Article: Devarddhi-gaṇi

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Devarddhi-gaṇi is a monk associated with the creation of the Śvetāmbara canon, which is said to have taken place in 453 CE at Valabhī, in Gujarat.

He is generally known by the Sanskrit form of his name, which is Devaḍḍhi or Deviḍḍhi in Prakrit. He is also known as Devavācaka, although it is not certain that both names refer to the same person.

Very little is known about Devarddhi-gaṇi, but later sources link him very strongly to the Śvetāmbara scriptures and to the monastic lineage associated with the Jinas, who are the traditional source of Jain teachings. Devarddhi-gaṇi had a leading role in the process of writing down the Śvetāmbara Āgamas and is venerated in the list of early Jain teachers.

History and legend

Devarddhi-gaṇi is a significant Jain figure because of his crucial role in the final redaction of the Śvetāmbara canon in the fifth century CE. He is sometimes said to be the author of the Kalpa-sūtra as well. But there is no historical information about his life or personality as an individual apart from this. In the texts where his name appears, he is revered only for his knowledge of the tradition.

The term gaṇi originally means ‘leader of a gaṇa’ or group of monks. Devarddhi-gaṇi is often dubbed Kṣamā-śramaṇa – 'patient ascetic' – a respectful title given to Jain religious teachers in old texts. The name Devavācaka is also sometimes given to him, which underlines his role in the Valabhī council. Meaning 'god', deva is the first part of this name while vācaka means ‘the one who recited’ the scriptures.

Some Jain authors hold that Devarddhi-gaṇi is the same person as the Devavācaka who composed the important scripture called the Nandī-sūtra. One well-known example is Devendra-sūri in the 13th century. However, later scholars have contested this assertion.

References in texts

The name of Devarddhi-gaṇi appears on line 2. Devarddhi-gaṇi is a monk believed to have supervised the writing down of the Śvetāmbara canon in the fifth century CE. One of the few texts to mention him is the 'Kalpa-sūtra'.

Praise of Devarddhi-gaṇi
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

Devarddhi-gaṇi is named in several later works as a highly revered Jain teacher. He is explicitly linked to the ‘Kāśyapa gotra’, the most renowned monastic lineage, which is associated with most of the 24 Jinas.

One of the texts that mention him is the Sthavirāvalī, the second section of the Kalpa-sūtra, which is both an account and a praise of all the early Śvetāmbara Jain teachers. The final part is a verse homage to them in the first person, and the last verse celebrates Devarddhi-gaṇi.

sutt’-attha-rayaṇa-bharie
khama-dama-maddava-guṇehi sampanne
Deviḍḍhi-khamāsamaṇe
Kāsava-gotte paṇivayāmi

I revere the Kṣamāśramaṇa Devarddhi of the Kāśyapa gotra, who wears, as it were, the jewel of the right understanding of the Sūtras, and possesses the virtue of patience, self-restraint, and clemency

Kalpa-sūtra, Sthavirāvalī, final verse
Translation by Jacobi 1884: 295

This is the best-known verse about Devarddhi-gaṇi and is found later in the R̥ṣimaṇḍalaprakaraṇa, a verse work in Prakrit praising the most famous Jain teachers of the tradition.

The ‘Kāśyapa gotra’ is one of the most famous monastic lineages associated with Jinas and several early Jain teachers. Of the 23 Jinas who came before Mahāvīra, 21 belonged to this lineage (Kalpa-sūtra, Jina-caritra, verse 2; Jacobi’s translation 1895: 218). Several of the early Jain teachers celebrated in the Sthavirāvalī – 'String of Elders' – were also in this mendicant lineage.

According to some Kalpa-sūtra commentators, the reason why Devarddhi is paid homage to here, at the end of the Sthavirāvalī, is his role in putting the Jina's words into writing (granthāḥ pustakeṣu likhitā, see Jacobi 1879: 114).

Life history

This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript shows a senior monk teaching junior monks. The largest, most important figure is the teacher, sitting on a low dais under an ornate shelter. The other monks raise their hands in respect

Teaching scene
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Very little is known about Devarddhi-gaṇi, as elements which would root him in history are unreliable, disputed or missing.

