Samaṇa Sutta

Published: 22.07.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015

1.0 Introduction

Religion is a transcendental spiritual experience which is permanent, trans-subjective, blissful, intuitive, supersensuous, infinite, incommunicable and ineffable. It is the non-conceptual state of existence wherein all differentiations disappear. The Jaina view of religion lays stress on realizing the transcendental nature of self, which the individual feels as his own.

It should be borne in mind that the present book, Samaṇasutta is the central book of Jainism. It is a compendium of Jaina teachings. It presents Āgamas in a nut-shell. It is as sacred as the Āgamas themselves. It comprises the essence of Mahāvīra’s philosophical thinking. Just as the Gītā, the Bible, the Dhammapada, the Koran and the like represents the teachings of Kṛṣṇa, Christ, Buddha and Mohammad respectively, similarly the Samaṇasutta stands for Jainism. It consists of 756 Prākṛta verses divided into 44 chapters dealing with various aspects of Jainism. It is called Samaṇasutta because it contains suttas, delineated by the great Śramaṇa Mahāvīra along with other Śramaṇas following the tradition of Mahāvīra.

Samaṇa sutta is a unified text of the Jainas in which the essence of Jainism is given in the original words of Lord Mahāvira and in ancient Jaina Ācāryas belonging to both the major sects - the Digambaras and the Śvetāmbaras.

It was at the initiative of Ācārya Vinoba Bhave, a direct disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, that the Ācāryas belonging to all the four sub sects of Jainism that sat together to make a collection of the Gāthās from different scriptures of their sects so as to present a volume which will represent the essence of Jainism in the most authentic way and at the same time shall be acceptable to all the sects of the Jainas. It beautifully summarizes the teachings and philosophy of the Jainas in a lucid fashion.

Below we shall quote a few statements from this Text to give an idea of the approach of the Jaina thinkers to life. As these sentences are faithful translations of the original, they may appear to the archaic at places, but this is their beauty that they take you back to the ethos of the original Jaina world. We are giving only a few representative sentences with the advice that the students should read the whole Text for themselves because the Text is quite handy and yet pregnant with great meaning. Let us have a taste of the original to some extant.

