Article: Upāṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The second of the main groups of Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures is the Upāṅgas – ‘auxiliary limbs’ in Sanskrit. ‘Auxiliary’ is understood by the tradition as meaning that this category complements the first group of scriptures that make up the Śvetāmbara canon, which are called the Aṅgas – ‘limbs’. Each Upāṅga corresponds to one Aṅga, to which it forms a kind of supplement. Indeed, there are cases where a given Upānga even incorporates passages from a specific Aṅga, underlining the close connection between the categories. There are 12 Upāṅgas, matching the 12 original Aṅgas.

Like their Aṅga counterparts, the Upāṅgas are written in forms of Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit, demonstrating variations depending on the text. They also demonstrate the same variety of literary styles, using ‘canonical prose’, parables, dialogues, stories and reference techniques to pass on the holy teachings. The Upāngas contain a range of topics. Fundamental beliefs of the Jain faith are discussed, such as the soul, karma, the cycle of births and cosmology. They are predominantly written in prose.

Śvetāmbara Jains believe that their canon contains the teachings of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. These were originally passed on orally and began to be written down in the early centuries of the Common Era, with their final written form agreed in the fifth century. However, the other main Jain sect gives different texts canonical status. The Digambara Jains call their canon the Siddhānta.

Like their sister texts, the Upāṅgas have also been the subject of many commentaries. However, they do not demonstrate the range of styles, forms and languages found in Aṅga commentaries. Upāṅga commentaries appear to be written only in Sanskrit or vernacular languages, not in Prakrit. Nevertheless, commentary activities have helped to ensure that the Upāṅga scriptures have been passed down to present generations.

Number and status

The Upāṅgas total 12 but there is some confusion regarding texts number 5 and 7, which deal with related topics on astral bodies.

According to tradition, each Upānga is connected with a specific Aṅga, either because they have common themes or because they supplement each other. This connection, however, is far from obvious in all the pairings.

Twelve Upāṅgas of the Śvetāmbara canon

Number

Name in Prakrit

Name in Sanskrit

Rough translation

Connection with Aṅgas

1

Uvavāiya-sutta

Aupapātika-sūtra

‘Places of rebirth’ – uvavāiya – according to one’s deeds, dealt with in the second part

1. Ācārānga-sūtra

2

Rāya-paseṇaijja or Rāyapaseṇiya

Rāja-praśnīya

Questions of the king

3

Jīvājīvābhigama

Jīvājīvābhigama

Classification of animate and inanimate entities

4

Pannavaṇā

Prajñāpanā

Enunciation on topics of philosophy and ethics

5. Vyākhyā-prajñapti

5

Sūriya-pannatti

Sūrya-prajñapti

Exposition on the sun

6

Jambūdvīpa-pannatti

Jambūdvīpa-prajñapti

Exposition on the Jambū continent and the Jain universe

7

Canda-pannatti

Candra-prajñapti

Exposition on the moon and the Jain universe

8

Nirayāvaliyāo or Kappiya

Narakāvalikā

Series of stories on characters reborn in hells

9

Kappāvaḍaṃsiāo

Kalpāvataṃsikāḥ

Series of stories on characters reborn in the kalpa heavens

10

Pupphiāo

Puṣpikāḥ

‘Flowers’ refers to one of the stories

11

Puppha-cūliāo

Puṣpa-cūlikāḥ

Title based on the name of the nun Puṣpacūlā

12

Vaṇhi-dasāo

Vṛṣṇi-daśāh

Stories on characters from the legendary dynasty known as Andhaka-Vṛṣṇi

The Upāṅgas are regarded as both subordinate and secondary to the Aṅgas, which make up the primary category in the Śvetāmbara scriptures. However, by referring frequently to other works in these two groups, these texts rely on the reader’s familiarity with all of the Aṅgas and Upāṅgas to fully understand each one. The two sets of closely connected scriptures must therefore be considered as forming a larger network of writings.

Similarly, there are intertextual relations between certain Upāṅgas, which borrow passages from one another or include similar passages.

Teaching through dialogue and stories

Indrabhūti Gautama in a painting from a 15th-century Śvetāmbara manuscript. The chief disciple of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, Gautama is an important Jain figure and features in many scriptures and tales.

Indrabhūti Gautama
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The literary forms of the dialogue and question-and-answer format have important places in the Upāṅgas. Even though these literary approaches may be formalised, their frequent use immerses the reader directly in the issues being debated. They also highlight the significance of oral transmission in spreading the teachings of the Jinas.

The Upāṅgas present Mahāvīra as the main teacher. These texts show him replying to questions asked by his first disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama. Gautama’s curiosity has no boundaries and he always seems eager to know the whys behind what he sees. This format is used extensively in nearly all the Upāṅgas.

One of the best instances of an exchange with arguments and counter-arguments is the Rāja-praśnīya. The second part features a king and a Jain monk debating the topics of body and soul.

The Upāṅgas numbered 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 are predominantly narrative. Although the central part of Number 2 is a philosophical dialogue, it also has a narrative setting and is a conversion story. Mahāvīra gives explanations and details about previous and future rebirths of the characters in answer to questions from his disciple.

