Article: Mūla-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Mūla-sūtra 4 – gathering alms

The monastic staff and broom of a Śvetāmbara mendicant lean against shelves in a corner. Monks and nuns in the Śvetāmbara sect use alms bowls, staffs and brooms as their monastic equipment – upakaraṇa

Śvetāmbara monastic equipment
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

This Mūla-sūtra is different from the other three works in this class of scripture in several ways.

Firstly, the Śvetāmbara sects of the Sthānaka-vāsins and Terāpanthins do not recognise this text as a Mūla-sūtra. However, Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak Jains class it as the fourth Mūla-sūtra. This is a way to give it more prominence, partly due to the fact that it deals at length with all issues regarding the search for alms.

Secondly, it is made up of two texts. These are known as the Piṇḍa-nijjutti and Ogha-nijjutti in Prakrit, Piṇḍa-niryukti and the Ogha-niryukti in Sanskrit.

Next, technically its constituent texts belong to another category of Jain writings – that of the niryukti. This generic name is given to a group of ten Prakrit verse-commentaries where scholastic methods of analysis are applied to understand words and concepts. The other existing texts in this category are based on a specific work – a sūtra. This is not the case with these two works, which have arisen independently of any sūtra. They are ascribed to ‘Bhadrabāhu’ or ‘Bhadrabāhu II’, who could have lived in the 1st century CE or, according to some, in the 5th century CE (Wiley 2004: 52).

More generally, the two works are related in their contents, dealing in highly technical and sophisticated ways with daily mendicant life. The Ogha-niryukti deals with various aspects, taking its title from ogha, meaning ‘general, global’. This includes the practice of gathering alms, which Śvetāmbara monks and nuns collect twice a day. The second text concentrates on the issue of alms-gathering, with piṇḍa meaning ‘rice-ball’. These complementary works also cover matters relating to the alms bowl, with the Ogha-niryukti also treating other monastic implements. They provide a lot of information about material culture, however difficult it may be to grasp (Deo 1960, Mette 1974, Bollée 1994).

Hence the Ogha-niryukti and the Piṇḍa-niryukti function as specialised supplements to matters that are especially detailed in another of the ‘Fundamental Texts’. This is the Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra, the fifth chapter of which deals with seeking, receiving and consuming alms.

The Ogha-niryukti has 812 stanzas distributed over seven sections.

Contents and structure of the Ogha-niryukti

Section

Prakrit term

Sanskrit equivalent

Subject

Stanzas

1

paḍilehaṇā

pratilekhanā

inspection of:

  • implements
  • food
  • place for excretion and so on

1–330

2

piṇd’esaṇā

piṇḍaiṣaṇā

rituals relating to:

  • looking for alms
  • the proper way to dispose of leftovers

331–595 596–665

3

uvahi

upadhi

monastic equipment:

  • number and size of the items allowed, especially the alms bowl and its accessories
  • monastic staff

666–762

4

aṇāyayaṇa-vajja

an-āyatana

how to avoid making mistakes

763–786

5

paḍisevaṇā

pratisevanā

breaking the vows

787–790

6

āloyaṇā

ālocanā

confession and reporting any mistakes to the teacher

791–794

7

sall’uddharaṇa

śalya-uddharaṇa

literally ‘extraction of the thorns’, purification through atonement for any mistake

795–812

The sister text that also comprises the fourth text – the Piṇḍa-niryukti – has 671 verses in three large sections, corresponding to eight headings. The two writings also share numerous verses.

Contents and structure of the Piṇḍa-niryukti

Section

Prakrit term

Sanskrit equivalent

Subject

Stanzas

1


  • gavesaṇā
  • uggama-dosa
  • uppāyaṇa-dosa


  • gaveṣaṇā
  • udgama-doṣa
  • utpādana-doṣa

alms-search mistakes:

  • relating to the provenance and preparation of food
  • of the alms-giver, and those relating to the acceptance of food
  • of the recipient

1–512
Each category uses 16 stanzas

2

gav’esaṇā

gaveṣaṇā

improper ways of seeking alms

513–628

3

ghās’esaṇā or paribhoga

grāsaiṣaṇā or paribhoga

mistakes relating to the consumption of food or the mode of eating

629–671

Commentaries

Like other categories of the Śvetāmbara canon, the Mūla-sūtras have been the starting point of many commentaries over the centuries. All forms of Jain commentary have been applied to them, namely:

Main commentaries on the Mūla-sūtras

Title

Niryukti

Cūrṇi

Sanskrit commentaries

Daśa-vaikālika-sūtra

yes

by Agastyasiṃha

well-known examples by:

  • Haribhadra – 8th century
  • Samayasundara – 17th century

Uttarādhyayana-sūtra

yes

yes

well-known examples by:

  • Śānti-sūri – 9th century
  • Devendra alias Nemicandra – 11th century
  • Lakṣmīvallabha – 15th century
  • Bhāvavijaya – 17th century

Āvaśyaka-sūtra

  • Āvaśyaka-niryukti
  • bhāṣya by Jinabhadra-gaṇi

by Jinadāsa

well-known examples by:

  • Haribhadra – 8th century
  • Malayagiri – 12th century
  • Tiliakācārya – 12th century
  • Gujarati commentaries, for example by Taruṇaprabha – 14th century
  • Piṇḍa-niryukti
  • Ogha-niryukti

no

well-known examples by:

  • Droṇācārya – 11th century
  • Malayagiri – 12th century

The verse commentary on the third Mūla-sūtra, the Āvaśyaka-niryukti, has ‘assumed a quasi-canonical status’ (Dundas 2002: 75) owing to its large size and the way it discusses important mythological and philosophical matters.

The fourth work of the category is formed by verse texts that are not based on any sutra. This probably explains why the Sthānaka-vāsins and the Terāpanthins do not regard the Piṇḍa-niryukti and Ogha-niryukti as canonical scriptures.

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