Article: Mūla-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Chapter 9

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

There are four sections in Chapter 9, all discussing the relationship between the mendicant and his superiors, between the student and his teacher. In order to be able to learn and progress, a mendicant must behave with modesty, humility and respect. All these notions are conveyed in one term – vinaya – which is also the topic of the first chapter of another Mūla-sūtra, the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra.

Thus a disciple should not offend or mock his teacher – guru – as the first section explains. This may have unwished for and dangerous consequences: ‘after an offence against the Guru there is no Salvation’ (9. 1. 9; Schubring’s translation, page 110).

The second section starts with the vigorous statement that ‘humble behaviour is the root of dharma’. The attitudes of respectful and arrogant monks are described and their respective results contrasted. The third section has a positive approach, concentrating on the one who is humble and well behaved. All the stanzas of this section end with the same motto, which gives the section a formal unity. The motto is: ‘he is worthy of respect’ – sa pujjo.

In the final section, four points regarding the general concept of vinaya are examined in turn, which are:

  • devotion to discipline
  • devotion to the sacred texts
  • devotion in fasting
  • devotion to good conduct.

Chapter 10

Each stanza of chapter 10 of the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra is also characterised by a concluding refrain. This time it is: ‘he is a true monk’ – sa bhikkhū.

Here is a description of the ideal conduct of the wandering mendicant. It is written in a number of different metres. This poetical piece is similar to the 15th chapter of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, which has the same refrain and also uses various metres.

Appendix 1

The first appendix considers a mendicant who is disheartened and has doubts about his way of life. He is then invited to bear in mind a set of 18 statements, such as, in Schubring’s rendering:

  • ‘worthless and transient are the pleasures of people who dwell in houses’
  • ‘This my trouble will not last long’
  • ‘If I returned to the life of a house-holder, this would be as if I swallowed my own vomit’.

Such thoughts will help him to stay on the right path. In the following verse-section they are expressed again in another form. This section also holds warnings of the negative perspectives that await him if he succumbs to the temptation to renounce monkhood.

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