For example, his birth-place is sometimes given as Vairaval in Saurashtra (Illustrated Shri Nandi Sutra: 53) but no other sources support this.

Scholars debate the name of Devarddhi-gaṇi's religious teacher. For example, in the section of the fifth-century Nandī-sūtra where homage is paid to a number of early teachers, the last name is that of Dūsa-gaṇi, or Dūṣya-gaṇi in Sanskrit. Since Devavācaka is said to be the author of this work, and mendicant writers ended lists of their monastic lineages with their own masters, this suggests that Dūsa-gaṇi was his teacher. But this holds only if it is assumed that Devavācaka and Devarddhi-gaṇi are the same person.

Some writers believe that Devarddhi was initiated by another teacher, known as Lohicca or Lauhitya in Sanskrit (Illustrated Shri Nandi Sutra: 53).

Another view is that Devarddhi was the pupil of Ārya Śāṇḍilya (Puṇyavijaya 1968: English introduction, page 42).

Despite such arguments, nearly all personal information about Devarddhi-gaṇi is lacking.

Devarddhi-gaṇi and Devavācaka

Some writers in the Jain tradition, such as the 13th-century mendicant Devendra-sūri, identify Devarddhi-gaṇi with an author called Devavācaka.

Devavācaka is attributed with authorship of an important canonical text, the Nandī-sūtra, in the Prakrit commentarycūrṇi – on the scripture written in 676 CE. This would mean that Devarddhi-gaṇi composed the Nandī-sūtra.

This view, however, has been challenged by a leading Śvetāmbara monk-scholar, Muni Puṇya-vijaya. He argues that the monastic lineages of the Kalpa-sūtra and the Nandī-sūtra are different, and that two varying spiritual affiliations for one person would be impossible. Muni Puṇya-vijaya thus concludes: ‘To our mind Devavācaka and Devardhi are two different persons’ (1968: English introduction, page 42), and states that ‘Devavācaka composed the Nandi-sūtra before 523 V.S’ (= 566 CE).

Role in writing down the teachings

In this manuscript painting half a dozen monks represent the chief disciples – gaṇadhara – of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. The gaṇadharas orally transmit the Jina's teachings, which pass down the generations until the scriptures are written down.

Disciples of Mahāvīra
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Devarddhi-gaṇi led the final Valabhī council, which produced the Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara sect. This fifth-century recitation was the last meeting to collate and clarify traditional oral teachings, which devotees believe came originally from the Jinas themselves. Later sources disagree about when these councils took place.

The final council was held in Valabhī, Gujarat. It took place ‘980 or 993 years’ after Mahāvīra’s death according to some traditional sources, which is 453 or 466 CE. All the texts comprising the Śvetāmbara canon were written down there. This council is said to have been supervised by the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamā-śramaṇa, who is unanimously associated with it in Śvetāmbara sources.

The final recitation is reported in works written several centuries after the events they describe. A representative account is the one given by Samayasundara, a 17th-century Śvetāmbara teacher belonging to the Kharatara-gaccha monastic order.

Please think over the matter looking at reality: 980 years after Mahāvīra, because of a famine which lasted for 12 years, numerous religious teachers died and knowledgeable people had disappeared. People thought that the Jinas’ teachings should be preserved at all cost and that this preservation depended on the canon for the benefit of generations to come who would be enlightened. Out of devotion for the tradition and at the insistence of the community, Devarddhi-gaṇi summoned to Valabhī all the religious teachers who had survived. From their mouths, he progressively collected as he thought fit all the paragraphs in the Āgamas that had been spared, whether they had something less or more, whether they were lacunary [=had gaps] or not, and put them to writing. Thus after this collecting work, it is Devarddhi-gaṇi who became the author of the totality of the 45 Āgamas, even if, originally, they had been uttered by Mahāvīra’s disciples
(anukrameṇa sva-matyā saṃkalayya pustakārūḍhāḥ kr̥tāḥ, tato mūlato gaṇadhara-bhāṣitānāṃ api tat-saṃkalanāntaraṃ sarveṣāṃ 45 api āgamānāṃ kartā śrī-Devarddhi-gaṇi-kṣamāśramaṇa eva jātaḥ)

Sāmācārīśataka of Samayasundara, page 77b
See also the Sanskrit extract in Jacobi 1879: 117

A passage like this one ascribes a very important responsibility to Devarddhi-gaṇi, as Samayasundara calls him kartā – ‘author’. He goes on to explain that, even though Devarddhi did his best to collect and harmonise the material he got, this did not mean that all inconsistencies or difficulties had been removed. Samayasundara thus admits that there are oddities in the scriptures, which can be explained by the existence of conflicting variants.

