Article: Story Aṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The five ‘story Aṅgas’ form a distinct group within the group of 11 Śvetāmbara holy scriptures called the Aṅgas. The label of ‘story Aṅgas’ is here given to works numbered 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11. All of these use narrative techniques to pass on key beliefs of the Jain faith. These are mostly parables or tales that follow the fortunes of characters as they move through the cycle of rebirth. The story Aṅgas translate complex religious concepts such as karma and soul into clear narratives, working religious, ethical and philosophical notions into the action of the tales. These Aṅgas show how an individual’s behaviour influences the courses of later lives that are played out in different parts of the Jain universe.

The tales give interesting insights into socio-cultural aspects of daily Indian life in the past. The characters come from various backgrounds, with the kings, merchants, sea-traders, thieves, fishermen, butchers and so on being described in their normal activities. This data, however, is not easy to make use of because of uncertainties relating to chronology.

Many of the stories first found here have become favourites, told and retold down the centuries. The 19th Jina, Mallinātha or Lord Malli, features in Aṅga Number 6. In contrast to the Digambaras, the Śvetāmbaras believe that Malli was female, the only Jina to be a woman. This crowns the often opposing beliefs surrounding women and spirituality held by these two main Jain sects.

The other six Aṅgas cannot be categorised so easily, as their subjects and forms are more varied. Despite this, they can be thought of as the ‘reference Aṅgas'. They mostly set out details of the rules for mendicants and fundamental Jain concepts, such as cosmology and ethics and details of Jain doctrine.

Meaning ‘limbs’ in Sanskrit, the Aṅgas are the main set of canonical scriptures or Āgamas for the Śvetāmbara Jains. The other primary Jain sect of the Digamabaras has a different canon, known as the Siddhānta. Along with the Aṅgabāhyas – ‘not limbs’ – the Aṅgas comprise various texts, all written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit and all composed at different times.

Number and titles

Śvetāmbara monks walk down a Mumbai street accompanied by lay men. The monks are barefoot and holding their mouth-cloths and monastic staffs. Jain mendicants live in small bands and travel most of the year in the traditional wandering lifestyle – vihāra

Śvetāmbara monks
Image by Hoorob – Robert Tyabji © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

There are 12 Aṅgas in the Jain tradition, although one of them – known as the Dṛṣṭi-vāda – has been considered lost since early times. Therefore only 11 Aṅgas were first written down by the forerunners of the Śvetāmbara sect. Rejected as canonical scriptures by the Digambara sect, these 11 Aṅgas are emblematic of Śvetāmbara Jain identity.

The titles of the Aṅgas can be understood in various ways. This table gives rough equivalents.

Eleven Aṅgas of the Śvetāmbara canon

Number

Prakrit title

Sanskrit title

Translated meanings

1

Āyāraṃga

Ācārāṅga

‘On monastic conduct’

2

Sūyagaḍa

Sūtrakṛtāṅga

‘On heretical systems and views’
Prakrit sūya is an equivalent of the Sanskrit sūci – ‘[wrong] views’

3

Ṭhāṇaṃga

Sthānāṅga

‘On different points [of the teaching]’

4

Samavāyaṃga

Samavāyāṅga

‘On “rising numerical groups”’ (Kapadia 1941: 126)

5

Viyāha-pannatti or Bhagavaī

Vyākhyā-prajñapti or Bhagavatī

‘Exposition of explanations’ or ‘the holy one’

6

Nāyā-dhamma-kahāo

Jñāta-dharmakathānga

‘Parables and religious stories’

7

Uvāsaga-dasāo

Upāsaka-daśāḥ

‘Ten chapters on the Jain lay follower’

8

Antagaḍa-dasāo

Antakṛd-daśāḥ

‘Ten chapters on those who put an end to rebirth in this very life’

9

Aṇuttarovavāiya-dasāo

Anuttaropapātika-daśāḥ

‘Ten chapters on those who were reborn in the uppermost heavens’

10

Paṇha-vāgaraṇa

Praśna-vyākaraṇa

‘Questions and explanations’

11

Vivāga-suya

Vipākaśruta

‘Bad or good results of deeds performed’

Story works

There are five Aṅgas that are narrative works. These demonstrate the significance of stories in the passing on of the teachings of the Jinas.

The following Aṅgas may be described as 'story Aṅgas':

  • Number 6 – Nāyā-dhamma-kahāo or Jñāta-dharmakathānga
  • Number 7 – Uvāsaga-dasāo or Upāsaka-daśāḥ
  • Number 8 – Antagaḍa-dasāo or Antakṛd-daśāḥ
  • Number 9 – Aṇuttarovavāiya-dasāo or Anuttaropapātika-daśāḥ
  • Number 11 – Vivāga-suya or Vipāka-śruta

Forms of the 'story Aṅgas'

These works take the form of short parables, or, mostly of life sketches featuring men and women from various backgrounds. The purpose is to show how one’s own behaviour determines results in future births and is determined by past lives as well. Apart from exceptional cases when one has the ability to remember one’s own past life, the mediator, who knows both about past and future, is a Jina, especially Mahāvīra.

Repetition is used as a pervading narrative technique (Bruhn 1983). In the second parts of Aṅgas 6 and 11, only the first story is narrated at length. The other ones are identical, with minimal changes of names, location, numbers and so on. This method is a way to increase the population of Jain heroes and heroines.

Contents of the 'story Aṅgas'

A variety of animals is shown in this painting from a manuscript as examples of five-sensed beings. Throughout the cycle of birth, a soul is born in different types of body according to the karma it has collected from previous lives.

Five-sensed animals
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The Aṅgas demonstrate the workings of the core Jain beliefs, particularly how karma plays out in the cycle of rebirth. The soul is trapped in a succession of different bodies in the cycle of rebirth according to the karma it gathers until it is pure enough to be liberated.

In Aṅga Number 8, all the characters ‘put an end’ to the cycle of rebirths in their present existence. Generally, however, they have to undergo one or more rebirths before they can reach emancipation. The stories show how living beings circulate in the various levels of the Jain universe, from hells to the highest heavens, from animals to humans. These are the practical applications of knowledge of cosmology.

The stories throw light on features of Jain ideals and practices, such as:

  • listening to an ascetic or a Jina preaching produces the wish to renounce worldly life and to become initiated as a monk or a nun
  • the decision to take initiation – dīkṣā – is never accepted immediately by reluctant parents but is finally granted, so strong is the candidate’s resolve
  • some characters, who are instances of perfect ascetics and can cope with monastic rules without difficulty and practise strong austerities
  • others are unable to face the hardships of monastic life, temporarily or permanently
  • fasting unto deathsallekhanā – appears the best practice to end one’s life in a pious way
  • practising penance is recommended, but the good effects of asceticism are liable to be annihilated if one does not repent or atone for past transgressions at the hour of death.

Instances of difficulties mendicants face include:

  • nuns who long for children
  • nuns who are too concerned with body care and stylishness,
  • ascetics who are unable to resume the wandering life after having been nursed during illness
  • a young monk whose sleep is disturbed by the incessant going and coming of his fellow monks.