Contents of the Upāṅgas

The 12 Upāṅgas demonstrate a wide range of literary approaches to passing on the key Jain beliefs. Most of the texts use the framework of Mahāvīra’s universal gathering to open a discussion on the karmas that determine the types of bodies a soul inhabits and its experiences during the cycle of rebirth. The form tends to have the Jina’s main chief disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama, asking questions about attendees at the universal gathering. Then his master answers, describing their behaviour in past lives and predicting the course of future births. Mahāvīra may tell stories or parables or recount dialogues within this literary frame.

This device allows Mahāvīra to discuss more specific aspects of these Jain concepts, including ascetic behaviour and rebirth, and the relationship between body and soul. This issue is famously explored in the second part of the second Upāṅga, the Rāja-praśnīya. This tale features a dialogue between the King Pradeśi with the monk Keśi, who eventually persuades the king of the true doctrine. The main topics that Mahāvīra discusses are concerned with the cycle of rebirth and karma. The final Upāṅga features a different teaching Jina. Here it is the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭanemi or Lord Nemi, who answers the questions of his main disciple Varadatta on rebirth and karma.

Another theme that features heavily in the Upāṅgas is the Jain universe, which is also closely connected to the transmigration of souls. Important works on astronomy and philosophy contain a high level of detail while the first text can be thought of as a source book of literary descriptions that are found elsewhere in the Śvetāmbara scriptures. Large parts of a key work in Jain philosophy, the fourth Upāṅga, PrajñāpanāEnunciation – are identical to passages in the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama, one of the two chief scriptures of the Digambara canon.

Information on other subjects is also found in the Upāṅgas. Detailed descriptions of architectural features, dramatic performances, music and education form important passages in the works.

Upāṅga 1 – source-book of descriptions

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)

The first Upāṅga – known as Uvavāiya-sutta in Prakrit, Aupapātika-sūtra in Sanskrit – is divided into three sections.

The first is called ‘Samavasaraṇa’ and provides full details of everything connected with Mahāvīra’s universal gathering in the city of Campā, in eastern India. It is a source-book for standard patterns of description, which are often referenced in other parts of the Śvetāmbara scriptures. These descriptions are in canonical prose, characterised by long compound words and stereotyped formulas. Among the main topics of description are:

  • the city of Campā
  • the open sacred place – ceiya – its garden and main tree
  • the king and the queen
  • a report of Mahāvīra’s body from head to toe, describing all the auspicious physical marks of a Jina’s body – lakṣaṇas
  • the various categories of ascetics who assemble to attend the preaching, which leads to descriptions of related notions, such as ascetics’ special powers and a standard account of asceticism as both external and internal, the former concerned with fasting and other penances relating to food while internal penances are atonements, respectful attitude, service to others, study, meditation and rejection of the body in the kāyotsarga posture
  • the four main classes of gods – Bhavanavāsins, Vyantaras, Jyotiṣkas and Vaimānikas
  • King Kūṇika’s journey to the preaching place, including a list and sketch of the eight auspicious symbols.

The second section deals with the spontaneous birth of gods or hell-beings, technically known as upapāta. This is the title of this section. Mahāvīra deals at length with Indrabhūti Gautama's questions on matters relating to the modes and places of rebirths of various types of beings. These rebirths depend on how one behaved in the former existence. Among the types of people considered are those who observe vows, hermits in the forest and initiated ascetics. This exposition includes a review of categories of non-Jain ascetics – parivrājaka – and their scriptures. They are Brahmins who believe in the authority of Vedic scriptures. Then comes the story of Ambaḍa, one of these ascetics, and questions about his rebirth, as well as about the rebirth of other kinds of ascetics.

The very final section of the text deals with ‘explosive annihilation of karmas’ – samudghāta – which leads to the abode of final emancipationsiddhi.

Upāṅga 2 – relationship between body and soul

This manuscript painting depicts the gods' lives of enjoyment in the heavens. The costly furnishings, jewels and rich clothing of the beautiful gods underline the pleasures of the topmost of the three worlds of Jain cosmology.

Heavenly pleasures
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The general frame of the Rāya-paseṇaijjaor Rāyapaseṇiya in PrakritRāja-praśnīya in Sanskrit – is that of numerous stories. The second Upāṅga follows a character through his three rebirths.

The setting of the tale is, again, Mahāvīra’s universal gathering. A god named Suryābha arrives there, displaying his celestial powers and staging before him 32 types of dramas. He then returns to his abode for his coronation ceremony. Wondering about the cause of such powers, Indrabhūti Gautama asks Mahāvīra about their origin.

The Jina narrates the god’s previous existence, when he was King Pradeśi – also called Paesi or Prasenajit. The king has wrong views about the relationship between the body and the soul, which he expresses during talks with the monk Keśi, a chief disciple of the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva. Later on, Pradeśi becomes convinced by Keśi’s views, takes the vows of a Jain lay man, fasts unto death and is then reborn as the god Sūryābha.

In answer to Gautama’s next question about Sūryābha’s future destiny, Mahāvīra explains that he will be reborn as a son in a prosperous family living in the Mahā-videha. Because of his resolute faith in Jainism, he will have the name Dṛḍha-pratijña – ‘who is firm in his resolution’. He will have a perfect education but, instead of living the life of a wealthy youth, he will give up worldly life, become a monk, lead the life of a perfect ascetic, become omniscient and finally be emancipated.