Further, there are hints in late commentaries on the Kalpa-sūtra that this work was also put into writing by Devarddhi-gaṇi or even that he was its author (see Sanskrit extracts in Jacobi 1879: 116). However, there is no firm evidence that Devarddhi-gaṇi was involved with writing down or composing this scripture. Such hints may have been a way of associating him with one of the key texts for Śvetāmbara Jains.

Oral transmission of Jain teachings

This śruta-skandha-yantra represents śruta-jñāna – verbal or scriptural knowledge. This second type of knowledge is crucial for spiritual progress as the scriptures record the teachings of the Jinas. The Jina's ‘divine sound' pours down to his follower.

Source of religious knowledge
Image by Romana Klee © CC BY-SA 2.0

All Jains believe that the Jinas provide the original teachings for the Jain faith, especially Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. The Jinas reveal the same essential truths, according to the needs of the society into which they are born. They pass on these principles in speech, beginning the chain of oral transmission. After being passed on for generations by religious leaders known as elders and teachers, these oral teachings are eventually written down, creating the scriptures.

The roots of the different Śvetāmbara and Digambara canons can be traced to the physical split in the Jain community around 300 BCE. Large parts of the teachings had been forgotten already, such as the Pūrvas and the 12th Aṅga, the Dṛṣṭi-vāda, which both sects agree was lost by the fourth century BCE. The group of Jains who can be thought of as ancestors of the Śvetāmbara sect recognised that the famine that drove some Jains south endangered preservation of the tradition. They began to organise official recitations – vācanās – or ‘councils’ to consolidate knowledge of the teachings.

It is clear that each of the main councils was held in a different place and associated with a specific religious teacher. But the time they took place is extremely uncertain. It should be borne in mind that all the accounts which refer to these councils are much later than the events themselves and that there are disagreements between sources as well.

The table shows that there is no unanimous tradition about giving a date or agreement about any dates even when they are provided.

Main recitation councils

Place

Religious teacher

Traditional date

Historical date

Pāṭaliputra, eastern India

Bhadrabāhu

160 years after Mahāvīra ?

3rd century BCE ?

Mathurā, north India

Skandila
(Wiles 2006: 70–71)

837 years after Mahāvīra ?

circa 350 CE ?

Valabhī, Gujarat, western India

Nāgārjuna
(Wiles 2006: 70–71)

827 years after Mahāvīra ?

circa 350 CE ?

Valabhī

Devarddhi-gaṇi or Devavācaka

980 or 993 years after Mahāvīra ?

453 / 466 CE ?
500–525 CE ?

Images

  • Praise of Devarddhi-gaṇi The name of Devarddhi-gaṇi appears on line 2 of this folio. Devarddhi-gaṇi is a monk believed to have supervised the writing down of the Śvetāmbara canon in the fifth century CE, but little is known about him. One of the few texts to mention him is the important Śvetāmbara work of the 'Kalpa-sūtra', in its second section, the Sthavirāvalī. The final part of the Sthavirāvalī praises the early Śvetāmbara Jain teachers, with the last verse celebrating Devarddhi-gaṇi.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Teaching scene This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript shows a senior monk teaching junior monks. The largest, most important figure is the teacher, sitting on a low dais under an ornate shelter. The other monks raise their hands in respect. All dressed in the white robes of the Śvetāmbara sect, the monks hold their mouth-cloths in their hands and their brooms under their arms.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Disciples of Mahāvīra In this manuscript painting half a dozen monks represent the chief disciples – gaṇadhara – of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. The gaṇadharas fully understand the Jina's oral teachings and pass them on to their own followers until they reach omniscience. Jain teachings were memorised and handed down through generations of religious teachers until they were finally written down, creating the Jain scriptures.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Source of religious knowledge This śruta-skandha-yantra represents śruta-jñāna – ‘knowledge of what has been heard’ or verbal or scriptural knowledge. The second type of knowledge, it is crucial for spiritual progress. The scriptures record the teachings of the Jinas, transmitted in the ‘divine sound’ – divya-dhvani. The sculpture shows this pouring down to the Jain follower at the bottom. On the other side is Sarasvatī, goddess of knowledge and learning, who presides over the teaching of the Jinas.. Image by Romana Klee © CC BY-SA 2.0

