Repetition in Jaina Narrative Literature [Part 2]

Published: 10.04.2012

The paper was published in Indologica Taurinensia (Vol. XI, 1983, pp. 27-75).


§ 3. Varaka-Repetition and Hero-Variation

Repetition in Indian literature can be studied in more than one way. Scholars have made numerous observations in different parts of Indian literature, narrative and non-narrative, which demonstrate the enormous role played by repetition. But it is difficult to arrange the material in a rational manner, and we have collected observations (and comments) on repetition in a footnote [5] without precisely being able to state what we have included and what not. On the whole we have included cases of non-stylistic repetition, cases which have been labelled by the scholars as «endless (tedious, etc.) repetitions ». Refer also to § 15 for the academic milieu which appreciated such developments.

Under the circumstances it would seem advisable to concentrate on specific literary genres as limited and uniform sections of the material. On a «subdivisional» level typology should be easier than on a «regional» level. Instead of a great variety of developments we have a limited number of structural factors. Also, the uniformity within the genre offers certain advantages which are of practical importance: identity of the language, recurring names in stories, similar form (verse, prose; prolix style, condensed style), similar phrases, and so on - i.e. identity in one or more respects. It is for these reasons that we concentrate in the present paper on the two genres mentioned in § 1: Varga Literature and Universal History.

In the case of Varga Literature we are concerned with two types of repetition as indicated in the above title. Both types contain a more general element, and there may be distant analogies even in modern books (quotations etc.). However, we shall not try to coordinate in a systematic manner the phenomena in Varga Literature with developments outside it.

For the description within the genre we may choose between different levels of abstraction. We shall first define the phenomena (describing them as « ideal types », but not in detail) and afterwards supply the details (conspectus and commentary). The last step in this direction (maximum of concretion) would be a new edition of a text. The selection and combination of the three procedures is not subject to any general rule but depends on the circumstances.

A varaka shall be defined as a description of a typical object or person or event. Such varṇakas can be used again and again as the objects etc. (e.g. cities) occur repeatedly in the stories. One and the same cliche can be used for Campā, Rājagṛha, Śrāvastī etc. Since this varaka-repetition is a regular feature of our texts we require an adequate vocabulary to analyse the situation. We have to distinguish between the «source-passage» and the «target-passage», the former supplying the «varṇaka» needed to fill the latter (which otherwise would remain a mere torso). The varṇaka may be short or long, the source-passage can be in the same work (nearby or at some distance) or in some other work. Again we have to distinguish between the actual text (complete or not) and reference devices (such as jāva, eva, etc.).

From the point of view of abstract logic, hero-variation is the very opposite of varṇaka-repetition. We are not told what is to be repeated but we are advised what is to be changed. A story is narrated (= «narrative unit»), and afterwards we are told that this very story is to be repeated a certain number of times with other names substituted for the hero (= «variation unit», i.e. instruction for variations). The sum of repetitions is not uniform, and the changes may affect more than one detail (e.g. name of the queen in addition to the name of the king). And although we have strictly speaking only the variations (new names for the hero but not a word of the story) we must include this technique amongst the various forms of repetition.

Whereas varṇaka-repetition exists also outside Varga Literature, we find only few instances of hero-variation which do not belong to this literary field. It is therefore the latter phenomenon (hero-var. plus/minus decadic subdivision) which leads us to the establishment of the genre. Refer for Varga Literature to W. Schubring [6] and J. Deleu [7] (both scholars use the expression «vagga texts »). For the technique of hero-variation refer to A. Weber, [8] W. Schubring, [9] and J. Deleu. [10] For non-narrative passages which are in their structure related to hero-variation refer to J. Deleu. [11]

Varṇakas occur in various Buddhist works (fn. 5: E. Waldschmidt et alii), but there are no traces of them in the epic or in the Pañcatantra. Descriptive formulas such as nīla-jīmūta-sakāśa (epic) and kut-kāmakaṇṭha (Pañcatantra) are very short and belong to a different milieu. Hero-variation is isolated as a literary development but it can be connected with Jaina scholasticism (dialectics of the Vyākhyāprajñapti) and with the structure of the folktale (changing heroes, identical events). The comparison with an earlier contribution [12] shows that an accurate description of repetition phenomena is more difficult than would appear at first sight.


§ 4. Conversion Stories

The heading of this section is derived from the title of § 19 in Deleu, Viy. It seems practical, and this has been indicated by J. Deleu himself, [13] as well as by K. K. Dixit, [14] to employ the term so as to include all stories about conversion-and-moka. Here « conversion » is understood in its narrowest sense or in the sense of «virāga-shock». Abhinikramaa and upasarga motifs may or may not form part of the sequence of events. Many of these numerous stories show little imagination, but it seems necessary to study not only the great biographies demonstrating this pattern (Gautama Buddha, Vardhamāna Mahāvīra) but the poorer specimens as well. Also it should be possible to classify the material by establishing a motifeme sequence or motifeme sequences. [15] The Varga Literature consists mainly though not exclusively of conversion stories, and these form also the link between Varga Lit. on the one hand and the Vyākhyāprajñapti on the other. [16] B. Bhatt stresses inter alia the relationship between Vyākhyāprajñapti phrases such as «dukkhāam anta karehiti» [17] and the title of the 8th aṅga («Antakṛd-daśāḥ»).


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Indologica Taurinensia

Compiled by PK

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