Article: Writings on the universe

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The religious importance of understanding the traditional conception of the universe means that scholars and devotees have made strong efforts to pass on Jain cosmology. This is usually in written texts on cosmology but visual art has also been an important way to spread knowledge.

There are three main areas of Jain literature that are sources for details of cosmology. The scriptural source is the most significant, followed by popular stories and then numerous references in a variety of works.

On the whole, the diverse Jain religious groups agree on cosmology. Both main sects support the religious authority of the Tattvārtha-sūtra, which is a key Jain text with a long section on cosmology. This underscores the crucial part of cosmological theory in the basic tenets of Jain belief. There are some differences, however, between the beliefs of Śvetāmbara and Digambara Jains, which can be spotted in the textual traditions of each group.

Tattvārtha-sūtra

One of the most concise, comprehensive and earliest accounts of Jain cosmology is the Tattvārtha-sūtra. Written in Sanskrit in the first centuries of the Common Era and the only text considered an authoritative scripture by Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras alike, the Tattvārtha-sūtra summarises the main principles of Jain belief.

After describing the nature of the soul in chapter two, the Tattvārtha-sūtra gives the various places where it can take rebirth in chapters three and four.

Chapter three

Kuṇḍala, the 12th continent in the middle world, is illustrated in this manuscript painting. It clearly demonstrates the importance of symmetry and repetition in Jain cosmology. The ring of mountains called Kuṇḍala in its centre is marked in yellow.

Continent of Kuṇḍala
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The third chapter of the Tattvārtha-sūtra goes into great detail about the lower and middle worlds of the Jain universe.

These areas are two of the regions of world space where souls move through the cycle of birth over many lifetimes. The souls are born into different bodies and lives throughout various parts of the Jain triple worlds according to the karma their behaviour has created in previous births.

The following table summarises the headings in chapter three.

The lower and middle worlds

The lower region: the seven infernal lands

The middle region

Dimensions and topography

Concentric islands and oceans

Strata and dwelling places for the infernal beings

Jambū Island’s geography

Physical make-up of the infernal beings

The seven continents of Jambū:

  • the mountains, lakes, lotuses and rivers
  • dimensions of continents and mountains
  • time cycles and conditions.

Sufferings of the infernal beings

Dhātakīkhaṇḍa Island

Lifespans of the infernal beings

Puṣkara Island

 

Islands of human habitation

 

The two classes of humans

 

Continents where spiritual effort is possible

 

Lifespans of humans

 

Lifespans of animals and lower organisms

Chapter four

This painting from a manuscript shows gods enjoying luxury and amusements in the heavens, the highest of the three worlds of traditional Jain cosmology. Though the souls born as gods in the upper world have pleasurable lives, they are still bound in the c

Gods enjoy life in the heavens
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The fourth chapter provides an immense amount of detail about the upper world of the Jain universe. The upper world is where many deities reside, although gods and goddesses are also found in other parts of the three worlds. The lives of the gods are characterised by pleasure and lack of effort, unlike the lives of human beings in the Lands of Action. The gods are in a higher spiritual condition than human beings but are not liberated souls. Only human beings can reach omniscience and liberation so it is better to be born as a human being in the middle world than a god in the upper world.

The following table summarises the headings in chapter four of the Tattvārtha-sūtra.

Four classes of gods – mansion, forest, luminous and empyrean

Colouring of the gods

Types of gods within each class

Chiefs and other grades of gods

Sexual pleasures of the gods

1. The ten types of mansion-dwelling gods

2. The eight types of forest gods

3. The five types of luminous gods

  • Space vehicles of the luminous gods

4. The empyrean gods

  • Graded and non-graded gods
  • Empyrean heavens
  • Qualities of the empyrean gods
  • Terminal empyrean gods
  • Highest heavens

Subhumans (animals, plants, micro-organisms)

Lifespans of the gods

  • Maximum lifespans of mansion gods
  • Maximum lifespans of empyrean gods
  • Minimum lifespans of empyrean gods

Lifespans of infernal beings

  • Minimum lifespans of mansion gods
  • Minimum lifespans of forest gods
  • Maximum lifespans of forest gods
  • Maximum lifespans of luminous gods
  • Maximum lifespans of planets
  • Maximum lifespans of constellations
  • Maximum lifespans of stars
  • Minimum lifespans of stars
  • Minimum lifespans of luminous gods (excluding stars)
  • Lifespans of terminal gods

Other writings

This manuscript painting from the 'Jasahara-cariu' depicts the violent deaths of King Yaśodhara and his mother Candramatī at the hands of Queen Amṛtamati. She poisons them and then attacks her dying husband like a wild beast. The tale illustrates karma.

