Worshipping the Ideal King: On the Social Implications of Jaina Conversion Stories (2)

Posted: 01.03.2016
Updated on: 02.03.2016

Part 2:

2 Two Stories

We have seen so far that conversion is presented in medieval Jain stories as a general narrative motif employed by Jain ascetics to influence their audience and to stimulate real conversion experiences. In order to demonstrate the applicability of our theory, I now turn to the analysis of two cases of biographical narratives whose plots focus on the interaction between kings and merchants and result in conversion experiences: (1) The Śālibhadracarita (SC1–2) of Dharmakumāra (1277 C.E.), and (2) the Ardhakathānaka (AK1–3) of Banārasīdās (1586–1644 C.E.). These two stories have been selected because they illustrate how medieval and early modern Jain authors applied the general principle of 'renunciation as the ideal form of conflict-resolution' to interpret the near-real-life case of structural conflicts between all-powerful kings and subordinate merchants also in religious terms as a relationship between Śaivism and Jainism. This section also plays a mediating role for the following discussion of the real process of conversion towards Jainism and its benefits for merchants vis à vis kings and ties in with the above argument on the rhetorical function of royal pomp.[109]

2.1 The Conversion of the Virtuous Merchant Śālibhadra

The Śālibhadracarita is still "one of the best known Jain didactic religious stories"[110] and still one of the most popular Jain legends, which also became the subject of many poems.[111] For Jains, who are mostly traders, Bloomfield[112] explains, the legendary character of the merchant Sāli (Śāli) (lit. rice)[113] is seen as the paragon of luck and wealth.[114] Traditionally, the story has its place in the Prakrit and Sanskrit Āvaśyaka and Bṛhatkalpabhāṣya literature,[115] which illustrates the benefits for the Jain mendicant or layperson of following the Jain moral rules, vratas, in the context of the rules of proper conduct and the rites of repentance, pratikramaṇa.[116] The following paraphrase of the relevant content of the SC is taken from Bloomfield's[117] account of the Sanskrit version of the SC, which was composed by Muni Dharmakumāra, and, because it appeared not polished enough, later poetically reworked by Pradyumnasūri.[118]

The text, in its final form, is written in the highest style of mahākāvya, governed by the extremest habits of Hindu rhetoric (alaṃkāra).... There is scarcely a stanza in the entire poem free from such rhetorical devices, some of which are pretty certain to occur in other texts of this class.[119]

I will paraphrase now Bloomfield's digest of the narration of the conversion of Śāli at length in order to give a flavour of the rhetorical style of the text as well. The Śālibhadracarita in general belongs to the genre of the dānadharmakathās or dānāvadānas, that is "stories in which the karma accumulated in certain existences bears fruit, good or evil, in a subsequent life".[120] The overall plot shows that because Śāli gave alms to a yati in his former life, he will be liberated at the end of this life. The story of the actual conversion, a variant of pratyekabuddha narratives, goes as follows:[121]

In his previous life Śāli was the shepherd boy Saṃgama, son of the virtuous widow Dhanyā (wealth), which was so poor, that she did not even had the means to cook him a rice-pudding at the occasion of a religious feast. Dhanyā was very upset about this and, in her desperation, accepted the offer of her neighbours to provide her with the necessary ingredients. But when Saṃgama received the delicious dish, and was about to eat it, a Jain ascetic, who had fasted for an entire month, suddenly passed by, looking for alms to break his fast, pāraṇa. Immediately realizing this unique opportunity for furthering his spiritual advantage, Saṃgama picked up the pudding and gave it to the ascetic, who accepted and left to his abode. His mother, returning from the kitchen, did not realize that an ascetic had visited her house, and thought her son ate everything himself. She therefore gave him more pudding, and Saṃgama ate so much, that he died from indigestion on the same day.[122] The great merit of his gift, however, secured him a favourable rebirth in the town of Rājagṛha, as Śāli (rice), the son of the rich merchant Gobhandra and his wife Bhadrā, who assured that he was blessed with every worldly fortune, living in a palace with thirty-two wives.

One day the ruler of Rājagṛha, King Śreṇika (Bimbisāra), was offered magic shawls by certain merchants from Nepal for so high a price that he refuses to buy them. 'With such a sum', Śreṇika retorted, 'one may collect elephants, horses, and men, that will ensure victory in battle; but what power has a mere garment.' The Queen (Cellaṇā), who joined the king unexpectedly, crushed the merchants' hope of doing business by spurring these 'jewels of garments' as being of no more use than 'a bull's dew-lap'. The merchants then waited upon Bhadrā, the rich merchant Śāli's mother, who finally bought the shawls at their full price, cuts them up, and presents them to her thirty-two daughters-in-law, who, in turn, placed them under Śāli's feet.

