Contributed by Nalini Balbir
A sūri-mantra-paṭa is a type of mystical diagram – maṇḍala or yantra – inscribed with formulas of homage and magic syllables – mantras. Most Jain yantras are used in rituals and meditation by both mendicants and lay people, and are important parts of worship. In contrast, only Śvetāmbara monks use sūri-mantra-paṭas and primarily in certain situations.
The sūri-mantra-paṭa is associated with the highest monastic rank of sūri, from which it gets its name. It is particularly linked with Indrabhūti Gautama. As the leading disciple of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, he provides a model of spiritual devotion and leadership for the worshipper. Śvetāmbara mendicants use this mystical diagram to mark the elevation of a monk to the level of sūri, a title for the leader of a religious order. According to tradition, the sūri-mantra was also used to perform miracles and win converts.
Sūri-mantra-paṭas take the shape of either circles or squares and consist of sets of mantras and auspicious symbols arranged in patterns on a square cloth. The mantras are phrases or syllables that invoke the powers of the Jinas and other holy figures as well as key Jain concepts or beliefs. These phrases and the auspicious illustrations are believed to aid the worshipper's prayers and meditations, and bestow good fortune on the devotee.
Sūri-mantra-paṭas are known from the 15th century onwards and are still made today. They are usually kept within the monastic community and are seldom found outside Indian collections, yet one of the highlights of JAINpedia is the sūri-mantra-paṭa held by the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) in London. Its rarity is also due to its age, because it is one of the earliest known examples. It looks decidedly different in style from those favoured by contemporary Jains. In addition, the RAS paṭa bears two auspicious symbols on its reverse side, which were uncovered during recent conservation work.
A sūri-mantra-paṭa is a special kind of mystical diagram. A mystical diagram is a maṇḍala or yantra and is usually described as a paṭa when it is on cloth. Yantras can be painted on paper or marked out in ink and are of many kinds. At the heart of Jain worship for all sects, different maṇḍalas are used for various purposes.
The best-known examples of mantras today are the:
Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak monks, especially the Kharatara-gaccha and the Tapā-gaccha, use these sūri-mantra-paṭas for recitation of mantras and for meditation or worship when they are initiated into the higher grades of religious hierarchy. Indeed, this type of yantra takes its name from the term sūri, which is the highest monastic rank, used for the head of a monastic order. Traditional records describe sūris harnessing the power of the maṇḍala to perform miracles to make converts and placate evil deities.
When a monk is considered by his elders to be spiritually eligible to receive the rank of a pontiff, he is given this title in an initiation ceremony performed in the presence of the fourfold community. The guru whispers a mantra in his right ear, signifying that he has now attained the position of a sūri.
The earliest reference to such a ritual is possibly by Haribhadra, in the 8th century. He has 'a description of how a pupil, on the appropriate day and in a suitable state of purity, should be given the sūrimantra by his teacher along with sprinkling of the head with sandalwood powder (abhivāsanā), the latter being a consistent feature of ascetic ritual'
Dundas 1998: 36
More generally, monks who worship a sūri-mantra-paṭa wish to emulate Indrabhūti Gautama or Gautama-svāmin, the foremost disciple of Mahāvīra, who is an emblematic figure of both disciple and teacher (Dundas 1998). According to tradition, the practice is said to have originated at the time of Mahāvīra. He instructed his disciple to compose the mantra, which is regarded as 'the best of all' – sarva-śreṣṭha. Hence Gautama is often shown at the centre of the diagram.
The chroniclers of the Kharata-gaccha monastic order have taken particular care to show that monastic teachers could use the sūri-mantra for more than the ritual for teacher consecration. Other uses would be to:
demonstrate his authority within his sect by mastering through meditation and ritual the various magic powers embodied in the mantra, such as curing disease and overcoming enemies, and thus to transform himself into the latter-day equivalent of Gautama, the miracle-working favourite disciple of the twenty-fourth tīrthaṃkara, Mahāvīra
Dundas 2000: 233
A sūri-mantra can be square or round. It can be drawn and painted on paper or on cloth. If it is on cloth, it is called a paṭa.
If the sūri-mantra-paṭa is a circle, it is normally placed within a square. It consists of a varying number of concentric circles and can be of different levels of complexity. Such a diagram can also be viewed as a miniature representation of the Jain universe.
Different sūri-mantra-paṭas are reproduced in Shah 1948 and Jambuvijaya 1977, or in catalogues of Jain art objects. One is exhibited permanently in the L. D. Museum in Ahmedabad. Another one from around 1600 is available at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and is described in Pal 1994: 228–229.