In the first part of the Rāja-praśnīya there are lengthy descriptions of the celestial vehicle – vimāna – Suryābha uses to descend from his heavenly abode to the earth. This vehicle resembles a town. Hence, this part of the work is important for all the architectural data it includes, as all the parts of this vimāna, from the gates to the temples, pillars and platforms are described precisely.

In this part, there is also technical information about dramatic performances and music, whereas the third part of the work provides information about the subjects taught in education.

Dialogue between Pradeśi and Keśi

The second part of the Rāja-praśnīya is the central one. It stages the dialogue of King Pradeśi with the monk Keśi on the relationship between the body and the soul. The king argues that body and soul are identical. He is presented ‘as a kind of naïve empiricist’ (Dundas 2002: 94), who puts forward cruel and extreme tests he has carried out personally to support his point. For instance,

my city guards brought me a thief, [his hands] tied behind his neck, and together with him witnesses, stolen goods and a garland. I had that man thrown alive into a metal vessel, had it covered with a metal lid, had it soldered together with [the same] metal and tin, and watched by men loyal to me. Then some time later I went where the metal vessel stood, had it opened, saw that man myself, but [there was] no fissure, opening, hole or crack whatsoever in that metal vessel, from where his soul from within had escaped outside. Now if, Venerable Sir, in this metal vessel there had been a fissure […], from where his soul from within had escaped outside, then I might believe, put my faith in, approve of [the teaching of the Jains] that the soul and the body are different

Bollée 2005: 113–114

Among Pradeśi’s other experiments several others involve thieves. Examples include:

  • a thief who weighs the same when alive and dead, showing that the soul has not left the body on death
  • the corpse of a dead thief that is cut into whatever number of pieces does not show anything other than bits of flesh.

On another occasion, the king takes the example of a young person and an old person. He asserts that the old person does not have the same capacities as the young one. According to him, this proves that the body is the only active factor in the process and that therefore body and soul are the same.

The monk Keśi replies to Pradeśi’s points using comparisons that show the body is only a vessel. Considering the thief’s constant weight, he reminds the king that there is no change in the weight of a leather bag before and after it has been inflated with air. In the case of the young and old, he uses that of a basket. Someone cannot carry a heavy load of iron in an old basket, but is able to do so with a new one.

The discussion goes on because the king considers the comparisons, clever though they are, are not factual. The situations he describes can be observed by one’s own eyes, which he believes makes them more valid.

Finally, the king is convinced by the comparison Keśi uses to argue that the soul contracts and expands to fit the body in which it is located. Keśi states that the soul of the smallest insect – a kunthu – and the largest animal – the elephant – are the same size. He compares the souls of these two very different physical beings with a lamp, which can brighten a small or large space depending on whether it is in a basket, a pot, a room and so on. The monk also explains that there are things that can be seen only by omniscient beings (Dundas 2002: 94).

Upāṅga 3 – understanding living and non-living

This painting from a manuscript depicts examples of plants and two-sensed beings. Throughout the cycle of birth, a soul takes birth in different types of body according to the karma that has stuck to it. Beings can be classed according to their senses.

Plants and two-sensed beings
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Employing the question-and-answer format, the third Upāṅga is divided into nine sections – pratipattis. The Jīvājīvābhigama deals with the animate and the inanimate, more with the former than with the latter. Living beings are considered from all possible angles, such as beings classified:

  • as going through the cycle of rebirths and those who are fully liberated
  • according to the number of senses they have, ranging from one to five
  • depending on their mode of rebirth – hell-beings, animals or plants, humans, gods
  • according to their capacities of cognition, self-control, salvation, activity, colours of their soulsleśyā – and other parameters.

Upāṅga 4 – encyclopaedia of Jain philosophy

The PrajñāpanāEnunciation – is ‘a master-piece of Jaina philosophy’ (Kapadia 1941: 139). The fourth Upāṅga goes with the fifth Aṅga, the Vyākhyā-prajñapti, which incorporates some parts of it. Cross-references in the two works are an additional sign of their connection. It also shares a lot of content with the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama, one of the fundamental scriptures of the Digambara canon.

The fourth Upāṅga is organised into 36 sections called padas, defined by a heading term that is highly technical. This table mostly reproduces the translations given in Nagin J. Shah’s English introduction to Muni Puṇyavijaya’s 1972 edition of the Prajñāpanā.

Titles of the Prajñāpanā’s 36 sections

Section number

Section title

English meaning

1

Prajñāpanā

Classes of living substance and non-living substance

2

Sthāna

Dwelling places of living beings

3

Bahu-vaktavyatā

Relative numerical strength of living beings and of non-living substances

4

Sthiti

Lifespan of living beings

5

Viśeṣa

Classes and modes of living and non-living substances

6

Vyutkrānti

Transmigration of a living being from one class to another

7

Ucchvāsa

Breathing of living beings

8

Saṃjñā

Signs or instincts of living beings

9

Yoni

Birthplaces of different classes of living beings

10

Carama

Discussion of the caramaacarama features of all substances
This refers to the positions of substances, whether they are parts or totalities and thus can be defined only in relative terms.

