Article: Prakīrṇaka-sūtras

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.

Topics

This manuscript painting shows the nine planets or celestial elements – navagraha. The sun – sūrya – is in the middle and around him revolve the planets. The panel on the left shows the moon in his chariot. Below him are Ketu and Rāhu, who cause eclipses.

The nine celestial elements
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Mostly, the Prakīrṇakas do not repeat what is found in other categories of the Śvetāmbara canon. Rather, certain texts in this group single out and deal extensively with topics or trends found in other Śvetāmbara scriptures that are not developed there. Examples include:

  • fasting unto death
  • medical knowledge
  • subjects relating to divination or predictions.

Mentioned in the Aṅgas and Upāṅgas, these themes are treated more systematically in several Prakīrṇakas. Thus the Prakīrṇaka writings are kinds of supplements. Other subjects are also covered in some detail in other Śvetāmbara scriptures, such as:

One Prakīrṇaka – the Ṛṣi-bhāṣitāni – is unique among the holy writings. Using both poetry and prose, it is made up of a number of individual works. Of disputed age, it shares some elements with Buddhist texts and the Hindu Upaniṣads.

The contents of many of the Prakīrṇakas show that they are directed explicitly or implicitly at the Jain ascetic rather than the Jain lay man. This is particularly true of the works that deal with the predominantly mendicant practice of fasting to death.

Fasting to death

This manuscript painting shows two monks fasting to death – sallekhanā – under the supervision of a monastic teacher. The teacher or mentor is present throughout the ritual, overseeing the stages of penance and renunciation that end in the 'sage's death'.

Fasting unto death
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Several Prakīrṇakas are concerned with the theme of fasting to death. A theologically important notion, it is honoured among Jains as a profound expression of faith and spirituality. Though it is touched on in various writings of the Śvetāmbara canon, fasting to death is discussed in detail in some of the Prakīrṇakas.

This ritual practice is mentioned or described in several passages of the Aṅgas, the primary class of Śvetāmbara scriptures. It is the recommended final stage of a pious religious life, as seen in many canonical stories found in the eighth and ninth Aṅgas. The pattern story is that of Khandaga Kaccāyana, a brahmin converted to Jainism, whose life story is narrated in the fifth Aṅga – the Vyākhyā-prajñapti.  Examples of ascetics fasting to death are more numerous, but the seventh Aṅga – the Upāsaka-daśā – which is concerned only with Jain lay men, show that they can also decide to die this way.

This subject has become crucial to Jain identity. A number of Prakīrṇakas deal with it at length, principally the:

  • Ātura-pratyākhyāna in its various versions
  • Bhakta-parijñā
  • Mahā-pratyākhyāna
  • Maraṇa-samādhi or Maraṇa-vibhakti
  • Saṃstāraka.

Although they vary in length, these texts are closely interrelated and occasionally borrow material from each other, so that the boundary between them is rather thin. Some of them seem to focus rather on the monk, while others also include the lay man in their coverage of the ritual.

These Prakīrṇakas turn around the notion conveyed by the Prakrit term ārāhaṇā and the Sanskrit term ārādhanā – ‘reaching the goal’ – by resorting to ‘the ‘wise [one]’s death’ – paṇḍita-maraṇa. The person who strives for this goal is an ārādhaka. Such texts thus form a Śvetāmbara counterpart to the Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, a Digambara work written in Śaurasenī Prakrit. Its lengthy discussion of the topic has produced a range of story books centring around the names of saints mentioned in its verses.

These Prakīrṇakas share several common themes regarding fasting to death. Also called the ‘wise one’s death’, this ritual has significant spiritual and mental dimensions, which are crucial for the process to be considered a proper performance of the ritual.

Details of the ritual

This manuscript painting shows examples of 'the fool’s death' – bāla-maraṇa – or suicide. Various methods of suicide are colourfully illustrated here, including hanging, poisoning and jumping from a high place.

Suicide – the fool’s death
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

These five Prakīrṇakas explain at length the main points relating to the ritual of the ‘sage’s death’.

Firstly, fasting to death – paṇḍita-maraṇa – is presented as the opposite of ‘the fool’s death’ – bāla-maraṇa. The former is the result of a decision taken in full consciousness and is the final step in a long practice and training in pious life, whether as a monk or lay man. The terms parijñā and samādhi in two of the titles point to a decision taken with awareness and concentration. The Sanskrit term samādhi-maraṇa is also used to refer to this type of death. The fool’s death, on the contrary, covers various forms of suicide, the result of being subject to passions or delusion.

