Shripat Sheth and Sundari once visited Shri Shilandhar Acharya and told him that although both of them observed daily vows such as reciting Navakar Mantra, and performed Navakarashi, Samayika, etc., their son, Kamalsen, did not observe any vows.
Kamalsen's parents were unhappy and anxious about the lack of devotion and spirituality of their son to their religion. They requested the monk to give some good advice to their son, so that he would change for better and he can be happy in this life, as well as the next. The monk willingly obliged.
After reaching home, the merchant said to his son, "Well, my son, a great teacher is visiting our town. He is a very learned man and his lectures are worth listening.” Next day they accompanied their son to the lecture. After paying respects by bowing down to the Acharya, they sat down to listen. The Acharya talked about many things, including hell, heaven, misery, Kevaljnan, etc. After the discourse, the parents asked Kamalsen what he felt about the lecture. Kamalsen replied, "I was too busy watching the movements of Acharya’s neck area” His parents were greatly dismayed and returned home disappointed.
Soon after, another great sage Acharya Gunasagar-suri visited the town, and his parents went to visit him with Kamalsen. This Acharya told the audience about stories concerning the nine tastes (rasas) because such stories attract common people. The boy liked those stories, so he began to attend the Acharya’s sermons every day and listened with interest. After a few days, the Acharya was leaving town. Kamalsen joined the people in the farewell ceremony. Many people pledged to observe some vow in their life. Kamalsen was asked if he would take a vow. He said, " I will not tell a lie except during day and night. I will not put the whole watermelon into my mouth, nor will I eat cow manure.” The Acharya was embarrassed by this boy's ridiculous behavior. Hence, to make it up, the boy vowed not to eat food without looking at the bald head of Simelo, a potter of the town. The Guruji was very pleased with Kamalsen for taking a vow, even though it was a very strange vow.
One day, Simelo went out to the forest to get some clay and Kamalsen was about to eat lunch when his mother reminded him about his vow. He immediately ran to the forest to find the bald potter. There he saw the potter digging in the ground. While digging, the potter came across a jar full of gems and precious stones. At the boy's arrival, he started hiding it underneath the heap of soil. Kamalsen shouted, "Yes! I have seen it (the bald head of the potter).” The potter thought Kamalsen meant the jar and he did not want anyone else to know about the gems. So he told the boy that he would share half of the pot if he did not tell anyone else. First Kamalsen did not understand what he was talking about but later he understood and gladly accepted his offer and returned home.
"Kamalsen thought deeply as he returned home, "A simple vow taken out of a joke brought me this wealth. Had I taken this vow in seriousness, I would have been even richer." This incident changed Kamalsen's life. He then observed many vows, and became very happy.
When one takes vows to do something it should require true devotion and discipline, and require some form of sacrifice, which is consistent with the principles of Jainism. Taking vows, that do not fit this profile, is useless and has no meaning. Taking vows and following through with them benefits one’s soul. These benefits may be evident in one’s existing human life, or may not be evident until some future birth. But the vows definitely help disciplining present life.