11

Bhāṣā

On spoken language (Poddar 2010)

12

Śarīra

Bodies of living beings

13

Pariṇāma

On transformation (or change)

14

Kaṣāya

On passions

15

Indriya

On sense-organs

16

Prayoga

Activity of the soul

17

Leśyā

Colour indexes to temperament

18

Kāya-sthiti

Period of continuous persistence of one mode – ‘the minimum and maximum periods for which one individual substance can continuously belong to a particular class from among so many possible in its case’ (Nagin Shah, page 355).

19

Samyaktva

Religious faith

20

Antakriyā

Activity that causes the end of the present birth, whether it leads to another birth or to final liberation

21

Avagāhana-sthāna

Bodily structure and size

22

Kriyā

On the notion of activity and its various understandings from different perspectives, in Jainism and in other schools. Effect of activity, quality of activity – right or wrong and so on

23

Karma

Categories of karma

24

Karma-bandha

Formation of karma

25

Karma-veda

Feeling of karmas

26

Veda-bandha

Binding as sensation

27

Veda-vedaka

Sensation

28

Āhāra

On feeding

29

Upayoga

Cognitive activity of living beings

30

Darśanatā

Seeing

31

Saṃjñā

Faculty of consciousness

32

Ssaṃyama

Grades of moral discipline

33

Avadhi

Clairvoyance

34

Pravicāraṇā

Sexual behaviour

35

Vedanā

Feelings

36

Samudghāta

‘Explosive annihilation of karmas’ (Schubring 1962: 100)

Upāṅgas 5, 6 and 7 – cosmological works

This manuscript painting depicts the mountain ranges of Niṣadha and Nīlavanta, which mark the northern and southern boundaries of Mahāvideha. Part of the central continent of Jambū-dvīpa in the middle world, Mahāvideha has 32 provinces.

Niṣadha and Nīlavanta mountain ranges
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The titles of the fifth, sixth and seventh Upāṅgas suggest they deal with the topics they specify, as follows:

  • Sūrya-prajñaptiExplanations of the Sun
  • Candra-prajñaptiExplanations of the Moon
  • Jambūdvīpa-prajñaptiExplanations of the Jambū-dvīpa.

But this is not the case. The moon and the sun are both explored in the first two works, which are almost identical. The third scripture does, however, discuss the central continent of the Jain universe.

The fifth Upāṅga – the Sūrya-prajñapti – has been regarded as an ancient work of importance for the history of the development of Indian astronomy. It contrasts the view of ‘some’ people with the true teaching – ‘on the contrary, we say so’ (Schubring 1962: 100). The most detailed analysis of its highly technical contents is provided in Schubring 1962: 101–103. Among its topics are the:

  • sun’s movements
  • amount of space the sun illuminates
  • length of the shadow
  • notions relating to the lunar calendar – bright and dark half of the month depending on the phase of the moon, lunar days, types of years – solar or lunar – and so on.

The second part of the work details the particulars of stars and constellations.

Called theJambūdvīpa-prajñapti, the seventh Upāṅga can be regarded as the first of a long tradition of Śvetāmbara scriptures describing the Jain universe, particularly of its central continent, the Jambū-dvīpa. It is divided into seven chapters:

Chapters of the Jambūdvīpa-prajñapti

Chapter number

Chapter contents

1

General description of Jambū-dvīpa, where the land of Bharata is located.

2

Time in Bharata:

For example in the third period of the descending cycle, those who maintain law and order are the patriarchs – kulakaras. The last of them, Nābhi, has a son Ṛṣabha, who becomes a Jina. His life is narrated in terms close to those in the Kalpa-sūtra. An important passage describes the collection of physical remains after the Jina’s death and the construction of a kind of memorial.

3

Description of the land of Bharata and the life story of King Bharata, the first universal monarch – cakravartin. His progressive conquest of the world is narrated at length. The king acquires the 14 jewels – ratna – and the nine treasures – nidhi – that are typical of this status.

4

Descriptions of other parts of Jambū-dvīpa, such as:

  • mountain ranges
  • lakes
  • rivers
  • forests
  • Mount Meru and its three terraces.

5

How a newborn Tīrthaṃkara is honoured by deities, especially the goddesses of the directions – dik-kumārīs. The report of the groups of deities who come for the event is similar to the retinue of god Sūryābha as described in the second Upānga, the Rāja-praśnīya (Alsdorf 1947).

6

Statistical survey of the geographical details of Jambū-dvīpa.

7

Astronomical matters, such as details of:

  • suns
  • moons
  • divisions of time
  • constellations
  • names of planets.

Upāṅgas 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 – story scriptures

Upāṅgas numbering 8 to 12 form a group of connected texts, which are presented as five sections of a single work. They all deal with stories of rebirths, recounting tales of births in the hells – in number 8 – to the highest heavens – number 12.

Upāṅga 8 – Narakāvalikā

In this manuscript painting, hellish beings endure some of the tortures of the lower world, such as being attacked by animals or other hell-beings. Suffering is a big part of living in the lower world of the three worlds of the Jain universe. Souls who ha

Infernal tortures
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The eighth Upāṅga contains ten stories. According to the usual pattern in Jain story collections, only the first one is narrated in detail. The others are identical, except for changes in character names and minor details.

