Article: Śreyāṃsa

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is the 11th of the 24 Jinas of the present cycle of time. The word Jina means 'victor' in Sanskrit. A Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma through practising extreme asceticism and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara or 'ford-maker' in Sanskrit – that is, one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience.

Śreyāṃsa is not an historical figure. He is not singled out for individual biographies in the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures. Treated like most of the other Jinas, he is provided only with basic biographical information. This information is fairly standardised and remains identical throughout later sources except for occasional variations, or confusions, in numbers.

The meaning of his name is not straightforward. Śreyāṃsa is based on the common Sanskrit word śreyas, meaning ‘better, superior, better’. Hence it has a positive moral connotation.

There are minor differences between the accounts and descriptions of this Jina among the two main Jain sects. According to Śvetāmbara biographies, Śreyāṃsa married princesses and governed the earth as a king before leaving worldly life for monastic initiation. According to the sect of the Digambara, none of the Jinas assumed the responsibilities of a householder or king before becoming monks.

Śreyāṃsa is one of the Jinas whose life is contemporary with a triad of great figures:

  • the Baladeva Acala in Śvetāmbara sources, Vijaya in Digambara sources
  • the Vāsudeva Tripṛṣṭha
  • Aśvagrīva, the Prati-vāsudeva.

Basic information

The 11th Jina, Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa, in the Digambara temple at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. Though the statue is carved in the plain traditional style of the Digambara sect, the shrine and surroundings are colourful and lavishly decorated.

Statue of Śreyāṃsa
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Each Jina has standard biographical information found in various sources. Among the earliest Śvetāmbara canonical sources that provide biodata of all the 24 Jinas is the final section of the fourth Aṅga, the Samavāyānga-sūtra and the Āvaśyaka-niryukti. Among the earliest Digambara sources is a cosmological work, the Tiloya-paṇṇatti.

The standard Digambara biography of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is found on pages 79 to 84 of the 1968 edition of Guṇabhadra's Uttarapurāṇa in Sanskrit and Hindi. The standard Śvetāmbara biography is on pages 1 to 63 in volume III of Johnson's English translation of Hemacandra's work, Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra.

The biographical data can be categorised in a standard manner, and includes numbers, which are significant in wider Indian culture. These standard details can also be used to identify individual Jinas in art, since they are usually depicted as stereotyped figures. Pictures or statues of Jinas present them in either the lotus position or the kāyotsarga pose. Both of these imply deep meditation.

Parents

The important feature of a Jina’s father is that he is a king, from the kṣatriyacaste.

A Jina’s mother has an important role because she gives birth to a future Jina, and in practice a Jina is often called ‘the son of X’. Another reason for her importance is that the names given to the various Jinas are said to originate either in pregnancy-whims or in a dream their mothers had. This dream is specific, and adds to the traditional auspicious dreams that foretell the birth of a child who will become a Jina.

In the case of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa, the standard biography of Hemacandra does not give any explanation, which is unusual. It is just said that ‘his parents named him Śreyāṃsa on a good day’, underlining the moral meaning of the word śreyāṃsa. In Prakrit, however, the form of the name is Sejjaṃsa. An early Prakrit commentary, the Āvaśyaka-niryukti, devotes half a verse to an explanation of each of the 24 Jinas’ names. It says: ‘he was called Sejjaṃsa because his mother had the pregnancy fancy to climb on a precious bed – sejjā’.

Parents of Śreyāṃsa

Mother

Father

Viṣṇu – Śvetāmbara
Nandā – Digambara

Viṣṇurājā – Śvetāmbara
Vimalavāhana – Digambara

Places

This board recalls the four auspicious events – kalyāṇakas – in the life of Lord Śreyāṃsa, the 11th Jina, that took place nearby. It lists his final incarnation, birth, initiation and omniscience. Śreyāṃsa is closely associated with Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh

Śreyāṃsa's four auspicious events
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Of the five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – four take place on earth and are associated with a specific village or town in the sources. Archaeological evidence often helps to identify the old names with modern places. Even when it is lacking, there is a tendency to carry out this identification process. Associating auspicious events with certain locations makes these places sacred to Jains, so that they are potential or actual pilgrimage places and temple sites.

