JAINA CANONICAL LITERATURE
1.1 Introductory –
The Jaina faith is rooted in right–conduct “Samyakcāritra or Vinaya”.i It is, therefore, in fitness of things that great emphasis is laid on the observance of right–conduct by its followers – ordained ascetics “Śramaṇas and Śramaṇīs” or lay followers “Śrāvakas and Śrāvikas”. It is also natural that a majority of Jaina canonical works, both in Ardhamāgadhī as well as in Śaurasenī languages, are devoted to the subject of Jaina ethics or that of preaching and laying down the rules and regulations for the observance of right–conduct. Jaina ethics prescribes the practices that enhance the quality of life – both worldly as well as spiritual – as long as a practitioner lives and the quality of death when, eventually, the end comes. However, as the faith ultimately aims at the attainment of spiritual emancipation and final liberation, the ethics, in its most part, prescribes a way to attain freedom from the worldly bondage and accomplish liberation. To this end it lays down a liberating path “Mokṣa–mārga” comprising the right–vision “Samyagdarśana”, right–knowledge “Samyagjñāna” and right–conduct “Samyakcāritra”.iiOf these, it is the right–conduct that ultimately yields the fruit of spiritual emancipation, the other two only pave the way for facilitating Samyakcāritra. Thus, Jaina ethics or code of moral conduct for both, the ascetics and the lay followers, rightly emphasises the spiritually beneficial practices in the form of right–conduct or Samyakcāritra. So much so that in the absence of rightness of conduct the other two – the right–vision and the right–knowledge are considered in vain “Jñāna–kriyābhyāṁ mokṣah<“. Actually, the karmic bondage cannot be shed without practising the right–conduct and it is realised through the right–vision and the right–knowledge.iii Through the right–knowledge one comes to know about the fundamental verities such as the dispositions “of karmic matter in relation to the soul”, through the right–view one develops faith in them, through the right–conduct one restrains oneself and through penance one attains the purity of the soul.iv According to the law, the liberation is nothing but the spiritual purity achieved through complete destruction and separation of the karmic matter associated with the soul from beginningless time as well as through one’s actions.v The karma–matter can be destroyed and separated from the soul and the soul be purified by undertaking penance, which is an integral part of right–conduct. In Cāritrapāhuḍa, a treatise on monastic and lay followers’ conduct, Ācārya Kundakunda says that he is preaching itfor enabling the aspirant souls to seek liberation.vi He further adds that a steadfast practitioner of right–conduct does not desire anything other than the realisation of the ‘Self’ and that he soon and certainly gains the ultimate and incomparable accomplishment of eternal bliss of the liberated souls.vii What it ultimately comes to is that the right conduct is the crux of spirituality, emancipation of the soul and final liberation.
As Samādhimaraṇa or ‘Voluntary Peaceful Death’ is considered to be the culmination all spiritual practices “right–conduct” for the ascetics as well as for the lay followers, it stands to reason that the Jaina ethics puts a lot of stress on this subject as well. Therefore, all the scriptures, that fall in the ambit of ‘Caraṇānuyoga’ and cover the subject of right–conduct, also cover the subject of Samādhimaraṇa in lesser or greater detail. This is besides the works that are entirely and exclusively devoted to the subject of Samādhimaraṇa.
As per one of the most prevalent classification of the Jaina canonical works, they are grouped in four groups called Anuyoga – Prathamānuyoga “dealing with the biographical stories of sixty–three great religious personalities – Triṣaṣṭi Śalākā Puruṣa” or Dharma–kathānuyoga “a compilation of the teachings of the Lord, imparted through the medium of religious stories or parables” or ‘Jaina Legends’, Caraṇānuyoga dealing with the subject of monastic and lay followers’ conduct or ‘Jaina Ethics’, Karaṇānuyoga or Gaṇitānuyoga dealing with the nature and form of universe or ‘Jaina Cosmology’and Dravyānuyoga dealing with the subject of ‘Jaina Material Science’. The canonical works classified under Caraṇānuyoga or the group of canonical works dealing with Jaina ethics, are wholly devoted to the subject of right–conduct. However, those falling under other classes are supplementary in nature and aim at imparting the knowledge that would reinforce the monastic as well as the lay followers’ right–conduct. It goes without saying that they “the works of the genre of Caraṇānuyoga” also deal with the subject of Sallekhanā and Samādhimaraṇa or that of ‘Voluntary Peaceful Death’.
This chapter traces the development of Jaina canonical literature in both – Ardhamāgadhī and Śaurasenī – languages from the very ancient times and tries to bring out as to the extent they relate to the subject of Samādhimaraṇa.
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