Further Reading

‘Samayasundara’s Sāmācārī-śataka and Jain Sectarian Divisions in the Seventeenth Century’
Nalini Balbir
Essays in Jaina Philosophy and Religion
edited by Piotr Balcerowicz
Lala Sundara Jain Research series; volume 20
Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, India; 2003

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

'The Kalpa Sûtra of Bhadrabâhu'
Bhadrabāhu
translated and edited by Hermann Jacobi
Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes
Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft series; series editor Otto Loth; volume VII: 1
F. A. Brockhaus; Leipzig, Saxony, Germany; 1879

Full details

Illustrated Shri Nandi Sutra
edited by Pravartak Amar Muni, Devachak Gani, Srichand Surana 'Saras' and Varun Muni 'Amar Shishya'
Illustrated Agam series; volume 7
Padma Prakashan and Shree Diwakar Prakashan; Delhi and Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India; 1998

Full details

'Âkârâṅga Sûtra'
translated and edited by Hermann Jacobi
Jaina Sutras: Âkârâṅga Sûtra and Kalpa Sûtra
Sacred Books of the East series; series editor F. Max Müller; volume 22: 2
Clarendon Press; Oxford, England UK; 1884

Full details

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

Full details

‘On Bhadreśvara’s 'Kahāvalī'’
Dalsukh D. Malvania
Indologica Taurinensia
edited by Nalini Balbir and Colette Caillat
volume 11
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1983

Full details

Nandisuttaṃ and Aṇuogaddārāiṃ
edited by Muni Puṇyavijaya, Dalsukh Mālvaṇiā and Amritlāl Mohanlāl Bhojak
Jaina Agamas series; volume 1
Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1968

Full details

Sāmācārī-śataka
Samayasundara
volume 41
Srī Jinadattasūri Prācīna Pustakoddhāra Fund; Surat, Gujarat, India; 1939

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

‘The Dating of the Jaina Councils: Do Scholarly Presentations Reflect the Traditional Sources?’
Royce Wiles
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Disputes and Dialogues
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 1
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2006

Full details

Glossary

Āgama

Authoritative scriptures. The holy texts that are considered authoritative depend on the group and the period.

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.

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.

Common Era

The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.

Deity

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

Devotee

An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.

Disciple

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

Elder

A term used for a man who is one of those listed in early sources as the direct successors of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina.

Gujarāt

The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.

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.

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.

Kalpa-sūtra

The Book of Ritual attributed to Bhadrabāhu. It has three sections:

  1. 'Jina-caritra' – 'Lives of the Jinas'
  2. 'Sthavirāvalī' – 'String of Elders'
  3. 'Sāmācārī' – 'Right Monastic Conduct'.

A significant sacred text for Śvetāmbara Jains, the Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in the annual Paryuṣaṇ festival.

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.

Kṣamā-śramaṇa

The title used to address the monk who helps perform the ritual during confession and repentance.

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.

Mendicant lineage

Ascetics are initiated into a tradition handed down from a named religious teacher. Religious instructions and principles are passed on orally and in writings from one generation of mendicants to the next, continuing the monastic lineage.

Monastic order

A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.

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.

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.

Pūjā

Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Saṇgha

Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.

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.

Sect

An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.

Sūtra

In common use it refers to any sacred text. However, strictly speaking, it means an extremely concise style of writing, as illustrated in the Tattvārtha-sūtra, or a verse.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Valabhī

The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

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