Article: Sumati

Contributed by Jasmine Kelly

Sumatinātha or Lord Sumati is the fifth 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.

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Story and images

This 16th-century manuscript painting shows a Jina in the lotus position of meditation. His jewellery and headdress show that he is a spiritual king. Jinas are always pictured in a very stylised way and this Jina has no identifying emblem.

A Jina meditating
Image by Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

There is no historical evidence of Sumati’s existence but traditional writings recount his life as following the usual career of a Jina. Tradition holds that he was born in Ayodhyā and achieved liberation on Mount Sammeta, also known as Pārasnātha Hill.

Sumati’s symbolic colour is gold. Digambaras say that his emblem is the crane – krauñca- or koka-bird – while Śvetāmbaras say it is a krauñca-bird.

Like all Jinas, Sumati has a pair of spiritual attendants, often shown in art. His yakṣa is Tumbaru. Digambaras call his yakṣī Puruṣadattā while Śvetāmbaras name her Mahākālī.

Images

  • A Jina meditating This painting from a 16th-century manuscript shows a Jina in the lotus position of meditation. His jewellery and headdress show that he is a spiritual king, a status underscored by the elephant, parasol and pedestal, standard symbols of royalty in Indian art. Jinas are always pictured in a very stylised way so they are hard to tell apart. In this case the Jina's personal emblem, which can be used to identify him, is not visible. Around the Jina, various figures stand or sit in postures of worship.. Image by Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Further Reading

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

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.

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.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

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.

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.

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