Amṛtamati kills Yaśodhara and Candramatī
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

Although the primary textual sources on Jain cosmology are the scriptures, story literature contains plentiful examples of how these cosmological concepts work in practice.

As well as shorter writings, there are instances of fairly long texts, similar to novels, with narratives embedded in one another, in which cosmology plays an important role. These tales are like theatres where human beings play one life after the other, travelling back and forth among the middle, lower and upper worlds in continuous rebirths until they are spiritually mature enough to reach liberation. A good example is a popular tale known as the story of Yaśodhara, which offers rich scope for illustrations of the workings of karma. One manuscript of the story is one of the highlights of JAINpedia.

Finally, there is the evident familiarity of Jain authors, mainly mendicants, with the details of cosmology. There are frequent precise references or looser allusions in literary works, for example in comparisons.

Śvetāmbara tradition

Three principal types of Śvetāmbara writings describe Jain cosmology. The first type is scriptural, with several scriptures going into immense detail about Jain cosmological concepts, with associated commentaries in various languages.

A huge body of literature in Prakrit focuses on cosmological matters. This can be classified into those texts known as kṣetra-samāsas – 'condensed exposition of the regions' – and those known as saṃgrahaṇīs – 'résumés'. The most influential of other Prakrit-language works on cosmology is the 16th‑century Vicāraṣaṭṭriṃśikā, and also its Sanskrit commentary.

The final type of Śvetāmbara writing to deal with cosmology is Vinaya-vijaya’s Loka-prakāśa. Composed in Sanskrit verse in the 17th century, it is a kind of compendium of cosmology, which quotes extensively from earlier works and was widely copied.

Canonical scriptures

This manuscript painting shows perfect beings that have been liberated from the cycle of birth and some of the ways of reaching liberation. The exalted status of the liberated souls in the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is stressed by their ornate parasols.

Perfect beings and paths to liberation
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit, the Vyākhyāprajñapti Exposition of Explanations – is the fifth Aṅga of the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures. It is a massive book containing virtually everything related to the teachings of Jain doctrine so, although it is not a specialised treatise on cosmology, it holds a lot of cosmological material. Information is also available in other Aṅgas such as the Sthānānga and the Samavāyānga – Aṅgas number three and four.

The JīvājīvābhigamaApproach to the Animate and Inanimate – belongs to the category known as Upāṅgas. These form the second category of Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, in which there are 12 texts written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit. The Jīvājīvābhigama is the third text, in prose. Its third chapter contains a description of continents and oceans but is considered by some to be a later insertion.

The Jambū-dvīpa-prajñaptiExposition of the Jambū-dvīpa – is the fifth or sixth of the Upāṅgas. Devoted to Jain cosmology, it is in seven prose sections. The Jambū-dvīpa-prajñapti is an exhaustive description of the 'Rose-apple continent' in an elaborate canonical style. It details all the components of Jambū-dvīpa – encircling wall, mountains, shrines, gardens, ponds, astral bodies, rivers, the surrounding Lavaṇa-samudra. It emphasises its repetitive structure, with microcosmos and macrocosmos replicas of each other. The atmosphere is opulent – gems, gold and silver are the usual materials described – and the depiction often recalls those of royal palaces and gardens or those of holy places and pilgrimage sites. The third section is an account of the region of Bhārata and deals with the legends connected with King Bharata.

The Sūrya-prajñaptiExposition of the Sun – and the Candra-prajñaptiExposition of the Moon – are also Upāṅgas. The Sūrya-prajñapti is the sixth and the Candra-prajñapti the seventh. They are works of astronomy, dealing with activities and effects of the sun and the moon (Schubring 2000: 100–103 for details).