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.
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future.
The ‘fourfold society’ of Jain tradition, which is made up of ascetics and the laity, and of males and females.
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
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.
A ritual in which an item or place is declared to be holy. A person may also consecrate a specific time or activity or be consecrated, which means becoming dedicated to a religious purpose.
The four Dada-sūris or Dada-gurus – 'granddad gurus' – are venerated by the Kharatara-gaccha sect, traditionally in the form of footprint images – pādukās. They were distinguished monastic leaders whose advanced spiritual condition gave them miraculous powers.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
Literally a Sanskrit word for 'tree', gaccha is used by Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak Jains to describe the largest groups of their mendicant lineages. It is often translated as 'monastic group', 'monastic order' or 'monastic tradition'. These groups are formed when some mendicants split from their gaccha because of disagreements over ascetic practices.
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.
Sanskrit term meaning both:
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.
A sacred symbol or mantra that controls the false world that people experience.
The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:
Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.
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 '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.
Called 'Maṇidhārī', Jinacandra-sūri (1140–1166 CE) was a prominent monk and leader of the Kharata-gaccha sect. As the second Dādā-guru, he is worshipped by members of this sect, with his shrine at Mehraulī Dādābāṛī a popular pilgrimage site.
(1075–1154) Kharatara-gaccha monk. Later biographers give accounts of his miraculous powers, including raising the dead. He is one of the four Dada-sūris or Dada-gurus – 'granddad gurus' – of the Kharatara-gaccha, who are worshipped in western India.
'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:
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'.
Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century.
The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.
From the Sanskrit for 'circle', a maṇḍala is a geometric design that symbolises the spiritual universe. It is used in religious rituals and to help meditation.
A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.
Ascetics are initiated into a tradition handed down from a named religious teacher. Religious instructions and principles are passed on orally and in writings from one generation of mendicants to the next, continuing the monastic lineage.
An extraordinary event that cannot be explained by natural causes or human effort and therefore is believed to be caused by divine or supernatural powers.
A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.
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.
Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.
A system of contemplative prayer, meditation and complete detachment from worldly affairs in the hope of gaining direct spiritual experience of the divine. In Jainism those who practise mystical techniques hope to gain true self-realisation and thus destroy karma and be liberated.
A kind of diagram shaped like an elaborate svastika. It is one of the eight auspicious symbols or aṣṭa-maṅgala.
The petrified footprint of a dead mendicant or holy figure, which is treated as a commemorative sacred object.
The ‘supreme beings’ in Sanskrit, also known as the pañca-parameṣṭhin or 'Five Supreme Beings'. A term for the categories of teachers who are paid homage in the Namaskāra-mantra:
Decorative map of a holy site. A paṭa is used for 'mental pilgrimage' – bhāva-yātrā – during which devotees contemplate the paṭa and complete a pilgrimage by moving around the temples in their minds.
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.
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.
The language spoken in Rajasthan, in north-western India, and surrounding states. It is also spoken in some parts of neighbouring Pakistan. Also the adjective describing people, things or places in or associated with the state of Rajasthan.
An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
A fragrant wood from trees in the Santalum genus, which is often made into oil, paste, powder or incense. Widely used in religious ceremonies across Asia, sandalwood paste and powder are used to mark or decorate religious equipment, statues or images, priests and worshippers. Also used for carvings, sandalwood produces a highly prized oil used in cosmetics and perfumes.
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.
An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.
The most common mystical diagram – yantra – in Jainism, which is believed to destroy karma and bring prosperity and good luck. There are nine parts, usually arranged in the shape of a lotus flower. The Five Highest Beings are depicted on five parts of the yantra. On the four other parts, there are sectarian differences.
Digambaras call it the navadevatā or navdevata or navpad. The other four elements for them are:
For Śvetāmbaras it is the siddhacakra or navapada or navpad, which has representations of:
Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.
A title for the leader of a religious order among the Śvetāmbaras. It is a higher position than ācārya.
An expression invoking good luck or blessings. It is often found in manuscripts and yantras.
'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.
One of the 16 goddesses who personify sciences or types of magical knowledge. The vidyā-devīs live on the slopes of Mount Vaitāḍhya, in the middle world.
Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.
Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.
Semi-divine sorceress and shape-changer who can bestow magical powers on her devotees or be malevolent if offended. The yoginīs are often said to number 64 and their cult became popular in north India by around the 10th to 11th centuries.
British Library. Or. 13472. Unknown author. Perhaps 19th century