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Jaina Monastic Jurisprudence
The Background to Monastic Jurisprudence
The Custodians of Monastic Discipline
Laws of Jurisprudence and Their Working
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THE CUSTODIANS OF MONASTIC DISCIPLINE


 

 

The ayariya-uvajjhaya is again a problematic designation and it is not clear whether it denoted two officers or one. However on the basis of the five privileges (aisesa) he enjoyed by virtue of his qualifications and position, he seems to have been an important officer in the church hierarchy. The very nature of these privileges was such that he seems to have been a man of perfect self-control and a master of monastic discipline. For instance, he was allowed to stay outside the monastery or to live alone in it for a night or two; he might or might not wait upon somebody; he could clean and wipe his feet in the monastery and lastly he could ease nature in the monastery (Than., p. 329ab). That these things were not allowed to any other junior officer speaks for the high confidence placed in the self-control and integrity of the person of the ayariya- uvajjhaya.

The next important officer of the church was the ayariya. The qualifications expected of him were of academic and moral nature. For example, he was to be a person endowed with jnana- acara, darsana-acara, caritra acara, tapa-acara and viryo-acara; besides equanimity of mind, character and intellect. As such he stood at the head of a group of monks and all those under him were expected to show him utmost regard. Besides this, he enjoyed the same privileges as the ayariya-uvajjhaya. Front the details given in the Thanangasutta (PP. 239b, 240a) it seems that besides controlling and guiding a group of juniors under him, the acarya was to initiate and confirm (pavvayana and uvatthavana) a candidate.

The gani is yet another officer. He was a person who was endowed with the eight-fold ganisampad. These make him ideal in conduct, scholarship, physique, intellect, instructions, debate, organization and monastic discipline. The sangrohasampad expects him to be a person with all the knowledge pertaining to ideal residence for younger monks,-rules of begging alms and requisites and the code of perfect moral conduct and self-control (Than., p. 422b). From the qualifications and the nature of duties assigned to him, the ganin may be equated with the acarya. This is also supported by the commentary to the Thanangasutta.

Along with all these, there is mentioned yet another officer termed as Ganavacchedaka. The information regarding his qualifications and duties cannot be had in the Anga texts at all. The only information that is given is that he was the head of the part of a Gana or a group of monks (Than., p. 245a).

Further amplification regarding the qualifications and the duties of these various officers can be had only when we come to the Cheyasuttas. In these texts, all these� and some more, � officers of the church are mentioned. For instance, the Vavahara (X, 14), gives three categories of a Thera. First, the jai Thera: He was so called because he was sixty years old. The 'pariyaya Thera' was one who had at least twenty years' standing as a monk. The 'suya Thera' was well versed in the Thananga and the Samavayanga suttas. Besides this, the same text gives details of the privileges, which were enjoyed by the Thera. For instance, very old monks or jai Theras were allowed to take rest while others begged alms for them. Similar concessions regarding the deposition of requisites were also allowed to them in case they were unable to carry these. (Vav. VIII, 5).

In the case of the uvajjhaya, besides the knowledge of the scriptures, monastic etiquette and practice of self-control, the person had to be such as had at least three years' standing (tivasapariyaya). However, a mere three years' standing was deemed of no avail if the person was not well versed in ayarapakappa or the code of monastic conduct. Moreover, he was to be a person who was smart and organizational enough to enroll new members to the fold. His duties were mainly academic, though he had to look after the nuns as well. (Vav. III, 3, 4,12).

     The ayariya-uvajjhaya had to be endowed with at least five years' standing along with the knowledge of the suyak khandha and dasa-kappa Vavahara i.e. the three texts of the Cheyasuttas.

As the qualifications and the length of paryaya stand, this officer seems to have been senior to the uvajjhaya. With all these details, however, the exact nature of the duties of this officer are not clearly set forth anywhere. As I have suggested in my 'History of Jaina Monarchism from Inscriptions and Literature' (p. 220), this officer might be acting in a dual capacity, both as an uvajjhaya and an ayariya when need arose due to the absence of any one of these.

