death with equanimity



(Chapter I, cont.)

1.2 – 1.215

1.2 Jaina Canonical Literature –

In every faith scriptures or canonical works occupy an important position amongst religious texts. Āgamas enjoy the same position and importance in the Jaina faith as the Vedas in Hinduism, Tripiṭaka in Buddhism, Avestā in Zarthustism, the Bible in Christianity and the holy Koran in Islam. Although āgamas are neither considered as created by a superhuman entity “Apauruṣeya” as the Vedas are taken to be; nor are they considered to be the divine message handed down through any Prophet as the Bible and the Koran are considered to be, they are the compilations of the preaching of the most venerable Arhatas “venerable enlightened ones”, who had realised the truth and attained enlightenment through spiritual practices and purification. Though the scriptures say that the Aṅga Sūtras “the Primary Canons or the Foremost scriptures” are considered to have been preached by the Tīrthaṅkaras “Lords Prophet–Propounders of the Jaina faith”, we must remember that they preached only the meaning “Artha”, which were then codified into sūtras “maxims or aphorisms” by their principal disciples “Gaṇadharas”. In other words, the Tīrthaṅkaras only presented the thoughts or the ideas, which were then given the garb of words and codified into sūtras “maxims or aphorisms” by the Gaṇadharās.viii Other extra primary canonical works “Aṅga–bāhya Sūtras” were subsequently composed by the Ācāryas “Heads of religious orders or Spiritual Masters”, Sthaviras “Senior monks” and other learned preceptor–teachers “Upādhyāyas”.

The Jaina tradition doesn’t lay as much emphasis on words as the Hindu tradition. It considers words only as a means to convey the thought, idea or meaning. In its view the meaning is important not the words. It is this lack of emphasis on words that the āgamas of the Jaina tradition could not keep their linguistic character unaltered as the Vedas have been able to do over the millennia. This may be the reason why the Jaina canonical literature got divided into two streams, namely the Ardhamāgadhī canons and the Śaurasenī canons. Arddhamāgadhī canonical works, as the name suggests, are the sacred Jaina scriptures composed in the Arddhamāgadhī language that was prevalent as the language of the masses in the region between Magadha “South Bihar of the present time” and the Śūrasena “Western U.P. of the present”. As this was the region in which the last and the twenty–fourth JainaTīrthaṅkara orProphet Lord Mahāvīra generally toured and preached, He chose this language as the medium of His sermons. His teachings were subsequently composed into canonical works by His principal disciples called Gaṇadharas and these were called Aṅga Āgamas or the primary canons. The view, held by the Digambara “Sky–clad or naked” tradition of the Jainas is that the canonical knowledge was lost to the ravages of time and the Śaurasenī canonical works were composed by the Digambara monks based on the part of the canonical knowledge retained by the monks through the monastic Śruta “hearing, memorising and imparting” tradition.ix The Arddhamāgadhī canonical works were also composed compiled and edited over a period of nearly a thousand years – from the time of Lord Mahāvīra to 980 or 993 Vīra Era “reckoned from the date of Lord Mahāvīra’s nirvāṇa” before they were rendered in their present form at the Vallabhī conclave nine hundred and eighty “993 according to another version” years after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra.x It is, therefore, quite possible that these were also modified altered and enlarged by various preceptors during this long period of about a thousand years. Five canonical recitations were held at different times to recall and collect the canonical knowledge. These are described in the next sub–section.

1.21 Five Canonical Recitations –

From the very beginning the question of preservation of the sacred canonical lore was a matter of great concern for the Jaina monks. Unlike the Brahmin Vedic scholars, the Jaina monks didn’t write the canonical texts on palm–leaves etc, but committed them to memory and passed them on to the next generation of monks by the word of mouth. This practice prevailed because according to the Jaina tenets use of mediums of writing such as the palm–leaves, bark, ink, pen, etc was considered as acts of violence towards the vegetation–bodied living beings and hence as sinful acts. The second reason for this concern was that the members of the Jaina clergy were a wandering lot, who never stayed in one place as per the dictates of their prophesied precepts. They were, therefore, unable to devote as much time to reciting and repeating the canonical knowledge as their Brahmin counterparts, who for most part of their lives stayed at the same place, were able to do. Thirdly, unlike the Vedic hymns the canonical maxims and aphorisms had no role to play in the social and civic life of their followers and, as a result, weren’t repeated often. Fourthly, at least twice in the known history, long famines had disrupted the monastic orders when the monks dispersed from the famine hit regions to distant places where they could find the where–with–alls to sustain their lives.

Due to these various reasons the canonical knowledge had withered and five times the efforts were made by assembling the conclaves of monks and collecting the canonical lore by collective recitations.

