THE CUSTODIANS OF MONASTIC DISCIPLINE


 

I. Introduction.

 

II. The Custodians of Monastic Discipline: The Hierarchy.

 

III. The Problems of Seniority and Succession.

 

IV. The Units or Church Groups.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

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 and exceptions.

 

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 their qualifications.

 

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 their inter-relation.

 

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.)

 

The Hierarchy:

 

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., p. 516a).

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Ganavacchedin~ was one who controlled a part of a Gana as her male counterpart the Ganavacchedaka did. No details regarding her academic qualifications or administrative duties can be had.

 

Similar is the case of the ahisega. The Brhatkalpabhasya (III, 2410, comm.) sometimes identifies her with the ganini, whereas sometimes she is taken to be fit to occupy the office of the pravartin (IV, 4339, comm.).

 

The theri, though not clearly evaluated, possibly had the same qualifications as the Thera. Since these designations follow closely the pattern of the monk-order, it would not be wrong to presume that the same categories like the jai-theri, pariyaya-theri; so on and so forth, were possibly current.

 

The mahattariya mentioned in the Gacchayara (V, 118) was possibly a nun who was respected due to her learning and moral integrity. She is not mentioned in any of the earlier texts. As for her duties, we have no information.

 

The khuddiya possibly denoted the nun confirmed. She is explained as 'bala' in the Brhatkalpa-bhasya (IV, 4339).

 

 Digambaras Hierarchy:

 

The Digambaras texts like Mulacara, Pravacanasara, and others do not differ much in giving the list of the officers of the church hierarchy. They refer to sahu, Thera, uvajjhaya, airiya, Ganahara, suri and pavatta (Pry. III, 47-52; Mull 7, 10; 4, 195, etc.). The term indicative of a senior monk is referred to in the Anagaradharmamrita (8, 50) and is the same as 'ratnika'.

 

However, in none of the texts referred to above further details regarding the academic qualifications and the nature of duties of these officers can be had. It is more than likely that the duties and nature of qualifications of these various officers was probably the same for the Digambaras and Svetambaras texts.

 

 

III

 

The Problems of Seniority and Succession

 

Thus the main qualifications of the officers of the Jaina church hierarchy consisted of moral integrity and the knowledge and proper practice of the rules of monastic conduct.

 

     It would be wrong, however, to suppose that the organizers of the church hierarchy were indifferent to other considerations. This is evidenced by the several rules and regulations that guided the considerations of seniority and succession. These considerations were essentially important for the proper working of the monastic order as also to keep up the morale of the juniors and the seniors. For if nepotism, and favoritism succeed in an ill, or had entered in house holding again. But in order to have no occasion for favoritism by which there was a chance of unfit persons stepping into office, the rest of the monks were given supreme powers to ask the newly appointed successor to quit office if they thought that he was unfit for the post. If he relinquished the office, well and good; then he was not to undergo any punishment.... But, if in spite of the request of the rest of the monks, he persisted to hold on, then that person had to undergo cut in seniority or isolation. Thus it may be said that the working of the Church was based on purely democratic lines even in the modern sense of the term."

 

Similar rules guided the seniority and succession in the order of nuns. As in the case of monks, the nuns also had a right to ask the unfit nominee of a pravartin to withdraw from office (Vav. V, 13-14). The appointment to office after re-learning the texts, expulsion and debarring due to offenses done while holding office and holding allegiance to the nun of senior standing by the disciples of one of less standing,— all these rules tally ad verbatim with those in force for the monks.

 

IV

 

The Units or Church Groups

 

The various officers and juniors bound by these rules of academic and moral qualifications and the laws of seniority and succession, resolved themselves in different groups which conformed generally to the rules of monastic jurisprudence as a whole but were guided by their own rules of internal working.

 

These groups facilitated the supervision of the systematic working of monastic discipline as also the development of solidarity and the furtherance of the proper study of texts by a group.

 

To start with, these groups served the purpose very well. But later on with an enormous growth in the Gacchas, it seems to have resulted in differentiation of

Monastic practices as also a sort of isolationism, which are not good for the homogeneity of any church.

 

Be that as it may, the early texts of the canoes refer to various units or formations of monks under a senior.

 

The first and the foremost was the Gana which is said to have consisted of three kulas (Bhag. coma., p. 382b). Some texts do not give this specific number but say that a Gana is a group of kulas. On the other hand, the Brhatkalpa says that a Gana was formed of several sambhogas (IV, 18-20). The Digambaras text Miblacara explains the Gana as a group of three monks (traipqlrusiko Ganah, Mill. 10, 92; comm. p. 193).

 

Whatever it may be, the formation of a Gana under a senior officer took place for the express purpose of gaining higher knowledge or to practice a more rigorous mode of discipline, etc. Thus considerations of purely academic and monastic discipline seem to have led to the formation of a Gana (Than., p. 381a).

