II. The Custodians of Monastic
Discipline: The Hierarchy.
III. The Problems of Seniority and
IV. The Units or Church Groups.
We have so far surveyed the preliminary
field for the study of Jaina monastic jurisprudence. We have seen the
nature of the canon, the controversy about it, the texts essential for the
study of the topic in hand, the spirit which underlies the formulation of
rules of monastic conduct and -the nature and meaning of transgressions
We now get into the core of the subject
and see the nature of the principle prayascittas, the custodians
and judges of monastic conduct or the hierarchy, and the rules regarding
II. The Custodians of
Monastic Discipline: The Hierarchy
While dealing with the nature and
meaning of transgression and exception, it was made clear that only a
person who was a giyattha (gitartha) or well-versed in monastic
discipline could be taken to be the best judge in deciding whether a
particular transgression was committed or otherwise.
Naturally the question arises here as to
who the person or persons were, who were so authorized by virtue of their
disciplined mode of life and seniority to act as custodians and judges of
the rules of monastic jurisprudence. What were the essential
qualifications for such persons? What were the rules about seniority? To
what factors was it related? The answers to all these questions will
unfold the nature of the Jaina church hierarchy, the various units and
Candidates fit for monastic life:
Let us begin at the beginning and see
which persons were fit for entry to the rigors and discipline of monk
life. The Thanangasutta ( p. 146b) gives a list of twenty persons who were
not allowed to enter the order. The list as it stands is based on
commonsense as also considerations, which avoided the entanglement of the
church into non-monastic affairs. For instance, rules which barred the
entry of persons such as eunuchs, very old persons, children under eight,
the sick, robbers, madmen, pregnant women etc., are obviously based on
practical commonsense as these persons are likely to be a nuisance to the
smooth working of monastic discipline. On the other hand, a person who was
the declared enemy of a king (rayavagari), a slave (dasa), a
person in debt (anatta), an attendant (obaddha), a kidnapped
person (sehanipphediya) and a servant, were disallowed to enter
monk-life for the obvious reason that their entry was bound to be
embarrassing in political, social and other fields which naturally fell
beyond the ambit of monarchism. It may be noted that this list of persons
not fit for entry to monkshood or nun-hood is identical for the
Svetambaras and the Digambaras. (Jain, C. R., Sannyasa
Dharma, pp. 24-25.)
A person having entered monkshood
remained as one under probation till he was confirmed ('uvatthaviya'
Than. p. 240a). Such a seha, antes or samanera
had to prove himself worthy of monk-life and had to show implicit
obedience to his senior. The period of probation depended on his behavior
and his senior's opinion regarding it. This period lasted either for six
or four months or even for one week.
The Thananga refers to four categories
of antevasins based on their initiation and confirmation by one and
the same or other acarya.
The next to be mentioned is the
Thera. He was elder Let us begin at the beginning and see what persons
to others both in age as well as in standing as a monk. This seniority of
standing as a monk was expressed by the term 'paryaya'. Another
expression denoting the senior monk was 'rainiya'. The commentator
to the Thanangasutta explains the term 'rainiya' as ratnanee
bhavto gyanadeeni tai vyvahrati iti ratnik pryajyeshth iti' (p. 240a).
Thus seniority seems to have depended mostly on the scholarship and
self-control or the proper following of discipline. From this point of
view, a monk of less standing was designated as 'omarainiya',
whereas one with a greater standing or seniority was termed 'aharainiya'.
That there was a clear-cut evaluation of
and differentiation between age and standing is further corroborated by
the terms 'jai Thera' and 'pariyaya there', the former
denoting a monk of the age of sixty and the latter a monk of twenty years'
standing in monk-hood. Besides these two important categories,
other Theras are also referred to. These include the kula-thera,
Gana-Thera, samgha-thera and the saya-thera. The first three
were those who were in charge of the management of either a kula or a
Gana or a samgha, while the suya-thera was one who was well
versed in the texts like the Samavayangasutta, etc. (Than.,
These texts by themselves are silent
about the qualifications and differentiation between these categories of a
Thera. However, the commentaries explain the various categories and
that too briefly. As the case stands, therefore, we are not in a position
to state the inter-relation between these various types of Theras
nor are we certain about the nature of duties assigned to them. Whatever
they might have been, the juniors were asked to show complete regard to
the Theras. (Samavayanga, p. 59ab).
The next officer was the uvajhaya.
His chief duty was to give proper reading of the sutra to the junior
monks. (Upetyadheeyte smadityupadhya Than., p. 140a). It is
evident that such a person was expected to be well- versed in sacred
texts. However, no details regarding him, his qualifications and his exact
relative position in the hierarchy are to be found in older texts like the
Ayaranga and the Suyagadanga.