Queen Cellaṇā heard of this, chided the king, and bade him to get the shawls by fair means or foul. The king sent his doorkeeper to get the shawls from Bhadrā, but she was unable to deliver the goods which she no longer owned. The doorkeeper reported this and also that Śāli was living in more than royal pomp. The queen's ironic importunities had the effect of 'weaving Śāli's image into the king's soul'. Hence, he sent the doorkeeper for a second time to Śāli's palace with an invitation to wait upon the king. Bhadrā, Śāli's mother, went instead, and told the king that her son does not even leave the pinnacle of his palace to visit his pleasure grove any more than religion, dharma, leaves Āryadeśa (orthodox India). She, in turn, invited the king to grace her house with his presence; and he accepted the invitation. She then arranged her palace for lavish hospitality. The king arrived, was received in state, and seated upon a jewelled throne. Now Bhadrā told her son that Śreṇika, the king had come. Yet, instead of 'Śreṇika', Śāli understood 'krayāṇaka' (any purchasable object),[123] and said absent-mindedly: 'Look over the ware, weigh it, pay for it, and take it.' Bhadrā, delighted, exclaimed that she is the most fortunate of women, because her son is so deeply immersed in pleasure as to misunderstand a plain statement. She replied that the king is present in all his majesty. Her exclamation, 'It is the king!',[124] brought Śāli repentance, and he realised that even the strong and powerful are of no account: that existence itself is impermanence, where the highest ruler is a mere living creature with feet and hands like him self: 'Of him that wears the shape of a mere bubble in the ocean of saṃsāra, how much is his princehood valued by the wise? Out upon his non-existing glory which has no more permanent habitat than a wandering harlot'. 'I know that the Lord of the three worlds, holy Vīra, is my refuge; what use have I then for this eunuch king of a chess-board?' If one is a real king only through great virtue; what other king can then prevail against him?

Though Śāli, like any one of true faith, looked upon Śreṇika now as the unwelcome sigh of error, he respected his mother's wish, and descended with his wives from the seventh floor of his palace to pay his respects. The king was delighted, embraced him, and, amorously, set him upon his lap. While the king enjoyed the highest bliss from this contact, Śāli broke into tears. Bhadrā told the king that Śāli, accustomed to heavenly wreaths, clothes, food, and unguents, furnished to him by his fathe, who was a god in heaven, abhors exceedingly men's breath. She begged him to let Śāli go, the pet of fortune, tender as a lotus. The King releases Śāli who again retired with his wives to the upper terrace of his palace.

Then, Bhadrā ordered a grand shampoo for the king. When the king was finally being rinsed, his signet ring falls into the water, 'like a beloved mistress in her tantrums, when she has become subject to anger and pride.' The king was annoyed by the loss, but when, at Bhadrā's order, the water was drawn off by a maid, he easily saw the ring in the bath. 'Like a villager in the midst of city-folk, like a coward in the midst of heroes, like a pauper in the midst of the rich, like a fool in the midst of the wise, it seems now a lustreless thing among jewels.' This chilled his love for Śāli, though, at the same time he recognized his superior character. With play upon Śāli's name (rice), he exclaims: 'While we, "Barley", have fallen from our place, must endure splitting and other treatment of grain, "Rice" (Śāli) alone of all grains is not crushed' 'No lie it is, he is surely "Rice" (Śāli), crest-jewel of noble grains, for whose grains of virtue the king-parrots yearn forsooth.' The king, in this way, realized that Śāli, as the impersonation of the Jina, unexpectedly served him, too, for a noble purpose. Bhadrā then entertained the king sumptuously, showered gifts upon him, and the king returned to his palace.