Secondly, a mendicant may choose this type of death when his or her physical capacities weaken with incurable illness, great age or other circumstances. The Ātura-pratyākhyāna specifies irremediable sickness as a possible reason. The reasons for choosing the sage’s death given in the Prakīrṇakas are slightly different from what one reads in the first Aṅga of the Śvetāmbara canon. The Ācārāṅga states that external conditions should not be motivating factors in this decision.

Thirdly, in order to be achieved fully, the sage’s death needs careful preparation. This requires the assistance of a teacher or mentor of some sort. He is present throughout the full process, from when the mendicant proclaims his decision until the last instant.

Next, the faster must complete certain prerequisites before beginning the ritual, including:

  • giving up worldly pleasures
  • victory over sense organs – that is, not being ruled by the senses
  • observing proper conduct
  • enduring all hardships
  • giving up attachments of all sorts.
  • restating mendicant or lay vows.

Hence the texts often include stanzas describing the ‘three jewels’ of Jain doctrine:

The Prakīrṇakas also pay homage to the Five Entities – Pañca-parameṣṭhins – who illustrate these qualities in the best way.

Fifthly, the practitioner must prepare mentally. It is vital that the faster is totally cleansed of mental impurity, passions, sins and so on. This is achieved by making confession, asking for forgiveness and performing atonement. If faults are not confessed properly, they remain in the heart as pricking thorns that make one suffer. The Prakrit word saṃlehaṇā (see for instance Maraṇa-vibhatti 176) and its Sanskrit equivalent sallekhanā – which has become the standard term for this practice – actually means ‘scraping or emaciating the passions’ (Williams 1963: 166).

Furthermore, the faster must possess moral firmness to complete the practice properly. This moral purposefulness is guaranteed by concentration or meditationbhāvanā or anuprekṣā – on proper topics, such as the:

  • disgusting nature of the body
  • miseries experienced by the embryo
  • painfulness of rebirths
  • ultimate loneliness at the hour of death.

Related to this is the moral support provided by the teacher or mentor. This support implies offering the faster similes and, especially, examples from stories. The model characters in these tales decide to resort to specific penances and finally achieve them, bearing pains and difficulties without their resolve weakening. Several of the Prakīrṇakas unfold verses which briefly describe the lives of such figures. Sanatkumāra, who endured all diseases, and Gajasukumāla, who resisted extremely painful tortures, are among those often referred to. For example see Maraṇa-samādhi stanzas 413ff or Saṃstāraka 56–87 (von Kamptz 1929).

Next, the wise one’s death consists, in practice, of reducing the amount of food in stages. Towards the end, the practitioner takes only fluids, taking gradually smaller quantities until nothing at all is consumed. The Prakīrṇakas codify modes of renunciation, which the assisting teacher can adjust to the dying one’s capacities. Details of the ritual of fasting unto death are found more specifically in the Bhakta-parijñā.

In addition, the practitioner has also left his monastic community and no longer uses his mendicant equipment. He is therefore outside his usual environment.

Finally, the faster resorts to ‘a bed of straw’ – saṃstāraka. He lies on this until he dies, attended by his teacher.

When taken together, all these texts thus provide a full picture of all the aspects relating to fasting to death. But it should be noted that the practical aspects are not always their main concern. Rather, considerable emphasis is put on the mental and spiritual elements of the full process.

Astronomy, medicine and prophecies

This manuscript painting depicts the course of the moon and an eclipse. The moon - candra - rides across the sky in a chariot each night. In Indian mythology Ketu and Rāhu form a snake that swallows the moon or sun, bringing about eclipses.

Moon’s path and eclipse
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Two of the Prakīrṇakas treat subjects outside the Jain teachings. The Jyotiṣa-karaṇḍaka and the Taṇdula-vaicārika deal with quite technical matters on unrelated areas. The former provides great detail on time and calendars and on astronomy. The Taṇdula-vaicārika, on the other hand, is concerned with the physical body and medicine.

The Jyotiṣa-karaṇḍaka is explicitly a work on time-measurement, astronomy and calendrical matters. Containing a lot of information that can be compared with non-Jain works on these topics, it thus represents an important contribution of the Jains to this area of knowledge. Among other things, it provides information on:

  • the various instruments that can be used to measure time, such as the clepsydra or water clock
  • divisions of time
  • calculations relating to the lunar days
  • the movements of the stars
  • revolutions of the moon and the sun
  • the length of seasons.

The Taṇdula-vaicārika is so named because it deals with the amount of ‘rice grains’ – taṇḍula –consumed by a man in a life of one hundred years. More broadly, it is concerned with matters relating to the nature of the physical body. The text expands on expositions found in the second and fifth Aṅgas.

