Guna Vrata

Definition - What does Guna Vrata mean?

The guna vratas are a subgroup of vows that are part of the 12 vows of a layperson in Jainism. The guna vratas are also known as the three merit vows or the vows of self-discipline. The term comes from the Sanskrit guna, meaning “character,” “virtue” or “quality”; vr, which means “conduct” and “restraint” and rta, meaning “order” and “oath.”

What constitutes the guna vratas varies by the specific Jain tradition and teacher. Examples of guna vratas are: dik vrata, bhoga-upbhoga vrata and anarthadanda vrata. All three involve a vow to limit or avoid certain behaviors.

Yogapedia explains Guna Vrata

The 12 vratas include the five anu vratas (the vows of non-violence, truth, non-theft, celibacy and non-possession), the three guna vratas and the four shiksha vratas (the disciplinary or spiritual vows). Together, the guna and shikhsa vratas comprise the shilas, or the seven vows of virtuous conduct.

The guna vratas are defined as follows:

  • Dik vrata – a vow to limit travel and thereby limit the area in which harm may be done.
  • Bhoga-upbhoga vrata – vow of simplicity whereby food and material goods are limited to only what is necessary.
  • Anarthadanda vrata – vow of piety that includes avoiding pointless sins such as self-indulgence and speaking badly of someone.
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