2.0 Suttas from the text

  • Obeisance to all saintly persons of the world.
  • He, who takes recourse to reality as it is, has right vision.
  • Momentary are the pleasures of senses resulting in prolonged suffering. They obstruct liberation and are mines of all trouble.
  • One knows the pains of birth, old age and death and yet does not leave the sensuous pleasures.
  • Oh! How strongly tied is the knot of conceit?
  • Attached to wealth and women, negligent in physical and vocal activities, accumulates dirt form both sides as an earth-worm accumulates mud from both the mouths.
  • Neither the friends, nor sons, nor relatives share ones misery. He has to suffer all alone. The action invariably follows the agent.
  • The agent is free while action, but helpless, while enjoying the fruits of his actions. Just one is free while climbing a tree but helpless while falling from it.
  • Who else is with a wrong vision other than one who does not act according to what he preaches?
  • Attachment and aversion are the seeds of karma, which is turn, originates from infatuation; Karma is the cause of birth and death, which are the cause of misery.
  • If you wish to cross the terrible oceans of mundane existence, then O virtuous one! Quickly catch the boat of austerity and self-control.
  • One should practice with respect that all which produces detachment, one, who is detached, is verily emancipated; one who is attached wanders is mundane existence endlessly.
  • Asserting that body is different from soul; shake off attachment to body, which is the cause of suffering and root of misery.
  • Supreme forgiveness, humbleness, simplicity, truth, purity, self-control, austerity renunciation, non-possessiveness, and celibacy are the ten ethico-spiritual qualities.
  • One has taken birth several times in high as well as low families; none is high and low. After knowing this, who shall be proud of his (high) caste?
  • One, who neither thinks crookedly, nor acts crookedly, nor speaks crookedly and nor does hide his faults, his conduct is simple and straight forward.
  • A saintly person, avoiding speech which may hurt others speaks what is beneficial to the self and others, observes truthfulness.
  • More the gain, more the greed; gain increases greed (for a greedy person) what could be achieved by two grams cannot be achieved by crores of grams.
  • Restraining the senses and passions, one who absorbs himself in meditation and self-study, he verily performs penance.
  • (A realized soul says) We possess nothing and live in bliss. Nothing is agreeable or disagreeable to us.
  • One who is free from delusion is free from misery, one who is free from desire is free delusion, one who is free from greed is free from desire and one who owns nothing is free from greed.
  • Just as women are to be avoided by celibate men, similarly men are to be avoided by celibate women.
  • Blessed are those who are not burnt by fire of sexual desire, which burns the forest of all the three worlds, enkindled is the tree of sensual pleasures and encompassing the grass of youthfulness.
  • The self does and undoes the pain and pleasure. Self, on right path, is the friend and self is enemy when on the wrong path.
  • Restrain your own self, why fight with others? One, conquering the self by self, progresses with ease.
  • Desist from one side and act on the other; withdraw from licensciousness and adopt selfdiscipline.
  • Attachment and aversion are two such sins which lead one to sinful activities. A saintly person who controls these two does not wonder in the circle of mundane existence.
  • Anger kills love, pride destroys modesty, deceitfulness destroys friendship and greed annihilates all.
  • Overcome anger by calmness, pride by humbleness and deceitfulness by simplicity of heart and greed by contentment.
  • Because of attachment, one kills, tells lie, commits theft, indulges in sex and entertains desire for unlimited possessiveness.
  • The essence of wisdom is not to torture any body. Just know that non-violence consists in equanimity.
  • A vigilant person is non-violent, all others are violent.
  • No happiness with laziness, no knowledge with sleep, no detachment with possessiveness and non compassion with negligent activities.
  • A lamp lights hundreds of others lamps and himself also remains lighted; so are the preceptors; like a lamp they enlighten others and themselves also remain enlighten.
  • Know that the self is devoid of taste, colour, smell and word, unmanifest and possessed of consciousness, having no profane and physical structure.
  • I am neither the body, nor the mind, nor speech, nor their cause. Nor am I the agent, nor the inspirer nor the approver of the action.
  • The saints have proclaimed that vision, knowledge and conduct lead to liberation. They lead to liberation (if right) and to bondage (if wrong).
  • Just as a fetter, whether made of gold or iron, binds, similarly an action, whether good or bad, binds the person.
  • Yet, it is better to attain heaven by observance of vows and penance than to suffer in hell by violation. There is a lot of difference between the two one waiting in shade and the other in hot sun.
  • One knows the reality by knowledge, establishes faith in it by (right) vision, grasps it by conduct and purifies it by austerity.
  • Just as a lotus leaf remains aloof from water (even thought very much in it) by its very nature, the righteous person remains mentally unaffected by passions and objects of senses.
  • He is to be considered a person with right perspective, who with a detached mind does not aspire for the fruits of his actions or for the attributes of worldly objects.
