Article: Five 'fundamental vows'

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

3. Non-stealing

The third vow – asteya-vrata – means not just never stealing, but never taking what is not directly offered. For mendicants, this refers to alms and monastic equipment. For lay people, this means items obtained through honest business practices and inheritance.

Absolute vow of non-stealing

This manuscript painting of Matisāra's version of the Śālibhadra story shows the two monks Dhanya and Śālibhadra accepting alms from a milk-woman. Their white robes and wooden staffs indicate they belong to the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka sect.

Dhanya and Śālibhadra accept alms
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

According to this vow, Jain mendicants can only take alms that lay people offer to them correctly. They should not:

  • accept things that are not permitted, such as unsuitable clothing or food that is cooked especially for alms-giving
  • indicate that they would prefer something else from what they are offered.

Limited vow of non-stealing

Lay Jains should be honest in all their dealings with other people, which is particularly important in business.

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