The setting is Magadha in eastern India, as the protagonists are the ten sons of King Śreṇika and their mothers. Characters who are part of the Śreṇika family, such as Kūṇika, Cellanā, Abhaya-kumāra, are also present. The prevalent atmosphere is one of death and tragedy because the story is that of an enormous battle, in which Śreṇika’s sons by different mothers are killed. They are fighting on the side of Kūṇika in his war against King Cetaka of Vaishali.

The 24th Jina Mahāvīra features in the stories as the teacher who explains the future destinies of the sons. All will be reborn in the fourth hell as a consequence of their aggressive behaviour – hence the title of the work, which means ‘Series of Hells’. They will then be born in the Mahā-videha area of the Jain universe and from there will reach emancipation.

The previous births of the characters form an important part of the text. Mahāvīra narrates them as explanations for the present situation.

Upāṅga 9 – Kalpāvataṃsikā

Pairs of gods enjoying lives of pleasure in the heavens are shown in this manuscript painting. The ornate furnishings and flowers, and the deities' jewels and rich clothing emphasise the luxury of living in the highest of the three worlds of Jain cosmolog

Pairs of gods in their heavenly palaces
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The ten stories in the ninth Upāṅga feature King Śreṇika’s grandsons.

After listening to Mahāvīra’s teaching, they all enter the monastic life. They are exemplary ascetics, following the rules and practising austerities. Mahāvīra predicts that, as a consequence, they will be reborn deities in ten out of the 12 lower heavens – the kalpas – hence the title of the work. Next they will be reborn in the Mahā-videha and reach emancipation.

Upāṅga 10 – Puṣpikā

This painting from a manuscript shows the Jyotiṣka gods. Astral bodies such as the suns – sūrya – and moons – candra – make up the third class of gods. These luminous bodies cast light over the middle world of humans.

Jyotiṣka gods
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The tenth Upāṅga comprises ten stories about:

  • planetary gods – the Jyotiṣkas – such as the moon, sun and Venus
  • other gods such as Maṇibhadra
  • various goddesses.

All these deities have come to pay their respects to Mahāvīra and display their grandeur through dramatic performances.

In answer to Indrabhūti Gautama’s questions about their past births, Mahāvīra describes their behaviour in previous lives. Some of these past lives were during the period of the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva. During these past lives, they were good lay men who later became monks and practised austerities. Some had a more complicated story, adopting the Jain lay man’s code of conduct, then falling into unorthodox practices, then returning to proper Jain conduct. An example of this course of events is the Brahmin Somila, described in chapter 3. The eventful story of the goddess Bahuputrikā, who was obsessed by children, is found in chapter 4. When she became a nun, she suffered from having no children so, despite monastic rules, took care of them, had fun with them and so on. In her next birth, therefore, she suffered from having too many children, who were troublesome.

Four out of the ten protagonists were imperfect human beings, because they did not perform repentance for their transgressions – pratikramaṇa – before the ultimate hour of death, or did not atone for their sins. Thus their minds were not purified.

Upāṅga 11 – Puṣpacūlikā

The ten stories in the 11th Upāṅga feature ten goddesses, such as Śrī, Hrī and Dhṛti. As usual, only the first account is detailed while the other tales are identical except for changes of names and locations.

Mahāvīra tells Indrabhūti Gautama about the goddesses’ past births, which took place at the time of the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva. They were unmarried ladies who became nuns after hearing Pārśva’s teaching. They all became the disciples of a nun named Puṣpacūlikā, to whom Pārśva had entrusted them. But all of the junior nuns demonstrated forbidden behaviour, showing too much concern for bodily care and stylishness. They died without atoning and were reborn as goddesses.

Upāṅga 12 – Vṛṣṇidaśā

This illustration from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript depicts some of the qualities of a 'true monk', a perfect ascetic

The 'true monk'
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The final Upāṅga contains 12 stories. As usual, only the first one is detailed.

The stories follow characters from the Vṛṣṇi clan, chiefly Kṛṣṇa. This clan is associated with western India and the town of Dvāravatī, alias Dvārakā, the setting of this text. Mount Raivataka – or Mount Girnar – is described as well.

All of the protagonists are princes leading opulent lives who are later initiated as monks. They become perfect ascetics, are reborn as gods, then as human princes, then as gods in the Sarvātha-siddha heaven, which is the highest one, before reaching emancipation.

Here the teaching Jina, who narrates the past and future destinies of the characters, is the 22nd, Ariṣṭanemi. The intrigued monk who questions the Jina is his first disciple, Varadatta.

Commentaries

This manuscript painting shows perfect beings that have been liberated from the cycle of birth and some of the ways of reaching liberation. The exalted status of the liberated souls in the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is stressed by their ornate parasols.

Perfect beings and paths to liberation
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Like the Aṅgas, the Upāṅgas have generated numerous commentaries. But not all commentary forms have been used for them, in contrast with the Aṅgas. There are neither Prakrit verse commentaries nor Prakrit prose commentaries for the Upāṅgas. The only available type of commentary is the Sanskrit prose commentary. These come in the ṭīkā, vṛtti and dīpikā types, written from the 11th century onwards.

