Article: Cheda-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Chapters 7 and 8

Śvetāmbara nuns meditate in front of a cloth-wrapped bookstand, used to hold scriptures. To Jains, meditation helps purify the soul of karma and is thus vital for spiritual progress. It is a daily obligatory duty – āvaśyaka – for mendicants.

Śvetāmbara nuns meditate
Image by Claude Renault © CC BY 2.0

These two chapters are regarded as appendices.

Befitting its name – 'Pacchitta-sutta' – chapter 7 is devoted to atonements. It explains which type of atonement is proper for which type of mistake. Atonements are regarded as the best way of spiritual purification. The specific context here is that of the obligatory dutiesāvaśyaka. Lapses relating to homage, temples and repentance, in particular, are dealt with. The rules may be broken by the improper use of monastic equipment, especially the mouth-cloth or the broom.

Discussing atonements means considering:

  • the relations between mendicants within a given monastic order, because atonements have to be prescribed by a superior or religious teacher
  • the qualities or defects of this teacher.

Atonements are an interactive process involving both the culprit and the teacher. The remedy can be almost worse than the evil if this process does not function properly. Entailing a lot of subtle reasoning, it amounts to a ‘penal code’ for mendicants (Schubring in Deleu & Schubring 1951: 69), which is detailed in this chapter.

Fasts stand first on the map of atonements. They are defined according to:

  • length
  • the kind of food eaten or not eaten.

When fasting is considered based on its duration, the traditional method is to state how many meals are not eaten. The ratio used is two meals per day.

Details of fasting

Prakrit term

Meaning

Details

cauttha

the fourth

3 meals not eaten, the 4th eaten = fast of 1 day and a half

chaṭṭha

the sixth

5 meals not eaten, the 6th eaten = fast of 2 and a half days

aṭṭhama

the eighth

7 meals not eaten, the 8th eaten = fast of 3 and a half days

dasama

the tenth

9 meals not eaten, the 10th eaten = fast of 4 and a half days

When fasting is considered according to the type of food, there are two well-known forms of food restrictions:

  • eating no milk products – nivvigaiya
  • eating food without spices – āyambila.

Other atonements imply reductions in seniority, temporary exclusions and so on in the same way as what is found in other Cheda-sūtras.

The final chapter is mainly in a prose that imitates the canonical style. It tells the story of Sujjhasirī and Susaḍha over consecutive rebirths, which contain many incidents. Like the preceding chapters, the religious theme is that confession should be performed fully and truly and that atonements should be given by a competent teacher.

Pañca-kalpa

This work is known only through a verse commentary, a bhāṣya. No corresponding sūtra is available. The Jain tradition considers that it originally formed part of the Br̥hat-kalpa-bhāṣya. But it is in fact ‘an independent and systematic compilation by one author (Sanghadāsa-gaṇi?), who certainly utilized earlier materials, sometimes as available to him, sometimes changing them to suit his purposes’ (Tripāthī 1983: 121).

It has been published in India but hardly any scholarly work has been done on it so far.

The title ‘refers to the system of monkhood by five methods, according to whether kappa is understood to be 6-, 7-, 10-, 20- and 42-fold’ (Schubring 1962: 114). Although it is more concerned with a general discussion of monastic ethics, this is dealt with in a highly technical presentation and definitely needs sound exploration.

Commentaries

This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript shows Śvetāmbara monks listening to a senior mendicant. The teacher is the largest figure, indicating his importance, and he sits on a low dais with a bookstand – sthāpanācārya – in front

Senior monk teaching
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Other classes of Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures have been the starting point of commentaries. Among them, the first stratum is that of Prakrit verse commentaries – the bhāṣyas written in Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit. Those connected to the Cheda-sūtras are different from those relating to other categories of scriptures.

Firstly, the bhāṣyas for the Pañca-kalpa have no corresponding sūtras, so the text consists only of a commentary. Secondly, in four other cases the bhāṣyas have become as important as the sūtras in the traditional view. These lengthy bhāṣyas were written on the:

  • Br̥hat-kalpa
  • Vyavahāra
  • Niśītha
  • Jīta-kalpa.

Some of these bhāṣyas are supplemented by Prakrit or Sanskrit prose commentaries.

Bhāṣyas and Sanskrit commentaries on the Cheda-sūtras

Bhāṣya

Size and author

Prakrit prose commentary – cūrṇi

Sanskrit commentary

Br̥hat-kalpa-bhāṣya

6,490 verses – Sanghadāsa, probably in the 6th century

unpublished – Pralamba-sūri

begun by Malayagiri in the 12th century and continued by Kṣemakīrti

Vyavahāra-bhāṣya

4,768 verses

unpublished

Malayagiri in the 12th century

Niśītha-bhāṣya

6,704 verses

Cūrṇi and Viśeṣa-Niśītha-cūrṇi – Jinadāsa

none

Jīta-kalpa-bhāṣya

2,606 verses –Jinabhadra-gaṇi

Siddhasena-sūri

Viṣama-pada-vyākhyā –  Commentary on Difficult Words – Śrīcandra

Pañca-kalpa-bhāṣya

2,666 verses

none

none

The prose of the sūtras provides the rules. These bhāṣyas provide explanations and additional material. They include examples, anecdotes or stories, which are either developed fully or given as tag words or brief outlines. Tag words are words or phrases that refer to a story. Along with outlines, they may have been starting points for mendicants to deliver oral lessons. They are not connected with the formulation of the rules, but are meant to illustrate the consequences of the rules or of their violations.

A number of these examples are identical or nearly identical in various Cheda-sūtras. Some belong to the common pool of Jain narratives taken from two of the main sources – the Uttarādhyayana tradition and the Āvaśyaka tradition.  They are unevenly distributed in the texts. One of the topics that attracts a concentration of stories is becoming a monk or a nunpravrajyā – and initiationdīkṣā. People may have all sorts of motivations for leaving the householder life, some of which may not be acceptable.

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