The story Aṅgas feature a number of characters whose adventures are retold, readjusted, shortened or amplified by later authors, whether they write in Prakrit, Sanskrit or any of the modern languages. Thus these Aṅgas provide a repertoire of tales that may be used freely. In addition, Aṅga Number 6 features the first Śvetāmbara biography of the 19th Jina, Mallinātha or Lord Malli.

Aṅga 6 – parables

Aṅga Number 6 is called the Nāyā-dhamma-kahāo in Prakrit, the Jñāta-dharma-kathānga in Sanskrit. The first part is the longer part, containing 19 parables. The second part of the Jñāta-dharma-kathānga has a single story repeated several times, each version showing minimal changes in names, location and so on.

All stories are told by Mahāvīra in answer to the questions of his chief disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama. In the first part, the main pattern is binary – one main character illustrates good behaviour and the second bad behaviour. These characters represent various social backgrounds. They serve as analogies for good and bad ascetic conduct.

Some parables in the first section are short while others are similar to novellas or small epics, such as the 16th one. These epics tend to be of two kinds. One features characters who go through numerous adventures while the second type are tales with narrative ‘motifs’ found in tales around the world.

Parable 1 – Ukkhitta

This manuscript painting of an elephant shows an important animal in Jain myth. The elephant is the emblem – lāñchana – of Ajita, the second Jina, and appears in parables, stories and auspicious dreams in Jain myths

Elephant
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

This text is the standard place to find:

  • the dialogue between the candidate for initiation and his parents
  • details of the initiation ceremony to become a Śvetāmbara monk

After listening to Mahāvīra’s discourse, the young Megha, son of King Śreṇika and Queen Dhāriṇī, wants to become a monk. Despite the sorrow and reluctance of his parents, he insists on taking initiation.

At night, the new ascetic is allotted a place to sleep, near the entrance of the mendicants’ lodgings. Constantly disturbed by other ascetics’ comings and goings, he cannot sleep at all. Next morning, the young monk goes to Mahāvīra, who guesses everything. He contrasts Megha’s reaction to these slight disturbances with what he had achieved in one of his former births.

In that previous life he had been born as an elephant named Meruprabha. In order to escape a terrible fire, all the animals in the forest took refuge in a large circle the elephant had prepared for this purpose. The place was packed with animals, with barely room for them to move. Meruprabha lifted one of his legs to scratch but when he wanted to put his leg back on the ground he realised a little rabbit was occupying the space. Out of compassion for living beings, the elephant kept his leg lifted – ukkhitta – for two and a half days, until the fire was over. However, he died in severe pain as soon as he put his leg back on the ground. As a result of this exemplary behaviour, he was born as Prince Megha.

The young ascetic asks Mahāvīra to give him a second initiation. After this, he practises rigorous fasts and eventually fasts unto death, repenting for all past transgressions.

The tale ends with a prediction that Megha will be reborn as a god in the ‘Five Unsurpassable’ heavens – Pañca Anuttara – before being born as a human being in the Mahā-videha area of the Jain universe and reaching emancipation.

Parable 2 – Saṃghāḍaga

This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript is of a Śvetāmbara monk in the kāyotsarga – 'rejection of the body' – meditation posture. He has the third eye and the bump of wisdom on his head. Four-armed gods and a lay man pay homage to him

Right monastic behaviour
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After a long married life without children, the wife of the merchant Dhanya gives birth to a son, as a result of praying to a god. The infant is cared for by a young boy servant. While the servant plays with other children, the richly adorned baby attracts the attention of the thief Vijaya. He kidnaps the baby, kills him and throws the body in a well. The police discover the child’s body and arrest the thief, who is put in jail.

It so happens that Dhanya, who has been accused of offending the king by fellow merchants, has been jailed as well. Dhanya and Vijaya are chained together as a pair – saṃghāḍaga – and cannot move without each other. The first time Dhanya is brought food, he eats alone and refuses to share it with the thief. However, when he wants to go to relieve himself Vijaya refuses to go unless Dhanya shares his food with him.

Later on, Dhanya is released from jail on the payment of a fine. His wife is angry that he has shared food with the thief who murdered their son. The merchant explains that the only reason he had done so was to satisfy the needs of his body. Similarly, ascetics take food only to sustain their bodies, not for any other purpose, such as pleasure.

The thief is later reborn in the hells, while Dhanya takes monastic initiation after hearing the teachings of a Jain ascetic.

Parable 3 – Aṇḍaga

Two friends happen to discover two peahen eggs in a garden and bring them home to hatch.

Out of impatience, one man moves the egg. This disturbance kills the chick inside.

The other man just waits peacefully and patiently. In due course a chick is safely born, which is brought up and trained. It develops into a beautiful bird that wins competitions.

Parable 4 – Kumma

Two jackals seek prey near a pond where two turtles live. When the turtles see them, they draw in their limbs so the jackals go away.

However, the jackals do not really leave, but hide instead. After some time, one of the turtles extends a flipper. The hiding jackals tear it to pieces, then go away.

Again, the jackals hide instead of truly leaving. Eventually, the injured turtle extends one flipper after the other, and the jackals eat her up entirely.

Since the other turtle keeps her limbs retracted, the jackals have to give up hope of eating her too. The second turtle remains safe. The cautious turtle is an analogy for ascetics who keep their five sensory organs disciplined.

Parable 5 – Selaga

This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript illustrates very different monastic behaviour. The monk at the top left demonstrates the ascetic ideal of deep meditation and indifference to physical demands. He displays the detachment from worldly c

Behaviour of a 'bad monk'
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The story takes place in the time of the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭanemi or Lord Nemi. Involving his cousin Kṛṣṇa, it unfolds in several episodes.

After hearing Ariṣṭanemi’s teaching, Thāvaccāputra, the son of a wealthy lady, decides to renounce worldly life. Despite his entourage’s lack of encouragement, he believes that becoming a monk is only the way to get rid of karmas.

During his wandering life as an ascetic, Thāvaccāputra reaches the town of Śailakapura, which is ruled by King Śailaka and his minister Panthaka. After listening to the monk’s sermon, the king and his minister decide to adopt the minor vows of Jain lay men.

Next, Thāvaccāputra’s wandering life leads him to the town of Saugandhikā, where a merchant called Sudarśana lives. Sudarśana has listened to the teaching of the Hindu ascetic Śuka, a follower of the Sāṃkhya philosophy, and has become a follower. Then Sudarśana hears Thāvaccāputra deliver a sermon on the fundamentals of Jain faith. He is convinced and becomes a lay Jain disciple.

When the Hindu ascetic returns, Sudarśana does not pay attention to him. He explains his change of heart to Śuka. The Hindu and the Jain ascetics then discuss their beliefs face to face. Thāvaccāputra answers all the questions his opponent asks, persuading him of the rightness of Jain doctrine. Śuka asks to be initiated as a disciple of the Jain monk, which is granted.

