The Background to Monastic Jurisprudence

I. Preamble.

II. Survey of Jaina Research. 

III. The Canon.

IV. Jurisprudence: Source texts for it.

V. The Spirit of Monastic Rules

VI.. Meaning of Transgressions and Exceptions.

I.  Preamble

I am indeed grateful to you for the honor you have done me in inviting me to place before such a distinguished gathering my views regarding Jaina monastic jurisprudence. I am quite conscious of the fact that I happen to be as yet a novice in the field of Jainology when compared to the stalwarts in the field. I would, however, not offer an apology on that account. On the contrary, taking inspiration from the work of the giants in the field, I would try to follow their footsteps with youthful confidence.

II. Survey of Jaina Research

You are all aware that the days when Jainism was taken to be an offshoot of Brahmans are a thing of the past – and rightly so. For in recent years, especially during the last fifty years, immense literature pertaining to Jainology has been brought to light. However, the first gleanings of Jainism in English came as early as 1809′ when Col. Mackenzie gave us “The Account of the Jainas”. This was followed by a couple of others, which, however, do not deserve any serious notice at all. It took nearly three-quarters of a century after Mackenzie, when Baler gave us his masterly presentation of “Indische Sekte den Jainas” in 1887. This seems to have opened up a new interest in Jaina studies and in the following decade or so critical editions of the canonical texts of the Jaina SvetambarasAgama were brought out.

     The opening up of the present century saw the development of scholarly interest in Jainology among foreign and Indian scholars. The researches were more homogeneous and planned rather than sporadic. Unlike the early attempts of the previous century as evidenced by the edition of Kalpasutra by Stevenson (1848), the fragments of the Bhagavati by Weber (1886) and the German rendering of the Abhidhana-Cintamani by Bothlingk (1847), the publications during our present century appear to be more copious and systematic. Save for the biased account by Mrs. Stevenson (1915) who could not find and understand the heart of Jainism, the other works pertaining to Jainology were masterly, the most brilliant amongst them being “Die Lehre der Jainas” by Schuring (1935)

The above account need not be taken to emphasize that work pertaining to Jainism was solely restricted to foreign scholars only. Side by side, in India itself a galaxy of scholars contributed to the study of Jainism. For along with Jacobi, Hertel, Hoernle, Schubring, Glasenapp, Guerinot, Alsdore Leurann, Weber Basham, and Charpentier, Dr. Upadhyle, P. L. Vaidya, Muni Jinavijaya, Pt. Sukhalalji, K. P. Jain, Prof. Kapadia, Dr. Hiralal Jaini, Pt. Nathu Ram Premi – to mention only a few amongst the many – have been solely responsible for making available to the world of scholars a mine of information regarding Jainism. Institutions like the Agamodaya Samiti, the Manikchandra Digambaras Jaina Granthamala, the Devendrakirti Granthamala, the Singhi Jaina Granthamala, and others have been helpful in sponsoring critical editions of several Jaina texts, and thus have rightly earned the gratitude of scholars.

Besides the texts and treatises, several pattavalis and thousands of epigraphs have been brought to light during the last fifty years, as a result of which the picture of the economic, religious, social and cultural development of Jainism is emerging in clearer form. It is needless to list the persons and the institutions that have been responsible for this, for these are well known.

Jainism offers a rich field for new research in yet one more field; and that is the vast mass of manuscripts which lie deposited in scores of Jaina Bhandaras of all sects. I had the privilege of visiting quite a few of these and I was amazed at this sealed wealth. The Bhandaras have been a peculiar institution of signal importance. It is really remarkable how several of these have been fed and fostered with devotion and understanding by the Jaina laity.

III. The Canon

The foregoing summary would at once convince one of the immense work that has been done and the much more that yet remains to be done. However, that which has been done is helpful, if not enough, in studying the Jaina monastic institution, its day to day working and the rules and discipline that governed such daily routine, which forms the topic of these lectures.

In the light of this theme it will at once be agreed that the sole basis for the building up of the structure of Jaina monastic jurisprudence is the canon as acknowledged by the Svetambaras and the Angas, Angabhahyas and Anuyogas of the Digambaras.

Before entering into a detailed discussion of the sources for Jaina monastic jurisprudence – both of the Svetambaras and the Digambaras – it would be worthwhile to note a few points regarding the canonical texts, their development and nature.

     It is needless to go into the controversy regarding the canon. It is well known that the Digambaras do not acknowledge the texts of the canon as approved by the Svetambaras. As is well known the story of the canon of the Svetambaras is the story of redaction’s, collections and loss. The Council of Pataliputra of Mauryan times, another of Mathura of about the 4th Century AD and those at Valabhi of the 5th and 6th Century A.D. were responsible for the collection and redaction of the canonical texts. It is not unnatural if during such a long period some texts, especially the Puvvas were lost for good. From a historical point of view, it is not possible to say what texts formed the canon at the Pataliputra Council and what was the final form at the Valabhi Council. Thus a historical treatment of the development of the canon is not practicable. This hampers a great deal in studying the various facets, including that of monastic jurisprudence, of Jainism. What remains ultimately, in a broad sense, is the picture of Jainism up to the 6th century A.D. and that succeeding it.