Places associated with Śreyāṃsa

Last incarnation and birth place

Initiation and omniscience

Emancipation

Siṃhapura or Siṃhapurī

Siṃhapura

Mount Sammeta

Siṃhapura is a part of Hirāmanpur, a small locality in Sarnath, about 30 kilometres from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The 11th Jina is recalled several times across the whole area, as shown by three temples or large images.

Dates and numbers

The five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – are traditionally associated with a specific date. This is given according to the system of the Indian calendar:

  • month
  • fortnight
  • day in the fortnight.

Astrological considerations also play a role here and the texts normally mention the constellations when an auspicious event takes place.

Dates associated with Śreyāṃsa

Last incarnation

Birth

Initiation

Omniscience

Emancipation

6th day of the dark half of Jyeṣṭha

  • 12th day of the dark half of Phālguna – Śvetāmbara
  • 14th day – Digambara
  • 13th day of the dark half of Phālguna – Śvetāmbara
  • 14th day – Digambara
  • 15th day of the dark half of Māgha – Śvetāmbara
  • 3rd day of the bright half of Māgha – Digambara
  • 3rd day of the dark half of Nabhas (= Bhadrapada) – Śvetāmbara
  • 14th day of the dark half of Bhadrapada – Digambara

The dates associated with these events are potential or actual dates of commemoration. These may be marked in festivals, which determine the Jain religious calendar.

The birth of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is commemorated by annual festivals in Sarnath, which is the area traditionally connected with this Jina.

There are also other numbers connected with the life of this Jina.

Other numbers associated with Śreyāṃsa

Height

Total lifespan

80 bows

8,400,000 years

Monastic and lay communities

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.

Śreyāṃsa's fourfold community

Chief disciples

Monks

Nuns

Lay men

Lay women

76, led by Gośubha – Śvetāmbara
77 led by Kunthu – Digambara

84,000

103,000 led by Dharaṇadevī – Digambara

279,000 led by Tripṛṣṭha

448,000

Identification

This detail from a manuscript painting is of a rhinoceros, which is a significant animal in Jain iconography. The rhino is the emblem – lāñchana – of Śreyāṃsa, the 11th Jina. The rhino is also the symbol of the Prāṇata heaven, the tenth paradise of 12.

Rhinoceros
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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 Śreyāṃsa

Colour

Emblem

Yakṣa

Yakṣī

gold

rhinoceros

Īśvara or Kumāra

Mānavī – Śvetāmbara
Gaurī or Mahākālī – Digambara

More details

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 Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is named Vimalaprabhā. On this occasion, he is accompanied by one thousand kings.

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

Śreyāṃsa wanders for two months as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience under a tree of the aśoka variety.

Events, stories and hymns

The central statue is Lord Śreyāṃsa, to whom this Śvetāmbara temple is dedicated. The temple is in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. This is where four out of five auspicious events in the life of the 11th Jina took place and is closely associated with him.

Statue of Śreyāṃsa and other Jinas
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The life of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is almost eventless. In the 9th-century Lives of the 54 Jain Great MenCauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariya – written in Prakrit by the Śvetāmbara monk Śīlānka, the chapter about the 11th Jina is hardly more than one page.

The 12th-century Sanskrit text Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra, written by Hemacandra, has become the standard Śvetāmbara version of the Jinas' lives. This text gives Śreyāṃsa's life more substance because the story of the triad of Acala, Tripṛṣṭha and Aśvagrīva is inserted within the general frame of the story and told at length. As usual with such triads, it is a tale of war and fighting. The two main enemies are the Vāsudeva Tripṛṣṭha and the Prati-vāsudeva Aśvagrīva, whose hatred continues from their previous births.