Śuka, now a Jain monk, travels to Śailakapura. After hearing him preach, King Śailaka wishes to become a monk and entrusts the kingdom to his eldest son, Maṇḍuka. The former king is initiated alongside other people, including his minister, Panthaka.

During his ascetic life Śailaka becomes seriously ill. Treated with medicines appropriate for a monk, he is cured. But somehow, after this he is unable to follow the rules of ascetic conduct, eating a lot of food and developing all of the characteristics of a bad ascetic. Once, while he is sleeping comfortably, Panthaka touches his feet to ask forgiveness before starting the ritual of repentancepratikramaṇa. Śailaka wakes in anger. Panthaka's apology leads Śailaka to realise that he has gone astray. He resumes the proper wandering ascetic life. Later on, Śailaka, Panthaka and other disciples reach emancipation on Mount Puṇḍarīka, that is Śatrunjaya.

Parable 6 – Tumba

A gourd covered with eight layers of fibres and mud will sink to the bottom of water. If these layers are removed, it will rise to the surface. In the same way, a soul loaded with the eight varieties of karma will be heavy and will go to the hells. When it is released from the karmas it will go straight to emancipation.

Parable 7 – Rohiṇī

This detail of an 18th-century manuscript depicts women fetching water from a stream. Wearing lots of jewellery, the women perform this daily task by carrying heavy pots on their heads

Women fetching water
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

This is also known as the parable of the five rice grains.

A merchant gives five rice grains each to his four daughters-in-law to test them, saying that they will have to return them when asked.

The first one throws them away. She thinks that when she needs to return them she can take another five grains from the huge quantity of rice in the storehouse.

The second one thinks the same, but swallows the grains.

The third one thinks there is some reason behind this strange gift and condition. She carefully wraps the grains in a piece of cloth in her jewellery box, near her bed. She checks it three times a day

The fourth one, Rohiṇī, thinks that she should not only preserve the rice grains but increase them. She arranges for the grains to be sown at the proper time and cultivated properly. A large quantity of rice is harvested from these original five grains year after year.

When five years have gone by the merchant asks the young ladies to return the rice grains he had given them. Each of them is rewarded according to her deeds, with:

  • the first one being put in charge of menial duties in the house
  • the second one appointed to prepare food
  • the third one put in charge of precious things in the house
  • Rohiṇī's being appointed the head of the family.

This famous text has a parallel in the Biblical tradition (see Roth 1973):

  • Matthew chapter 25
  • Luke 19.

In the Jain context, the five rice grains are equated with the five great vowsmahā-vratas – which mendicants may spoil or develop appropriately.

Parable 8 – Malli

This manuscript painting shows the siddha-śilā. Found at the top of the triple world, on the forehead of the Cosmic Man, the siddha-śilā is the home of liberated souls.

Home of liberated souls
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

This is the first occurrence of a biography of the 19th Jina, Mallinātha or Lord Malli, from the Śvetāmbara perspective. The only female Jina according to Śvetāmbara Jains, she becomes a Jina in her last incarnation as a woman. The sect of the Digambaras believes that Malli was male because only men can reach enlightenment and emancipation.

Both sects agree that, like all Jinas, Malli preaches after reaching omniscience and founds a 'fourfold community' of devotees before gaining liberation.

Parable 9 – Mākandī

This story tells the eventful lives of the merchant Mākandī’s two sons, Jina-pālita and Jina-rakṣita. While on a sea voyage they manage to survive a storm. They reach the island of Ratna-dvīpa, which is inhabited by an evil goddess. There the brothers face many dangers, and are saved by a yakṣa. But the goddess comes to know about it and threatens them. Jina-rakṣita stands firm in his resolve and finally escapes, whereas his brother is allured by the goddess and dies.

Parable 10 – Candimā

The moon, with its ascending and declining phases, is used as a comparison with progress or decline in ascetic life.

Parable 11 – Dāvaddave

Sensitive to coastal winds, this kind of tree is compared with ascetics. Those who are able to tolerate the difficulties of ascetic life and criticisms can reach the goal – ārādhaka. However, those mendicants who are unable to do so cannot fulfil their aim – virādhaka.

Parable 12 – Udaga

A minister who follows the Jain doctrine explains to a reluctant king the fact that change and transformation are inherent to things. He uses the analogy of water. Stinking water can be transformed into clean when it goes through various methods of purification.

Parable 13 – Maṇḍukka

When Jains become mendicants, they swear to follow the 'Five Great Vows' – mahā-vratas: 1. non-violence – ahiṃsā 2. truth – satya 3. non-stealing – acaurya or asteya 4. celibacy – brahmacarya 5. non-attachment or non-possession – aparigraha.

'Five Great Vows'
Image by Shree Diwakar Prakashan © public domain

The merchant Nanda has adopted the lay man’s vows after listening to Mahāvīra’s discourse. He makes a beautiful pool, which everybody praises and which makes him very proud. As a result of attachment to the pool, he is reborn as a frog in that very pond.

Having the ability to remember his former existence, the frog resolves to adopt the lay vows again and goes to pay homage to Mahāvīra. On the way, the frog is trampled by a horse's hoof.

Before breathing its last, the frog utters the 'Homage to the Jinas' and expresses its resolution to take the five vows of an ascetic. As a result, it is reborn as a god.

Parable 14 – Teyaliputta

Tetaliputra is an eminent minister with high status. He loses interest in his wife, who becomes a nun. She is then reborn as a god named Poṭṭila. This god tries to awaken Tetaliputra to his failings, but in vain.

Only when the god brings about a situation where the arrogant minister falls into disgrace with the king and experiences extreme sorrow does Tetaliputra go on to the right path. Later he reaches omniscience and emancipation.

Parable 15 – Nandiphala

Nandi trees are inviting, but their leaves, fruits and shade are toxic. Some people accompanying the caravan of the merchant Dhanya listen to his warning. They do not taste the fruits and are safe. Others, however, cannot resist the ripe fruit and die.

Parable 16 – Avarakankā or Dovaī

Two Śvetāmbara nuns in white monastic robes – saṃghaḍī – in their lodgings – upāśraya. They are barefoot and hold their monastic brooms – rajoharaṇa or oghā – under their left arms. Jain nuns of all sects wear white robes that cover them from head to toe

Two Śvetāmbara nuns
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

This is the longest story. It is a small epic and features some characters from the Mahābhārata cycle, thus providing a Śvetāmbara Jain Mahābhārata. The lady Nāgaśrī is followed through her successive rebirths. In the last one she is Draupadī, who marries the five Pāṇḍavas.

Nāgaśrī is an example of the way lay people should not offer alms to a Jain monk. She purposely pours a bitter-gourd curry, which is toxic, in the alms-bowl of the monk Dharmaruci. When the monk shows this food to his superior, the latter advises him to throw it away carefully and beg again. But when Dharmaruci sees how the ants die that eat even one drop of it, he decides to eat it all to save other creatures from death. He is poisoned and dies. Nāgaśrī is thrown out of her house for causing the death of a monk.

After death, Nāgaśrī undergoes innumerable rebirths in the lowest hells – the sixth and the seventh – or as a fish or reptile, or as an earth body.