After the experience of vairāgya (loss of taste for the world) 'produced by mere sight of the king', Śāli realized the dangers of identifying himself with the king, who, as he now understood, plays a dangerously ambiguous role for him: 'The existence of kings has brought him bliss (through pratyakabodhi); his spiritual eye is clear as a star.' Nevertheless (remembering how he attracted the king) he railed at the 'royal serpent', who constantly seeks to devour the unwary serpentfolk, and decided to resort to the mantra and the divinity to prevent the destruction of bliss by the 'kings-disease' (rājamandya).[125] Returning to his bad experience with the king's breath, he bitterly exclaimed: 'That influence which is spat out (left behind) by licentious king-demons must be avoided like eating in the night.' And he contrasted the call of the Lord Vīra to a holy life, 'which sits like a diadem upon the head', with the king's command which had suddenly fallen upon Śāli to his injury and sorrow: 'The crow, "possession by the king", making noise on high, surely bodes misfortune as it touches my head.' Thus, Śāli regarded the king's favours as degradation, whereas others would delight in being his slaves. His soul and body are afflicted alike by him: 'the king (rājan) has turned out to be the kings-disease (rājamandya), and his mother Bhadrā has performed a grievous ajākṛpaṇīya act[126] in introducing to him her son who is now afflicted by the king's breath'.

In this frame of mind, Śāli resorted to the gaṇa-leader (sūri) Dharmaghoṣa, instructor in the war against the 'serpent existence', who taught him in a largish sermon how to cast off the fetters that bind to the world by abandoning the triad of sins, and adopting the three restraints (gupti). Lauded by the three potencies, bhūsa, bhuvasa, and svara, he will then become 'Lord of the World'. Śāli, in ecstasy, cried out: 'I will abandon existence, and, through your teaching, apply my mind to Salvation'.

2.1.1 Structural Conflicts between Kings and Merchants

This story is still popular amongst Jain baniyās, I believe, because it successfully alludes to characteristic patterns of friction/confbetween officially a-political middle class traders and superior holders of political power which can still be experienced in real life today. In medieval and early modern India, the structure of the elitist rājābaniyā-alliance was characterised by a relationship of solidarity vis à vis the lower classes, varṇas, on the one hand and by a latent conflict concerning control over material resources on the other hand. The relationship between merchants and kings was structurally ambiguous and perceived by merchants in terms of the dual appearance of the king as the source of both 'fears and favours'.[127] This relationship, where rājputs and baniyās appear as opposites on one level and joined together on another level[128] can be understood in terms of Dumont's model of 'hierarchical complementarity', not unlike the relationship between brāhmaṇs and kṣatriyas.[129] In paraphrase of Dumont, thus, the king appears superior from the dominant, political-religious point of view but dependent from an economic or material point of view. The merchant, on the other hand, though politically subordinate, is economically the master, because the king can not get involved in business himself, if he wants to maintain his status. However, in order to finance his public display of splendour and pomp he 'must give a place to economics without saying so, and is obliged to publicly close his eyes to this point on pain of destroying himself'.[130] The reproduction of the structural relationship between the king's public generosity and its hidden pragmatic conditions presupposed an oblique system of delegation of the fulfilment of the indirect pragmatic intentions of the king to subordinate elite groups, particularly the military aristocracy and traders who mutually controlled each other and served the king by looking after his unspoken material needs by offering gifts and tributes. Complementary to the king's outgoing appearance, social structural constraints required traders to maintain a frugal public image within the hierarchical system of statuses. Public generosity was celebrated and performed merely as a secondary virtue.

Brāhmaṇical literature does not grant economics recognition as a separate domain but presents it as 'undifferentiated within politics' as Dumont has shown. Relatively autonomous and cohesive networks of economic actors could and occasionally were, however, established under the umbrella of certain sectarian movements such as Jainism.[131] This ideal is evident in Jain literature like the Śālibhadracarita, which explicitly depicts merchants as an autonomous group.[132] The 'hierarchical' relationship between merchants and kings, I would argue, is implicit in the chiastic structural relationship of Śāli and Bhadrā, on the one hand, and Śreṇika and Cellaṇā, on the other hand, where the male characters represent the dominant orientation (i.e. economics and politics) and the women the reversed orientation on secondary levels. The king thus appears as pompous and not interested in economics ('what power has a mere garment'), only in military battle, while his wife is presented as greedy, jealous and keen on material objects. Śāli, the merchant, on the other hand, is depicted as modest and indifferent towards both politics and material objects, and as fully concentrated on business and religion. His mother is presented as the political negotiator of the family and the person who displays public generosity.