  • He is the seeker of self, meritorious, self-controlled and observer of vows and penances who, not to speak of praise, does not aspire even for respect, worship or salutation (from others).
  • Knowledge is that by which reality is comprehended, mind is pacified, self is purified, and attachment is severed. Like for goodness is developed and sense of friendship is strengthened.
  • He knows all the scriptures who know the self as witness by nature is actually different from the impure body.
  • One, who knows the internal, knows the external and one who knows the external, knows the internal.
  • He, who knows one, knows all and one who knows all, knows one.
  • Character means withdrawal from the inauspicious and engagement in the auspicious. Of what use is the vast knowledge of scriptures for one who is characterless. Million of lighted lamps are useless for one without eyesight.
  • Character means righteousness. Righteousness means equanimity and equanimity is that state of soul which is free from infatuation and perturbance.
  • One who takes beneficial food is small quantity; need no physician to treat them. They treat themselves on their own.
  • One should practice right course of conduct well before old age inflicts him, diseases overcome him and senses become weak.
  • Abstinence from torturing creatures, falsehood, theft, incontinence and limitless desire for possession are the small rules of conduct.
  • Equanimity makes one, śramaṇa, celibacy makes one Brāhmaṇa, knowledge makes one saint and austerity makes one ascetic.
  • One should keep equanimity in gain land loss, pleasure and pain, life and death, censure and praise and honour and insult.
  • Dress (of a monk) does not verify the authenticity of a person who is devoid of self-control. Is not one killed by swallowing poison even if he changes his dress?
  • External objects are relinquished for inner purification. External renunciation is futile for one who is bound internally.
  • A real saint is one who is unattached to his body, who is completely free from passions like ego etc. and who is engrossed in one self.
  • All such vows are great where there is no reservation of desire for return, perverted vision and hypocrisy. A vow is polluted by these three reservations.
  • A negligent person always commits violence, whether his activities kill some one or not. A vigilant is not bound merely because his activity may happen to injure somebody.  One should cautiously walk, stand, sit, sleep, eat and speak. He is not bounded by evil in this way.
  • He is self-disciplined, who forsaking the alien modifications, remains engrossed in his pure nature.
  • A realized soul should think that I am that who never leaves his own nature and does not assume the nature of others; who knows and sees all.
  • He practices penance who takes food in small quantity for the study of scriptures. Penance without study is just starving one self.
  • Just as a fire in the forest consumes the heap of grass the fire of penance, set ablaze by right character and accompanied by the wind of right knowledge burns the cause of mundane existence.
  • The fire of meditation consumes all good or bad for him who is free from attachment, aversions and evil mental, vocal and physical activities.
  • No physical movement, no speech, no thought, self engrossed in self… this is the meditation par-excellence.
  • Birth is accompanied by death, young by old age, wealth by transitoriness—thus one should reflect that everything is perishable.
  • All objects are perishable—reflecting on this, forsake great infatuation and detach the mind from objects of pleasure.
  • A wicked person does not give up deep-rooted enmity, is quarrelsome, devoid of goodness and mercy and is of licentious nature.
  • A gentle person is not partial, is free from desire of any return of his actions, is equal to all and free from attachment, aversion and affection.
  • The body is said to be the boat, the soul is the boatman, and the mundane existence is the ocean. The great sects cross over it.
  • The man of calm disposition must die, so must one possessed of cowardly disposition; death, thus, being inevitable, it is preferable to die with calmness.
  • All ignorant persons undergo suffering. The confounded wander endlessly in mundane existence.
  • The bondage in brief is like this: Attachment binds detachment liberates.
  • The same bondage which an ignorant person gets rid of in million of years, is go rid of by an illuminated person in single breath by controlling his body mind and speech.
  • All words withdraw, all logic suspends, and all intelligence fails where there is no pain or pleasure, no torture, no obstacle, no death, no birth…. Such is the state of liberation.
  • The knowledge which grasps in proper way nature of things as they are is valid.
  • Those who shower praise on their own views and condemn the views of others, exhibit pedantry and wander in the transmigratory circle of mundane existence.
  • The whole approach of this philosophy and tradition is to overcome passions and have a balanced approach to life. The aphorisms of this text are simple and lucid in manner.

International School for Jain Studies
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Buddha
  4. Celibacy
  5. Conceit
  6. Consciousness
  7. Dhammapada
  8. Digambaras
  9. Equanimity
  10. Essence of Jainism
  11. Greed
  12. International School for Jain Studies
  13. JAINA
  14. Jaina
  15. Jainism
  16. Karma
  17. Kṛṣṇa
  18. Mahatma
  19. Mahatma Gandhi
  20. Mahāvīra
  21. Meditation
  22. Non-violence
  23. Pride
  24. Samaṇa
  25. Soul
  26. Sutta
  27. Vinoba Bhave
  28. Violence
  29. Ācārya
  30. Ācāryas
  31. Āgamas
  32. Śvetāmbaras
  33. śramaṇa
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