Then she is reborn as the tender-bodied daughter of a merchant couple, hence her name Sukumālikā – ‘tender’.

Her first husband, a merchant, leaves Sukumālikā when he realises that the touch of her hand feels as sharp as the edge of a sword.

She marries again, this time to a beggar. He discovers the same and leaves her.

Sukumālikā follows her father’s advice to distribute food to ascetics. When a group of Jain nuns happens to come by, she offers them food. They preach and Sukumālikā is inspired to take monastic initiation.

Ignoring her superior’s recommendation, she undertakes penance in a garden outside the town. There she sees five young men having fun with a courtesan and wishes to enjoy the same pleasures in her next birth.

From this time on, she starts to pay excessive attention to her body, which is not proper for nuns. Instead of listening to her superior’s advice, she decides to live independently and leaves the group. She fasts to death but does not repent for past transgressions.

She is reborn as a courtesan of the gods and then as Draupadī, the daughter of King Drupada and Queen Culaṇī.

Her father organises a svayaṃ-vara – a form of marriage among royal families where the girl chooses her husband herself. Draupadī marries the five Pāṇḍava brothers. After a series of adventures, detailed in the Jain Mahābhārata, they all take monastic initiation and practise penance. The five Pāṇḍavas go to Saurāṣṭra – a part of Gujarat, where the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭanemi or Lord Nemi, is wandering. They reach omniscience and emancipation on Shatrunjaya hill. Because Draupadī leads the life of an exemplary nun, she is reborn as a goddess in the Brahmaloka heaven. Then she will be reborn in the Mahā-videha and reach emancipation.

 

Parable 17 – Āiṇṇa

Merchants from an Indian coastal town travel to the island of Kāliyadīva, which might represent Zanzibar. There they see all sorts of marvellous things, especially uncommon types of horses. When they come back to their native town the king orders them to capture these animals and bring them back. Horses of good breeding resist the temptations of attractive things meant to trap them and lead a free life. Those who do not resist enticements are captured.

Parable 18 – Suṃsumā

The merchant Dhanya has one daughter, Suṃsumā, and five sons. The servant Cilāta looks after Suṃsumā, but Dhanya fires him when he proves to be cruel.

Cilāta joins a gang of thieves and becomes their leader. He and the other thieves loot Dhanya’s house. Cilāta kidnaps Suṃsumā while his men steal the family's possessions. The other thieves are soon arrested by the police but Cilāta evades capture.

Dhanya and his five sons go in pursuit of Cilāta, who has beheaded the girl. He leaves her body and dies in the forest. Dhanya and his sons find Suṃsumā's body but are thus unable to catch her murderer.

With nothing to eat in the forest, the father tells his sons to kill him and eat his flesh. They in turn propose that he kills them so he can eat. Finally, Dhanya decides that they should eat Suṃsumā’s body to sustain themselves, as it was already lifeless. They do this and return home. Similarly, mendicants eat only to sustain their bodies and break the cycle of rebirths.

After listening to Mahāvīra’s sermon, Dhanya turns to monastic life. He is reborn as a god in the Saudharma heaven.

The crucial incident of this story has been challenging to Jain authors. Either they suggest that it should be understood metaphorically, not realistically, or, in later retellings, they remove it or transform it (Balbir 1984).

Parable 19 – Puṇḍarīka

This illustration from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript depicts some of the qualities of a 'true monk', a perfect ascetic

The 'true monk'
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

After hearing a Jain ascetic’s sermon, King Puṇḍarīka adopts the lay vows and his brother Kaṇḍarīka becomes a monk.

Later Kaṇḍarīka falls ill. He is treated as is proper for an ascetic and recovers, but cannot leave the comforts he has got used to during his illness. He behaves as a bad ascetic, like Śailaka in tale number 5.

At Puṇḍarīka’s request, he resumes wandering life but he is tired of ascetic life. He leaves his fellow monks and sits dejected outside the palace. Kaṇḍarīka finally admits that he wants to enjoy worldly life. Puṇḍarīka makes him the king in his place and initiates himself as an ascetic.

Kaṇḍarīka becomes ill again and dies. He is reborn in the lowest hell, the seventh.

A religious teacher officially initiates Puṇḍarīka. He is a dedicated mendicant, eating even cold or dry food. When he falls ill and dies he is reborn as a god among the ‘Five Unsurpassable’ – Panca Anuttaraheavens.

Second part

Pairs of gods enjoying lives of pleasure in the heavens are shown in this manuscript painting. The ornate furnishings and flowers, and the deities' jewels and rich clothing emphasise the luxury of living in the highest of the three worlds of Jain cosmolog

Pairs of gods in their heavenly palaces
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The second part of the Jñāta-dharma-kathānga features ten female characters in separate tales. A detailed story is provided for the first character. The other stories repeat the pattern, making only minimal changes in names, locations and so on.

All these ladies are goddesses, the wives of gods belonging to the Bhavanavāsin, Vyantara and Jyotiṣka groups. Having learnt through their divine knowledge that Mahāvīra has come to teach, they arrive to display their grandeur on this great occasion. The Jina's disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama, is curious about their past destinies, which Mahāvīra narrates.

All of the goddesses were beautiful daughters of wealthy householders, who decided to renounce worldly life after they had listened to the teachings of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva. They became nuns and led lives of good conduct. Later on, however, they showed much concern for stylishness and care of the body. When they were advised not to do so, they cursed this mode of life where they were unable to do what they wanted. They left the monastic order and lived independently without any restraint. They fasted to death, but did not repent for past transgressions. Hence they have been reborn as goddesses, who cannot reach emancipation.

Aṅga 7 – lay man’s conduct

Indrabhūti Gautama in a painting from a 15th-century Śvetāmbara manuscript. The chief disciple of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, Gautama is an important Jain figure and features in many scriptures and tales.

Indrabhūti Gautama
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The seventh Aṅga is called Uvāsaga-dasāo in Prakit, Upāsaka-daśāḥ in Sanskrit. It provides a model for urban Jain lay couples representing the social and financial elite. This holds true not only of the past but today as well, and demonstrates how high is the lay ideal.

The stories narrated here in ten chapters focus on ten wealthy and powerful householders who do not become mendicants, contrary to the characters of Aṅgas 8, 9 and 11. All these characters are prominent members of the lay community surrounding Mahāvīra.

Once they have heard Mahāvīra’s teaching, these lay people decide to live the life of an upāsaka – a follower of Jain lay conduct. They adopt the 12 lay vows, described by Mahāvīra:

  • five minor vowsaṇu-vratas
  • three guṇa-vratas
  • four śikṣā-vratas.

Mahāvīra also discusses the possible transgressions – aticāras – of each of the lay vows. These are described at length.

Taking these vows has a definite impact on the way these lay people practise their professions. The vows imply limitations in luxury and possessions, with a much more modest lifestyle.

The focus in this work is clearly on the Jain lay doctrine, and the purpose is to show that living the life of a perfect lay man is not inferior to that of a perfect ascetic. In the final stage of their itinerary, these lay men put their sons in charge of household responsibilities. They are thus able to reach a level similar to that of a monk in their mental purity and life of withdrawal. They follow the path of the 11 pratimās, which define the stages of spiritual progress.

