The Laghu-kṣetra-samāsa – Brief Summary of the Areas [of the World] – belongs to the tradition of Śvetāmbara writings on the Jain universe. It was written in Prakrit verse in the 14th century by the monk Ratnaśekhara-sūri. The title underlines the condensed nature of the work and indicates that there are also expanded versions. The one in this manuscript has 265 stanzas.
The kṣetra-samāsa works are mainly geographical, describing all the areas – continents, mountains, oceans and so on – that constitute the three worlds.
Teaching and learning cosmology are an important part of monastic education. Partly for this reason, cosmological writings have generated numerous commentaries in Sanskrit or the vernacular languages. Some manuscripts just have the Prakrit verses but this one also contains a Gujarati commentary written by a famous monk. Pārśva-candra-sūri was the founder of a gaccha that took his name, having separated from the Nāgapurīya-Tapāgaccha in 1572 of the Vikrama era. He was also a prolific writer and commentator in Gujarati.
Jain cosmology is complex. Human beings live in the Middle World, which is the smallest of the three worlds that make up world space – loka-ākāśa. In world space all the souls live in the different body-forms they take according to their rebirths, in the various worlds. Outside world space is the non‑world space – aloka-ākāśa – which is endless. However, the Middle World is the most important area from the spiritual point of view because it is the only part where human beings can live.
Jains cannot advance spiritually without understanding and meditating upon cosmological theories so understanding them is crucial. Certain key religious concepts run through these theories. These include the notion of a physical soul shedding karma by moving through the cycle of rebirth to eventual omniscience and liberation, along with the cyclical nature of time, the interconnectedness of the universe, and the importance of symmetry, repetition and balance.