Article: Karma-prakr̥ti

Contributed by Jean Arzoumanov

Understanding the Persian translation

Dilārām's translation of the commentary is faulty in several areas. Most seriously, he often reframes or explains Jain doctrine in misleading terms. Since the Karma-prakr̥ti discusses a key principle of the Jain religion – karma – in some detail, his translation could lead to a misunderstanding of the complexities of Jain beliefs. One reason for this apparent misinterpretation is that Dilārām often appears to approach the text from his own background in Hinduism, explaining theories in terms and analogies that are familiar to Hindus. Compounding this erroneous approach to Jainism is his frequent framing of Jain doctrine in Muslim expressions and concepts.

Dilārām's translations of other Jain texts, such as the Pañcā-stikāyasāra, also reveal this approach.

Although he was a Hindu brahmin, Dilārām seems to have absorbed some Muslim concepts and terminology. This may be an indication of the diverse environment in which a Hindu worked for a European on a Jain text, in which tenets from one religion are freely explained in terms borrowed from others.

Misinterpretation of Jain doctrine

The Persian commentary on verse 81 is an example of how Dilārām's argument goes beyond the original text and exemplifies how he misinterprets Jain doctrine and apparently twists it according to his own religious beliefs. In English it runs as follows:

[Sanskrit] … [Persian] i.e. you must know that the world is a mirage and as it is standing on the five [?], it cannot have permanence, because its foundation is similar to a morning dew; it is like snow which turns entirely into water when exposed to the sunlight. But you shouldn’t imagine [the world] as being without permanence. Therefore man must expose his devotion to Jain mati [Hindi for doctrine] and declare that he follows the discipline of God; i.e. people consider this religion as the most noble. Indeed for example, the Jinas, that is Jains’ religious leaders, have ordered them to behave with animals in accordance with dayā, that is compassion. In the same way, it is specified in the Veda that ahiṃsā paramo dharmaṃ [sic], which means not killing animals, is the most important belief

[Here follows the personal conclusion to the manuscript by Dilārām]

Translation by Jean Arzoumanov

Dilārām’s commentary suddenly breaks off after this point.

This excerpt illustrates how an evidently baffled Dilārām interpreted the text according to his own understanding of religion, making it fit into a broader Vedāntic or Hindu frame. Even though Dilārām specifies here one of the most important Jain tenets – ahiṃsā, meaning compassion and non-violence – it stands out as one of his scarce mentions of precise Jain doctrine. Coming right at the end, it suggests all the things the translator did not say in earlier parts, whether from ignorance or the way he wrote his commentary.

Another example is Dilārām's definition of delusion – moha – as comprised of two types. The first is desire in the hereafter while the second is worldly desires. This distinction is absent from Hemrāj’s commentary. Within this eschatological framework, the enumeration of the heavens and the hells in the last gāthās is given a new meaning. Dilārām's interpretation exceeds what is, above all, a technical exposition on saṃhanana-karma, which links the joints in the physical body to the various levels of the triple world in which the soul is born.

The translation stops here. The translator, Dilārām, ends his work when the text starts to become extremely technical.

Hindu influences

This śruta-skandha-yantra represents śruta-jñāna – verbal or scriptural knowledge. This second type of knowledge is crucial for spiritual progress as the scriptures record the teachings of the Jinas. The Jina's ‘divine sound' pours down to his follower.

Source of religious knowledge
Image by Romana Klee © CC BY-SA 2.0

Dilārām’s brahmanic background permeates his translation and drives him away from the letter of the Karma-prakṛti. He constantly inserts comments at odds with Jain creed and which can be related to Advaita Vedānta (see D’Onofrio 2010 for the same diagnosis of the Sirr-i-Akbar, a 16th-century Persian translation of the Upaniṣads supervised by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh).

A mystical or moral precept is often attributed to some aspects of the Jain text that are, at face value, completely devoid of it. Nemicandra’s Karma-prakṛti and Hemrāj’s commentary are more concerned with the subtleties of Jain psychophysics and not with directly moral teaching. This clearly dissatisfies Dilārām.

Dilārām refers constantly to the authority of the Vedas and to the dānāyān-i bīd or ʽālimān-i bīd –'knowers of the Veda' – which borrows the Sanskrit word vedavid. He makes another reinterpretation according to classical Hinduism. In the commentary on verse 36, dealing with śruta-jñāna – 'interpretative knowledge' which is often used to refer to the teachings of the Jinas, handed down in the scriptures – Dilārām describes this technical Jain term as follows:

Śabdaśrutajñāna is good because in it are fixed the reading and the knowledge of the Vedas, the Purāṇas, the Śāstras and other texts, the way they are made understood to the student and the way they are understood by the teacher, their repetition by the student, the knowledge of God as He really is and the accomplishment of religious duties

Translation by Jean Arzoumanov

In another example, Dilārām glosses the different bandhas – 'karmic bondage' – in the commentary, when he quotes a devotional Hindi dohā – 'couplet' – by Tulsī Dās.

Who is completely free of worldly bonds and applies himself to the contemplation of God is called pradeśabandha because he knows his own nature and because the fruit of his actions [karma] is entirely burnt [away], which is. On this matter the Brahmin Śrī Tulsī Dās composed in his book written in bhāṣā that [here barely legible transliteration of the Hindi verse] 'Rāma[G]’s name is like the burning fire, sins are like a mountain; when embers from this fire fall on the mountain, every sin is burnt and turns into ash', there is no trace left. Concerning these bandhas, there are several peculiarities…

Wilson 262, folio 53 verso

Translation by Jean Arzoumanov

Hindu influences also appear in Dilārām's other translations and commentaries, such as the Pañcāstikāyasāra.

However, an interesting aspect of the translations in this manuscript is Dilārām's mixing of Muslim and Hindu terms and concepts.

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Related Manuscripts

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    Bodleian Library. MS. Wilson 262. Nemicandra. 21 July 1796 - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2021 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at

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