Śreyāṃsa is mainly praised alongside other Jinas in hymns dedicated to the 24 Jinas. One instance is the devotional song dedicated to this Jina in the Gujarati set of hymns composed by Yaśovijaya in the 17th century. This example can be found among the manuscripts digitised on JAINpedia.

Temples and images

The Digambara emblem of the 11th Jina, the rhinoceros is found at the foot of the image of Lord Śreyāṃsa in Sarnath. Each Jina has an emblem – lāñchana – identifying him in art, which is usually found on the pedestal on which he stands or sits.

Emblem of Śreyāṃsa
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is not one of the most popular Jinas. Yet he is known through a number of stone sculptures, such as those:

  • in caves 8 and 9 at Khanda-giri in Orissa
  • at Shravana Belgola, Venur and Mudbidri in Karnataka, along with sculptures of other Jinas
  • now preserved at the Provincial Museum in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, the Shivpuri Museum in Madhya Pradesh and the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai (Shah 1987: 146–147).

Metal images showing Śreyāṃsa alone or with other Jinas are also available in temples and museums.

Sarnath

The huge Digambara image of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. Inaugurated on 20 January 2005 by Āryikā Jñānamati, the statue of the 11th Jina is off the main street. Nearby are smaller temples to other Jinas linked to the area.

Large Digambara idol of Śreyāṃsa
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Today, the place where Śreyāṃsa’s presence is particularly visible is Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. Near Varanasi, Sarnath is where four out of five auspicious events of his life took place and boasts several temples and images of the 11th Jina.

A Śvetāmbara temple dedicated to him is found in Hirāmanpur, a small village area on the outskirts of Sarnath. It was built in 1801 CE, at the instigation of the Śvetāmbara monk Jinakuśalacandra-sūri. The temple is in a large courtyard, used during festivals, and the main image there is of Śreyāṃsa.

To the south-east of the Dhameka Buddhist stupa, for which Sarnath is most famous, is a Digambara temple dedicated to Śreyāṃsa. It was built in 1824. The image is made of black stone and features the Jina’s emblem, the rhinoceros. The Jina is shown in a seated meditation posture. The interior walls were decorated with colour paintings executed in 1900. They have been recently replaced by new paintings with different themes. Photographs of the old paintings are kept at the temple. The original paintings depicted episodes from Śreyāṃsa’s life and representations of Digambara monks. The new paintings, on which the artist was working during January 2012, do not show any clearly Digambara features.

A gigantic statue of Śreyāṃsa sits in a garden on the side of the main street of Sarnath, opposite the entrance of the Buddhist stupa. Sitting cross-legged, the idol has been installed on a platform at the instigation of the leading Digambara nun Āryikā Jñānamati on 20 January 2005 on the occasion of the festival held in commemoration of this Jina’s birth and other auspicious events. It is made of black stone and features the rhinoceros at the base. To the right of this alongside the boundary wall are four mini-temples each dedicated to the four Jinas who are associated with the region of Varanasi, namely the:

  • seventh, Supārśvanātha or Lord Supārśva
  • eighth, Candraprabhanātha or Lord Candraprabha
  • 23rd, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva
  • Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa.

Old images of this Jina and others connected with the region are found in the local museums of Uttar Pradesh, in Sarnath, Varanasi and Lucknow.