The men's practice of austerities finally results in their reaching the third type of knowledgeclairvoyance. Human beings can gain this knowledge only after performing special meditation or ascetic practices. A householder's possession of this knowledge arouses doubts in Mahāvīra’s disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama. However, Mahāvīra explains that these doubts are wrong, asking Gautama to seek forgiveness from the lay men. Their austerities culminate in the ritual of fasting unto deathsallekhanā. The householders are reborn as gods, then as human beings in Mahā-videha, and from there they reach salvation.

The wives of these lay men follow their examples, adopting the same way of life.

Details of the stories

The ten stories in this Aṅga are basically identical to the first one, whose main character is the householder Ānanda. Nandinīpitā in chapter 9 and Sālihīpitā in chapter 10 are pious like him and their life stories are brief.

In the other chapters there are elements that add to the literary flavour of the text and to its demonstrative power by producing a crescendo movement. This is displayed in the fact that each successive householder is wealthier than the one before and in the escalating mischief of the demon that appears in most of the chapters.

In chapter 2 a threatening, malevolent demon tests Kāmadeva’s steadiness in his vows, but in vain.

In chapter 3 Culaṇipitā resists the test of a malevolent demon. He is able to accept seeing the demon kill his three sons. When, however, his mother is threatened, he cannot keep his equanimity. He then learns everything he saw was a test and nothing happened, but has to repent for his anger.

In chapter 4 Surādeva remains firm even though the demon apparently kills his three sons. But when the demon threatens to afflict him with all sorts of diseases he cannot stay calm. He has to repent for this failure.

In chapter 5 a similar scenario unfolds. Cullaśataka fails when the demon threatens to destroy all his wealth.

In chapter 6 Kuṇḍakaulika successfully resists the demon's enticements to follow the heretical teaching of Makkhali Gosāla, the direct challenger of Mahāvīra. The householder remains firm in his faith.

In chapter 7, Saḍḍālaputra the potter is a follower of Makkhali Gosāla. He is convinced to become a Jain when he hears Mahāvīra’s teachings. Gosāla tries in vain to bring him again to his fold. However, when the testing demon taunts the potter that he will misbehave with his wife, Saḍḍālaputra cannot remain steady in his vows. Later he has to repent for his lapse.

In chapter 8 Mahāśataka is a good lay man. But Revatī, one of his 13 wives, challenges him. She has murdered her rivals and indulges in meat, wine and sex. She comes to Mahāśataka drunk and like a mad woman while he is fasting. He has to repent because he expresses concern for the future destiny of his wicked wife, which is a form of attachment.

Aṅga 8 – ending rebirths in this existence

This manuscript painting shows a Jina in the lotus position of meditation. His jewels, the parasol and pedestal show he is a spiritual king. His dark skin indicates he may be Nemi, the 22nd Jina.

Image of a Jina
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The eighth Aṅga has the Prakrit title of Antagaḍa-dasāo and the Sanskrit title of Antakṛd-daśā. This work is divided into eight sections and narrates the life stories of 57 men and 33 women. Through the practice of right behaviour, penances and austerity, especially various kinds of rigorous and long fasts, these 90 people put an end – anta-kṛt – to the cycle of rebirths in their present existence. They do not have to undergo further rebirths and reach salvation when they die.

Princes and queens whose spiritual careers are described in the first five sections are introduced as characters contemporary with the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭanemi or Lord Nemi. They belong to the family of Ariṣṭanemi’s cousin, Kṛṣṇa. The stories are staged in:

  • today’s Gujarat
  • Kṛṣṇa’s capital city, Dvārakā
  • Mount Raivataka, alias Girnar, where Nemi reached emancipation.

Nemi intervenes in each of the stories as an adviser, a religious teacher who knows the past and can predict the future. One of the famous episodes in this text is the destruction of Dvārakā, which he foretells. The characters feel disgust for worldly life and wrong doctrines after listening to Nemi’s preaching and become initiated as mendicants. They request his permission to take up certain practices or learn from him about incidents in their previous births. All of them die through fasting – sallekhanā – which is the most pious and sacred form of death as it implies voluntary decision and non-attachment.

There are a number of well-known characters whose stories are told here in a lively fashion and retold by later authors as well. These include Devakī and her six sons, and Gajasukumāla.

The monk Gajasukumāla is a famous Jain martyr. He was tormented by the brahmin Somila, his enemy in a former birth. Somila put wet clay and burning coals on the head of the meditating monk. Despite this, he stood firm in his meditation and did not move at all.

In sections 6 to 8 the teaching Jina is Mahāvīra, the 24th. The setting is Rājagṛha in eastern India, ruled by King Śreṇika. The men characters are craftsmen, traders and businessmen who are enlightened by Mahāvīra’s teachings, turn to mendicant life and practise repentence and austerity. They have to face the malignity of people they have offended earlier, yet stand fast and attain salvation. One example is Arjuna, who had been a murderer before he heard Mahāvīra preach.

One of the most famous stories in this part of the Antakṛd-daśāḥ is that of Prince Atimuktakumāra. Once, while he was playing, he happened to see Indrabhūti Gautama and other wandering monks during their alms-round. He asked them who they were, then took Gautama by the finger to his house, where his mother offered them alms. He then asked to accompany Gautama and bow down to Mahāvīra. After listening to the Jina's sermon, the prince requested permission from his parents to become a monk, which they gave very reluctantly as he was so young. Jains who are in favour of child initiation – bāla-dīkṣā – often offer the example of Atimuktaka to support their case. His story and personality have attracted story-tellers as well.

Women characters also feature in these tales. They are queens, wives of King Śreṇika. After learning about their sons’ deaths and rebirths in hell, told in the Narakāvalikā, the fifth Upāṅga, they renounce worldly life and become nuns – āryā. They practise rigorous penances. Their monastic interlocutors are Mahāvīra and Āryā Candanā, the leader of the nun community. The series of fasts these ladies observe is detailed with technicalities, and the leanness of their bodies is described. Religious life culminates with the ultimate penance of fasting unto death.

A recurring scene in the Antakṛd-daśāḥ is that of a young man persistently asking permission from his reluctant parents to leave worldly life and become a monk. This theme of Jain literature is always treated with a tone of realistic emotion, showing protective parents who can do nothing against their children’s powerful will.

Aṅga 9 – rebirths in the highest 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 c

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

The ninth Aṅga – the Aṇuttarovavāiya-dasāo in Prakrit, the Anuttaropapātika-daśāḥ in Sanskrit – has 33 male characters at its centre. Each man has an individual story, with the 33 stories divided into three sections. The point common to all the stories is that the men become exemplary Jain mendicants who, as a consequence, are reborn as gods in one of the five highest abodes of the Jain universe. Just below the moon crescent representing final emancipation, the Pañca Anuttara-vimānas comprise the heavenly realms of:

  • Vijaya
  • Vaijayanta
  • Jayanta
  • Aparājita
  • Sarvārtha-siddha, in the middle.

