Article: Mendicant lifestyle

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Consultation

It is common to see lay people visiting the mendicants’ lodgings – upāśraya – to talk with them, to receive their blessing or advice on worldly matters. These can be thought of as consultations, but lay newcomers can come along so these meetings are not private.

The mendicants often answer queries by talking about a more general belief or principle and like to refer to past or present examples, role models, and so on. These are very numerous in Jain story literature.

Manual activities

A Śvetāmbara nun washes monastic clothing in the nuns’ lodgings – upāśraya. Rules in scriptural texts govern all aspects of monastic life, including necessary tasks such as the washing of clothes.

Nun washing clothes
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Like everyone else, Jain mendicants must attend to practical necessities, such as washing monastic robes. Related to this are more artistic activities such as stitching and embroidering. These tasks are done mostly by nuns or junior mendicants.

Sleep

Jain monks and nuns generally sleep only for a few hours at night, around three to five hours.

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