Article: Mūla-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Chapter 6

This manuscript painting depicts the 24th Jina Mahāvīra and the 'universal gathering' – samavasaraṇa. This Sanskrit term means the event during which the omniscient Jina preaches to all sentient beings – human beings, animals and deities. It also describe

Mahāvīra and the universal gathering
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

An elaborate exposition of dharma and conduct, the sixth chapter can be viewed as a longer version of what is summarised in chapter 3. It is presented in the form of a sermon given by a teacher in answer to questions about the nature of his conduct.

Some of the topics are common to other chapters, such as references to the six life forms, the great vows and searching for alms. The expounding teacher often refers to Mahāvīra as the source of his exposition and provides a strong argument in favour of saintly behaviour, which leads to perfect calmness and final liberation.

Chapter 7

The Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra’s seventh chapter is on right speech and is derived from a section on the same topic in the Ācārānga-sūtra (II. 4). Purity in speech does not just mean not lying. There is much more to it, which is detailed here.

Rough speech is also included as a type of improper speech. Examples are provided of phrases that should not be uttered because they could hurt or be misleading. Insults are one form of wrong speech, but also sentences that imply violence or could encourage it. For instance

a monk should not say of a man, a quadruped, a bird, or a snake: “He / it is big and fat and fit to be killed and cooked”. He should say: “He / it is of increased bulk, his / its body is well grown, he / it has attained a sizeable shape”

7.22–23, Schubring’s translation, page 102

The main idea is that the mendicant should:

  • think before speaking
  • avoid speaking if it is better not to talk
  • phrase his statements extremely carefully.

Chapter 8

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

The topic of the eighth chapter is again the rules of conduct for all circumstances of monastic life. This chapter phrases these rules as either ‘the monk should…’ or ‘he should not…’.

Some rules relate to topics already dealt with in the preceding chapters, such as food or speech. The emphasis is on restraint, detachment and protection from inclinations or passions that prevent the mendicant from reaching the goal of spiritual progression to salvation. The conclusion is:

Such a monk who bears all pains, has subdued his senses, possesses knowledge of tradition, is without egotism and property, shines forth, when the cloud of Karman has disappeared, like the moon at the definitive removal of the cloudy veil

8. 63, Schubring’s translation, page 109

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