Article: Kunthu

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Monastic and lay communities

A manuscript painting of the universal gathering and fourfold community. The universal gathering is the place and event when a Jina preaches to sentient beings. The fourfold community – saṇgha – is made up of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women

Universal gathering and fourfold community
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

A Jina is not an enlightened being who exists alone after reaching omniscience. After perfect knowledge comes general preaching – samavasaraṇa. This sermon, which is attended by all, is reported in the scriptures as resulting in large numbers of listeners being inspired. Many turn to religious life, becoming monks or nuns, while many others make the vows that lay peopleśrāvaka and śrāvikā – can follow in their everyday lives. Further, the Jina’s teachings are preserved and passed on by his chief disciples – the gaṇadharas. This is why a Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara, meaning ‘ford-maker’ or ‘founder of a community’.

Each Jina establishes a 'fourfold community', led by the chief disciples. Made up of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women, the fourfold community follows the principles the Jina has set out in his preaching. How members follow the religious teachings vary according to whether they remain householders or take initiation into mendicancy. Individual figures relating to each Jina are thus important.

Kunthu’s fourfold community

Chief disciples

Monks

Nuns

Lay men

Lay women

35 led by Svayambhū

60,000

60,600 led by Bandhuvatī or Dāminī – Śvetāmbara
60,300 led by Bhāvitā – Digambara

100,920 – Svetāmbara
200,000 – Digambara

381,000 – Śvetāmbara
300,000 – Digambara

Identification

All Jinas have individual emblemslāñchanas – and colours that help to identify them in artwork. They also have attendant deities known as yakṣa and yakṣī, who often appear flanking them in art.

Colour, symbol, yakṣa and yakṣī of Kunthu

Colour

Emblem

Yakṣa

Yakṣī

gold

goat

Gandharva

Balā – Śvetāmbara
Jayā or Vijayā – Digambara

More details

This drawing of a Jina is from the 'Caturviṃśati-stava', a set of hymns to the Jinas. Composed by Yaśovijaya in the 18th century, this text contains a hymn in Gujarati dedicated to each of the 24 Jinas.

Sketch of a Jina
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Besides the basic information, the sources provide more details on various topics. These are almost infinite and vary depending on the sources. Such information differs between Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras. Here are only a few instances of extra detail.

All of the princes who become Jinas are carried on a palanquin to the park where they perform the ritual gesture of initiation into monastic lifedīkṣā. The palanquin of Kunthunātha or Lord Kunthu is named Vijayā. On this occasion, he is accompanied by numerous kings.

He performs a two-day fast. The next day he breaks his fast at the house of King Vyāghrasiṃha in the town of Cakrapura.

Kunthu wanders for 16 years as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience under a tree of the tilaka variety.

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