The best-known commentator to use these forms is Abhayadeva, who lived in the 11th century. He commented upon nine of the Aṅgas and on some Upāṅgas as well.

Malayagiri is another teacher who specialised in writing commentaries on various groups of Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, including the Upāṅgas. He lived in the 12th century. Though later authors refer to his commentaries on the Upāṅgas, it seems that none of them are extant.

At a later stage, from the 15th century onwards, commentaries on the Upāṅgas written in the vernacular languages were produced. Perhaps the most common language used for these ṭabos or bālāvabodhas is Old Gujarati. Among the specialist commentary authors in this period are the 16th-century monastic teacher Pārśva-candra-sūri and teachers in his monastic group, the Pārśva-candra-gaccha.

Main commentaries on the 12 Upāṅgas

Prakrit title

Sanskrit commentary

1

Uvavāiya-sutta

by Abhayadeva

2

Rāya-paseṇaijja

by Abhayadeva

3

Jīvājīvābhigama

by Abhayadeva

4

Pannavaṇā

by Malayagiri

5

Sūriya-pannatti

by Haribhadra in the 8th century, then by Malayagiri

6

Jambūdvīpa-pannatti

by Malayagiri

7

Canda-pannatti

by Śānticandra, composed in 1603 CE
earlier commentary by Malayagiri referred to by some Jain authors but this is not available

8

Nirayāvaliyāo, also known as Kappiya

by Śrīcandra in the 12th century

9 to 12

 

by Śrīcandra in the 12th century

Such commentaries are essential in ensuring the survival of the Upāṅgas over the centuries. Scholarly writers have explained, interpreted and argued over the contents of the scriptures since they were first written down nearly two thousand years ago. This lively tradition has guaranteed that the holy teachings have been constantly debated since the earliest times of the Jain faith.

Images

  • Indrabhūti Gautama Indrabhūti Gautama in a painting from a 15th-century Śvetāmbara manuscript. The chief disciple of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, Gautama is an important Jain figure and features in many scriptures and tales.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Mahāvīra and the universal gathering 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 describes the special building from which the Jina delivers his sermon, built by the gods. This has doors in the four directions so his message spreads to all corners of the earth. During the universal gathering natural enemies are at peace, demonstrated by the pairs of animals.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Heavenly pleasures This manuscript painting depicts the gods' lives of enjoyment in the heavens. The costly furnishings, jewels and rich clothing of the beautiful gods underline the pleasures of the topmost of the three worlds of Jain cosmology. Though the souls born as gods in the upper world have lives of ease and enjoyment, they are still bound in the cycle of rebirth. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Plants and two-sensed beings This painting from a manuscript depicts examples of plants and two-sensed beings. Throughout the cycle of birth, a soul takes birth in different types of body according to the karma that has stuck to it. In traditional Jain cosmology, beings can be classed according to the number of senses they have. Plants are single-sensed beings, while snails have two senses.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Niṣadha and Nīlavanta mountain ranges This manuscript painting depicts the mountain ranges of Niṣadha and Nīlavanta, which mark the northern and southern boundaries of Mahāvideha. Part of the central continent of Jambū-dvīpa in the middle world where human beings live, Mahāvideha has 32 provinces.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Infernal tortures In this manuscript painting, hellish beings endure some of the tortures of the lower world, such as being attacked by animals or other hell-beings. Suffering is a big part of living in the lower world of the three worlds of the Jain universe. Souls who have been born into bodies in the seven hells suffer according to their karma, which is mainly decided by their bad behaviour in previous lives. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Pairs of gods in their heavenly palaces Pairs of gods enjoying lives of pleasure in the heavens are shown in this manuscript painting. The ornate furnishings and flowers, and the deities' jewels and rich clothing emphasise the luxury of living in the highest of the three worlds of Jain cosmology. Though the souls born as gods in the upper world have pleasurable lives, they are still bound in the cycle of rebirth.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Jyotiṣka gods This painting from a manuscript shows the Jyotiṣka gods. Astral bodies such as the suns – sūrya – and moons – candra – make up the third class of gods. These luminous bodies cast light over the middle world of humans, one of the three worlds in Jain cosmology. They constantly move around, so their light is always changing.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • The 'true monk' This illustration from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript depicts some of the qualities of a 'true monk', a perfect ascetic. The largest figure of a Śvetāmbara monk is the teacher, sitting on a dais. He discusses doctrine with his pupils, who show him due deference. Below stand two monks in the kāyotsarga meditation pose, one of the six obligatory actions each monk and nun must complete each day. Performing meditation is one of the internal austerities that helps burn karma and encourages spiritual progress.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Perfect beings and paths to liberation This manuscript painting shows perfect beings that have been liberated from the cycle of birth and some of the ways of reaching liberation. The exalted status of the liberated souls – siddha – in the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is stressed by their ornate parasols, which symbolise royalty. Below, on earth, Śvetāmbara monks demonstrate some methods of progressing spiritually to enlightenment and then liberation, such as meditation and learning the scriptures.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Further Reading

‘Further Contributions to the History of Jain Cosmography and Mythology ’
Ludwig Alsdorf
Kleine Schriften
edited by Albrecht Wezler
Glasenapp Stiftung series; volume 10
Franz Steiner Verlag GmbH; Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany; 1974

