The Śrāddhavidhiviniścaya – Definitive Views on the Procedure of Lay Practice – is a Śvetāmbara sectarian work, the main concern of which is to refute practices typical of rival monastic orders. Such works emerged parallel to the rise of numerous gacchas from the 12th century onwards. Their subjects are Jain ethics and its principles. These are openly or covertly discussed with the aim of assessing their truth or validity when viewed as part of the contests between different groups. The differences between these gacchas are mainly of practice. The authors of such works largely draw on textual references to show that the practices they defend are rooted in the tradition, and that those of their rivals are innovations coming out of the blue. They usually proceed in two stages:
The title of the work underlines this twofold process of argumentation.
This work is written in Sanskrit but also quotes a number of passages from scriptures in Prakrit. It refutes the practices of the Añcala-gaccha. The attacks focus on their habit of having the lay community use ‘the border of a garment’ – añcala – instead of the mouth-cloth – mukha-vastrikā – while performing necessary duties such as sāmāyika.
Another point of discussion relates to the wording of the final part of the Namaskāra-mantra. The common reading is maṅgalāṇaṃ ca savvesiṃ paḍhamaṃ havai maṅgalaṃ – 'and of all the auspicious things it is the most auspicious'. The followers of the Añcala-gaccha, however, read hoi instead of havai. This difference does not affect the meaning, but it affects the number of syllables in the mantra. Hence it is less of a trifle than it appears, and gives rise to numerous discussions.
The author is Harṣabhūṣaṇa-gaṇi, who belonged to the Tapāgaccha and wrote this work in 1423 CE (1480 of the Vikrama era). This authorship is clearly stated in the colophons which close each of the four chapters. Moreover, the present manuscript ends with a 'garland of teachers' – gurvāvalī – which gives landmarks of the monastic lineage to which the author belongs. He was a pupil of Munisundara-sūri, himself a pupil of Somasundara-sūri, who were respectively the 51st and 50th pontiffs of the Tapāgaccha. It is worthy of note that two other monks of the same lineage, namely Guṇaratna-sūri and Kulamaṇḍana-sūri, also wrote polemical works directed against the Añcala-gaccha.
Works of this type are usually known from very few manuscripts. The polemical outlook of the Śrāddhavidhiviniścaya probably explains the limited number of these works. The British Library manuscript is one of the very rare ones recorded. As far as is known, the text is not available in printed form.
A preliminary analysis of the contents and of the views discussed, made on the basis of this manuscript and one in Ahmedabad, is available in Nalini Balbir's 2003 essay 'The A(ñ)calagaccha viewed from inside and outside' in Jainism and Early Buddhism.