The general idea is that the body is disgusting and should be considered impure and impermanent. This observation is not specifically Jain, being found also in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. But this text connects with the trend of Jain thought where the body is the starting point for thinking and meditation on the impure and the impermanent. Practice of the dharma is the only thing that is secure and is a way to overcome rebirth. In contrast, human beings of the distant past, who lived at the time of the first Jina Ṛṣabha, for instance, represent a kind of golden age and had perfect physical constitutions.

The development of the argumentation allows the transmission of information on several areas of knowledge relating to the human body (Caillat 1974). These include:

  • the different stages of the formation of the embryo in the womb, from conception to maturity and birth
  • elements of gynaecology
  • anatomy of the body
  • medicine proper, with all the diseases that may affect the body.

The result is that the Tandula-vaicārika can be read as a Jain counterpart and supplement to medical knowledge found in the Āyurvedic tradition.

The area of using signs to predict the future is represented by the Gaṇi-vidyā, in the context of monastic life.

Monastic knowledge and life

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)

Two Prakīrṇakas are concerned with elements of monastic conduct. The Gaṇi-vidyā concentrates on the knowledge the leader of a monastic group should command. The Gacchācāra, on the other hand, deals with monastic life in general plus the subject of celibacy.

The Gaṇi-vidyā deals with what the head of a monastic groupgaṇin – should know. This is not knowledge in general, but a technical type of knowledge conveyed by the term vidyā, which is close to astrology and divining the future. According to passages in the Jain scriptures, mendicants should not resort to this type of knowledge and practice. However, in practice this means ‘not all mendicants’. Such recommendations are meant to stop ordinary monks indulging in divinatory activity rather than banning it altogether.

The head of a monastic group is here presented as being in charge of knowledge connected with the calendar. This is important because he or she should know which dates are appropriate for the different activities that make up mendicant life.

The nine sections of the text are:

  • natural days
  • lunar days
  • constellations
  • divisions of the day – karaṇas
  • days of the planets
  • moments – muhūrta
  • omens of bird activity
  • astral conjunctions
  • interpretation of signs.

The Prakīrṇaka known as the Gacchācāra deals with monastic conduct. According to the text itself, it is extracted from the Cheda-sūtras. These Śvetāmbara canonical works are specially devoted to the rules mendicants must follow in their daily lives and to penances in case of lapses. Unlike all Jain scriptures, it is meant to be read by monks and nuns alike. It can be viewed as a convenient abstract of technical and difficult works that are not always put in the hands of all mendicants. The emphasis is both on the monastic group as a whole – the gaccha – and on the behaviour of each of its components, namely:

  • the teacher – ācārya or sūri – who is the support of the whole community
  • the monk – sāhu in Prakrit – at various ranks
  • the nunajjā in Prakrit.

The issues of the relationship between monks and nuns and the conditions required for observing proper celibacy are discussed here in some detail.

‘Sayings of the Seer’

The types of human lives are shown in this painting from a manuscript. The length of life and many of the experiences of a lifetime are determined by karma, which comes mainly from behaviour in previous lives.

Kinds of human lives
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The place of the Ṛṣi-bhāṣitāni in the Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures is unique and special. In mixed prose and verse, the Sayings of the SeerṚṣi-bhāṣitāni – are individual compositions each attributed to a named seer. They display some archaic linguistic features, which have led some scholars to class this work as rather old. Others, however, consider this text as new work in old garb, which is perhaps intended to lend it the authority of ancient compositions.

This Prakīrṇaka is most adequately described as ‘a collection of some early views on simple religio-philosophical matters held by various thinkers of the time’ (Bhatt 1979: 163). Indeed, the names of some of the seers are found in non-Jain sources as well. Some of the verses and literary images have precise parallels and counterparts in Buddhist scriptures. This suggests that some of the poems, if not the whole work, may reflect shared concerns. Other statements point to parallels with those expressed in early Brahmanical thinking, as represented in the Upaniṣads (Nakamura 1967–68).

The subjects on which proclamations are made relate to:

  • transmigration
  • the nature of the soul
  • the nature of truth
  • the role of karma.

The stanzas are often concise and enigmatic – as if to underline that they do not come from ordinary persons but from wise individuals with visionary qualities.

Hymns of praise

The Prakīrṇakas of the Vīra-stava and the Sārāvalī are devotional songs. Hymns of praise have a special place in Jain scriptures. Despite its title, however, the Devendra-stava is not a hymn.

The Vīra-stava is one of the first surviving Śvetāmbara hymns to the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra. The oldest instance is the one found in the second Aṅga of the canon. This short text starts by listing 26 names or epithets which can be applied to Mahāvīra. Each of them is then analysed and explained in turn.