After their rebirths as deities, these men are born in Mahā-videha as human beings and reach emancipation.

The initial section has ten stories. As usual, the first one is detailed and the following ones are identical except for changes in names, locations, durations and so on. Set in Magadha, the tales recount how the Jina Mahāvīra teaches and explains the present situation by talking about these past births and predicting future births. The ten characters are all sons of King Śreṇika, well-behaved princes who each married eight princesses, then turned to monastic life after they heard Mahāvīra’s teaching, even though their parents were extremely reluctant. Learned mendicants, they practised austerities, culminating with fasting unto death.

In the second section, there are 13 characters who are also the sons of King Śreṇika and Queen Dhāriṇī. This section is very similar to the previous one.

The final section again focuses on ten characters, with the life story of the first one detailed, and the rest identical. Dhanya is the son of Bhadrā, a prosperous lady – no indication is given about her husband. He was a handsome man, whom his mother married to 32 wives. Then he went to listen to Mahāvīra’s teaching and decided to turn to monastic life, which his mother could not prevent. Dhanya led a perfect ascetic life, practising good conduct, fasting, studying and so on. The leanness of his body, described in detail in all its parts, is in contrast with its inner radiance. Mahāvīra praises him. Dhanya is reborn in the Sarvārtha-siddha heaven and later reaches emancipation.

The story of Dhanya became famous over the centuries, and has been told in the various languages the Jains have used, together with that of Śālibhadra.

Aṅga 11 – results of karma

The 11th Aṅga is called Vivāga-suya in Prakrit, Vipāka-śruta in Sanskrit. The first part describes the results of bad karmas, which are sufferings – duḥkha-vipāka – through the life stories of ten characters. The second section discusses the consequences of good karmas, which are happiness – sukha-vipāka – through the lives of ten other characters.

Only the story of the first one in each part is narrated at length. The pattern is applied with changes in names and places for the remaining ones.

Results of bad karmas

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)

In the initial tale in the first section, Mṛgāputra is the very unfortunate elder son of a royal couple. Born blind, deaf, dumb and crippled, he is totally disfigured, without hands, feet, ears or nose, and suffers from several diseases. His existence kept secret, Mṛgāputra lives in a cellar, fed only by his mother.

When a blind man comes to Mahāvīra’s universal gathering, Indrabhūti Gautama asks the Jina whether there are any other people like this man. Mahāvīra tells him about Mṛgāputra. Gautama goes to Mṛgāputra's house and insists on seeing the child, who is a repugnant sight. The monk recognises that the infernal sufferings Mrgāputra endures now are surely the result of cruel deeds he had committed deliberately in his previous birth. He asks Mahāvīra about this.

The answer is the story of Mṛgāputra’s previous birth. He was a tyrant who oppressed the population. As a result he suffered from many incurable diseases. After death he was reborn as a hell-being, then took form in the womb of Queen Mṛgā. The experience of pregnancy here is in sharp contrast with that of mothers destined to give birth to a future Jina. The embryo caused unbearable sufferings to his mother, who tried abortion, but unsuccessfully.

Indrabhūti Gautama’s second question relates to Mṛgāputra’s future destiny. Mahāvīra’s answer is the description of all his future births. Mṛgāputra will die at the age of 26 and be reborn as:

  • a cruel lion
  • an infernal being in the first hell
  • a reptile
  • an infernal being in the second hell
  • a bird
  • an infernal being in the third hell
  • a lion
  • an infernal being in the fourth hell
  • a snake
  • an infernal being in the fifth hell
  • a woman
  • an infernal being in the sixth hell
  • a man
  • an infernal being in the seventh hell
  • an aquatic animal with five sense organs
  • a succession of all sorts of animals, plants and one-sensed beings – listed without further elaboration
  • a bull that will die while digging the earth on the bank of the Ganges, which will collapse
  • a merchant’s son who, after listening to ascetics, will become a monk following proper conduct
  • a god in the first heaven
  • a human being in an opulent family in the Mahā-videha area of the Jain universe who will then reach emancipation.

The purpose of such narratives is to produce dizziness in the reader or hearer through the description of the whirl of rebirths and circulation in the three worlds that form the Jain universe.

The other nine characters in this section demonstrate equally the consequences of cruel behaviours through their lives. These include behaving in the following ways:

  • treating men and animals cruelly
  • engaging in lust
  • engaging in adultery, committed by a brahmin priest in chapter 5
  • stealing
  • trading in animal products
  • working as a butcher and eating meat, as demonstrated by Chaṇṇika in chapter 4
  • working as a fisherman, as Śaurikadatta does in chapter 8
  • demonstrating the wrong understanding of official functions and misusing power, as does Nandivardhana in chapter 6
  • demonstrating the wrong practice of medicine, as with Umbaradatta in chapter 7

The terrible Devadattā illustrates the cruelty of women in chapter 9 while women's lack of restraint is shown in chapter 10, which features Anju.

Result of good karmas

In this detail from a manuscript painting Śvetāmbara monks receive alms from lay people. This manuscript of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, a major text outlining the rules of monastic life, dates back to the 16th century

Giving alms to Śvetāmbara monks
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In contrast, the second part of the Vipāka-śruta has the peaceful atmosphere produced by characters who enjoy happy lives because they follow the proper code of conduct and also did so in earlier births. Only the first story, that of Subāhu-kumāra, is narrated. It is identical for the nine other characters, except for change of names and locations.

Prince Subāhu’s opulence, beauty and happiness are so great that they attract Indrabhūti Gautama’s curiosity. Mahāvīra’s answer is the story of the previous birth where he had shown himself to be a perfect Jain lay man. In particular, he was a paragon in the practice of suitable alms-giving to Jain monks, knowing exactly how it should be done, such as:

  • welcoming the monk with joy
  • offering proper food, in conformity with the rules.

This is the virtue praised in this section of the work (Balbir 1983). As a result, the ‘five heavenly things’ appear in the donor’s house:

  • shower of gold
  • shower of flowers of all colours
  • falling of clothes
  • sounding of divine drums
  • divine exclamation of the phrase, 'What a gift!'

Although the perfect donor still has to go through various rebirths before reaching emancipation, he or she will experience only positive forms of existence before then. This translates into births as a god in various heavens or as a human being.