2.1.2 Reversal of Role-Attributes and Interactive Self-Elevation

Starting with this structural pattern, the story unfolds mainly through the rhetorical reversal of the role-attributes of the leading characters – Śāli and Śreṇika – which are both presented as deficient, in one way or another, compared to their respective class-specific role-ideals.[133] Śāli is presented as a person with a truly generous royal character, transcending worldly temptations and orientating himself towards the social whole disregarding material wealth, just like a great merchant, sāhū,[134] whereas Śreṇika, is depicted as covetous, violent, jealous, intrusive, corrupt and generally orientated merely towards his personal advantage, as his visit of the merchant's household shows. Śreṇika thus appears as a manifestation or rather as a caricature of the covetous merchant (ib.). The crucial rhetorical opening move is here that the king is not granted any special positional 'sacredness' beyond the manifest attributes of his personal character. This is in accordance with Jain principles. Arai has shown that Jaina nītisāstras do not accept a nominal concept of kingship but stresses instead the identity of Jaina kingship and perfect manhood: "the Jaina king must be a perfect person... he must strive for perfection just like an ascetic, and only in this way, can he be seen as superior as well as equal to his subjects".[135] The implication of the story, therefore, seems to be that Śāli, the man with the superior personal character, should really be the king and not Śreṇika, who by means of his defective character has no legitimacy from the point of view of Jainism. The person of the king is, in other words, presented as exchangeable, not as a sacred being per se.

Śāli's character is depicted as deficient as well. Initially, he does not recognize the pre-eminence of asceticism but apparently desires the attributes of worldly kingship for himself (living on the seventh floor of a palace with his thirty-two wives, never leaving his palace, etc.). This narrative reversal of attributes can be interpreted as a form of symbolic violence by means of 'flouting' expectations. The emotional energy generated with the help of these rhetorical devices is, however, contained within an overarching teleological structure. At the end of each narrative stage structural tensions produced by role reversals are channelled into dialectical tales of mutual selfelevation.[136] The Śālibhadracarita shows how mutual causation of experiences of destruction and loss generate an interactive dynamic resulting in acts of voluntary asceticism which benefits both Śāli and Śreṇika. Crucially, it is the experience of destruction and loss of a desired object or value which is interpreted as a vehicle of spiritual gain and depicted as the main impetus for the conversion experiences of Śāli and Śreṇika. Thus, ironically, through the king's uninvited intrusion into his house, Śāli is 'liberated' from his deluded identification with the king, and Śreṇika is 'liberated' from his desire for material values through the loss of his royal ring in the course of the ritual bath.[137]

2.1.3 Images of Destruction, Conversion and Reconstitution

What, precisely, happened to Śāli during his conversion experience? Jain doctrine distinguishes between two forms of conversion:

(a) 'indirect' conversion through the positive 'influence' of others (i.e., the sermon of a Tīrthaṅkara or Jain ascetics),[138] and

(b) 'direct' conversion through the miraculous and solitary spontaneous experience of the transitory nature of all worldly objects (pratyekabodhi).

Only the second mode offers the possibility of enlightenment for laypeople, independently from the ascetics. Because the Śālibhadracarita relates such events it is regarded as a pratyekabuddha story.[139] Conversion experiences are hierarchically classified: direct, personal insight is regarded as a higher form of conversion than a conversion through argumentation,[140] i.e. by means of the sermon of an ascetic or of narrative literature; and the higher the conventional value of the object which triggers a feeling of disgust of the world, vairāgya, the higher the status of the person having this insight. Such vairāgyastories are a widespread motif in Jaina universal histories, Bruhn noted:[141]

The hero of these stories (and of the drama which has of course a different beginning) always gains after much suffering and exertion some valuable object (generally a woman) which he loses later on through adverse circumstances. These circumstances are obviously later additions to the original motif.[142]

A similar phenomenon, the rare shock or wonder experienced at the emotionally involving sight of either natural objects or events such as filth, sickness or death[143] or in connection with evocative works of art referred to by the Pāli concept saṃvega (aesthetic shock) has been described by Coomaraswamy in the following words:

It is a state of feeling, but always more than a physical reaction. The 'shock' is essentially one of the realization of the implications of what are strictly speaking only the aesthetic surfaces of phenomena that may be liked or disliked as such. The complete experience transcends this condition of 'irritability'.[144]

Coomaraswamy analytically distinguishes between two phases of the shock which are felt as parts of an instant experience of a 'disinterested aesthetic contemplation' – the physical sensation on the one hand and the realization of its meaning on the other:

