influences of bad karma and attain liberation. Thus, Jainism propounds codes of conduct and moral discipline for ascetics and the laypeople in detail. The ascetics are expected to keep the five great vows completely, whereas the householders are given some freedom in this regard.

The modern age is materialistic. The body is adorned, and the soul ignored. The ideals of non-violence, non-possessiveness, detachment, and the like are observed more in their breach than in the observance. It is not progress but regresses with tile consequent loss of tranquility. The more a person has, the more he wants. Jainism asks you to look within where riches are stored. The seeker finds it there and is blessed with peace of mind. Such duty makes you realize your latent potentiality.

In modern, progressive Scientific era, when values of everything have been changed; in that time, i.e. about 2000-2500 years old essentials appear very scientific, to live a healthier life, physically, as well as spiritually. It is our responsibility to understand it and make others, particularly to the new generation to understand and accept its value. Essential ceremonies are like sandalwood. We need to scrub it again and again to feel the coolness and only then you can enjoy the fragrance. Similarly, these six essentials are not occasional ceremonies, but those should be performing every day, which helps us to gain control over our senses.


Primary Source:
  1. MOOLACHAAR Vol. 1 & 2, Aacharya Vattaker, Hindi Translation Aryika Jnanmati Mata ji, Bhartiya Jnanpeeth, New Delhi 1984-86
  2. UTTARADHYAYAN SUTRA (Part 1), Vachana Pramukh Aacharya Tulsi, Edit & Translated by Muni Nathmal, Jain Swetamber Terapanth Mahasabha, Agam Sahitya Prakashan Samiti, Calcutta, First Edition 1967
  3. “UttaraDhyānan” Adhyay-29, Sūtra-9 cited in Avashyak sūtra, Shri Akhil Bharatiya Sudharma Jain Sanskriti Rakshak Sangh, Jodhpur, 2007, p.10
  4. PRAVACHANASAAR, Aacharya Kundkund, with Tattvapradipika Commentary, Editor Dr. A.N. Upadhye, Pub. Shrimad Rajchandra Jain Shastramala, Aagas, 1964
  5. NIYAMSARA, THE SACRED BOOKS OF THE JAINAS, Aacharya Kundkund, English Translation by UGGAR SAIN, Pub. The Central Jaina Publishing House, Ajitashram, Lucknow, 1983.
  6. BHAGAWATI ARADHANA, Aacharya Shivarya, A. Aparajitsuri’s Vijyodaya Commentary, Pt. Ashadhar’s Moolaaradhna Darpan, Hindi Translation Pt. Parshwanath Phadkule, Pub. Swami Devendra Keerthi Jain Granthmala, Karanja – 1935
  7. AAVASHYAKAA NIRYUKTI, Aacharya Bhadrabahu, with Malayagiri Vritti, Agamodaya Samiti, Bombay – 1928
Secondary Source:
  1. MOOLACHAAR KA SAMIKSHATMAK ADHYAYAN, Prof. Phoolchand Jain Premi, Pub. Parshwanath Vidyapeeth Research Institute, Varanasi
  2. COMPENDIUM OF JAINISM, T.K. TUKUL, 3 rd Edition – January 2015, Compiled by: JAINA Education Committee Federation of Jain Associations in North America
  3. JAIN RITUALS AND CEREMONIES, Hansa, and Vinod Sutaria Cleveland, OH
  4. INDIAN THOUGHT: A Critical Survey, Damodaran, K., p. 128.
  6. EXPLORING RELIGIOUS ETHICS IN DAILY LIFE , Rabbi Marc Gellman, Monsignor Thomas Hartman
  7. JAIN FUNDAMENTALS, Pravin K Shah, Jain Study Center of Northern California
  8. PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF JAINISM, Harendra Shah, of Northern California Jain Center
  9. THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE, Champat Rai Jain

About Author

Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain

Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain

Dr Arihant Kumar Jain, a staunch Jaina practitioner, a teacher, an author, an editor, a poet by heart and documentary film maker is propagating the religion in a beautiful way by explaining the basics of the religion in the most simplest way.

co-edited by Ms. Shagun Peswani Mehta

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