Images

  • Śvetāmbara monks A group of Śvetāmbara monks walks down a street in Mumbai accompanied by lay men. The monks are barefoot and holding their mouth-cloths and monastic staffs. Jain mendicants live in small bands and travel for most of the year in the traditional wandering lifestyle – vihāra.. Image by Hoorob – Robert Tyabji © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Five-sensed animals A variety of animals is shown in this painting from a manuscript as examples of five-sensed beings. Throughout the cycle of birth, a soul is born in different types of body according to the karma it has collected from previous lives. In traditional Jain cosmology, beings can be classed according to the number of senses they have. The animals pictured have the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Elephant This manuscript painting of an elephant shows an important animal in Jain myth. The elephant is the emblem – lāñchana – of Ajita, the second Jina. According to the Śvetāmbara sect, the elephant is the first of the 14 dreams experienced by the mother of a baby who will grow up to be a Jina. Elephants also appear in parables, stories and other auspicious dreams described in Jain myths. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Right monastic behaviour This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript is of a Śvetāmbara monk in the kāyotsarga – 'rejection of the body' – meditation posture. He has the third eye and the bump of wisdom on his head. Four-armed gods and a lay man pay homage to his advanced spirituality. It may eventually free his soul to fly up to the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā, home of liberated souls. . Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Behaviour of a 'bad monk' This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript illustrates very different monastic behaviour. The monk at the top left demonstrates the ascetic ideal of deep meditation and indifference to physical demands. He displays the detachment from worldly concerns that mendicants strive to reach. The bad monk breaks all the vows he has taken. He lies down at his ease, has pointless discussions and is disrespectful, violent and lustful.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Women fetching water This detail of an 18th-century manuscript depicts women fetching water from a stream. Wearing lots of jewellery, the women perform this daily task by carrying heavy pots on their heads.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Home of liberated souls This painting from a manuscript shows the siddha-śilā. Found at the top of the triple world, on the forehead of the Cosmic Man, the siddha-śilā is the home of liberated souls. After eventually reaching enlightenment and shedding all karma, a soul escapes the cycle of rebirth and rises to the siddha-śilā. Then the new perfect being exists with others in neverending bliss.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • 'Five Great Vows' When they become mendicants, monks and nuns swear to follow the 'Five Great Vows' – mahā-vratas – for the rest of their lives: 1. non-violence – ahiṃsā 2. truth – satya 3. non-stealing – acaurya or asteya 4. celibacy – brahmacarya 5. non-attachment or non-possession – aparigraha.. Image by Shree Diwakar Prakashan © public domain
  • Two Śvetāmbara nuns Two Śvetāmbara nuns in white monastic robes – saṃghaḍī – in their lodgings – upāśraya. They are barefoot and hold their monastic brooms – rajoharaṇa or oghā – under their left arms. Jain nuns of all sects wear white robes that cover them from head to toe while in public. Strict rules in scriptures specify the garments they must wear.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • The 'true monk' This illustration from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript depicts some of the qualities of a 'true monk', a perfect ascetic. The largest figure of a Śvetāmbara monk is the teacher, sitting on a dais. He discusses doctrine with his pupils, who show him due deference. Below stand two monks in the kāyotsarga meditation pose, one of the six obligatory actions each monk and nun must complete each day. Performing meditation is one of the internal austerities that helps burn karma and encourages spiritual progress.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Pairs of gods in their heavenly palaces Pairs of gods enjoying lives of pleasure in the heavens are shown in this manuscript painting. The ornate furnishings and flowers, and the deities' jewels and rich clothing emphasise the luxury of living in the highest of the three worlds of 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)
  • Indrabhūti Gautama Indrabhūti Gautama in a painting from a 15th-century Śvetāmbara manuscript. The chief disciple of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, Gautama is an important Jain figure and features in many scriptures and tales.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Image of a Jina This painting from a manuscript shows a Jina sitting in the lotus position of meditation. His jewels show he is a spiritual king, a status underscored by the parasol and pedestal, common emblems of royalty in Indian art. Jinas are always depicted in a very stylised way in art so they are hard to tell apart. In this case the Jina's dark skin indicates he may be Nemi, the 22nd Jina.. 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)
  • 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)
  • Giving alms to Śvetāmbara monks In this detail from a manuscript painting Śvetāmbara monks receive alms from lay people. This manuscript of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, a major text outlining the rules of monastic life, dates back to the 16th century.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Further Reading

‘The Micro-Genre of Dāna-Stories in Jaina Literature: Problems of Interrelation and Diffusion’
Nalini Balbir
Indologica Taurinensia
edited by Nalini Balbir and Colette Caillat
volume 11
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1983

Full details

‘Normalizing Trends in Jaina Narrative Literature’
Nalini Balbir
Indologica Taurinensia
volume 2
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1984

Full details

‘On the role and meaning of the Śvetāmbara canon in the history of Jainism’
Nalini Balbir
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Jaina Law
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 4
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2013 – forthcoming

Full details

The Antagaḍadasāo and Aṇuttarovavāiya-dasā
translated by Lionel D. Barnett
Royal Asiatic Society; London, United Kingdom; 1907

Full details

‘Repetition in Jaina Narrative Literature’
Klaus Bruhn
Indologica Taurinensia
edited by Nalini Balbir and Colette Caillat
volume 11
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1983

Full details

Early Jainism
K. K. Dixit
L. D. series; volume 64
L. D. Institute of Indology; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1978

Full details

The Uvāsagadasāo, or The religious profession of an Uvāsaga: expounded in ten lectures, being the Seventh Anga of the Jains
translated and edited by A. F. Rudolf Hoernle
Bibliotheca Indica series; volume 105
Asiatic Society of Bengal; Calcutta, Bengal, India; 1880 and 1890

Full details

Nāyādhammakahāo
Muni Jambūvijaya
Jaina-āgama-granthamālā series; volume 5
Shrī Mahāvīra Jaina Viyālaya; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1989

Full details

‘The role of the layman according to the Jain canon’
K. R. Norman
The Assembly of Listeners: Jains in Society
edited by Michael Carrithers and Caroline Humphrey
Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, UK; 1991

Full details

Mallī-Jñāta: Das achte Kapitel des Nāyādhammakahāo im sechsten Aṅga des Śvetāmbara Jainakanons
translated and edited by Gustav Roth
Monographien zur indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie series; volume 4
Franz Steiner Verlag; Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany; 1983

Full details

‘The Similes of the Entrusted Five Rice-Grains and their Parallels’
Gustav Roth
German Scholars on India: Contributions to Indian Studies
volume I
Cultural Department Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany; 1973

Full details

Mahāvīra’s Words
Walther Schubring
translated and edited by Willem Bollée and Jayandra Soni
L. D. series; volume 139
L. D. Institute of Indology; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 2004

Full details

Nāyādhammakahāo: Das sechste Aṅga des Jaina-Siddhānta
Walther Schubring
Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse series; volume 6
Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainz; Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate and Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany; 1978

Full details

Glossary

Alms

Food, money, medicine, clothing or anything else given to another person as a religious or charitable act. Asking for and giving alms is a significant part of Jainism, as it forms a daily point of contact between lay people and mendicants. Seeking, donating and receiving alms are highly ritualised ceremonies in the Jain tradition, and spiritual purity is essential for both giver and recipient. Giving alms is a way for lay Jains to gain merit – puṇya.

Aṇu-vrata

The 'Five Lesser Vows' that householder Jains take. These are not as strict as the 'Five Greater Vows' that ascetics observe but are more practical in daily life. Few Jains take these non-compulsory vows these days. The vows are to:

  • do no harm
  • always tell the truth
  • take only what is given
  • be sexually restrained
  • not be attached to material things, which includes emotions and states of mind.

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.