Images

  • Statue of Śreyāṃsa The 11th Jina, Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa, in the Digambara temple at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. Though the statue is carved in the plain traditional style of the Digambara sect, the shrine and surroundings are colourful and lavishly decorated.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Śreyāṃsa's four auspicious events This board recalls the four auspicious events – kalyāṇakas – in the life of Śreyāṃsanatha or Lord Śreyāṃsa, the 11th Jina, that took place nearby. Found at the entrance of the Śvetāmbara Śreyāṃsanātha temple in Hiramanpur, Uttar Pradesh, it lists his final incarnation, birth, initiation and omniscience. There are several temples dedicated to Śreyāṃsa around Sarnath because he is closely associated with the area. Places connected to Jinas become sacred places for Jains, attracting pilgrims and worshippers.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Rhinoceros This detail from a manuscript painting is of a rhinoceros, which is a significant animal in Jain iconography. The rhino is the emblem – lāñchana – of Śreyāṃsa, the 11th Jina. The rhino is also the symbol of the Prāṇata heaven, the tenth paradise of 12 in the Jain triple world. Looking like a cross between a dog and a unicorn, this rhino may have been painted by an artist who had never seen one.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Statue of Śreyāṃsa and other Jinas The central statue is Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa, to whom this Śvetāmbara temple is dedicated. The temple is in Hiramanpur, near Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. Near Varanasi, Sarnath is where four out of five auspicious events of Śreyāṃsa's life took place. For this reason the area boasts several temples and images of the 11th Jina.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Emblem of Śreyāṃsa The Digambara emblem of the 11th Jina, the rhinoceros is found at the foot of the gigantic image of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. Each Jina has an emblem – lāñchana – identifying him in art, which is usually found on the pedestal on which he stands or sits.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Large Digambara idol of Śreyāṃsa The huge Digambara image of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. Inaugurated on 20 January 2005 by the prominent nun Āryikā Jñānamati, the statue of the 11th Jina sits on a platform in a garden off the main street. Nearby are smaller temples dedicated to other Jinas associated with the area. Connections with a Jina or other holy figure make a place sacred to Jains.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Further Reading

Jaina Temple Architecture in India: The Development of a Distinct Language in Space and Ritual
Julia A. B. Hegewald
Monographien zur Indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie series; volume 19
Stiftung Ernst Waldschmidt, G+H Verlag; Berlin, Germany; 2009

Full details

Jain Shrines in U. P.: Soul Searching Sojourns
Uttar Pradesh Tourism

Full details

Vārāṇāsī ke Jain Tīrtha evaṃ Mandir
Lalit Cand Jain
Lābhendu Prakāśan; Vārāṇasī, Uttar Pradesh, India; 2011

Full details

Jaina-Rūpa-Maṇḍana
Umakant Premanand Shah
Abhinav Publications; New Delhi, India; 1987

Full details

‘Significance of Sarnath in Jaina Tradition and Art’
S. S. Sinha
Jaina Contribution to Varanasi
edited by R. C. Sharma and Pranati Ghosal
Jñāna-Pravāha, Centre for Cultural Studies and Research Varanasi & D. K. Printworld; Delhi, India; 2006

Full details

‘Jaina Tradition and Reality’
S. M. Jain
Jaina Contribution to Varanasi
edited by R. C. Sharma and Pranati Ghosal
Jñāna-Pravāha, Centre for Cultural Studies and Research Varanasi & D. K. Printworld; Delhi, India; 2006

Full details

Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details

Glossary

Āryikā Jñānamati

A renowned Digambara nun born in 1934, active in education and research. In 1987 she was the first āryikā to initiate a man.

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.

Auspicious

Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 

Buddhist

A follower of Buddhism. There are two main schools of Buddhism, namely:

  • Theravāda – 'the Teaching of the Elders' in Pali – is older and is found chiefly in Sri Lanka and continental South East Asia
  • Māhayana – 'Great Vehicle' in Sanskrit – is the larger sect and is followed mainly in East Asia and the Himalayan nations.

Both sects are practised in India.

Candraprabha

The eighth Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is white and his emblem the crescent moon. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Caste

Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:

  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.

Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

Caturvidha-saṅgha

The ‘fourfold society’ of Jain tradition, which is made up of ascetics and the laity, and of males and females.

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.

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.

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.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

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.

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Festival

A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 

Gaṇadhara

'Supporters of the order'. This term is used for the first mendicant disciples of a Jina. They are able to understand his teachings properly and can pass them on. A gaṇadhara leads his own group of ascetics until he becomes enlightened.

