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The British Library Board
Or. 2120 ms. B
Date of creation:
perhaps 15th to 16th centuries
Folio number:
1 recto
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
western India
Sanskrit and Prākrit
26.5 x 11 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


The ŚrāddhavidhiviniścayaDefinitive 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:

  1. proving wrong their rivals’ practices
  2. establishing – pratiṣṭhā or siddhi – the practice they consider valid.

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-clothmukha-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 maṅgala – '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.


Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Literally a Sanskrit word for 'tree', gaccha is used by Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak Jains to describe the largest groups of their mendicant lineages. It is often translated as 'monastic group', 'monastic order' or 'monastic tradition'. These groups are formed when some mendicants split from their gaccha because of disagreements over ascetic practices.
A religious title for a monk in charge of a small group of mendicants, who live and travel together. A gaṇinī is a nun who leads a group of female mendicants. 
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.
Sanskrit for 'homage formula', the Namaskāra-mantra is the fundamental religious formula of the Jains. A daily prayer always recited in the original Prākrit, it pays homage to the supreme beings or five types of holy being:
  1. arhat - enlightened teacher
  2. siddha - liberated soul
  3. ācārya - mendicant leader
  4. upādhyāya - preceptor or teacher
  5. sādhu - mendicant
Note that chanting the mantra is not praying for something, material or otherwise. Also known as the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra or 'Fivefold Homage mantra', it is also called the Navakāra-mantra or Navkār-mantra in modern Indian languages.
The highest soul, the liberated soul, the Absolute, often used instead of siddhi. Jains believe that a soul or ātman can achieve liberation from the cycle of birth through its own spiritual development. This concept has been called God in Western thought since the start of the Christian era.
Equanimity, calm, a mental state where one is able to consider all beings as equal to oneself. The second of the four śikṣā-vratas or vows that lay Jains take. The ritual entails working towards being even-tempered by meditating or reciting mantras for 48 minutes each day. Performing this ritual three times each day is also one of the six duties – āvaśyakas – of a mendicant.
Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.
Reality or truth. This is very important to Jains and the satya-vrata is the second of the mendicant's Five Great Vows and the lay person's Five Lesser Vows.
A title for the leader of a religious order among the Śvetāmbaras. It is a higher position than ācārya.
A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.
Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.
The religion founded by Buddha, often called the 'Middle Way' between the self-indulgence of worldly life and the self-mortification of a very ascetic way of life. Buddhism has similarities to Jain belief but some significant differences. For example, Buddhists hold that the world around us is a short-lived illusion and do not believe in individual, everlasting souls.
Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.
Mendicant lineage
Ascetics are initiated into a tradition handed down from a named religious teacher. Religious instructions and principles are passed on orally and in writings from one generation of mendicants to the next, continuing the monastic lineage.
Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.
An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.
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.
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.
Ritual installation of an idol in a temple. A new statue or picture is often the centre of a noisy procession through the streets to the temple, where a ceremony to consecrate the image takes place. Public rejoicing surrounds the pratiṣṭhā.
A Sanskrit word for anything that brings good luck or well-being in any way. It can be an object or a phrase.
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
Found at the end of a Jain manuscript, a colophon is similar to the publication information at the beginning of modern books. It usually contains the title and sometimes details of the author, scribe and sponsor. The colophons of Jain manuscripts may also include the names of owners, readers and libraries where they have been stored. They frequently have decorative elements and very commonly contain a wish for good fortune for any readers. Written mainly by the scribes who copy texts, Jain colophons are often written in Sanskrit.

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