In either phase, the external signs of the experience may be emotional, but while the signs may be alike, the conditions they express are unlike. In the first phase, there is really a disturbance, in the second there is the experience of peace that cannot be described as an emotion in the sense that fear and love or hate are emotions. It is for this reason that that Indian rhetoricians have always hesitated to reckon 'Peace' (śānti) as a 'flavour' (rasa) in one category with the other flavours.[145]

It is interesting to see how Jain stories characterise the attributes of external objects which might serve as external activating conditions or vehicles for spiritual awakening (saṃvega) or religious insight (samyag-darśana).[146] The Jain scriptures describe these miraculous events usually in terms of a sudden weakening of karmic bondage, which leads for instance to the remembrance of a former birth.[147] Bloomfield[148] mentions the cases of the four legendary royal pratyekabuddhas (svayaṃsaṃbuddha):[149] The pratyekabuddha king Karakaṇḍu of Kaliṅga is said to have been converted through the experience of a weak bull, king Nami of Videha through the sight of a bracelet, king Naggati of Gāndhāra through a fallen mango-fruit,[150] and king Durmukha of Pañcāla through a fallen flag. Obviously, all these objects are deficient, incomplete or in the process of decay. It would seem that it is precisely their contamination with death, the defective and transitory nature of these objects, which permits the observer temporarily to gain 'discriminating insight' into the difference of 'essence and appearance', of 'life and death'. The visible loss of physical attributes reveals as it were the eternal conceptual paradigm of the type: even a 'weak bull' still is a 'bull' – a symbol of strength. Even as the bull's body decays, the image of 'bullness' remains (and the difference between thing and concept might come to mind). Seen as a rhetorical device, the term and image of a 'weak bull' is a paradoxical, multivocal object which – like a bracelet evoking the image of freedom from bondage – may elicit non-commonsensical insights into the nature of things. The preferred use of similes in conversion stories invites comparisons with the personal experience of the listener.[151] W. Iser,[152] I. Strecker, and others have also directed our attention to the role of such defective representations as rhetorical devices (FTA's) which are used to force implicatures:

Constructing... 'defective conceptual representations' deliberately in such a way that they force an implicature (in the Gricean sense) S leads H to ask himself what is 'meant' and not what is 'said' and thus embarks on the exploration of the implied, and possibly multiple, hidden meanings within the statement.[153]

In the given case, the general implication is well known to every Jain, whatever the specific secondary meanings of a story might be – it concerns the difference of jīva and ajīva.

Most Jain conversion stories operate in similar ways.[154] They 'violate conversational maxims' and construct polyvalent, evocative objects, which force a practical or social implicature upon the audience. A measured injection of conflict is inevitable for achieving any effect or social influence with a narrative. Jain conversion stories, however, seem to use references toward experiences of violence and destruction of desirable objects in a systematic way in order to elicit its opposite.

The narrative of king Vikramayaśa's conversation in the Sanatkumāracaritam (SKC),[155] for instance, describes in painful detail how the king experiences vairāgya facing the decaying corpse of his mistress 'full of worms...'[156] In his next life he is reborn as the merchant Jinadharma and renounces again, because his rival through many lives – reborn as the Brāhmaṇ Agniśarman – persuades king Naravāhana to subject him to a painful torture. It is 'the experience of pain' which motivates him to renounce.[157] The list of examples is endless.[158]

References to conflict and pain, I argue,[159] are deliberately employed by Jains as rhetorical devices in order to evoke feelings of nonidentification with precisely those cherished characters and objects which are regularly presented in the opening moves of a Jain story. This inward distancing from experiences of violence and the establishing of a perspective of a disinterested onlooker presupposes a splitting of the personality in an interested and in a disinterested observer[160] and has, in fact, the opposite effect to the identification with sacrificial violence – it becomes a form of self-renunciation. Acts of non-identification and conversion/renunciation are, thus, intrinsically related. They are the intended outcome of the ascetics' rhetorical strategy of defamiliarization, and the basis of their potential social influence. Experience of violence which does not lead to renunciation seems meaningless and destructive for the mind of the respective individual. The Sanatkumāracaritam, for instance, contrasts the experience of Nāgadatta, the husband of king Vikramayaśa's mistress, with the renouncing king's attitude towards the loss of the beloved woman. Nāgadatta, it is said, could not renounce his great love for his wife, after she went with the king, and consequently he lost his mind and was reborn as a lower existence, whereas king Vikramayaśa was reborn as a god.[161]

Coming back to the conversion of Śāli, who experienced vairāgya 'by seeing the king'. In this case, too, I would argue that the potential experience of the ambiguity of the imagery of the king is (a) produced by the story itself, and (b) has all the qualities of a symbolic renunciation[162] of the desire of becoming a king-like personality, as a way of spiritual progress.