Full details

Jaina Studies: Their Present State and Future Tasks
Ludwig Alsdorf
translated by Bal Patil
edited by Willem Bollée
Hindi Granth Karyalay; Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2006

Full details

‘Les lecteurs jaina śvetāmbara face à leur canon’
Nalini Balbir
Ecrire et transmettre en Inde classique
edited by Gérard Colas and Gerdi Gerschheimer
Études thématiques series; volume 23
École Française d’Extrême Orient; Paris; 2009

Full details

‘On the role and meaning of the Śvetāmbara canon in the history of Jainism’
Nalini Balbir
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Jaina Law
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 4
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2013 – forthcoming

Full details

‘Old texts, new images: Illustrating the Śvetāmbara Jain Āgamas today’
Nalini Balbir
In the Shadow of the Golden Age
edited by Julia A. B. Hegewald
University of Bonn Press; Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany; 2012

Full details

The Story of King Paesi (Paesi-Kahāṇayaṃ) or Soul and Body in Ancient India: A Dialogue on Materialism in Ancient India
Willem B. Bollée
Hindi Granth Karyalay; Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2005

Full details

‘Das Kanonproblem bei den Jainas’
Klaus Bruhn
Kanon und Zensur
edited by Aleida Assman and Jan Assman
Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation series; volume II
Wilhelm Fink Verlag; Munich, Germany; 1987

Full details

In Search of the Original Ardhamāgadhī
N. M. Kansara
translated by K. R. Chandra
Prākrt̥a Grantha Pariṣad series; volume 35
D. M. Prakrit Text Society; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 2001

Full details

‘The Intellectual Formation of a Jain Monk: A Śvetāmbara Monastic Curriculum’
John E. Cort
Journal of Indian Philosophy
volume 29
2001

Full details

‘Nirayāvalīyasuyakkhandha: Uvanga’s 8-12 van de jaina canon’
Jozef Deleu
Orientalia Gandensis
volume 4
1969

Full details

Āgama suttāṇi
edited by Muni Dīparatnasāgara
Āgama Ārādhanā Kendra; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

‘The Jaina Cult of Relic Stūpas’
Peter Flügel
Numen
volume 57: 3
E. J. Brill; 2010

Full details

Die Sūryaprajñapti: Versuch einer Textgeschichte
Josef Friedrich Kohl
Bonner Orientalistische Studien series; volume 20
W. Kohlhammer; Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany; 1937

Full details

Das Aupapātika-sūtra: erstes Upânga der Jaina
Ernst Leumann
Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes series; volume 8: 2
F. A. Brockhaus; Leipzig, Saxony, Germany; 1883

Full details

The Jaina Path of Purification
Padmanabh S. Jaini
University of California Press; Berkeley, California USA; 1979

Full details

A History of the Canonical Literature of the Jainas
Hiralal Rasikdas Kapadia
Surat, Gujarat, India; 1941

Full details

Āgama Sampādana kī Samasyāeṃ
Yuvācārya Mahāprajña
Jain Vishva Bharati; Ladnun, Rajasthan, India; 1993

Full details

Paṇṇavaṇāsuttaṃ
edited by Muni Puṇyavijaya, Dalsukh Mālvaṇiā and Amritlāl Mohanlāl Bhojak
Jaina Agamas series; volume 9: 1 and 9: 2
Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1971–1972

Full details

‘Jain Concept of Origin and Transmission of Speech (Bhāṣā)’
Ramprakash P. Poddar
Svasti – essays in honour of Prof. Hampa Nagarajaiah for his 75th Birthday
edited by Nalini Balbir
Muddushree Granthamala series; volume 75
K. S. Muddappa Smaraka Trust; Bangalore, Karnataka, India; 2010

Full details

The Doctrine of the Jainas: Described after the Old Sources
Walther Schubring
translated by Wolfgang Bühlen
edited by Satya Ranjan Banerjee
Lala Sunder Lal Jain Research series; volume 15
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2000

Full details

Albrecht Weber’s Sacred Literature of the Jains: An Account of the Jaina Āgamas
Albrecht Weber
translated by H. W. Smyth
edited by Ganesh Chandra Lalwani and Satya Ranjan Banerjee
Jain Bhavan; Calcutta, West Bengal, India; 1999

Full details

Glossary

Aṅga

Literally 'limb' in Sanskrit, Aṅga is a term for the first category of 11 texts that form the Śvetāmbara scriptures. There were originally 12 but the last has been lost for centuries.

Ascetic

Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.

Asceticism

The practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition. Asceticism involves self-denial – for example refusing tasty food or warm clothes – and sometimes self-mortification, such as wearing hair-shirts or whipping oneself.

Auspicious

Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 

Bhavana-vāsin

Sanskrit term meaning the 'Residents of Dwellings'. The class of gods that resides in mansions and lives like princes in the first hell of the Middle World.

Brāhmaṇa

A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.

Commentary

An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:

  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.

