Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
Jaina Monastic Jurisprudence
The Background to Monastic Jurisprudence
The Custodians of Monastic Discipline
Laws of Jurisprudence and Their Working
Transgressions and Punishments
  Church Affairs
  Moral Discipline and Self Control
  Select Bibliography

THE BACKGROUND TO MONASTIC JURISPRUDENCE


 

 

Yet one more factor may be noted regarding the Svetambaras canon. Apart from the story of various councils and redaction�s, the number of texts to be included in the Agama has been a matter of fluctuations. Whereas the standard list comprises forty-six texts grouped into Anga, uvangas, painnas cheyasuttas, - mulasuttas and two miscellaneous texts, some scholars give a list of as many as eighty-six texts comprising the canon. (Kapadia, Canonical Lit. of the Jainas, p. 58.) Thus, leek of disciplined historicity and precision of number prove a major stumbling block in dealing with the development of Jaina monastic jurisprudence, the laws of which are solely and basically incorporated in the canonical texts.

Well, this is the nature of the evidence coming from the Svetambaras sources. As for the Digambaras, as noted before, they disown the canon as enunciated by the Svetambaras, and advocate the view that the canon was lost. It is irrelevant for us here to discuss the stories and circumstances connected with this matter; moreover they are well known. The Digambaras, on the other hand, advocate a canon comprising Angus, angabahiras, anuyogas, the last being divided into four subdivisions. It may be pointed out that the texts incorporated into these groups cover a wide range of period. For instance, the first category e.g. the Angus contain some texts which are akin to those of the Svetambaras, as for instance, the Nayadhammakahao. The second group comprises texts like Dasaveyaliya, Uttarajjhyayana and Kappa-vavahara whose names are familiar in the Svetambaras canon though their grouping is different. The third group of annyogas contains texts belonging to scholars like Kundakunda (1st century A.D.), Umasvati, Vattakera and Samantabhadra (8th century A.D.). It will at once be realized that the Digambaras canon comprises texts of widely different periods, though it is not possible to assign each and every text in it to a definite date.

The upshot of the whole matter may be summarized now. We have seen that the canon of the Svetambaras was finally redacted at the second council of Valabhi in about the 6th century A.D. We have also seen that the Digambaras disown this canon and instead propose a list of texts grouped under different categories. Even then, some of the names of the texts of the canon of both agree. Moreover, the contents of some, e.g. Mulacara and Dasaveyaliya agree in some cases ad verbum. The Angas are held in high esteem by both. Many of the details of monastic life and jurisprudence�as will be seen later on�tally well in the texts of the Digambaras and the Svetambaras. And lastly, several of the authors like Umasvati, Siddhasena Divakara, and others who have contributed to the making up of Jaina literature, are respected by both these sects.

These, in short, are the salient features of the nature of evidence at hand for the proper understanding of Jaina monastic jurisprudence. The very points of similarity, as noted above, do not imply a wide divergence in the nature of material for the study of jurisprudence. It would thus be possible to study monastic jurisprudence of the Jainas as a whole without any sectarian approach. The following pages, therefore, attempt to present the overall picture of the working of the internal organizational discipline of Jaina monastery. The picture that will emerge is hoped to be completely non-sectarian and unbiased. The author is fully conscious of the fact that the texts available to him were mainly of the Svetambaras group. Yet the details available have been checked from the Digambaras texts as well, and wherever differences occur, they have been stated as dispassionately as possible. I stand before you, not as a judge, but as one who believe in paying homage to Jainism through its dispassionate study.

 

IV.  Jurisprudence: source texts for it

Having seen the nature of the canon and after expressing the nature of our approach, let us now take a review of the actual texts that contribute most of the material for the study of Jaina monastic jurisprudence.

As has already been noted, the canonical texts form the core of the material for the study of Jaina jurisprudence. Yet all the texts are not useful for this purpose. For our purpose the most invaluable group of texts is that which goes under the name of the 'cheyasuttas' of the Svetambaras Jaina canon and those grouped under 'carananuyoga' by the Digambaras.

     As is well known, the cheyasuttas comprise six texts as follows:

( 1 ) Nisihasutta

(2) Mahanistha sutta

(3) Vavahara sutta

(4) Dasasayakkhandha (or Ayaradasao)

(5) Kappasutta (or Brhatkalpa), and

(6) Pancakappa (or Jiyakappa).

     Of these six, the Dash, Kappa and Vavahara seem to be closely related to one another in matter and treatment. They deal with various transgressions and the punishments prescribed for these, in a very summary fashion. These texts by themselves do not give any other background leading to the formulation of the code of discipline. Neither do they give any information as to the procedure of implementing a punishment against a transgressor. For these details we have to depend solely on the cunnis and Bhasas going with these which furnish us with the actual working of monadic, jurisprudence in Jaina church.

Another point worth notice regarding these texts is that their date is uncertain. Though the tradition holds that Bhadrabahu, the sixth pontiff after Lord Mahavira was responsible for the editing of these three texts on the basis of the information given in the ninth Puvva (Rsimandalastotra, 166), the evidence is inconclusive, for we do not know what items contributed to make the ninth Puvva. Moreover, it is well known that there were more that one Bhadrabahu known to the Jaina church history. However, as the case stands, we are not in a position to look beyond the tradition in which case we have to assign these texts to 4th/3rd century B.C. as this particular Bhadrabahu is said to have flourished a couple of centuries after Mahavira, �the exact date of his death being 170 years after the Nirvana of Mahavira. 

The date of Nisihasutta is again a problem and it is not possible to be dogmatic about it. However, there is a remarkable similarity between this text and the Vavahara sutta as to the forms of punishment and the categories of transgressions. Emphasizing the similarity between Nisiha and the Culas of Ayarangasutta, Winternitz opines that both these texts probably had a common source of origin. (Winterniz, Hil, pp.464-65).

As to the Mahanisiha, we are on still more unstable grounds. The nature of the language and the mention of Tantric practices and non-canonical texts in this work are perplexing. On the strength of these points, Winternitz puts it to a period later than that of Panda and Oha Nijjuttis and goes to the extent of questioning its position as a text of the canon.

     One point regarding Dasasuyakhhandah referred to: above, may be worthwhile mention. Here in this text is a portion designated as the 'samayari' dealing with the rules of rain-retreat etc. This has been attributed to Bhadrabahu. Yet when we find references to persons and church units posterior to Bhadrabahu, we have to conclude that only the-portion of 'samayari' might be attributed to Bhadrabahu, while the rest may be a later addition.

Pancakappa is not extant now. So nothing can be said about it. The Jiyakappa, which replaces it, has been attributed to Jinabhadra who is said to have flourished in about the 6th century A.D. or a little prior to that. (Information kindly supplied by Dr. Upadhye. It is thus clear that Jiyakappa cannot be equated with other texts in chronology.

Even though basically most of the information regarding monastic jurisprudence can be culled from these texts, it does not mean that these are the sole repositories of such information. For instance, the Thanangasutta also mentions various payachittas and some transgressions. The Pined and the Oha-Nijjuttis, which are sometime grouped with the cheyasuttas, give abundant information regarding daily monastic life and the transgressions connected with the requisites of a monk, whereas the rules governing the formation of a unit of monks called the Gauche and the working of it are incorporated in the Gacchayara Painnaya.