(a) Śāli's conversion experience itself has been explained by Bloomfield[163] with reference to the homonym of Śreṇika: krayāṇaka (any purchasable object). The implicature of this intentionally ambiguous play on words (śleṣa) is obvious: the king is suddenly experienced not anymore as the incarnation of the ultimate social value, but as a human being like anybody else and, therefore, as exchangeable – like a commodity.[164] Thus, for Śāli king Śreṇika all of a sudden turned into a 'weak bull', that is, a deficient human manifestation of ideal kingship, as represented by the Jina according to the text. Only the previous episodes make intelligible why Śāli actually developed the internal disposition to suddenly experiencing vairāgya: The text suggests the rather profane experience of disappointment with royal splendour in reaction to the 'royal serpent's' act of transgressing the social boundaries (between politics and economics), and forcing his entry into Śāli's house (in order to plunder its riches).[165] Śāli became disgusted with the world, because he identified himself with the king (kingship) – as the supreme embodiment of worldly value – who was now suddenly experienced as a paradoxical, both glamorous and violent personality with bad human breath, which cannot be a valid object of identification anymore: 'The king (rājan) has turned out to be the king-disease (rājamandya).

(b) In addition to Bloomfield's analysis of the various rhetorical metaphors I suggest a sociological interpretation of the motif of the 'kings-disease' in this story, which I regard as a link between a purely doctrinal interpretation of this conversion story and implied social interpretations. The central motif of this part of the story concerns the social consequence of Śāli's 'conversion' – the non-identification with the king. The conversion experience can be characterised as the sudden reversal of a predominantly outward orientation towards worldly objects/personalities (e.g. the king) to an inward orientation toward the immortality of the soul (jīva). As a consequence of this reversal of perspectives, the personality of the visible king is perceived merely indirectly, as a karmic pollutant of the essential translucidity of the invisible inner soul, which now appears as the 'true' king. The reversal of perspectives thus implies a devaluation of the external world and its encompassment by the inner soul (i.e. the point from which perception is perceived).

It is, therefore, not surprising, that Śāli suddenly perceives king Śreṇika not anymore as the incarnation of social value and as an object of identification and worship, but as source of contamination and disease. Now, the king appears not anymore as the remedy but as the source of scrofula, a skin disease which was called the kingsdisease not only in India, because it apparently could be healed by the 'royal touch' of a 'true' king.[166] The king appears as a negative 'influence', and his 'life-giving' breath seems dangerous and possessive:

'That influence which is spat out (left-behind) by licentious king-demons must be avoided like eating by night'... 'That crow, "possession by the king", making noise on high, surely bodes misfortune as it touches my head'.[167]

I interpret this perception as a rejection of the once attractive illusions, māyā, of the 'hierarchical' system which now appear as a dangerous, 'demonic' form of 'spiritual rhetoric' which can be possessive and all-encompassing. Being symbolically incorporated (consumed: rājakṣma) by the king (through the giving of gifts, etc.) does not anymore appear as a privilege but as a disaster for an inwardlooking, spiritually independent person: Śāli, like a Jain ascetic,[168] "regards the king's favours as degradation, whereas others would be delighted in being his slaves: his soul and body are alike afflicted by him".[169] The attractive illusion of royal pomp is thus destroyed by the real experience of royal violence, and Śreṇika appears not anymore as a sacred being but as a human amongst others: In Śāli's eyes, Śreṇika transformed into a 'weak bull', a deficient manifestation of the admired principle of kingship.

It would seem that the reflective orientation towards the own soul and the resulting non-identification and distance towards the world enables a practicing 'Jain' to discriminate between 'essence and appearance', between person and position, and particularly between himself and others, and calculate mutual [social] influences in karmic terms.[170] The ability to discriminate between karman and jīva is crucial for arresting the influx of karman, and thus should be constantly trained, for instance by practicing the twelve reflections (anuprekṣā), daily pratikramaṇas, or other ascetic cum meditative exercises associated with saṃvega.[171] This practical knowledge can then be used for purely soteriological purposes or applied to social contexts as well. It can be used not only defensively but also in order to exert one's own influence in a measured way. This brings me to the potential social implications of stories such as this one.

