Article: Mūla-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Title of the 'Daśavaikālika-sūtra'

The legendary account of the scripture’s creation gives the title of the work as meaning the ‘Ten Evening Chapters’ and explains it with reference to the time it was written. Another understanding of the title refers to the time when it should be read, because it may mean ‘Ten [lectures] beyond [the prescribed study hours]’. This interpretation underlines that this work can be read any time. Mention of the ‘time’ prescribed for reading refers to a method of grouping scriptures, but is not easy to interpret.

Compendium

A gallery of the Agam Mandir in Pune, Maharashtra, displays plates inscribed with the 45 holy writings or Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak sect. Temples devoted to scriptures, Agam Mandirs were invented in the 1940s

Gallery of an Agam Mandir
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The legendary account of its composition emphasises the fact that the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra is an abridgment of the 14 Pūrvas. Some commentators have developed this idea by making specific connections between certain chapters and given Pūrvas.

Others, however, consider that this work is an epitome of the 12 Aṅgas. Similarly, they establish a systematic connection between given chapters of the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra and particular Aṅgas. The fact is that most of the topics the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra covers are also dealt with in other parts of the canon, especially in the first Aṅga, the Ācārānga-sūtra, the oldest book on monastic conduct. In a number of cases these connections go beyond the contents and relate to points of detail, such as metaphors or phrases (see further Illustrated Daśavaikālika Sūtra, introduction pages 20–21).

A number of traditionally famous striking formulas or aphorisms believed to capture the essence of Jainism comes from this work.

Examples of Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra aphorisms

Prakrit phrase (chapter and verse)

English translation

dhammo mangalam ukkiṭṭhaṃ (1. 1)

‘Dharma is the best among auspicious things’ or ‘The best word to begin with is Dharma’ (Schubring)

paḍhamaṃ nāṇaṃ tao dayā (4. 10)

‘First knowledge, then compassion’

dhammassa viṇao mūlaṃ (9. 2. 2)

‘Humble behaviour is the root of Dharma’

savve jīvā vi icchanti jīviuṃ na marijjiuṃ (6. 11)

‘All living beings wish to live, not to die’

mucchā pariggaho vutto (6. 21)

‘Attachment is possession’

Number of chapters

Ten is the number of chapters to be expected from the title, and is indeed the actual number. But it is increased by two appendices – cūlikās – following the tenth chapter. These are considered integral parts of the whole work.

The 12 chapters of the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra

Chapter number

Title

Number of stanzas

1

Duma-pupphiyā

5

2

Sāmaṇa-puvvagaṃ

11

3

Khuḍḍiyāyāro

15

4

Cha-jjīvaṇiyā

prose + 29 stanzas

5 – two sections

Piṇḍesaṇā

100 + 50

6

Dhammaṭṭha-kahā

69

7

Vakka-suddhī

57

8

Āyāra-paṇihī

63

9 – four sections

Viṇaya-samāhī

17 + 23 + 15 + prose and 12 stanzas

10

Sa-bhikkhu

21

Appendix 1

Raivakka-cūliyā

prose + 17 stanzas

Appendix 2

Cūliyā

16 stanzas

As noted by some scholars, such as Schubring, the even-numbered and odd-numbered chapters deal systematically with different topics. The even-numbered chapters tend to cover mendicant lifestyle in general whereas the others deal with particular topics of monastic life.

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