Sanskrit epithets for Mahāvīra in the Vīra-stava

Sanskrit epithet for Mahāvīra

English meaning

1

aruha

‘who does not grow’ seeds that will create a jungle of rebirths

2

ari-hanta

‘who kills the enemies’ of passions, troubles and attacks, and therefore ‘who is worthy’ of praise or homage

3

arahanta

‘who is worthy of homage’

4

deva

god’ – with divine qualities

5

jiṇa

‘victorious’ over the cycle of rebirth

6

vīra

‘hero’

7

param-kāruṇīya

‘extremely compassionate’

8

savva-ṇṇu

‘who knows all’

9

savva-darisī

‘who sees all’

10

pāra-ya

‘who has reached the other side’ – that is, who has totally mastered all teachings and has crossed the ocean of rebirth

11

ti-kkāla-viu

‘knower of the three times’ of past, present and future

12

nāha

‘lord’ – honorific title

13

vīya-rāya

‘who has put an end to attachment’

14

kevali

‘omniscient’

15

ti-huyaṇa-guru

‘teacher to all the three worlds’ of the Jain universe

16

savva

‘everything’

17

ti-huyaṇa-var’-iṭṭha

‘the best favour in the three worlds

18

bhayavaṃ

‘venerable’ – honorific title

19

tittha-yar

‘maker of ford’ across the river of rebirths

20

Sakkehiṃ namaṃsiya or Sakk’-abhivandiya

‘revered by Indra’, the king of the gods

21

Jiṇ’-inda

‘lord among the Jinas

22

Siri-vaddhamāṇa

‘increaser of prosperity’

23

hari

‘Hari’ – a name of the Hindu god Viṣṇu, one of the triad

24

hara

‘Hara’ – a name of the Hindu god Śiva, one of the triad

25

kamalāsaṇa

Brahmā’ – a name of the Hindu god Brahmā, one of the triad

26

buddha

Buddha’ – ‘enlightened one’

The last four names give Mahāvīra titles usually associated with one of the three main Hindu gods or the Buddha. These are a way of saying that he is superior to them and that he includes them all in himself.

The Sārāvalī is noteworthy as the first text in the Śvetāmbara canon that deals with Mount Shatrunjaya, even though it might not be very old. The holiest among the holy places for the Śvetāmbara Jains is here given one of its numerous names – Puṇḍarīka-giri. The text is a praise of this sacred hill, offering information, legends and details of benefits resulting from religious practices performed there.

Although it is called ‘hymn of praise’ – stava – the Devendra-stava is a technical treatise describing particulars of the ‘kings of gods’, and is thus related to scriptures about the Jain universe. A lay man starts with a praise to the Jina. When he states that the Jina’s qualities are paid homage to by the ‘32 kings of gods’, his wife asks about them. The remaining 305 stanzas are devoted to this subject. All the technical aspects of the four main classes of gods are dealt with in turn. These gods are the:

  • Bhavana-vāsins
  • Vyantaras
  • Jyotiṣkas – the stellar and planetary gods
  • Vaimānikas, which include the gods of the 12 kalpas, the Graiveyakas, the Five Insurpassable – Pañca Anuttara

The last part of the work is concerned with the general and particular features of ‘gods’ as a category. It covers various parameters such as the colours of their souls, their size and the types of knowledge they have.

Jain universe

This detail of a manuscript painting shows the yellow and blue mountain range of Mānuṣottaraparvata or 'Mountain Beyond Mankind'. In Jain cosmology human beings can live only in the Two and A Half Continents, up to the inner half of the third continent.

Mountain Beyond Mankind
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Two Prakīrṇakas discuss Jain cosmology, a substantial topic underlying religious doctrine. It is thus an important element of religious belief and features in other holy writings.

The Dvīpa-sāgara-prajñapti is a supplement to what is found in other texts of the Śvetāmbara canon describing the Jain universe. This Prakīrṇaka focuses on components that are not dealt with extensively in these other writings. Among these items are the:

  • Mānuṣottara mountains, which mark the boundary of human life
  • Añjana mountains
  • Ratikara mountains
  • Kuṇḍala continent
  • Rucaka continent.

The Tīrthodgālī is a long text concerned with:

  • Jain Universal History
  • the origin of Jain teaching from the first Jina, Ṛṣabha
  • the possible disappearance of the teaching and the extinction of the scriptures.

This last will occur at an extremely distant period of time, when King Kalkin insults the Jain teaching. The comprehensive description of the figures of Jain Universal History – the Jinas, the Cakravartins, the Baladevas and the Vāsudevas – takes place in the context of a broader discussion on the cycles of time. This describes the descending eras – avasarpiṇī – and the descending eras – utsarpiṇī.

