In order to find liberation four things must be attained: human birth, instruction in the teachings, belief in them, and energy in self-control.
This meant freeing oneself from family bonds, giving up acts and attachments, and living self-controlled towards the eternal. Collecting
alms one may be insulted and despised, but the wise with undisturbed mind sustains their insults and blows, like an elephant in battle with arrows,
and is not shaken any more than a rock is by the wind. The sage lives detached from pleasure and pain, not hurting and not killing; bearing all,
ones luster increases like a burning flame as one conquers desires and meditates on the supremacy of virtue, though suffering pain.
The great vows, which are a place of peace, the great teachers, and the
producers of detachment have been proclaimed by the infinite victor (Jina), the knowing one, as light illuminating the three worlds (earth, heaven,
and hell). The unfettered one living among the bound should be a beggar, unattached to women, and speak with reverence, not desiring this or the
next world. The dirt of former sins committed by a liberated mendicant walking in wisdom who is constant and bears pain vanishes like the tarnish
from silver in the fire. Free from desire with conquered sensuality, one is freed from the bed of pain like a snake casts off its skin. Renouncing
the world the sage is called "the maker of the end," for that one has quit the path of births.
The soul cannot be apprehended by the senses, because it possesses no corporeal form and thus is eternal. The fetters on the soul are caused by
bad qualities, which cause worldly existence. The golden rule is a part of the Jaina teachings and is extended to all living beings.
Once a disciple of Parshva, the 23rd Tirthankara, asked Gautama why Mahavira taught five vows instead of four. Earlier chastity was practiced
as part of non-possession or detachment, but Keshi also explained that the first saints were simple and slow of understanding; they could practice
the teachings better than they could understand them. The last saints were prevaricating and slow of understanding; though they might understand
them, they had difficulty practicing them. Those in between were simple and wise; they easily understood and practiced them.
The three gems of Jainism are right attitude, right knowledge, and right conduct. The right attitude takes an unbiased approach, believes in
the nine essential principles, and uses discriminating perception. Right knowledge proceeds through the five stages of sense perception, study,
intuition, clairvoyance, and omniscience (kevala). Right conduct or character comes from self-discipline, renunciation, and pure conduct in
practicing the five major vows. The rationale for self-discipline is explained in the Uttaradhyayana.
The rules for walking, sitting, begging for food, and evacuating one's bowels were very strict. In order to avoid causing anyone else even to do
injury in preparing food, for example, monks must not accept food that is especially prepared for them. The monk must not encourage a lay person to
give alms by playing with their children, giving information, praising charity, declaring one's family, expatiating on one's misery, curing the
sick, threatening, showing one's learning, and so on.
Mahavira theory of knowledge (syadvada) is relativistic and tentative to allow for the relativity of this world. Anything may be or
not be or be indescribable or any combination of these to allow for various perspectives.
Mahavira taught 73 methods for exertion in goodness by which many creatures, who believed in and accepted them, studied, learned,
understood, and practiced them, and acted according to them, obtained perfection, enlightenment, deliverance, beatitude, and an end to all
misery. Briefly they are: longing for liberation, disregard of worldly objects, faith in the law, obedience to other monks and the guru,
confession of sins, repenting to oneself and the guru, moral purity, adoration of the 24 Jinas, expiation, meditating without moving the body,
self-denial, praises and hymns, time discipline, penance, asking forgiveness, study, recitation, questioning, repetition, pondering,
discourse, sacred knowledge, concentration, control, austerity, cutting off karma, renouncing pleasure, mental independence, using unfrequented
lodgings, turning from the world, not collecting alms in only one district, renouncing useful articles, renouncing food, overcoming desires,
renouncing activity and the body and company, final renunciation, conforming to the standard, doing service, fulfilling all virtues, freedom
from passion, patience, freedom from greed, simplicity, humility, sincerity of mind and religious practice and action, watchfulness of mind
and speech and body, discipline of mind and speech and body, possession of knowledge and faith and conduct, subduing the five senses, conquering
anger and pride and deceit and greed and wrong belief, stability, and freedom from karma.
In disciplining the mind, speech, and body, Jainas often stood in one position for a long time. Meditation might focus on such thoughts as the
impermanence of worldly things, human helplessness, transitory quality of human relations, aloneness, separateness of the conscious soul from the
unconscious body, the impurity of the body, how attachment binds the soul by karma, how good thoughts may release the soul, how karma may be
eliminated, the difficulty of attaining perfection, and how the teachings may save one.