 

Nobody was allowed to change his Gana often. This was taken to be a major fault. However, the change of Gana after some period was allowed for several reasons For instance, for the obtainment of alms jointly With the members of the other Gana, and for the sake of making an advanced study of a particular text known to those who belonged to another Gana, a monk or an officer was allowed to change his Gana with the express permission of his senior and after laying down office in the present Gana. (Sm,v. 39ab, 40b; Kalp. IV, 18-24, V, 5).

 

None was allowed to change the Gana for avoiding atonement for a fault. Similarly a person could be allowed entry into the Gana after his dismissal for a grave offense, only if the other members expressed their confidence in him. So also the change over from a Gana of greater standing to that of a less standing was prohibited (N:s. 16. 15).

 

     The next group was designated as the kula, which however has not been satisfactorily explained in any text. However, it has already been seen that the kulas formed the Gana (Aup., com -. 81). The Bhagavai commentary (p. 382b) explains it as 'egayariyassa santai' (also Mull I, p. 143), or the disciples of a particular acarya. This, however, fails to explain the kula and the rules of its formation and working. It is likely that a kula was headed by a junior officer and a group of such hulas and their heads were responsible to the acarya.

 

The sambhoga is yet another formation referred to in early texts. This has been variously explained as 'a group taking food together' (Utter. comm. p. 333a), or as a group having a common samacari and taking food together' (Patga., p. 1062) or as "a group of monks begging alms in one district only" (Jacobi, See, XIV, P. 167, In. 1). The unit is also referred to in the inscriptions from Mathura.

 

The exact purpose for the formation of the sambhoga is not explicit though it is said that it facilitated exchange of requisites, common study of texts, exchange of food, attending the ill, etc. (Smv. 21b). It is doubtful whether it was a unit in the real sense of the term.

 

The most important unit is the gaccha, which is even now current in Jaina church. It is remarkable to note that it does not occur in the early texts of the Svetambaras canon but comes into constant reference in the Nijjuttis. As a matter of fact an entire text among the Painnayas, the Gacchayarapainnaya, deals with the gaccha.

 

There is no unanimity regarding the information as given about the gaccha. For instance, the Ovavaiya (p. 86) explains the gaccha so as to mean the following of one acarya. The Chedasutras do not mention the gaccha, whereas the Mulacara commentary makes it a group of seven monks (saptapurusiko: pt. I, p.133). In several texts and commentaries, it is equated with the Gana. The information as given in the Marinara makes it a unit of bigger strength than the gang, as the latter required only five people for its formation. On the whole it is not clear what relation gacchos and Gana had between them. Later on, however, the Gana went out of vogue, giving place to or identifying itself with the gaccha, which arose in a fairly large number. (DEO, op. cit., pp. 519ff).

 

The Ohanijjutti (116-117) enjoins every monk to be a member of some gaccha. Later inscriptions show that there was an enormous increase in the number of the Gacchas, which were formed on regional, personal and incidental basis as also on the strength of some monastic practice. However, since the Gana was equated with the gaccha in later days, it would not be incorrect to assume that the rules and regulations pertaining to discipline were the same.

 

There are other minor units, which find mention in the Ovavaiyasutta. For instance, it refers to 'gamma' and the commentator explains it to be a part of a gaccha controlled by the Upadhyaya (p. 86). No other information is available regarding this unit.

 

Similar is the ease of yet another unit designated as ‘phaddaga’, which was a small part of a gaccha and was in charge of the Ganavacchedaka (Ova. p. 86). This involves contradictions as it makes the Ganavacchedaka subordinate to the Upadhyaya whereas the Chedasutras lay down identical qualifications for the Ganavacchedaka and the acarya, the latter being definitely senior to the Upadhyaya. On the basis of this discrepancy, Schubring (Die Lehre der Jainas, article 140) doubts whether these were technical divisions at all.

 

Schubring’s remarks seem to hold good even in the case of the mandali (Ogha. N. 522, 547, 561). This implied the formation of a group of monks for the purpose of waiting upon the ill or for helping the new young entrant to the order etc. The Thera or the elderly monk who headed such a group was called the mandali- Thera.

 

The Saka or sakha was not a unit in the strict sense of the term. JACOB' points out that "it is not quite clear what is meant by Gana, kula and sakha. Gala designates the school which is derived from one teacher; kula, the succession of teachers in one line; sakhathe lines which branch off from each teacher". (SBE, XXII, p. 288, In. 2).

 

The details so far given, though not exhaustive, are sufficient to give an idea about the custodians of monastic conduct, the qualifications required for various positions in the church hierarchy, the rules and regulations which were enjoined upon them and the various groups which formed the monk-order as a whole.

 

Having known the inter-relation between the various officers and the groups they headed, let us now pass on to the actual enactment of the rules of monastic conduct and the application or enforcement thereof by those who were qualified and authorized to do so.