There is an order of monks and nuns who observe the highest values of purity, non-possessiveness, non-violence, chastity and non-stealing. They walk barefoot and do not carry any possessions nor are they allowed to travel by car or aeroplane. Their existence is nomadic and they depend on the lay community for their basic food and shelter. They translate the tradition to the lay community through lectures and by example and dialogue. They are present at auspicious events such as festivals and poojas and participate in some temple and other rituals.
In practice, spiritual leadership in the community is provided by monks and nuns living in India. Lay people listen to their sermons and consult them on difficult concepts and for spiritual guidance. Some lay people even adopt certain monks or nuns as their ‘gurus’ or primary mentors.
The Acharya is the highest rank among monks and nuns, and is appointed by the peer group of existing Acharyas. He would be the leader of a group of monks and nuns.
Lay Jains are supposed to live an ethical life endowed with these principles and ideals. They observe daily rituals such as Samayik and Pratikraman (meditations and prayers) and visit temples and community centres regularly. There are no middlemen in the act of worship – each soul has to make their own personal efforts to liberation and there is no hierarchy of bishops and priests. There are many festivals, the most important being Paryushan or Daslakshan where there is intense fasting, prayer and listening to lectures.