All these treatises have been the starting point of a long tradition of commentaries in Sanskrit and in vernacular languages, especially Gujarati.

Śvetāmbara cosmological works and Sanskrit commentaries

Title

Sanskrit commentary

Jīvājīvābhigama

  • Malaya-giri in the 12th century

Jambū-dvīpa-prajñapti

  • Hīravjijaya-sūri in the 17th century
  • Śānticandra in the 17th century
  • earlier commentary by Malaya-giri, said to be lost

Sūrya-prajñapti and Candra-prajñapti

  • Malaya-giri in the 12th century

Prakrit treatises

This painting from a manuscript shows the ring-shaped oceans of Lavaṇa-samudra and Kālodadhi. In the middle world of Jain cosmology, Lavaṇa-samudra – 'Salt Ocean' – separates the central continent of Jambū-dvīpa from the second continent of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa.

Lavaṇa-samudra and Kālodadhi oceans
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

There is a vast number of specific works in Prakrit on cosmological teachings. These derive from the teachings in the canonical scriptures but can be considered a modernisation for two leading reasons.

Firstly, the language used is now Māhārāṣṭrī Jain Prakrit instead of Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit. Secondly, the form is no longer that of emphatic canonical prose but that of verses. These are often very concise, meant to be memorised. They have given birth to a long tradition of commentaries in Sanskrit and vernacular languages, especially Gujarati. Many such commentaries were written in the 17th century, proving a renewed interest in the topic of cosmology at that point.

Although there is some overlap, there are essentially two categories of Prakrit works:

  • kṣetra-samāsas – 'condensed expositions of the regions'
  • saṃgrahaṇīs – 'résumés'.

To some extent, kṣetra-samāsas are more technical and more geographical, dealing with the description of the continents, the planets and so on. The latter are more concerned with the beings who live in different parts of the Jain worlds, especially their lifespans, karma and spiritual progress.

Among other specialised treatises, at least one has to be mentioned because it is part of the fundamentals of the monastic curriculum. It has been copied many times, demonstrating its popularity. Called the Vicāraṣaṭṭriṃśikā or Cauvīsadaṇḍa, Daṇḍakaprakaraṇa and Laghu-saṃgrahaṇī, it was produced by Gajasāra. He also wrote a Sanskrit commentary in 1522 (Vikrama Saṃvat 1579). In 44 stanzas, it discusses the various limits of cosmological concepts, such as the body size of the classes of gods, their type of knowledge and their physical structure.

Kṣetra-samāsas

There are three kṣetra-samāsas that have been most influential.

The earliest is the Kṣetra-samāsa by Jinabhadra, which is also known as Samayakhitta-samāsa or Bṛhat-kṣetra-samāsa. Written in the sixth century, it gained commentaries by Haribhadra in the eighth century and Malaya-giri in the 12th century.

It was replaced in eminence by Somatilaka-sūri's Kṣetra-samāsa, composed around 1300 CE.

Finally, there is Ratnaśekhara-sūri's Kṣetra-samāsa or Laghu-kṣetra-samāsa, produced around 1370 CE. The most popular kṣetra-samāsa, it has been copied many times and plenty of illustrated manuscripts survive.

Saṃgrahanīs

The two paintings of infernal palaces on this manuscript page demonstrate the symmetry and repetitive patterns that are characteristic of Jain cosmology.

Palaces of hellish gods and demi-gods
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The most authoritative saṃgrahanīs number three.

The first is the Saṃgrahaṇī or Bṛhat-saṃgrahaṇī by Jinabhadra, authored in the sixth century.

Next is the Jambū-dvīpa-saṃgrahaṇī, composed in Prakrit by Haribhadra in the eighth century (van den Bossche 2007). Sometimes called Laghu-saṃgrahaṇī, it consists of 30 stanzas giving definitions and calculations relating to the description of the 'Rose-apple continent'. Prabhāṇanda wrote a Sanskrit commentary in the 13th century.

Śrīcandra-sūri's Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna was written in 1136 CE (Vikrama Samvat 1193). It is also known as Saṃkṣipta-saṃgrahaṇī or Trailokyadīpikā or by the name Bṛhat-saṃgrahaṇī, which is given to it by some modern Jain editors. One of the most popular treatises, it comprises roughly 273 stanzas, according to the edition, and has commentaries by Devabhadra-sūri and other leading scholar-monks.

