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
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VI. Salient Features

After all these details, it would be worthwhile to note down the salient features of Jaina monastic jurisprudence.

The first and the foremost characteristic of these monastic rules is the emphasis more on moral values which formed the backbone of monarchism. However, coupled with that, due consideration was also shown to age and academic qualifications as well. Thus a fine blending of moral discipline, standing in monk-hood and academic superiority was given due consideration in the formation of the hierarchy and the implementation of monastic discipline.

Another feature was that the law was a great equalizer. For instance, the transgressions of a newly initiated monk as also of an experienced officer, were punished irrespective of position. Actually the higher the status of the transgressor in the hierarchy, the more severe was the nature of punishment inflicted.

Third and the most notable feature of Jaina monastic jurisprudence was that the accused was given full scope to explain his position. This was useful in case some mischief-monger, out of vengeance, made a false accusation against somebody. In such cases, the elders put more faith in the accused who gave his defense rather than one who reported about the transgression. After hearing his defense, the elders gave their verdict.

Yet another feature was that the transgressor was given due opportunity to improve his behavior. If during that period, he showed his capacity to carry out the rigors of monk-life, then he was allowed entry to the order again in case he had committed a transgression, which wiped out his whole paryaya.

Due consideration was given to the circumstances under which a transgression was committed. We have already referred to the 'ahalakusaya vavahara.' in this connection. Besides, the nature of punishment depended upon the circumstances of each case of the delinquency. Extenuating and aggravating circumstances were duly considered in inflicting the punishment. For instance, touring with nuns of other faiths or with eunuchs, in a woman's apparel at daytime was punished with 'laghukacheda' or 'guru-ka-cheda'. Doing so at night was sentenced with 'mule'. If, however, a Jaina monk toured with a Jaina nun at day time then he was punished with 'anavasthappa'; if he did so at night time then he met with the highest punishment, that of parancika.. Here both the circumstances under which the breach of rule of monastic conduct occurred as also the considerations of maintaining the purity of monastic conduct of one's own creed were critically and scrupulously considered by the framers of monastic laws.

     Along with this, the makers of monastic laws were conscious of the social, religious, economic and geographical peculiarities of various regions. Hence suitable exceptions in these regions were provided for by the church. Here was therefore flexibility as also the rigidity of the spirit of the law. For instance, the monks and nuns are not to touch each other's body under normal circumstances. This does not mean, however, that this law is to be followed even under peculiar circumstances of distress. If a nun or a monk is bitten by a snake and if there is no other way of outside help then a monk could touch her body by way of treatment (Kalp., VI, 3). Similar is the case in which an ill monk was allowed to overstay at one place (Nis. cunni, 404), or in cases of going out to ease nature in rain instead of suppressing such calls, crossing the river under emergencies, staying at a proper place even without permission instead of living in a forest full of wild beasts and intense cold, so on and so forth. In all such cases, these practices were resorted to only as 'apaddharma' for which suitable prayascittas were undergone afterwards. Actually the Nisihacunni (2684) allows the acceptance of 'adhakarmika' food under such abnormal conditions as famine, wickedness of a king, great fear or illness, etc. Not only this, but those who even when knowing the emergencies that made a monk act abnormally teased or condemned him were punished by the acarya. Therefore, the motive behind the transgression and the tendency that led to the commitment of in-discipline was to be punished, and not the helpless victim of circumstances.

This insistence on the practice of the spirit of the law and not the letter of it is reflected in the provisos and exceptions to monastic conduct in peculiar regions as mentioned in the Brhatkalpa-Sutra-Bhasya. For instance, in the Maharastra region, people used the nilakambala in winter. The monks touring that region in that season were also allowed to use that type of Kampala. In the country of Thuna, people used clothes whose ends (dashiki) were cut, whereas reverse was the practice in the Indus region. In the Konkan region, people were accustomed to eat fruits and flowers. In all these social and geographical variations, the monks were allowed to adjust their practice with the local habits for which, however, they had to undergo prayascittas later on.

The last and the most important feature of the laws of Jaina monastic jurisprudence is their heterogeneous arrangement. We have already seen that the study of the Cheyasuttas was compulsory for those who aspired for a senior rank in the hierarchy. Their study would have been much easier had the different transgressions been grouped under suitable categories of monk life like dress, food, study etc. On the contrary what we find in the Nihihasutta is the grouping of various acts of monk-life grouped under the categories of prayascittas. This, as the case stands, makes the reference to a particular transgression not very easy to find out.

And the last but not the least important point is the total absence of the mention of the background that led to the formulation of a particular rule in Jaina texts dealing with jurisprudence. What we find in the bare texts of the Chedasutras is the abrupt, matter-of-fact, heterogeneous list of different transgressions that were to be dealt with under a particular prayascittas. Of course the cunnis and the Bhasas provide the necessary information which seems to robe the skeleton of rules. As Schubring rightly points out in his introduction to the Kappasutta, "there is nothing of legendary embellishing in the Jain ordinances".