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.

Hindi

The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.

Hymn

The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:

  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Initiation

Formal or ceremonial admission into an organisation or group.

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.

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.

Kalyāṇaka

An auspicious moment in a Jina's life. There are five pañca-kalyāṇakas:

  • garbha – conception
  • janma – birth
  • vairāgya – renunciation
  • kevala-jñāna – enlightenment
  • mokṣa or nirvāna – liberation.

Karnataka

State in south-west India.

Kāyotsarga

'Absence of concern for the body'. This commonly refers to a standing or sitting posture of deep meditation. In the standing position the eyes are concentrated on the tip of the nose and the arms hang loosely by the body. The individual remains unaffected by whatever happens around him.

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.

Kṣatriya

The Indian caste of warriors and kings, with the role of 'protectors'. Jinas are born into this caste.

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.

Lāñchana

The distinctive emblem of a given Jina. For example Ṛṣabha has a bull while Mahāvīra has a lion. These are commonly depicted under statues of the Jinas. Since this practice does not seem to have been known early on, perhaps it was influenced by the Hindu environment, where each god has his typical vehicle or emblem.

Mumbaī

The capital of the state of Mahārāṣṭra, the city of Mumbai is the biggest and richest in India. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the centre of Indian film-making and commercial activities.

Palanquin

A bed or seat attached to poles, which are carried by bearers on their shoulders. The palanquin is usually a closed box or has curtains sheltering the person within.

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.

Prati-vāsudeva

One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal History. In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Prati-vāsudevas are born in each progressive and regressive half-cycle of time. Each one personifies the forces of evil and battles his mortal enemy, one of the Vāsudevas. After the Vāsudevas kill them, the Prati-vāsudevas are reborn in hell. Prati-vāsudevas are also known as Prati-nārāyaṇa and Prati-śatru.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Rite

A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

Śalākā-puruṣa

'Great man' – also known as a mahā-puruṣa – whose story is told in Jain Universal History. Born in each progressive and regressive half-cycle of time, there are five types of 'great men':

  • 24 Jinas
  • 12 Cakravartins
  • 9 Baladevas
  • 9 Vāsudevas
  • 9 Prati-vāsudevas.

Samavasaraṇa

Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.

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.

Sermon

A speech on a religious topic, usually delivered by a member of the clergy. Frequently a sermon has a moral lesson or is based on a sacred text.

Śrāvaka

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay man, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The feminine form is śrāvikā.

Śrāvikā

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay woman, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The masculine form is śrāvakā.

Supārśva

The seventh Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold or emerald and his emblem the svastika to Śvetāmbaras and the nandyāvarta or svastika to the Digambaras. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Temple

A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.

Vāsudeva

One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal HistoryVāsudevas are the younger half-brothers of the Baladevas, sharing the same fathers. They are both demi-Cakravartins or half Universal Rulers. In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Vāsudevas are born in each progressive and regressive half-cycle of time. Each one battles his mortal enemy, one of the Prati-vāsudevas. For breaking the principle of non-violence, the Vāsudevas are reborn as hell-beings – nārakis. Some may then become Jinas in their next lives. Vāsudevas are also known as Nārāyaṇa.

Vrata

Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā

Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:

  • aṇu-vratas – 'Five Lesser Vows'
  • guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows
  • śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline

All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders. 

Yakṣa

The male attendant of a Jina, one of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

Yakṣī

The female attendant of a Jina, also called yakṣinī. One of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

Yaśovijaya

(1624–1688) Śvetāmbara Tapā-gaccha monk who wrote extensively on Jain philosophy.

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Related Manuscripts

  • Paper cover

    Paper cover

    British Library. Or. 12744. 1522. Unknown author.

  • Text

    Text

    Victoria and Albert Museum. IM 7-1931. Unknown author. Circa 1490

Related Manuscript Images

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