Article: Prakīrṇaka-sūtras

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The Sanskrit word Prakīrṇaka, or its Prakrit form Paiṇṇaya, is given to a group of texts at the border of the Śvetāmbara canon. In contrast with the Aṅgas and Upāṅgas, for instance, which contain a closed and fixed number of texts, this group is characterised by its fluidity and has no maximum number of texts. Meaning ‘miscellany’, the Prakīrṇakas range in number from 10 to 20, with other disputed texts dubbed ‘supernumerary Prakīrṇakas’. Hence all Śvetāmbara Jains do not give the Prakīrṇakas the same status and authority as the other categories in their canon of holy writings.

For the most part in verse, this class of writings is written in Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit, differing from the Ardhamāgadhī of most of the other Śvetāmbara scriptures. They are therefore probably younger than the two main types of Śvetāmbara holy texts, the Aṅgas and Upāṅgas.

In some respects the Prakīrṇakas can be thought of as supplementary to the rest of the Śvetāmbara scriptures. Directed chiefly at monks and nuns, most of them expand on subjects mentioned in texts from the other classes of scripture. The most important example is the practice of fasting to death. In all, five Prakīrṇakas discuss this ritual. They tend to focus on the spiritual and mental aspects of this rite.

One Prakīrṇaka is particularly interesting in that it appears to share concerns and even passages and literary imagery with texts from non-Jain sources. Scholars dispute the age of the Ṛṣi-bhāṣitāni, with some claiming it as an early work while others hold it to be a later collection of writings.

Authority and number

The Āgama-ratna-mañjūṣā, the monumental edition of the 45 holy Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks. Inspired by Ānandasāgara-sūri, the book is often enthroned as a sacred object in temples. This one is in the Agam Mandir in Surat, Gujarat

Āgama-ratna-mañjūṣā
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The three main sects of Śvetāmbara Jainism have slightly different canons of holy texts. Only the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pujaks class the Prakīrṇakas as an integral part of their canon. The Sthānaka-vāsins and the Terāpanthins reject them entirely. The status of the Prakīrṇakas as scriptures has therefore become a badge of sectarian identity among the Śvetāmbara Jains.

This is a real problem, as is admitted even by Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak monastic intellectuals, such as Muni Puṇyavijaya who has provided a critical edition of Prakīrṇakas. There is no fixed traditional list of these texts to give their number and order and which could be used as a standard reference. So there is scope for variation and diverging opinions.

The most common opinion is that the Prakīrṇakas should number ten. This number is the result of a simple deduction. The Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaks state that their canon contains 45 texts. The holy texts in the other categories are fairly stable, totalling 35, and thus ten more are needed to reach the full count. Although the total of 45 scriptures has been well rooted in the Mūrti-pūjak tradition since the 15th to 17th centuries, there is no list of the additional works required to reach this number. In lists of the 45 Āgamas produced in the late medieval period, the heading ‘Prakīrṇaka’ is not necessarily used. The texts are simply enumerated, but no statement is made as to whether they belong to a specific category.

It is significant that this problem is addressed clearly by Jain scholars themselves:

The Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaka tradition maintains that there are 45 Āgamas. Adding 10 Prakīrṇakas to 35 works consisting of Aṅgas, Upāṅgas, etc., the number of Āgamas is arrived at. As stated earlier, we have no tradition of the fixed established uniform titles of the ten Prakīrṇakasūtras […]. It is a fact that no sound basis for fixed established ten titles of the ten Prakīrṇakasūtras is available […]. Muni Puṇyavijaya was confronted with doubts during his long research in this field. […] This being the situation, Muni Shri Punyavijayaji made up his mind to publish those 20 Prakīrṇakasūtras whose old or very old manuscriptions are available in different Jain manuscript libraries.

A. M. Bhojak, introduction, pages 76 to 77 in Muni Puṇyavijaya 1984

Thus the number of the Prakīrṇakas fluctuates between 10 and 20, or even more sometimes.

Lists and titles

Statue of Ānandasāgara-sūri, the 20th-century reviver of the holy writings or Āgamas of Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks. Ācārya Ānandasāgara-sūri established Agam Mandirs devoted to the scriptures and inspired the 1999 publication of the canon in a single volume

Image of Ānandasāgara-sūri
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

To reach the number of 45 Āgamas which has become a sectarian marker for the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaks, ten Prakīrṇakas are needed. But the question is then – which ones?

It seems there has always some disagreement over which writings make up the class of Prakīrṇakas. Lists vary and the order of texts within lists also differs, according to the criteria adopted. This dispute extends into contemporary study and practice, with diverging lists published in the 20th century.

The table presents the most commonly admitted list of these texts.

Sanskrit title

Prakrit title

Meaning

Approximate stanzas

1

Catuḥśaraṇa

Cau-saraṇa

The ‘four refuges’

27

2

Ātura-pratyākhyāna (1)

Āura-paccakkhāṇa

‘Sick man’s renunciation’

30

3

Bhakta-parijñā

Bhatta-parinnā

‘Renunciation of food’

173

4

Saṃstāraka

Saṃthāraga

‘Straw bed’

122

5

Taṇḍula-vaicārika

Tandula-veyāliya

‘Reflection on rice grains’

177 + prose

6

Candravedhyaka

Canda-vejjhaya

‘Hitting the mark’

175

7

Devendra-stava

Devinda-tthaya

‘Praise of the kings of gods’

311

8

Gaṇi-vidyā

Gaṇi-vijjā

‘A Gaṇi’s knowledge’

80 to 86

9

Mahā-pratyākhyāna

Mahā-paccakkhāṇa

‘Great renunciation’

142

10

Vīra-stava

Vīra-tthava

‘Great renunciation’

43

But the complexity of the situation is indicated by the report that a document published by the Jaina Conference at the beginning of the 20th century contained three different lists of ten Prakīrṇakas. Kurt von Kamptz, the first Western scholar to work seriously on these texts, clearly saw the intricacies of categorising the Prakīrṇakas (1929: 5–6).

