A great deal of jain literature is devoted to the regulation and discipline of the Sramana samgha, the order of monks and the order of nuns. Parallel to the order of monks and nuns is the order of householders, both Sravakas and Sravikas. Obviously, the rules of discipline applicable to monks and nuns are very much more stringent than those that apply to the householders.

Among the norms for the jains, swadhayaya, study: and dhyana, reflection and meditation, which are also ordained in the Upanishads, are the principal elements. In addition to the duty of remembering the 24 tirthankaras and paying obeisance to the acharyas, the jains are also expected to practice samayika, practice of equanimity; pratikramana, review of lapses; kayotsarga, giving up or abstinence. The teachings of Jainism are replete with an ethical world view. The jain prayers or the Namaskar Mahamantra is a prayerful invocation of reverence for arhatas, the spiritual conquerors; sidhas, the enlightened monks; acharyas, the preceptors; upadhyayas, teachers; and savva sahunam, all those who live the creed of goodness in thoughts, words and deeds.

From the second Tirthankara, Ajittanatha to the twenty-third Tirthankara, Parsvanatha, the Sramana tradition taught four vows; ahimsa, non-violence, satya, truthfulness, asteya, non-stealing including non-exploitation; and aparigraha, non- acquisitiveness and minimal possessions. To these, Mahavira added the vow of brahmacharya, which was, however, implicit in the philosophy of restraint and renunciation.

The vows are undertaken at an austere and exacting level by the monks and nuns and are then called mahaviras, great vows. They are undertaken at a more moderate and flexible level by householders and called the anuvratas, atomic or basic vows.