Contributed by Nalini Balbir
Known as 'Āgama Prabhākara' or 'Light of the Tradition', Muni Puṇya-vijaya (1895–1971) was one of the leading monastic figures of the 20th century through his scholarly activity. The languages in which he wrote are Gujarati and Hindi.
A highly respected mendicant as well as a prominent scholar, Muni Puṇya-vijaya was one of the first Jain scholar monks to use modern academic techniques. He produced ground-breaking studies and editions of the Śvetāmbara scriptures, and led the systematic preservation and cataloguing of Jain manuscripts in India. He was closely associated with the foundation of the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology, which is a leading centre of manuscript research, particularly into Śvetāmbara texts. Muni Puṇya-vijaya was also responsible for setting up the Prakit Text Society and the Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya. These two institutions specialise in publishing scholarly editions of Śvetāmbara holy writings.
The young Puṇya-vijaya joined the group led by Pravartaka Kāntivijaya. Muni Catur-vijaya trained him in scholarly work. Together they edited for the first time two important Jain works in Prakrit:
These editions are still authoritative, like all others produced later by Muni Puṇya-vijaya alone or in collaboration.
Muni Puṇya-vijaya belongs to the small category of Jain monks who focused on scholarly work. While touring western India on foot, as a Jain monk should do, he observed the disastrous condition of several temple-libraries where manuscripts were not kept properly. Proper preservation of these treasures became one of his main concerns. Working with Jain lay scholars, which was very unusual for a monk, he was responsible for ensuring that scores of manuscripts were suitably stored and catalogued.
Pandit Sukhlalji and Pandit Dalsukh Malvania are among the Jain lay scholars who collaborated with him. Through them, Muni Puṇya-vijaya became familiar with the tools of modern Western research, such as the concept of critical editions. Coupled with the respect and spiritual authority gained from his scriptural knowledge and saintly life, this modernising approach helped Muni Puṇya-vijaya to a number of significant successes in Jain studies.
L. D. Institute of Indology
Image by L. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, India © L. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, India
Muni Puṇya-vijaya completed or contributed towards many significant scholarly accomplishments.
One of these was the establishment of the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology, near Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, in 1957.
A second major achievement was the foundation of the Prakrit Text Society, in Varanasi, then in Ahmedabad. This institution is devoted to publishing editions of Prakrit texts. Several of these were completed by Muni Puṇya-vijaya himself.
Muni Puṇya-vijaya also set up the Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya in Mumbai, which has a branch in Ahmedabad. This organisation publishes critical editions of the Śvetāmbara scriptures in the 'Jaina Āgama Series', issuing its first volume in 1968. Each volume has an introduction that reflects on the notion of the ‘critical edition’ and systematically describes the manuscript material used. This was a significant innovation, for earlier editions were not critical and were mostly vague about the material used.
Another notable success was the publishing of descriptive manuscript catalogues covering the collections held in some of the oldest Jain libraries, at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, and Khambat and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
In addition, Muni Puṇya-vijaya did important work in preparing microfilms of the rare manuscripts kept at Jaisalmer.
A type of commentary on Jain scriptures. It may be either:
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.
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.
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.
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.
The academic study of the civilisations found in the Indian subcontinent, chiefly their history, languages and literature. Also known as South Asian studies, Indology covers the modern states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Formal or ceremonial admission into an organisation or group.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
A city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan in India.
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.
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.
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.
Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.
A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
(1910–2000) A leading Jain Gujarati scholar of the 20th century from a Sthānaka-vāsin Jain family. He studied at Shantiniketan in Bengal and at Banaras Hindu University, where he assisted Pandit Sukhlalji. Director of the L. D. Institute of Indology from its 1959 foundation until 1976, he was associated with Muni Puṇya-vijaya. He wrote in Gujarati, English and Hindi. His main intellectual contributions were in the fields of Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, Jain, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy and the history of the Sthānaka-vāsin sect.
(1880–1978) A leading Jain Gujarati scholar of the 20th century from a Śvetāmbara family, who became blind at the age of 17. He studied philosophy and logic at Banaras and became a renowned specialist who taught several Jain monks. Part of the nationalist movement working for the independence of India, Pandit Sukhlalji published numerous editions and translations in Hindi or Gujarati of works on Jain philosophy or doctrine. His translation of and commentary on the Tattvārtha-sūtra is noteworthy.
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.
The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.
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.
Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.
'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.
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.
A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.