Article: Reference Aṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Aṅga 10 – esoterica to ethics

This detail of a manuscript painting shows a monk offering forgiveness to a junior. Repentance – pratikramaṇa – is the most important of the six 'obligatory actions' – āvaśyaka – mendicants perform each day

Scenes of forgiveness
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

The title of the tenth Aṅga is Praśnavyākaraṇa, which means Questions and Explanations. This looks like a general term, but in practice it applies mostly to the field of divinatory science and astrology. That this work originally dealt with such topics is confirmed by other canonical scriptures. These describe its contents as referring to divinatory practices and miraculous powers.

In recent years a major discovery has taken place. A manuscript with the same title has been discovered in Nepal. Its contents demonstrate an esoteric and magical character in tune with the ancient descriptions (Diwakar Acharya). An edition of this new manuscript is in progress (Bhattacharyya, forthcoming).

The official Praśnavyākaraṇa text currently available has nothing to do with esoteric knowledge and seems to be the result of a deliberate replacement of controversial matter by more ordinary material. In two parts, this Aṅga is a detailed elaboration of fundamental concepts in Jain ethics, with respect to monastic conduct.

The first section deals with the five areas of wrong conduct. These correspond to the five reasons for the inflow of karmic matter into the soulāsrava.

Five spheres of wrong conduct in the Praśnavyākaraṇa

Sanskrit term



nature, causes, modes and consequences of violence


nature, causes, modes and consequences of falsehood


nature, causes, modes and consequences of stealing


nature, causes, modes, and consequences of non-chastity


nature, causes, modes and consequences of possessiveness

The second section covers the five ways of blocking karmic inflow – saṃvara – connected to the five areas of misconduct described in the first section. They are related to the 'absolute' vows – mahā-vratas – that monks and nuns swear when they take initiation.

Five methods of blocking karmic inflow in the Praśnavyākaraṇa

Sanskrit term

English meaning




Ways to reinforce non-violence, called the bhāvanās. The five precautionssamiti – stop violence being committed through carelessness:

  1. care in walking or, more generally, in movement
  2. care in speaking
  3. care in getting alms
  4. care in picking things and putting them down
  5. care in disposing of refuse


true speech and veracity in all its forms

Ways to reinforce truthfulness:

  1. thoughtful speech
  2. not giving into anger
  3. not giving into greed
  4. having no fear
  5. discarding laughter


‘given and authorised’

Ways to reinforce rules on alms and behaviour:

  1. using lodgings in accordance with monastic rules
  2. using bedding in accordance with monastic rules
  3. avoiding sinful activities in this context
  4. eating food that has been given according to the rules
  5. behaving modestly towards colleagues.



Ways to reinforce chastity:

  1. avoiding places frequented by women
  2. avoiding conversations with and about women
  3. avoiding looking at the beauty of women
  4. avoiding remembering earlier enjoyments
  5. avoiding rich and tasty food.



Ways to reinforce non-possessiveness are restraints of each of the five sense organs. In effect, this means:

  1. accepting only what is permitted by the rules
  2. using only the prescribed monastic equipment
  3. using monastic equipment only for religious purposes
  4. not being attached to the objects themselves.
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