Article: Muni Puṇya-vijaya

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.

Early life

Muni Puṇya-vijaya was born on 27th October 1895 in Kapadvanj in Gujarat, a place famous among Jains since the medieval period.

The father of the young Maṇilāl Dośī died when he was ten. His mother was a very pious lady and wished him to become a monk. She decided to be initiated as a nun herself.

At the age of 13 the young boy was initiated into the Tapā-gaccha, a Śvetāmbara order belonging to the image-worshipping groups of Jains. After that he was known by his monastic name, Puṇya-vijaya.

Working life

Muni Puṇya-vijaya (1895–1971) was a Tapā-gaccha monk who helped establish the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology. He set up the Prakrit Text Society, a scholarly press, manuscript preservation schemes and wrote important scholarly works

Muni Puṇya-vijaya
Image by unknown © unknown

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:

  • the Bṛhatkalpa-sūtra with its Prakrit verse commentary – bhāṣya – and its Sanskrit prose commentary. Published over the period from 1933 to 1942, this is a lengthy text dealing with monastic rules and behaviour.
  • the Vasudeva-hiṇḍī, an early narrative work, which is important both from the linguistic and literary points of view, was published 1930 to 1931.

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.

Achievements

The Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Set up in 1957 near Gujarat University, it is closely associated with the eminent scholar and ascetic, Muni Puṇya-vijaya. It is a centre of Indological studies, especially 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.

He also wrote seminal articles in Gujarati or Hindi, mainly on the following topics:

  • material aspects of Jain manuscripts, such as whether they are written on palm leaf or paper, writing tools, system of folio numbering, evolution of scripts, colophons
  • the traditional organisation of temple-libraries
  • history of the Jain monastic orders
  • Prakrit canonical scriptures, for example varieties of Nandi-sūtra, Anuyogadvāra and Prakīrṇaka
  • narrative works in Prakrit, such as the Ākhyānakamaṇi-kośa
  • Sanskrit dramas
  • the Angavijjā – a text that does not belong in any category, which deals with prediction.

Legacy

Muni Puṇya-vijaya's monastic equipment displayed at the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum of Indology. It has a special section dedicated to Muni Puṇya-vijaya, who helped establish the museum and associated research institute.

Muni Puṇya-vijaya's monastic tools
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Muni Puṇya-vijaya's scholarly achievements and work in preserving manuscripts is honoured with a special section devoted to him in the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum. Visitors can see exhibits on the first floor that include the monastic objects he used during his lifetime.

Muni Puṇya-vijaya was closely associated with the foundation of the museum and the associated Institute of Indology. He bequeathed his collection of manuscripts and artefacts to the organisation, which forms an important element of the museum's holdings.

In Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the museum specialises in art and archaeology. It adjoins the L. D. Institute of Indology, which has a fine manuscript collection. Following the example of Muni Puṇya-vijaya, the institute is a centre of scholarly research.

Images

  • Muni Puṇya-vijaya Muni Puṇya-vijaya (1895–1971) was a Tapā-gaccha monk who helped establish the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology. He set up the Prakrit Text Society, the Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya scholarly press, manuscript preservation schemes and wrote important scholarly works.. Image by unknown © unknown
  • L. D. Institute of Indology The Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Set up in 1957 near Gujarat University, it is closely associated with the eminent scholar and ascetic, Muni Puṇya-vijaya. It is a centre of Indological studies, especially Jain studies, and has a museum holding manuscripts, paintings and sculptures.. Image by L. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, India © L. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, India
  • Muni Puṇya-vijaya's monastic tools Muni Puṇya-vijaya's monastic equipment displayed at the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum of Indology. It has a special section dedicated to Muni Puṇya-vijaya, who helped establish the museum and associated research institute. A member of the Tapā-gaccha order, Muni Puṇya-vijaya was a learned scholar, active in preserving manuscripts and studying them critically.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Further Reading

Nandisuttaṃ and Aṇuogaddārāiṃ
edited by Muni Puṇyavijaya, Dalsukh Mālvaṇiā and Amritlāl Mohanlāl Bhojak
Jaina Agamas series; volume 1
Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1968

Full details

Paṇṇavaṇāsuttaṃ
edited by Muni Puṇyavijaya, Dalsukh Mālvaṇiā and Amritlāl Mohanlāl Bhojak
Jaina Agamas series; volume 9: 1 and 9: 2
Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1971–1972

Full details

Jñānāñjali: Pūjya Muni Śrī Puṇyavijaya Abhivādana grantha
Śrī Sāgara Gaccha Jain Upāśraya; Vadodara, Gujarat; 1969

Full details

‘Notes de bibliographie jaina et moyen-indienne’
Colette Caillat
Journal Asiatique
volume 260: 3–4
Société Asiatique; 1972

Full details

Glossary

Bhāṣya

A type of commentary on Jain scriptures. It may be either:

  • Prākrit verse commentary on Śvetāmbara texts
  • Sanskrit prose commentary on a Sanskrit work, such as the Tattvārtha-sūtra.

Colophon

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.

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.

Folio

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.

Gujarāt

The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.

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.

Indology

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.

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.

Jaisalmer

A city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan in India.

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.

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.

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.

Muni

Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.

Nun

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.

Pandit Dalsukh D. Malvania

(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.

Pandit Sukhlalji

(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.

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.

Rajasthan

The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.

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.

Scripture

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.

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.

Tapā-gaccha

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.

Temple

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

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