2.1.4 Social Implications

I argue that the sharp sense of discrimination between inside and outside which is mandatory for the practice of Jainism, and the resulting possibility to reverse perspectives represents a form of competence[172] which can be instrumentalized, for instance by subordinate, educated elites, such as the Indian baniyās, to liberate them from the ideological hegemony of the all-encompassing image of sacred kingship fostered by the medieval Hindu kings.[173] The ability to discriminate between different forms of 'karmic influx' enables for a more flexible, non-violent situational management of social relationships for instance with kings, that is, either identification or nonidentification, engagement or distance – judging situations by means of the distinguishing criterion of the violent/non-violent aspects of individual kings.

Particularly in the political and ideological context of medieval Hindu kingdoms, it seems, Jainism proved to be ideologically useful to reduce the influence of both the holders of political power and of the dominant Hindu ideology, without openly challenging their authority, and to function as a religious focus for the self-selective constitution of influential networks with common politico-economic interests on a secondary level of social organization.[174] It is well attested that the fundamental rhetorical strategy of the followers of Jainism is, both in the sphere of politics and religion, to use accepted social forms of speech to some extent without identifying with them.[175] This exercise in social distancing promoted by religion generates, in turn, the potency to reverse or reinterpret the conventional meanings and to construct intentionally multivocal utterances by implicitly 'violating the norm of identification' with dominant and objective social values, such as royalty and (brāhmaṇical) ritualism.[176]

The (Jain) minister's dilemma has been well characterized by the tenth century Ācārya Somadeva:

Those who are in constant fear of their lives (that is, fear the king), and have no motives of sordid gain in deliberations, are alone fit to be ministers of kings, and not those who are like blood-sucking leeches.... Ministers are, however, faced with a dilemma. If they followed the wishes of the king, the people might be ruined; while if they acted according to the wishes of the people, they might ruin their own position.[177]

The combination of outward conformity with dominant social conventions and inward dissent promoted both by Jain ontology and language usage is ideally suited to the structurally based social strategies of subordinate elites such as baniyās (who still are the predominant supporters of Jainism) vis à vis dominant powers. Ideologically, it potentially strengthens the striving for independence and self-regulation amongst subordinate groups or networks, without forcing them to challenge openly the dominant and incorporative political and religious powers.[178] The orienting structure of religious practice, which has been characterised as "submitting yet opposing" to dominant brāhmaṇical practices,[179] thus, overlaps with and to some extent constitutes the general orientation of strategic groups.[180]  In the Prabandhacintāmaṇi, for instance, a king characterises a merchant as "a tiger with a face of a deer, outwardly simple, but inwardly perfidious."[181] The Yaśastilaka is even more explicit: 

Thy minister appears in an endless variety of roles. He is himself creator and destroyer both. He is himself the speaker and the poet, the dancer and the clown! (3.225) None there is who is not deceived by these ministers, as the fishes are by the cranes. They are immaculate in outward appearance and dress, walk slowly, and cast steadfast glances. A pretence of honesty is their asset, and they are trained in their inmost hearts in the art of deception (3.191).... Who is not supremely delighted by their outward deportment? But, methinks, they have no pity in their hearts even for their others (3.193).[182]

These characterisations reveal the same motif of 'disguise', although the evaluation is (understandably from the king's perspective) reversed.[183] The self-perception of the Jains manifests the same structure but reverse evaluation. Jains ask themselves: "how to regulate our lives, so as to mix in the world, yet not imbibe its evil ourselves".[184]

The practical usefulness of a differentiation between inward and outward orientations – which allows for the reversal of perspectives, separation, pluralism, and selectivity (which are all typical strategies of subordinate or minority groups) – has been demonstrated most clearly by Bayly's[185] analysis of the baniyā mentality in pre-modern North India. In practice, his analysis indicates, members of service castes of high status, like the baniyās, were often totally dependent on royal support for their survival and for social status as well. Their only chance to gain independence relative to the king, was the maintenance of an inter-regional network of family and business contacts, which generated the possibility of physical withdrawal from a 'bad' king. The need for the maintenance of potential geographical mobility explains the characteristic refusal of baniyās to become landowners. There was, however, a constant temptation, and in certain circumstances necessity, for a rich merchant to imitate royal habits and establishing himself as a 'little king' (or a 'great sāhū'), though liberal spending of wealth and living in great palaces, but it is also apparent, that such behaviour is ultimately destructive of mercantile credit, and might attract kings and thieves. Jain stories, therefore, project the image of the 'frugal merchant', who "stands somewhere between the 'great sāhū' and the despised miser figure"[186] as the appropriate social ideal: "The frugal merchant avoids expense and luxury, inhabits a modest house and uses his adequate wealth to establish relations with learned men and priests".[187] He, maintains a difficult balance between the opposing temptations of 'misery and royal splendour':