The eminent scholar monk Muni Puṇyavijaya produced an edition of these texts in a volume called Paiṇṇaya-suttaiṃ. This lists 20 Prakīrṇakas. The first ten comprise those texts listed in the table above. The other ten are given in this table.

Sanskrit title

Prakrit title

Meaning

Approximate stanzas

11

Maraṇa-samādhi or Maraṇa-vibhakti

Maraṇa-samāhi or Maraṇa-vibhatti

‘Concentration at the time of death’

661

12

Ṛṣi-bhāṣitāni

Isi-bhāsiyāiṃ

‘Sayings of the seers’

Individual poems with varying number of stanzas

13

Dvīpa-sāgara-prajñapti-sangrahaṇī-gāthā

Dīva-sāgara-paṇṇatti-saṃgahaṇī-gāh

‘Condensed verse teaching on continents and oceans’

225

14

Catuḥ-śaraṇa or Kuśalānubandhi-adhyayana

Causaraṇa or Kusalāṇubandhi-ajjhayaṇa

‘The four refuges’

63

15

Ātura-pratyākhyāna(2)

Āura-paccakkhāṇa (2)

‘Sick man’s renunciation’ (2)

34

16

Ātura-pratyākhyāna by Vīrabhadra

Āura-paccakkhāṇa by Vīrabhadda

‘Sick man’s renunciation’ (3)

71

17

Gacchācāra

Gacchāyāra

‘Conduct for the monastic group’

137

18

Sārāvalī

Sārāvalī

‘Garland of hymns’

116

19

Jyotiṣ-karaṇḍaka by Pādaliptācārya

Joisa-karaṇḍaya

‘Basket of astronomy’

405

20

Tīrthodgālī

Titthoggālī

‘Disintegration of the ford’

1261

Ācārya Ānandasāgara-sūri, a monastic leader of the 20th century who edited the Āgamas and made them known to a large audience, also compiled a list of Prakīrṇakas. Published in the Agamodaya Samiti series, this list combined works from both the earlier listings. Using the numbering from the preceding tables, this table shows the ten texts Ācārya Ānandasāgara-sūri considered to be Prakīrṇakas.

Sanskrit title

Prakrit title

Meaning

Approximate stanzas

1

Catuḥśaraṇa

Cau-saraṇa

The ‘four refuges’

27

2

Ātura-pratyākhyāna (1)

Āura-paccakkhāṇa

‘Sick man’s renunciation’

30

9

Mahā-pratyākhyāna

Mahā-paccakkhāṇa

‘Great renunciation’

142

3

Bhakta-parijñā

Bhatta-parinnā

‘Renunciation of food’

173

5

Taṇḍula-vaicārika

Tandula-veyāliya

‘Reflection on rice grains’

177 + prose

4

Saṃstāraka

Saṃthāraga

‘Straw bed’

122

17

Gacchācāra

Gacchāyāra

‘Conduct for the monastic group’

137

8

Gaṇi-vidyā

Gaṇi-vijjā

‘A Gaṇi’s knowledge’

80 to 86

7

Devendra-stava

Devinda-tthaya

‘Praise of the kings of gods’

311

11

Maraṇa-samādhi o Maraṇa-vibhakti

Maraṇa-samāhi or Maraṇa-vibhatti

‘Concentration at the time of death’

661

This is also the list adopted in the recent edition of the 45 Śvetāmbara Āgamas by Muni Dīparatnasāgara (2000).

Furthermore, some scholars, such as Hiralal Rasikdas Kapadia, give the label of ‘supernumerary Prakīrṇakas’ to some texts. This is a small group of texts that may be called Prakīrṇaka in the manuscripts. Among them is the Jambū-adhyayana or Jambū-ajjhayaṇa, a narrative text devoted to the Elder Jambū-svāmin. Written in Prakrit prose, it imitates canonical language and phraseology.

Finally, the Aṅga-vidyā or Aṅga-vijjā stands on its own but is occasionally included in this broad and welcoming category. It is an important Prakrit work on signs and divination in prose and verse.

Language and form

The Prakīrṇakas are all written in the variety of Prakrit known as Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī. They thus differ from the texts in the main categories of the Śvetāmbara canon such as the Aṅgas and Upāṅgas, which are composed in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit. Thus, from this angle, they may represent a later group of scriptures.

The vast majority of the texts categorised as Prakīrṇakas are in verse. They mostly use the metre known as āryā, unlike other canonical texts, which also use older syllabic metres such as the śloka, the triṣṭubh and the jagatī. This is also a sign of their slightly later composition. One exception is the Gaṇi-vidyā, where āryās and ślokas are represented in balanced proportion. However, their arrangement is such that the text might date back to the ‘Jain Middle Ages’ (Schubring 1969: 402), which could correspond to the 10th to 12th centuries.

Examples of Prakīrṇakas written in verse with prose portions are the Taṇḍula-vaicārika and the Ṛṣi-bhāṣitāni.

The length of the Prakīrṇakas varies considerably from one text to the other. The shortest one is the Vīra-stava, which has 43 stanzas. Longer ones have between 200 and 400 stanzas. Some of them – such as the Ātura-pratyākhyāna and the Catuḥ-śaraṇa – are known in more than one recension. Careful philological investigations show the impact of intertextuality, which has resulted in additions or reworkings in texts of related contents (Caillat 1992, Caillat 2008).

In contrast with other classes of the Śvetāmbara canon, some of the Prakīrṇakas are attributed to or composed by a named author.

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