Asceticism

The practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition. Asceticism involves self-denial – for example refusing tasty food or warm clothes – and sometimes self-mortification, such as wearing hair-shirts or whipping oneself.

Aticāra

Infraction, violation of conduct. There are five infractions for each of the five mendicant vows and for each of the 12 lay vows. For instance, overburdening pack animals breaks the vow of non-violence for a lay Jain.

Avadhi-jñāna

Extra-sensory knowledge, clairvoyance. One of the five traditional types of knowledge, it is inborn in heavenly and hellish beings. Humans can attain it only through special yogic practices and it is linked to a high level of spirituality.

Brāhmaṇa

A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.

Candanā

The head nun of Mahāvīra’s community, who first came to his notice by offering him an appropriate gift of food after he had been fasting for five months.

Caturvidha-saṅgha

The ‘fourfold society’ of Jain tradition, which is made up of ascetics and the laity, and of males and females.

Clergy

Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.

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.

Dāna

Giving, specifically alms-giving to mendicants.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Dhyāna

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.

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.

Dīkṣā

Religious initiation through which a man or woman leaves the householder or lay status to become a mendicant. Parts of this ritual renunciation are public ceremonies, depending on the sect.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Doctrine

A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.

Donor

A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Gujarāt

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

Heresy

A believer in a system of beliefs, usually religious, that differs from established dogma. A heretic does not normally think his beliefs are heretical, often asserting that his heresies are correct while the orthodoxy has become corrupted from the original.

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Indra

Sanskrit word for 'king' and the name of the king of the gods in the Saudharma heaven. Called Śakra by Śvetāmbaras and known as Saudharma to Digambaras, this deity is involved in all five auspicious moments – kalyāṇakas – in a Jina's life.

Indrabhūti Gautama

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.

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.

Jina

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.

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'.

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.

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.

Kṛṣṇa

One of the best-known avatars of the deity Viṣṇu the preserver, Kṛṣṇa is one of the principal Hindu gods. Since his name means ' dark blue', 'dark' or 'black' in Sanskrit, he is usually depicted with blue or black skin. Often shown as a boy or young man playing a flute, Kṛṣṇa is a hero of the Indian epic, Mahābhārata, and protagonist of the Bhagavad Gītā. Jains believe he is the cousin of Lord Nemi, the 22nd Jina.

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.

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.

Mahā-videha

In Jain cosmology, one of the Lands of Action or karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the middle world of humans. Mahā-videha consists of 32 provinces between the Niṣadha and the Nīla mountain ranges. Thanks to the repetitive nature of Jain cosmology, there are also two Mahā-videhas on each of the continents of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa and Puṣkara-dvīpa.

Mahā-vrata

The five vows taken by ascetics. Monks and nuns must follow these ‘absolute’ vows of:

  • non-violence – ahiṃsā
  • truth – satya
  • taking only what is given – asteya
  • celibacy – brahmacarya
  • non-attachment or non-possession – aparigraha.

The 24th Jina Mahāvīra added a fifth vow to his predecessor Pārśva's four, making the vow of celibacy not just implicit but a separate vow.

Mahābhārata

One of the major works of Indian literature, this epic poem revolves around a legendary battle between two camps within the same family, the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas. Fusing Jain values into the story, Jain versions of the Mahābhārata also include biographies of the 22nd Jina Neminātha or Lord Nemi and his cousin Kṛṣṇa, who is identified with the Hindu god. The Jain Mahābhāratas cast the leading figure of Kṛṣṇa and other characters in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.

Mahāvīra

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.

Malli

The 19th Jina of the present age. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Śvetāmbara Jains believe Mallī was a woman – the only female Jina – and often spell her name with ī, indicating feminine gender. However, Digambaras hold that Malli was a man, like all the other Jinas.

For Śvetāmbaras, her symbolic colour is dark blue whereas for Digambara Jains it is golden. Both sects believe Mallinatha's emblem is the water pot – kalaśa.

Martyr

Someone who is killed for his or her religious beliefs. Originally it referred to someone who willingly died for his or her religious faith. Nowadays it can also mean someone who suffers or is killed for following a religion or other beliefs, whether willingly or not. Also a verb meaning to carry out the killing.

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.

Nandivardhana

Elder brother of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra. The eldest son of King Siddhārtha and Queen Triśalā. 

Naraka

Hell. There are seven levels of hells in the lower world of Jain cosmology.

Nemi

The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.

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.

Pāṇḍava

The five Pāṇḍava brothers are the heroes of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahābhārata, and its Jain versions. The Jain Mahābhārata is quite different from the Hindu version, demonstrating Jain virtues and religious beliefs.

Penance

A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.

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.

Pratikramaṇa

'Introspection’ in Sanskrit. The elaborate ritual of confession and repentance that involves reciting liturgical texts and performing set gestures at dawn and dusk. It is one of an ascetic's six daily duties – āvaśyaka. For many lay people, pratikramaṇa is the essence of Jainism.

Prayer

A religious communication offered by a believer to a god or object of worship. It may:

  • be private or public
  • be silent or aloud
  • be undertaken alone or in a group
  • take prescribed ritual form or be improvised
  • need tools and accessories or not
  • be a wish to be granted
  • be a request for guidance
  • be a hymn of praise or thanks
  • be a confession
  • express an emotion or thought.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Pūjā

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:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Renunciation

Giving up something. A lay person who becomes an ascetic renounces the life of a householder within society, instead choosing the physical hardships of being a monk or nun. The formal renunciation ceremony in Jainism is dīkṣā.

Rite

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.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

Sallekhanā

The progressive eradication of passions and other negative features in order to reach total spiritual purity. In practice, it is the ritual of fasting unto death.

Samavasaraṇa

Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.

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.

Samyak-cāritra

'Right conduct'. A person who has faith in the principles of Jainism and knows them should put them into practice. This is the third of the Three Jewels vital for spiritual progress.

Saṇgha

Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.

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.

Sect

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.

Sermon

A speech on a religious topic, usually delivered by a member of the clergy. Frequently a sermon has a moral lesson or is based on a sacred text.

Śrāvaka

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay man, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The feminine form is śrāvikā.

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.

Tapas

Austerity or asceticism in general. A tapas is an act of austerity or self-discipline that produces bodily heat – tapas – that burns up karma. Austerities may be internal – mental – or external – physical. Both lay and mendicant Jains practise austerities. Fasting is the most common external austerity for lay people these days.

Upāsaka

A Jain lay man, similar to the term śrāvaka. The feminine form is upāsikā.

Ūrdhva-loka

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

Vihāra

A Sanskrit term that describes the wandering lifestyle of Jain mendicants. Jain monks and nuns are expected to travel around, not stay in one place as householders do. They wander constantly on foot, never staying more than a few days in one place. They may walk around 30 kilometres a day in small groups. However, every year, during the monsoon, monks and nuns stay in one location to avoid travelling.

Vrata

Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā

Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:

  • aṇu-vratas – 'Five Lesser Vows'
  • guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows
  • śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline

All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders. 

Yakṣa

The male attendant of a Jina, one of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

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