Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā. Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:

aṇu-vratas – ‘Five Lesser Vows’

guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows

śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline

All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders.

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