Article: Mūla-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir


The subject matter of the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra is mendicant conduct, with several key aspects reiterated and expanded on throughout the chapters and appendices. These key elements of mendicant life are related to food, behaviour towards others, especially superiors and lay people, and knowledge crucial for a monk's proper conduct and spiritual progress. Several passages are identical or very similar to other Śvetāmbara scriptures that deal with these topics.

Chapter 1

The first chapter of the first Mūla-sūtra is brief. It underlines the idea prevailing in the whole book that a monk should live in a way that does not harm those on whom he depends, especially during his search for alms. This is expressed through a famous comparison, also found in similar terms in Buddhist scriptures. It states that the monk should be like the bee which sucks pollen from flowers without hurting them.

Chapter 2

This painting from a 15th-century manuscript of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra shows the Śvetāmbara nun Rājīmatī and monk Rathanemi in a cave sheltering from a storm. Rājīmatī's beauty makes Rathanemi forget his monastic vows but her sermon inspires him

Rājīmatī and Rathanemi in the cave
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra does not contain any narrative chapter. But the famous story featuring Rājimāti’s lesson to Rathanemi is recalled in chapter 2.

In this tale Rathanemi is so beguiled by Rājimāti’s beauty that he is about to give up life as a monk until she reminds him of his vows. The purpose of the second chapter is to strongly encourage monks to remain firm on the path of celibacy and not to indulge in desire.

The story and verses here are identical to the same episode told in chapter 22 of another Mūla-sūtra, the Uttarādhyayana.

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