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Browsing: Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna (Or. 13454)

Image: Animal symbols of the 12 heavens

Title: Animal symbols of the 12 heavens

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13454
Author:
Śrīcandra
Date of creation:
1644
Folio number:
16 verso
Total number of folios:
45
Place of creation:
Stambhatīrtha (modern Cambay), Gujarat
Language:
Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit in Devanāgarī script
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
25 x 11 cms
Copyright:
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Description

In Jain cosmology there are numerous heavens in the upper tiers of the universe, above the mortal realms in the middle world and the hells below. The lowest twelve heavens are the paradiseskalpas – in which dwell the Vaimānika gods.

Each heaven has an animal as its emblem.

Animal symbols of the 12 heavens

Animal in painting

Name of animal in caption and meaning

Heaven

1. black antelope

mṛga – antelope

Saudharma

2. buffalo

mahiṣa – buffalo

Iśāna

3. boar

varāha – boar

Sanatkumāra

4. tiger

sīha – lion

Māhendra

5. goat

chaggala – goat

Brahmaloka

6. frog

sālūrā – frog

Lāntaka

7. horse

haya – horse

Śukra

8. elephant

gaya – elephant

Sahasrāra

9. snake

bhuyaṃga – snake

Anata

10. unicorn-rhino

khaḍgī – rhinoceros

Prāṇata

11. bull

vṛṣabha – bull

Aruṇa

12. white antelope

gheṭo – white antelope

Acyuta

There are several differences between the animals in the painting and the names in the text.

  • number 3 is supposed to be a boar, with a tusk shown in the painting, but it looks more like a sheep
  • number 4 is referred to as sīha or 'lion' in the text but it looks more like a tiger with an elephant’s trunk in the painting – Indian artistic representations of lions often show them as tigers because while the tiger was common on Indian territory the lion was never so
  • number 6 is named as a kind of frog in the text but the painting is not a naturalistic depiction – paintings of frogs in Indian art often resemble the strange form seen here
  • number 10 is referred to as khaḍgī, which normally means 'rhinoceros' – the rhino is found in Assam in eastern India so it is not certain whether a painter from Western India would have known what it looks like, and the animal in this painting looks rather like a unicorn.
  • number 12 is a white antelope in the text but the painting looks like a ram, and the Gujarati word used in the corresponding caption indeed means 'ram'.

Note that the bull has the hump characteristic of Asian cattle.

Background

These animals represent the 12 heavens of the upper world, which is one of the three worlds of traditional Jain cosmology.

The Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna belongs to the tradition of Śvetāmbara writings on the Jain universe. The monk Śrīcandra wrote Prakrit verses in the 12th century consolidating previous writings on cosmology. It is called Jewel of Summarised Verses, a phrase which underlines the condensed nature of the work.

Though Saṃgrahaṇī works describe the universe, they are mainly concerned with the beings who live in different parts of the Jain world. They go into detail about their life-duration, karma and spiritual progress much more than the geography.

Cosmological writings have generated numerous commentaries in Sanskrit or the vernacular languages. Teaching and learning cosmology remain an important part of monastic education. A rich pictorial tradition has also grown up round the Saṃgrahaṇī works, as visualisation is part of the transmission of knowledge on the Jain universe and is helpful as a means of understanding.

Jain cosmology is complex. Human beings live in the Middle World, which is the smallest of the three worlds that make up world spaceloka-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.

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.
Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Jīva
Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.
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'.
Karma
Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:
  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.
Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.
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.
Loka
The universe in Jain cosmology, composed of the upper, middle and lower worlds. Human beings can live only in part of the Middle World.
Madhya-loka
There are three worlds in traditional Jain cosmology. The middle world is where human beings and animals live, and sits between the upper and the lower worlds.
Naraka
Hell. There are seven levels of hells in the lower world of Jain cosmology .
Saṃsāra
Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:
  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.
Ūrdhva-loka
The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology , the home of the various types of gods .
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
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.
Loka-ākāśa
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. A Sanskrit term meaning 'world space', loka-ākāśa is a vast but limited area, where all humans, deities and all other forms of life live. Here the souls live and travel through the cycle of rebirths. Outside it is 'non-world space' – aloka-ākāśa.
Aloka-ākāśa
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. Outside world space – loka-ākāśa – a vast but limited area, where the souls move through the cycle of birth is aloka-ākāśa. This is Non-World Space, which is endless and totally uninhabited.
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.
Gujarati
The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.
Prākrit
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
Cosmology
A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.
Three worlds
In Jain cosmology three worlds make up world space, where life exists:
  • ūrdhva-loka – upper world
  • madhya-loka– middle world
  • adho-loka – lower world.
These are frequently represented in art as the Cosmic Man, a human figure whose legs stand for the lower world, whose waist symbolises the middle world and whose torso represents the upper world.
Vaimānika
Deities in the upper world of the Jain universe, who each have celestial vehicles or mounts. There are 26 in the Śvetāmbara tradition and 39 according to the Digambara sect. There are two types:
  • the kalpopapanna-devas in the lower heavens
  • the kalpātīta-devas in the higher heavens.
Commentary
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.
Rāma
An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History .
Vernacular
The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

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