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Shramana – Qualities Of Monk In Jainism

Shramana, or Sramana, is an ascetic or monk in Jainism. Hinduism is a synthesis of the Sramanic and the Vedic currents of thought. Jainism and Buddhism belong to the Shramanic thought. They are non-Vedic and have their expressions through the concepts of moksha or nirvana, karma, sannyasa, ahimsa, vrata, etc. The four-fold Jaina congregation established by the Tirthankaras, the spiritual teachers and fold-makers, consists of the sramanas (monks), sramanis (nuns), srvakas (laymen) and sravikas (laywomen).

The laity practices the vows partially, whereas sramana practices strictly the five vows of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possession. He renounces all and does not possess a single penny. He walks from place to place and stays in Jaina prayer-halls for limited periods, and only during the four months of the rainy season does he stay in a place for the chaturmasa. He exercises equanimity and spends his entire time in textual study and self contemplation.

One does not become a sramana by tonsuring his head but by exercising equanimity and supreme detachment. Jaina scriptures reveal that a sramana does not indulge in any sinful act by thought, word or deed, he does not motivate or inspire others to commit any sinful act, nor does he approve of those who take to sinful deeds. Externally he gives up all acts of sin and internally he exerts himself to overcome the passions, viz., anger, conceit, deceit and greed, which are considered as the root cause of misery and transmigration.

He labors for spiritual development and exercises supreme forgiveness, humility, simplicity, purity, renunciation, truthfulness, celibacy, austerity, detachment, and self-restraint to pass through the worldly sojourn.