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Browsing: Sūri-mantra-paṭa (065.001)

Image: Backing cloth

Title: Backing cloth

Source:
Royal Asiatic Society
Shelfmark:
065.001
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
1449
Folio number:
not applicable
Total number of folios:
1 large size
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Prakrit and Sanskrit
Medium:
gouache on cloth
Size:
57.5 x 54 cm
Copyright:
Royal Asiatic Society Images/RAS, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Background

A sūri-mantra-paṭa is a mystical diagram on cloth, like here, or on paper, which features formulas of homage and sacred syllables – mantras. It is thus a kind of maṇḍala or yantra, which is frequently used in worship and meditation among both ascetics and lay people.

Monks of the Śvetāmbara monastic orders use sūri-mantra-paṭas when they reach the higher ranks of religious hierarchy. The yantra gets its name from the highest grade of male mendicant, which is sūri, but it can also be used among lower monastic levels. More generally, worshippers are inspired by the example of Indrabhūti Gautama or Gautama-svāmin, the foremost disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. He is often shown at the centre of the diagram, although not here.

The date on this sūri-mantra-paṭa corresponds to 1449 CE, making it among the oldest known examples. All yantras include pictures and text but the muted colour scheme and chiefly textual appearance of this one contrasts sharply with modern sūri-mantra-paṭas, which are often brightly coloured and have little text.

Glossary

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.
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.
Mantra
A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.
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.
Indrabhūti Gautama
Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.
Ascetic
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land. Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
Disciple
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
Laity
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.
Monastic order
A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.
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.
Yantra
Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.
Mysticism
A system of contemplative prayer, meditation and complete detachment from worldly affairs in the hope of gaining direct spiritual experience of the divine. In Jainism those who practise mystical techniques hope to gain true self-realisation and thus destroy karma and be liberated.

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