Eight years' standing and the knowledge of Thananga and Sasnavayanga were required of a person to designate him as a Ganavaccheiya, (Vav. III, 7). However, no clear statement about his duties is available.

The qualifications required of an ayariya were identical with those in the case of the ayariya uvejjhaya given above. Besides this, a high standard of moral conduct was expected of him (Vav. III, 7). The acarya seemed to act as the supreme head of a group of monks. For the juniors had to take permission from him for all the important items of daily routine. Besides that he was one of the supervisors of the nuns as well. (Vav. III, 12).

The cheyasuttas refer to other officers like vayaga, (Kappa. IV, 5-6) and pavatti (Kappa. IV, 15) whereas the Ohanijutti mentions 'vasaha' (V, 125). The 'vacaka' probably gave reading of texts to the junior monks. The 'pravartin' probably looked after the administrative routine of a group of monks, whereas the vrsabha, on the basis of the commentary, seemed to be a person looking after the ill and waiting upon them. Save in the case of vacaka, who was to be a person of manners, who avoided excitement and atoned for every transgression, the qualifications of others are not to be found.

Besides those mentioned so far, the Brhathalpabhasya refers to abbiseka' and 'spardhakapati' (IV, 433; III, 213236) In the case of the former, he was sometimes equated with      the      Upadhyaya      (III,      2405, 2411) and sometimes deemed fit for acarya-hood as well (IV, 4336). The spardhakapati, as the designation stands, seems to have acted as the head of a phaddaa or a small sub-group in a gaccha (laghutaro gacchadega eva: Ova. p. 86). The Ovavaiyasutta tells us that this group was headed by a Ganavacchedaka. Does it mean, then, that the spardhakapati and the Ganavacchedaka were identical?

The foregoing discussion proves that the officers of the church were persons of moral discipline and academic and practical scholarship. These qualities were essential for those who were the custodians of monastic discipline and its proper working among the subordinates.

 

The Officers of the Nuns:

  The organization of the nuns was done under their own officers all of whom were subordinate to the officers of the monk order. The acarya, the Upadhyaya and the pravartin were the protectors (aryikapratijagaraka) of the orders of nuns. This subordination was so supreme and final that a monk even of three years' standing could become the Upadhyaya of a nun of thirty years' standing and a monk of five years' standing could become the Upadhyaya of the nun with sixty years' standing, as laid down in Vavaharasutta (VII, 15, 16). This echoes faithfully the smashing rule of the Cullavagga of the Buddhists which lays down that a nun of even a hundred years' standing should bow down to a monk of recent entry to the order! The final blow comes from the Digambaras who hold that a woman, even when she becomes a nun, is not eligible for liberation unless reborn as a man. (Pravacanasara, III, 7).

This avowed inferiority is reflected even in the administration and control of the order of nuns. For the rule held that the nuns were not to live at any time without the association of either an acarya or an Upadhyaya or a pravartin. The last of these stood at the lowest stage, subordinate both to the acarya and the Upadhyaya. (Vav. III, 12).

The hierarchical list amongst the nuns corresponded to that amongst the monks. Just as there, were officers like the acarya, ganin, pravartin, Ganavacchedaka, abbiseka and Thera, the order of nuns had ganini, pravartin, Ganavacchedini, abhiseka and theri.

The ganini was the highest officer in the cadre and headed the Gana or the group or unit of nuns. She practically did the duties, which an acarya did for his group. She was expected to be a person of high moral standard, equanimous, energetic and fond of study, able to execute stern discipline and having organizational drive (Gacchayara, 127-28). No details regarding her paryaya or academic standard are available.

The next in the cadre was the pravartin often referred to in the Cheyasuttas. The exact position of her in relation to other officers, is a matter of uncertainty, However, a nun aspiring for this office was required to have a full knowledge of the 'ayarapakappa' as also organizational tact and command. In spite of this, she was never allowed to stay alone (shiv. V, 1, 2, 9, 10). With the help of an acarya, whose duty it was to let her know the details about transgressions which nuns were not to commit, the pravartin was the officer who was responsible for the moral discipline of nuns under her care.