Sanskrit manual – the Loka-prakāśa

Written in Sanskrit verse in the 17th century, the Loka-prakāśa by Vinaya-vijaya is a comprehensive cosmological treatise. It has numerous quotations from earlier works on Jain cosmology, which are also discussed in detail, and its popularity is shown by the relatively large number of illustrated manuscripts in existence.

Unfortunately, none is available among the manuscripts currently on JAINpedia. However, as well as a multitude of copies in India, Mette 2010 (392ff.) lists:

  • one in the National Library and the University of Strasbourg in France
  • one in the National Library of Florence in Italy
  • one in the Bavarian National Library, in Munich in Germany.

Digambara tradition

The Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects agree broadly on Jain cosmology but have developed distinct traditions in cosmological writings. The most notable Digambara works are the Tiloyapannatti and the Trilokasāra in Prakrit verse and the Sanskrit-language Trailokyadīpikā. The last is the standard handbook for the Digambara tradition on Jain cosmology but does not seem to have been published.

Tiloyapannatti

This 17th-century manuscript painting illustrates the elements of the armies of the Bhavanavāsin. Dancers and musicians entertain the king on campaign while the others are always ready to fight for their master and to serve him.

Armies of the Bhavanavāsin gods
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The earliest available Digambara text on cosmology is the Tiloyapannatti. In Śaurasenī Prakrit, it is a verse treatise written by Yativṛṣabha. It is difficult to date, with some scholars placing it in the second century CE while others date it to the sixth century CE. This comprehensive work is a mathematical treatise as much as a cosmological work, full of calculations, rules and definitions.

It is divided into nine chapters, named:

  1. General nature of the universe
  2. Hellish regions
  3. Regions inhabited by the Bhavana-vāsins
  4. Human world
  5. Sub-human world
  6. Regions inhabited by the Vyantaras
  7. Regions inhabited by the Jyotiṣkas
  8. Heavenly regions
  9. The realm of liberation.

Trilokasāra

The Trilokasāra, by Nemicandra Siddhāntacakravartin, is also a cosmological verse work composed in Śaurasenī Prakrit.

It dates back to about the ninth to 10th century and is divided into six large chapters, the titles of which are often identical to those of the Tiloyapannatti. They are called:

  1. General nature of the universe
  2. Regions inhabited by the Bhavana-vāsins
  3. Regions inhabited by the Vyantaras
  4. Regions inhabited by the Jyotiṣkas
  5. Heavenly regions
  6. Human and animal worlds.

Trailokyadīpikā

In this manuscript painting, beings in hell are tortured by animals, demons and other infernal beings. Suffering is the hallmark of the seven hells that make up the lower world of three in the Jain universe.

Tortures in the hells
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The Trailokyadīpikā by Indravāmadeva is a later work written in Sanskrit, which has become the model Digambara work on Jain cosmology. Although it came from Digambara circles, it gained popularity among the wider Jain community. Its material was largely used by Willibald Kirfel, whose detailed 1920 work in German is the standard on Jain cosmology in Western scholarship. The author was a lay man, not a monk, and introduces his work as a Sanskrit rendering of Nemicandra's Trilokasāra.The date of composition is unknown, but it is very likely to be earlier than the second half of the 15th century.

The work is divided into three sections, namely:

  1. Lower world
  2. Middle world
  3. Upper world.

Although it does not seem to have been published to date, manuscripts are available in Indian manuscript libraries in western and south India. A single incomplete copy is available at the British Library under the shelfmark of I.O. San. 2583.

