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AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF UPAMITI – BHAVA – PRAPAÑCA – KATHĀ

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FOREWORD

The text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā is one of its kinds. It is an allegorical work explaining the concepts of soul, karma, rebirth and liberation. Siddarshi has woven an entire tale in 18,000 slokas in the 10th century. This work primarily focuses on the worldly sojourn of the soul ie transmigration of the soul from one life to another since time immemorial and inspires a person to find solution to the endless and purposeless wanderings of individuals who are caught in the infinite cycle of births and deaths. There is one duty of all souls worth executing and that is self-realisation. This is revealed through the entire work and this is the essence of Jaina philosophy. Passions, which spring from ignorance and delusion play havoc, are the root cause of misery and transmigration. It is indeed surprising that in this materialistic age, the beacon call of spirituality is revealed meticulously throughout the work in simple language by the author and then by Dr Priyadarshana in this work. The age-old tradition of story-telling has been carefully interwoven with the Jaina philosophy. The language is lucid and the style of narration is simple and the contents thought provoking. The work is indeed the biography of the transmigratory soul caught in the web of birth, death, old-age and misery.

Story telling is a very powerful tool of communication and, therefore, popular in all times. A reader/listener of a story identifies himself or herself with the different events in the story and is forced to think whether the experiences in the story are different from his/her own experiences. There is an appreciation of good or bad events that take place in the story and a feeling of sympathy/apathy is generated for the different characters. Language becomes a controversial subject when the purpose is to communicate across times and people. A story is usually told in the popular language which is well understood by all or many. Siddarshi chose to write in easy and popular language. If a person writes in the language of learned people, one gets respect from them alone and its contents are not known and understood by the people at large. If a person writes in a popular language, one gets admiration and popularity from the common-man. In a country like India, choice of language remains a controversial subject, no matter what language you choose to write, some segments of the society will not get the benefit or get isolated.

An effective way to communicate an idea is not to discuss theories and confuse people on a particular issue. This may also lead to conflicts and arguments. Therefore, the best way to convey any idea howsoever difficult it may be is to narrate a story and share the experience. Theory seems to be based on hypotheses, concepts, speculation, potential, unproven things and sometimes impractical ideas while stories enable one to understand what an institution is about – new stories, old stories and learning experiences; it also relates to happenings and even realising what seems to be a fantasy. Stories are about people while theories are about instruments or ideas. The story method of conveying a concept has an advantage over other methods in a dynamic sense. Stories are created retrospectively to make a sense of experience and realisation; then stories can also be created prospectively to explore future possibilities and outcome and make them realize the fruits bearing characteristics of present actions on future.

Dr. Priyadarshana Jain’s work is divided into five parts, dealing with (i) introduction of Indian narrative literature, (ii) life and time of the author of the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapanca-Kath (iii) the story of the text (iv) concept of manifold-existence and literary appraisal of the text and (v) her observations on the text and their relevance in our life. All these have been done with great care and convey a profound message. The analytical study by Dr. Priyadarshana Jain is quite exhaustive and refers to the Jain and non-Jain narrative literature and also to canonical and non-canonical narrative literature.

Jaina literature addresses the above issue in diverse ways which are broadly categorized into four Anuyogas. I would like to observe that the classification of Jaina literature as Anuyoga is unique and unparalleled in the world literature. The four Anuyogas advocate the single theme of path of liberation and exaltation of states of Arihantas and Siddhas (Moksha).. Therefore, all virtues and principles governing such a path are interwoven in stories.

Story telling is a very powerful tool of communication and, therefore, popular in all times. A reader/listener of a story identifies himself or herself with the different events in the story and is forced to think whether the experiences in the story are different from his/her own experiences. There is an appreciation of good or bad events that take place in the story and a feeling of sympathy/apathy is generated for the different characters. Language becomes a controversial subject when the purpose is to communicate across times and people. A story is usually told in the popular language which is well understood by all or many. Siddarshi chose to write in easy and popular language. If a person writes in the language of learned people, one gets respect from them alone and its contents are not known and understood by the people at large. If a person writes in a popular language, one gets admiration and popularity from the common-man. In a country like India, choice of language remains a controversial subject, no matter what language you choose to write, some segments of the society will not get the benefit or get isolated.

An effective way to communicate an idea is not to discuss theories and confuse people on a particular issue. This may also lead to conflicts and arguments. Therefore, the best way to convey any idea howsoever difficult it may be is to narrate a story and share the experience. Theory seems to be based on hypotheses, concepts, speculation, potential, unproven things and sometimes impractical ideas while stories enable one to understand what an institution is about – new stories, old stories and learning experiences; it also relates to happenings and even realising what seems to be a fantasy. Stories are about people while theories are about instruments or ideas. The story method of conveying a concept has an advantage over other methods in a dynamic sense. Stories are created retrospectively to make a sense of experience and realisation; then stories can also be created prospectively to explore future possibilities and outcome and make them realize the fruits bearing characteristics of present actions on future.

