Your Trail:

Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IS 46-1959)

Title: Mahāvīra’s omniscience

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS 46-1959
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
late 15th to 16th centuries
Folio number:
47 verso
Total number of folios:
91 folios, numbered 1-92, with folio 3 missing
Place of creation:
Gujarat
Language:
Prākrit with Sanskrit commentary
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
26 x 10.5 cm
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The caption in the top-right corner says: jñāna – omniscience. It has been written twice.

The biggest figure is the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, sitting in the lotus position in the centre of a gold-painted circle. Around the perimeter of the circle are animals and birds. At the bottom is an ornamental border decorated with birds.

This picture shows that Mahāvīra has reached omniscience – kevala-jñāna – following 12 years of suffering extreme physical trials – upasargas.

The abstract concept of achieving omniscience is usually represented by illustrations of the event of the samavasaraṇa. This word, which means 'universal gathering', refers both to an architectural structure and to the meeting itself. The structure has three walls, with four entrances in each of the four cardinal directions. The circular shape, seen here, is the most common one. A less frequent variant is the square shape.

The universal gathering is the quintessence of the universe, in which the various beings of humans, gods and animals each has a particular place. The Jina sits at the centre, where his speech can be heard in all directions by all beings who carefully and respectfully listen to him. He can deliver his teachings only after reaching omniscience. This is why this notion is represented by the samavasaraṇa.

In depictions of the universal gathering, people enter the doorways to pay homage to the Jina. It is common to show animals that are normally enemies peacefully listening in pairs to the Jina’s teaching. Here, in the top-left corner the snake is shown facing its enemy, the peacock. In the top-right corner the pair comprises a heron and a fish. Two other pairs are shown in the lower left and right corners.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 47. This is the folio number.

As with many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. This aim is signalled by the:

  • use of gold in the paintings
  • decorative borders with blue arabesques
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink and surrounded by blue ornamental motifs.

The three diamonds along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through three holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The diamonds are in the places where the holes would once have been.

Script

The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

There are a few notable features of this script, which:

  • is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • contains red vertical lines that mark out verse divisions, with a single line dividing a verse in two while double lines are found at the end of the verse.

In this particular folio there are occasional rings above the main line of writing. These notate the nasalised vowels and are used instead of simple dots. There are examples above the first line.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text and in the margins are explanations in Sanskrit of phrases found in the central part. The two small parallel lines like slanted = after the words are meant to separate the explanations.

Background

A Jina is always shown in meditation, either standing or sitting, like here. Among the Śvetāmbaras, the Jina is thought of as a spiritual king and is often depicted with ornaments and pictured seated on a throne.

The Kalpa-sūtra is the most frequently illustrated text of the Śvetāmbara sect. It is read and recited by monks in the festival of Paryuṣaṇ, which takes place in August to September each year.

The first part of the Kalpa-sūtra deals with the lives of the Jinas, especially Mahāvīra, Pārśva, Nemi and Ṛṣabha. It features almost identical stories of their births, lives as princes, renunciation, enlightenment and final emancipation.

The second part – Sthavirāvali – is a praise of the early teachers of Jainism. The third part – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

Translation

With supreme contentment, on the supreme path to final liberation which is the fruit of veracity, control, penance, and good conduct, the Venerable One [Mahāvīra] meditated on himself for twelve years. During the thirteenth year, in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light [fortnight] of Vaiśākha[, on the tenth day of the light [fortnight] of Vaiśākha, when the shadow had turned towards the east and the first wake [a period of time] was over, on the day called Suvrata [in the Muhūrta [moment, defined by astrology] called Vijaya, outside the town Jṛṃbhikagrāma on the bank of the river Ṛjupālika, not far from an old temple … the Venerable One in a squatting position with joined heels, exposing himself to the heat of the sun, after fasting two and a half days without drinking water, [and] being engaged in deep meditation, reached the highest knowledge and intuition, called Kevala, which is infinite, supreme, unobstructed, unimpeded, complete and full

Translation by Hermann Jacobi

Transcription

1. aṇuttarāe tuṭṭhīe / aṇuttareṇaṃ sacca-saṃjama-tava-sucari-
2. ya-sovaciya-phala-nivvāṇa-maggeṇaṃ / appāṇaṃ bhāvemā-
3. ṇassa / duvālasa saṃvatsarāiṃ / viikkaṃtāiṃ / tera-
4. sassa [sic]saṃvatsarassa / aṃtarā vaṭṭamāṇassa
5. je se gimhāṇaṃ ducce māse cautthe pakkhe
6. vaisāha-suddhe tassa ṇaṃ vaisāha-suddhassa / dasamī-pa-
7. kkheṇaṃ / pāīṇagāmiṇīe / cchāyāe porisīe / a-
8. bhinivaṭṭāe / pamāṇa-pattāe suvvaeṇaṃ divaseṇaṃ vi///

Glossary

Dhyāna
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
Jina
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
Jñāna
'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:
  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.
With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.
Kalpa-sūtra
The Book of Ritual attributed to Bhadrabāhu. It has three sections:
  1. 'Jina-caritra' – 'Lives of the Jinas'
  2. 'Sthavirāvalī' – 'String of Elders'
  3. 'Sāmācārī' – 'Right Monastic Conduct'.
A significant sacred text for Śvetāmbara Jains, the Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in the annual Paryuṣaṇ festival.
Kevala-jñāna
Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge , where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.
Pūjā
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.
Samavasaraṇa
Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.
Śvetāmbara
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Upasarga
Attack or test, especially those posed by disguised gods or bad people to the Jinas before they became omniscient to check whether they could properly meet the demands of asceticism.
Fast
Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:
  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Penance
A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.
Rainy season
The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.
Sanskrit
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
A dialect of the Prākrit language used for many Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Padmāsana
Said to resemble the petals of a lotus, the lotus position involves sitting cross-legged with each foot on the opposite thigh. The soles face upwards while the knees rest on the ground. This posture is associated with meditation. Jinas and other enlightened figures are often depicted in this pose.
Nasalisation
A term in phonetics that describes how a consonant or vowel is pronounced while releasing a little air through the nose but not the mouth. Similar to the Spanish tilde, examples in English are M, N and the NI sound in ‘onion’.
Folio
A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.

Related Manuscripts

Related Manuscript Images

http://www.jainpedia.org/manuscripts/detail-view-meta/manuscript/kalpa-sutra-is-46-1959/mahaviras-omniscience/index.html - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2019 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at www.jainpedia.org

Unless images are explicitly stated as either public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons licence, all images are copyrighted. See individual images for details of copyright.