Images

  • Continent of Kuṇḍala Kuṇḍala, the 12th continent in the middle world, is illustrated in this manuscript painting. It clearly demonstrates the importance of symmetry and repetition in Jain cosmology. The ring of mountains called Kuṇḍala in its centre is marked in yellow and surrounds a Mount Meru encircled by water. Symmetrically laid out trees and temples are found in the part enclosed by mountains while symmetry is also noticeable in the land outside the mountains and in the fish in the ocean. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Gods enjoy life in the heavens This painting from a manuscript shows gods enjoying luxury and amusements in the heavens, the highest of the three worlds of traditional Jain cosmology. Though the souls born as gods in the upper world have pleasurable lives, they are still bound in the cycle of rebirth.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Amṛtamati kills Yaśodhara and Candramatī This vivid manuscript painting from the 'Jasahara-cariu' depicts the violent deaths of King Yaśodhara and his mother Candramatī at the hands of Queen Amṛtamati. King Yaśodhara's wife Amṛtamati, who has taken a lover, invites her husband and his mother to a lavish meal. Seen on the right, Candramatī dies quickly from the poisoned food but Yaśodhara falls to the floor in agony. While he is helpless, Amṛtamati tears at his throat. Her frenzied bloodlust is indicated by her wild, animal-like hair. This popular tale clearly shows how karma works, in that people's behaviour influences the bodies and fate into which their souls are born in future lives. Those who deliberately commit violence, such as Amṛtamati and her victims, suffer in later lives.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Perfect beings and paths to liberation This manuscript painting shows perfect beings that have been liberated from the cycle of birth and some of the ways of reaching liberation. The exalted status of the liberated souls – siddha – in the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is stressed by their ornate parasols, which symbolise royalty. Below, on earth, Śvetāmbara monks demonstrate some methods of progressing spiritually to enlightenment and then liberation, such as meditation and learning the scriptures.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Lavaṇa-samudra and Kālodadhi oceans This painting from a manuscript shows the ring-shaped oceans of Lavaṇa-samudra and Kālodadhi. In the middle world of Jain cosmology, Lavaṇa-samudra – 'Salt Ocean' – separates the central continent of Jambū-dvīpa from the second continent of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa. In turn Dhātakīkhaṇḍa is surrounded by Kālodadhi – 'Black Water Ocean' – which laps the inner shores of the continent of Puṣkara.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Palaces of hellish gods and demi-gods The two paintings of infernal palaces on this manuscript page demonstrate the symmetry and repetitive patterns that are characteristic of Jain cosmology. The four highest of the seven hells are home to the Bhavanavāsin – ‘Residents of Dwellings’ – gods and the semi-divine Paramādharmika or ‘Extremely Unjust’ beings. These gods and demi-gods live in palaces – vimāna.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Armies of the Bhavanavāsin gods This 17th-century manuscript painting illustrates the elements of the armies of the Bhavanavāsin. Dancers and musicians entertain the king on campaign while the others are always ready to fight for their master and to serve him. The lowest group of gods in the three Jain worlds, the Bhavanavāsin live in the highest of the seven hells.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Tortures in the hells In this manuscript painting, beings in hell are tortured by animals, demons and other infernal beings. Suffering is the hallmark of the seven hells that make up the lower world of three in the Jain universe. Souls who have been born into bodies in the hells suffer according to their karma, which is mainly decided by bad behaviour in previous lives. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Further Reading

Commentary on Tattvārtha Sūtra of Vācaka Umāsvāti
Pandit Sukhlalji
translated by K. K. Dixit
L. D. series; volume 44
L. D. Institute of Indology; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1974

Full details

Steps to Liberation: 2500 Years of Jain Art and Religion
Jan van Alphen
Etnografisch Museum Antwerpen; Antwerp, Belgium; 2000

Full details

‘Une peinture cosmologique jaina déposée au Musée Guimet: texte et traduction’
Nalini Balbir
Bulletin d’Études Indiennes
volume 24–25
Association Française pour les Études Indiennes; Paris, France; 2006 to 2007

Full details

‘Le monde médian: une peinture cosmologique jaina sur tissu déposée au Musée Guimet’
Nalini Balbir
Arts Asiatiques
volume 64
École Française d’Extrême-Orient; Paris, France; 2009

Full details

Elements of Jaina Geography: The Jambūdvīpasaṃgrahaṇī of Haribhadra Sūri
Haribhadra
translated and edited by Frank van den Bossche
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2007

Full details

Jain Cosmology
Colette Caillat
and Ravi Kumar
translated by R. Norman
Bookwise (India) Pct. Ltd; New Delhi, India; 2004

Full details

Essays on Jaina Art
Anand K. Coomaraswamy
edited by Richard J. Cohen
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Manohar; New Delhi, India; 2003