1.211 The First Recitation ‘Pāṭaliputra Vācanā’–

The very first recitation was held at an assembly of monks called at Paṭaliputra “Patna, Bihar” 160 years after Lord Mahāvīra’s nirvāṇa. This conclave, under the direction of Canon–omniscient “Śruta–kevalī” Bhadrabāhu and Sthūlibhadra, could recall eleven Primary canonical texts “Aṅgapraviṣṭha Āgamas” and ten out of the fourteen fore–canons “Pūrvas” from the twelfth primary canon – Dṛṣṭivāda. According to the Jaina lore, after Bhadrabāhu, Sthūlibhadra was the only one monk, who knew the fourteen fore–canons in text and only ten of them in meaning.xi

1.212 The Second Recitation –

The second recitation was held at a conclave assembled in the second century BC nearly three hundred years after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra, at the Kumārī hill in Orissa, during the reign of emperor Khārvela. Not much is known about this conclave except that the efforts were made, here, to recall and revive the canonical knowledge forgotten during the Mauryan reign.xii

1.213 The Third Recitation ‘Māthurī Vācanā’–

The third recitation was held at Mathura. Known as the ‘Māthurī Vācanā’, it was held under the direction of Ārya Skandila somewhere between the years 827 and 840 after the nirvāṇa of Lord Mahāvīra.xiii

1.214 The Fourth Recitation ‘Nāgārjunīya Vācanā’ –

Yet another recitation was organised under the direction of Ārya Nāgārjuna at Vallabhī in the Saurāṣṭra region of Gujarat almost at the same time as that of the Mathura conclave. The forgotten canonical knowledge was recollected but it was not reduced to writing.xiv

1.215 The Fifth Recitation ‘Vallabhī Vācanā’–

The fifth recitation was again held at a conclave assembled at Vallabhī, in the year 980xv after the Vīra–nirvāṇa, under the direction of Ācārya Devardhigaṇī Kṣamā–śramaṇa. It is popularly known as the ‘Vallabhī Vācanā’. While at the earlier four conclaves the canonical lore was only recited orally and recommitted to memory, it was at this conclave that the canonical texts were organised in their present form and reduced to writing.xvi

The Arddhamāgadhī canonical works restored at the last recitation at Vallabhī were as given in the next sub–section.



Section – 1.1.

“Viṇayamūlao dhammo” – Jñātādharmakathā, 5.

ii “Samyagdarśanajñānacāritrāṇi mokṣamārgaḥ || – Thattvārthasūtra, 1/1.

iii “Nā daṁsaṇissa nāṇaṁ, nāṇeṇa viṇā na hunti caraṇaguṇā |

Aguṇissa natthi mokkho, natthi amokkhassa nivvāṇaṁ ||”

Uttarādhyayana, 28/30.

iv “Nāṇeṇa jāṇaī bhāve, daṁsaṇeṇa ya saddahe |

Caritteṇa nigiṇhāI, taveṇa ya parisujjhaī ||” – Ibid, 28/35.

v “Kṛtsanakarmakṣayo mokṣaḥ ||” – Tattvārthasūtra, 10/3.

vi “Mokkhārāhaṇaheuṁ Cārittaṁ Pāhuḍaṁ vocche ||” – Cāritrapāhuḍa, 2.

vii “Cārittasamārūḍho appāsu paraṁ ṇa īhae ṇāṇī |

Pāvai aireṇa suhaṁ aṇovamaṁ jāṇa ṇicchayado ||” – Cāritrapāhuḍa, 43.

Section – 1.2.

viii “Atthaṁ bhāsai Arahā suttaṁ ganthanti Gaṇaharā.” – Āvaśyaka Niryukti, verse – 92.

ix Shastri Nemichand, Prākṛta Bhāṣā Aur Sāhitya Kā Ālocanātmaka Itihāsa, Varanasi, Ed. I, 1988, p. 203.

x Devendramuni, Jaina Āgama Sāhitya : Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, Śrī Tārakaguru Jaina Granthālaya, Udaipur, 1977, p. 38.

xi Jaina Āgama Sāhitya : Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, ibid, pp. 35–36.

xii Journal of the Bihar And Orissa Research Society, Pt. 13, p. 336. Quoted from Jaina Āgama Sāhitya : Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, Ibid, p. 36.

xiii Jaina Āgama Sāhitya : Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, ibid, p. 36.

xiv Ibid, p. 37.

xv According to some sources it was held in the year 993 after the Vīra–nirvāṇa.

xvi “Valahipurammi nayare Devaḍḍhipamuheṇa samaṇasaṅgheṇa |

Putthaī āgamu lihio navasayaasīsāo Vīrāo ¤||

Quoted from Jaina Āgama Sāhitya : Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, Ibid, p.38.

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