The area of the greatest and most pervasive social risk, however, was for Hindus, like Jains, the boundary between the inward, frugal life of the merchant and the kingly manner which involved constant giving and receiving. Merchant families might find themselves trapped in the limbo between these two styles of life, unable to command the power and respect of the ruler yet 'expensive' enough to forfeit credit in the mercantile sphere. For merchants necessarily became involved with political power.... The service or succour of kings which was enjoined in the law books was constantly reiterated as a goal in merchant family histories. It involved the giving and getting of political honour and tied them yet more closely into durbars.[188]

The characteristic solution of this structurally induced conflict between two 'models of behavior', typically encountered by members of all high ranking office holders, was, according to Bayly, the maintenance of "a sharper distinction between inward and outward style of life".[189] The tension of inward asceticism and self-denial and lavish public display, which appears also in the religious practices of merchants (in Bayly's view there is not much difference between both realms) is thus solved through a radical differentiation between two hierarchically ranked modes of orientation.[190]

This internal differentiation of roles and corresponding personality-structures, and the possibility of role reversal which it generates, seems to be typical for all subordinate elite groups, which are deprived from access to political power. The orientation towards Jainism can (on secondary levels) add a heightened intellectual awareness and control of this situation. The social use of Jain categories may, thus, articulate dissent (independence) in a symbolic, non-violent, and possibly unnoticed form, and 'conquer' the dominant ideology of sacrifice and kingship by reversing internally the order of precedence between the 'hierarchical' values of kingship and Brāhmaṇism on the one hand and of baniyāship and Jainism on the other. But the social implications are not determined by doctrine. They have to be worked out situationally by those who are attracted to this path.

2.1.5 Jainism, the Essence of Śaivism

What about the structural relationships between Jainism and Śaivism, the preferred religion of the Rājpūts? The pattern seems similar. By worshipping the Jina, as the ideal, unambiguously nonviolent king, Jain baniyās were able to ideologically encompass the image of the ideal Hindu king, who, like Śiva, displayed ambiguous 'benevolent and malevolent' features, and whose incalculable behaviour was admired and feared at the same time.[191] On secondary levels, violence, as a fact of life, had to be accommodated nevertheless, as it is expressed in the classical iconographic representation of the Jina, always accompanied by two small yakṣas at this feet. In this image, the hierarchical relationship between the dominant value of absolute non-violence and the subordinate value of dual 'violent/nonviolent' features is aptly expressed.

By identifying with the Jina, representing the universal attributes of all 'souls' of living beings, their followers may become aware of the difference between the essentially non-violent 'ideal' king and the 'appearing' ambiguous king (or living being in general) whose violent features can be rejected as 'karmic illusions'. In short: the use of Jain doctrine allowed to discriminate and to identify only with the 'good', non-violent aspects of the king, and to reject the 'bad', violent ones. The main potential social function of the Jain doctrine is to stimulate discriminative behaviour and selectivity (most importantly within the listening king himself).[192]

The mapping of the Jain conception of the Jina on to the iconographic features of the Hindu king – or his favourite god at the time: Śiva – enables the discrimination between the universal, true and acceptable features, and the negative, violent ones which have to be ignored, because they generate bad karman. This discriminating re-evaluation of various aspects of a personality is symbolized in the frequently employed motif of the Jina image rising out of a splitting

Śivaliṅgam (at least in the eyes of the beholder).[193] Similarly – in contrast to the image of the Jina, who has discarded all his karmic fetters – the outer image of the king may to a convert such as Śālibhadra not anymore as a perfect model of humanity, as it is conventionally presented, but, on the contrary, as a disease: as the karmic influx of royal influence, āsrava, into the purity of the inner "soul", that is, as the king's disease, rājamanja. Not the worldly king, but the inner 'soul', or its iconographic model: the Jina, is now seen as the true 'king'.[194] The image of the king is thus 'split' – like the one of Śiva – with the help of the Jain doctrine into essence and appearance; an act which expresses by means of a visual image the transformation undergone by an individual through conversion to Jainism.

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