Full details

Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection
Phyllis Granoff
Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd and Rubin Museum of Art, New York; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and New York, USA; 2009

Full details

‘Meru, Samavasaraṇa and Siṃhāsana: The Recurrence of Three-Tiered Structures in Jaina Cosmology, Mythology and Ritual’
Julia A. B. Hegewald
Kalhar (White Water-Lily): Studies in Art, Iconography and Archaeology of India and Bangladesh – Professor Enamul Haque Felicitation Volume
edited by Gerd R. Mevissen, Gourishwar Bhattacharya, Mallar Mitra and Sutapa Sinha
Kaveri Books; New Delhi, India; 2007

Full details

‘Oceans, Islands and Sacred Mountains: Representations of Cosmic Geography in Jaina Art and Architecture’
Julia A. B. Hegewald
Cosmos: the Journal of the Traditional Cosmological Society
volume 16
Traditional Cosmological Society; 2000

Full details

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

Jainendra Siddhānta Kośa
Jinendra Varṇi
volume 38
Bhāratīya Jñānapītha Publication; New Delhi, India; 2003

Full details

‘Lokākāśa and Lokadhātu: A Comparison of Jain and Buddhist Cosmology’
Padmanabh S. Jaini
The Clever Adulteress and Other Stories: A Treasury of Jain Literature
edited by Phyllis Granoff
Mosaic Press; Oakville, Ontario, Canada; New York, USA; London, UK; 1990

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
Hemacandra
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 2
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1937

Full details

Die Kosmographie der Inder: nach den Quellen dargestellt
Willibald Kirfel
Georg Olms; Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany; 1967

Full details

The Scientific Foundations of Jainism
K. V. Mardia
edited by Dayanand Bhargava
Lala Sunder Lal Jain Research series; volume 5
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 1996

Full details

Die Erlösungslehre der Jaina: Legenden, Parabeln, Erzählungen
translated and edited by Adelheid Mette
Insel Verlag; Berlin, Germany; 2010

Full details

The Peaceful Liberators
Pratapaditya Pal
Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Thames and Hudson; Los Angeles, California, New York USA and London, UK; 1994

Full details

Illustrated Jambudveep Prajnapti Sūtra
edited by Pravarttak Shri Mamar Muniji Maharaj, Amar Muni and Srichand Surana 'Saras'
Illustrated Agam series; volume 20
Padma Prakashan and Shree Diwakar Prakashan; New Delhi, India; 2006

Full details

The Doctrine of the Jainas: Described after the Old Sources
Walther Schubring
translated by Wolfgang Bühlen
edited by Satya Ranjan Banerjee
Lala Sunder Lal Jain Research series; volume 15
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2000

Full details

That Which Is: Tattvārtha Sūtra
Umāsvāti / Umāsvāmi
translated by Nathmal Tatia
Sacred Literature series
International Sacred Literature Trust in association with Harper Collins; London, UK; 1994

Full details

Treasures of Jaina Bhandāras
Umakant Premanand Shah
L. D. series; volume 69
L. D. Institute of Indology; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1978

Full details

Tiloyapannatti: Teaching on the Three Worlds
Yativṛṣabha
translated by Pandit Balchandra Shastri
edited by A. N. Upadhye and Hiralal Jain
Jaina Saṃskṛti Saṃrakshaka Sangha series
Jīvarāja Jaina Granthamālā; Solapur, Maharashtra, India; 2008

Full details

Glossary

Aḍhāī-dvīpa

The Hindi phrase for 'Two and A Half Continents' describes the only part of the universe where human beings live in the Middle World of Jain cosmology. It is made up of the central continent, Jambū-dvīpa, the second continent, Dhātakīkhaṇḍa, and Lavaṇa-samudra, the circular ocean that separates them. Kālodadhi is the ring of ocean around Dhātakīkhaṇḍa, dividing it from the 'half' continent, which is the inner part of the Puṣkara continent.

Adho-loka

The infernal region of the universe. This is the lowest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology and is the home of hellish beings.

Aṅga

Literally 'limb' in Sanskrit, Aṅga is a term for the first category of 11 texts that form the Śvetāmbara scriptures. There were originally 12 but the last has been lost for centuries.

Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit

A dialect of the Prākrit language used for many Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures.

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.

Bharata

One of the Lands of Action or Karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the Middle World where humans live. Bharata is also the name of the eldest son of the first Jina, Ṛṣabha, who succeeded his father as king.

Bhavana-vāsin

Sanskrit term meaning the 'Residents of Dwellings'. The class of gods that resides in mansions and lives like princes in the first hell of the Middle World.

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.

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.

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.

Haribhadra

Śvetāmbara mendicant leader who lived around the seventh to eighth centuries. He wrote many significant philosophical works, including the Anekāntajayapatākā and the Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya. He also wrote the first Sanskrit commentaries on the Āgamas.

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.

Jaina Śaurasenī

A variety of Prakrit. A spoken language, it became used primarily for drama in northern India during the medieval period and is the language used for the main Digambara scriptures.

Jambū-dvīpa

The innermost island-continent in the Middle World, in Jain cosmology. It is divided into seven continents separated by six mountain ranges. It takes its name - 'Rose-Apple Continent' - from a rock formation that resembles a rose-apple tree, which is found on Mount Meru in the centre of the island.

Jīva

Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.

Jñāna

'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:

  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.

With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Jyotiṣka

The third class of gods, who are the astral or luminous bodies, such as the sun, moons, planets and stars. They live in the middle of the three worlds.

Karma

Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.

Karma-bhūmi

'Realm of action', used in Jain cosmology for the lands in the Middle World where people must work to live. However, here they can progress on the path of salvation. These lands are Bharata-kṣetra, Airāvata-kṣetra and Mahā-videha. However, Uttara-kuru and Deva-kuru in Mahā-videha are Lands of Pleasure or bhoga-bhūmi.

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.

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.

Lavaṇa-samudra

The Lavaṇa-samudra or 'Salt Ocean' in Sanskrit is the first ocean in the Two and A Half Continents of the Middle World in Jain cosmology. It encircles the central continent, Jambū-dvīpa.

Loka

The universe in Jain cosmology, composed of the upper, middle and lower worlds. Human beings can live only in part of the Middle World.

Loka-ākāśa

To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. A Sanskrit term meaning 'world space', loka-ākāśa is a vast but limited area, where all humans, deities and all other forms of life live. Here the souls live and travel through the cycle of rebirths. Outside it is 'non-world space' – aloka-ākāśa.

Madhya-loka

There are three worlds in traditional Jain cosmology. The middle world is where human beings and animals live, and sits between the upper and the lower worlds.

Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit

A dialect of the Prākrit language used in some Jain writings.

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.

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.

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.

Saṃsāra

Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.

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.

Shrine

A small structure holding an image or relics, which may be within a temple or building designed for worship. A shrine may be a portable object. Worshippers pray and make offerings at a shrine, which is often considered sacred because of associations with a deity or event in the life of a holy person.

Siddha

An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.

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.

Tattvārtha-sūtra

Extremely famous Jain holy text written in Sanskrit in perhaps the fifth century CE. Śvetāmbaras call the author Umāsvāti while Digambaras know him as Umāsvāmin. Going into the principles of karma in ten chapters, it discusses the principles and the reality of existence in a concise style – sūtra. The Tattvārtha-sūtra is a key text, fundamental to all Jain sects. Its title is often translated into English as That Which Is.

Three worlds

In Jain cosmology three worlds make up world space, where life exists:

  • ūrdhva-loka – upper world
  • madhya-loka– middle world
  • adho-loka – lower world.

These are frequently represented in art as the Cosmic Man, a human figure whose legs stand for the lower world, whose waist symbolises the middle world and whose torso represents the upper world.

Upāṅga

Meaning 'auxiliary limbs', the second group of 12 texts that make up the scriptures of the Śvetāmbara Jains. The Upāṅgas complement the first set of 12 texts, the Aṅgas – 'limbs' in Sanskrit.

Ūrdhva-loka

The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology, the home of the various types of gods.

Vernacular

The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

Vyantara

A category of deities that lives between the first hell and the earth. There are eight types of Vyantara. They are the second type of gods and are recognisable by their various symbols.

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