Dark fortnight

The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its smallest. It is so dark it is almost invisible.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Dhyāna

Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Doctrine

A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Gaccha

Literally a Sanskrit word for 'tree', gaccha is used by Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak Jains to describe the largest groups of their mendicant lineages. It is often translated as 'monastic group', 'monastic order' or 'monastic tradition'. These groups are formed when some mendicants split from their gaccha because of disagreements over ascetic practices.

Gujarati

The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.

Indrabhūti Gautama

Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.

Initiation

Formal or ceremonial admission into an organisation or group.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jambū-dvīpa

The innermost island-continent in the Middle World, in Jain cosmology. It is divided into seven continents separated by six mountain ranges. It takes its name - 'Rose-Apple Continent' - from a rock formation that resembles a rose-apple tree, which is found on Mount Meru in the centre of the island.

Jina

A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.

Jīva

Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.

Jyotiṣka

The third class of gods, who are the astral or luminous bodies, such as the sun, moons, planets and stars. They live in the middle of the three worlds.

Karma

Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.

Kāyotsarga

'Absence of concern for the body'. This commonly refers to a standing or sitting posture of deep meditation. In the standing position the eyes are concentrated on the tip of the nose and the arms hang loosely by the body. The individual remains unaffected by whatever happens around him.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Kṛṣṇa

One of the best-known avatars of the deity Viṣṇu the preserver, Kṛṣṇa is one of the principal Hindu gods. Since his name means ' dark blue', 'dark' or 'black' in Sanskrit, he is usually depicted with blue or black skin. Often shown as a boy or young man playing a flute, Kṛṣṇa is a hero of the Indian epic, Mahābhārata, and protagonist of the Bhagavad Gītā. Jains believe he is the cousin of Lord Nemi, the 22nd Jina.

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Leśyā

Karmic stain, the colour of which indicates a soul’s degree of purity. There are traditionally six colours:

  • kṛṣṇa – black
  • nīla – blue
  • kāpota – ‘pigeon-colour’, usually grey
  • tejas – ‘fiery’, usually red or yellow
  • padma – ‘lotus colour, usually yellow or pink
  • śukla – white.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Mahā-videha

In Jain cosmology, one of the Lands of Action or karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the middle world of humans. Mahā-videha consists of 32 provinces between the Niṣadha and the Nīla mountain ranges. Thanks to the repetitive nature of Jain cosmology, there are also two Mahā-videhas on each of the continents of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa and Puṣkara-dvīpa.

Mahāvīra

The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Monk

A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Naraka

Hell. There are seven levels of hells in the lower world of Jain cosmology.

Nun

A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Pārśva

The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.

Penance

A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.

Prākrit

A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.

Pratikramaṇa

'Introspection’ in Sanskrit. The elaborate ritual of confession and repentance that involves reciting liturgical texts and performing set gestures at dawn and dusk. It is one of an ascetic's six daily duties – āvaśyaka. For many lay people, pratikramaṇa is the essence of Jainism.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Samavasaraṇa

Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.

Saṃsāra

Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

Scripture

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.

Sin

Breaking a religious or moral principle, especially if this is done deliberately. Sinners commit sins or may sin by not doing something they are supposed to do.

Śrāvaka

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay man, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The feminine form is śrāvikā.

Śrī

Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.

Tapas

Austerity or asceticism in general. A tapas is an act of austerity or self-discipline that produces bodily heat – tapas – that burns up karma. Austerities may be internal – mental – or external – physical. Both lay and mendicant Jains practise austerities. Fasting is the most common external austerity for lay people these days.

Upāṅga

Meaning 'auxiliary limbs', the second group of 12 texts that make up the scriptures of the Śvetāmbara Jains. The Upāṅgas complement the first set of 12 texts, the Aṅgas – 'limbs' in Sanskrit.

Ūrdhva-loka

The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology, the home of the various types of gods.

Vāhana

The vehicle of a Hindu god or goddess. Usually an animal, the vāhana fulfils one or more roles and may:

  • be the deity's emblem
  • symbolise positive attributes associated with the deity
  • represent evil powers over which the god has triumphed
  • help the divinity to perform duties.

The vāhana may also have its own divine powers or be worshipped in its own right.

Vaimānika

Deities in the upper world of the Jain universe, who each have celestial vehicles or mounts. There are 26 in the Śvetāmbara tradition and 39 according to the Digambara sect. There are two types:

  • the kalpopapanna-devas in the lower heavens
  • the kalpātīta-devas in the higher heavens.

Veda

Earliest scriptures of the Hindu faith, which are divided into four collections, all written in verse:

  • Ṛg-veda, often known as the Rigveda in the West
  • Yajur-veda
  • Sāma-veda
  • Atharva-veda.

In tradition, the sage Vyāsa compiled the Vedas. The works were probably composed from roughly 1500 to 1000 BCE, though they were probably first written down around the fifth century of the Common Era. The Vedas and the large body of associated literature capture the mainstream of Indian thought over many centuries.

The term veda – knowledge – is also used for sexual desire or sexual preference. In this sense it is one of the 14 Jain 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Vernacular

The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

Vrata

Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā

Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:

  • aṇu-vratas – 'Five Lesser Vows'
  • guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows
  • śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline

All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders. 

Vyantara

A category of deities that lives between the first hell and the earth. There are eight types of Vyantara. They are the second type of gods and are recognisable by their various symbols.

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