Dr. Priyadarshana Jain’s work is divided into five parts, dealing with (i) introduction of Indian narrative literature, (ii) life and time of the author of the text of Upamiti-Bhava- Prapañca-Kathā (iii) the story of the text (iv) concept of manifold-existence and literary appraisal of the text and (v) her observations on the text and their relevance in our life. All these have been done with great care and convey a profound message. The analytical study by Dr. Priyadarshana Jain is quite exhaustive and refers to the Jain and non-Jain narrative literature and also to canonical and non-canonical narrative literature.

Jaina literature addresses the above issue in diverse ways which are broadly categorized into four Anuyogas. I would like to observe that the classification of Jaina literature as Anuyoga is unique and unparalleled in the world literature. The four Anuyogas advocate the single theme of path of liberation and exaltation of states of Arihantas and Siddhas (Moksha).. Therefore, all virtues and principles governing such a path are interwoven in stories.

Jaina literature has its origin in the preachings of Arihantas and Tirthankaras. The classification into four Anuyogas follows from the same preaching of great Tirthankaras. The stories told by Tirthankaras are true and real stories and constitute the essence of all times and places and cannot be fairy-tales. In fact, the authors of the great epics of Jaina literature begin their narration by saying that this story has been told by the Tirthankaras. All the four Anuyogas are taught by Tirthankaras and hence, these constitute the indivisible whole. OneAnuyoga cannot be separated from the other.

Acharya Samantabhadra in his Ratakaranda Shravakachara (verses 42-46) states that right knowledge comprises of all the four Anuyogas. As regards Prathamanuyoga or Dharmakathanuyoga it is stated that it deals with story of exertion of great people in respect of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. When the subject matter is that of one person, it is Charita, where stories relate to sixty three shalaka purushas, it is called ‘Purana’. Stories of how people acquire right faith are named as ‘Bodhi’ and those stories which narrate complete accomplishment (Moksha) are called ‘Samadhi’. Thus, the first is a science which describes the process of final and complete achievement of eternal happiness in the state of Moksha.

The preaching of Arihantas are contained in twelve Angas. The 12th Anga is known as D???iv?da. The third part of this is called as Anuyoga and it consists of five thousand padas and these contain description of lives of 63 great souls (24 Tirthankaras, 12 Chakravarties, 9 Baldevas, 9 Vasudeves, 9 Prativasudeves) which is called as Prathamanuyoga or Dharmakathanuyoga. The purpose of this Anuyoga is to convey the message of Tirthankara Arihantas to the ignorant souls and to those having false belief in order to induce them to realize the misery of mundane existence and the importance of attaining the state of Moksha.Nave people may not understand the subtleties, however, such people may understand the same through stories and discussions and start taking keen interest in the stories, and eventually in spiritual matters. Hence, stories are told in a manner they can be comprehended easily. Storeis are a great way of inspiration and motivation, particularly in adverse conditions but by themselves not sufficient to ensure Moksha. Therefore, one has to resort to other Anuyogas.

The stories in this first Anuyoga lack rigor and subtle ideas that guide and truly describe the path to Moksha. Even if an iota of reflection of spiritual awakening is attributed, it is treated as if it is complete realization and that/those events contribute to spiritual upliftment. The facts may be contrary. For example, Adinath Tirthankara renounced the world while watching the dance of Nilanajana or Neminath Tirthankara after seeing the plight of animals. While these events are symbolic, these great people had acquired knowledge of the self long before such events took place. At best, this is the partial description of the truth or trigger points in their life. Just as sugar-coated pills are given to children when afflicted with disease, the worldly people are told stories in so many ways so as to make them accept the spiritual path and realize the misery of births and deaths. Stories are narrated in a charismatic style showing them even the materialistic benefits of adoption of spiritual path, although this is not the objective of the same.

Another unique feature of this Anuyoga is that such stories many a times relate to millions and billions of births of a single person involving time dimension beyond our comprehension and area/space millions/billions of kms away from us. The stories also talk about transmigration of a soul from existence of life of vegetation to animals, hell, heaven, human and ultimately to the achievement of Moksha. No other literature can be as rich as that of Jaina and yet reflect a true story, as it is told by the omniscient Tirthankara.

The author of a story has to do a tremendous job of narrating events of life-time of a person across many lives into a few pages or a book in a reasonably short time. Therefore, the story-teller compromises many facets of the events and confines to depicting events/emotions which appeal to the readers at large. A story can never comprise all aspects of events involved and referred to in the story. No matter how big is the story, it still depends on the acumen and insight of the author how to present the same. When the same stories are repeated over time by different authors, it is natural that certain expressions, events, emotions, principles etc. get added in the narration of the story depending on the milieu, personal beliefs/opinions of the author. Thus, the story-literature has to be scanned very carefully with great/deeper insight into all aspects of a person’s life.

An analytical study of Upamiti-Bhava Prapañca-Kathā by Dr.Priyadarshana Jain is one such story of Jaina literature and brings out many aspects of the story literature. The study puts in proper perspective the life and time of the author, the events and its various facets, concept of manifold existence, literary appraisal of work and the relevance of such literature in our mundane life. Every reader of the story will benefit immensely and will be induced to spiritual endeavours and ultimate realization of pure soul. Dr Jain has done a commendable job of discussing the subtleties of Jainism along with the story of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapanca-Kathā from a modern perspective.

Dr. JAYANTI LAL JAIN

CHENNAI

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