General teaching

Two of the Prakīrṇakas cover general topics of Jain doctrine.

The Catuḥ-śaraṇa deals with the ‘four refuges’ of the:

The text censures bad actions and praises good actions.

The Candra-vedhyaka first appears to deal with rather common subjects in the Jain faith. They are:

  • proper conduct, characterised by modesty and respect for religious hierarchy – vinaya
  • the ideal teacher – ācārya
  • the ideal discipleśiṣya
  • the virtues of victory resulting from proper religious conduct
  • the qualities of knowledge
  • the qualities of monastic life.

But the last section, which deals with the qualities of proper death, brings it closer to the Prakīrṇakas that have fasting unto death as their central topic. This section explains in detail the mental state and purity of mind which should mark out the human being at the hour of death. This is especially important for the Jain ascetic. A peaceful mind, purified by confession of all possible transgressions, is the ultimate condition for a pious death. It is significant that in the version edited by Muni Puṇyavijaya (1984) this last section is increased by a sizable group of stanzas that focus more on internal purity than on external rituals (Caillat 1992). The title Hitting the Mark means being prepared to reach the goal at the hour of death.

Reading

‘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


‘Review of W. Schubring: Isibhāsiyāiṃ’
Bansidhar Bhatt
Journal of Religious Studies
volume 7: 1
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1979

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‘Sur les doctrines médicales dans le Tandulaveyāliya: 1. Enseignements d’embryologie’
Colette Caillat
Indologica Taurinensia
volume 2
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1975

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‘Sur les doctrines médicales dans le Tandulaveyāliya: 2. Enseignements d’anatomie’
Colette Caillat
Adyar Library Bulletin
volume 38
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1974

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‘Fasting unto death according to the Jaina tradition’
Colette Caillat
Acta Orientalia
volume 38
Oriental Societies of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden; Stockholm, Sweden; 1977

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‘Interpolations in a Jain Pamphlet or The Emergence of one more Āturapratyāhyāna’
Colette Caillat
Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens
volume 36
1992

Full details


‘On the composition of the Śvetāmbara tract Maraṇavibhatti-Maraṇasamāhi-Paiṇṇaya'
Colette Caillat
Jaina Studies
edited by Colette Caillat and Nalini Balbir
Proceedings of the XIIth World Sanskrit Conference series; series editor Petteri Koskikallio and Asko Parpola; volume 9
Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, India; 2008

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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

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

Full details


Über die vom Sterbefasten handelnden älteren Paiṇṇa des Jaina Kanons
Kurt von Kamptz
PhD dissertation submitted to University of Hamburg in 1929

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‘Study of Titthogāliya’
Dalsukh D. Malvania
Bhāratīya Purātattva: Purātattvācārya Muni Jinavijaya Abhinandana Grantha
edited by R. S. Dandekar
Śrī Munijinavijaya Sammāna Samiti; Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 1971

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‘Yājñavalkya and other Upaniṣadic Thinkers in a Jaina Tradition’
Hajime Nakamura
Adyar Library Bulletin
volume 31–32
1967–68

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‘Causaraṇa-Paiṇṇaya: An edition and translation’
K. R. Norman
Adyar Library Bulletin
volume 38
1974

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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

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Tandulaveyāliya. Ein Paiṇṇaya des Jaina-Siddhānta: Textausgabe, Analyse und Erklärung
Walther Schubring
Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse series; volume 6
Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainz; Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate and Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany; 1969

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Isibhāsiyāiṃ: A Jaina Text of Early Period
Walther Schubring
L. D. series; volume 45
L. D. Institute of Indology; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1974

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Isibhāsiyāiṃ: Aussprüche der Weisen
Walther Schubring
Alt- und Neu-Indische Studien series; volume 14
De Gruyter; Hamburg, Germany; 1969

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‘Gaṇivijjā’
Walther Schubring
Indo-Iranian Journal
volume 11
1969

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'On Karaṇas in Jaina Calendar’
S. D. Sharma
and S. S. Lishk
Sambodhi
volume 8: 1–4
1979–1980

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The “Śvetāmbara Canon.” A Descriptive Listing of Text Editions, Commentaries, Studies and Indexes: Based on Editions held in the Library of the Australian National University
Royce Wiles
unpublished; Canberra, Australia; 1997

Full details


Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details


Jaina Yoga: A Survey of the Mediaeval Śrāvakācāras
Robert Williams
London Oriental series; volume XIV
Oxford University Press; London, UK; 1963

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