Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (3) ► Scriptures, Dress Codes Of Monks (Male And Female) And Doctrine

Posted: 25.06.2016

Similar to the differences in the doctrine of Lord Mahāvīra, differences in the dress codes of monks (male and female) also started making their presence.

Idol worshipping, Sthānakavāsī and Terahapanthī Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras Terahapanthī, Bhaṭṭāraka, those using whiskbrooms of peacocks and others using whiskbroom of eagle and even not using whiskbrooms at all etc, neither accepted same dress code at that time nor even today. They boldly insist that the dress code acceptable to them is the original dress code prevalent at Lord Mahāvīra's time. Of course there are some traditions which accept changes in the type of dress and number of pots to be used during the period last quarter of V.N. 6th century to first quarter of 7th century V.N. Such changes were necessary to reflect the decrease in the physical strength and structure, ability to tolerate different types of afflictions. However, overall dress code and types of pots used is still same.

Therefore we have to refer to the original scripture to determine what the actual dress code should be. Adequate light had been thrown on this topic in Ācārāṃga and Bhagavatī Sūtra. Besides these two, in other scriptures such as Praśna Vyākaraṇa etc, we find scattered mentions on such issues. These scriptures and their contents clearly establish that in the use of religious implements, pots and mouth covering occupied main place and mention for the practitioners of the religious conduct.

While describing the penance of great observer of austerities and who attained liberation in the same life monk Skandaka in Bhagavatīsūtra; who even possessed the supreme structured and rock like strong body, did use clothes and pots. Such mentions prove that even the strong and supreme bodied great monks who even attained liberation in that birth itself like Skandaka, during the presence of Lord Mahāvīra used clothes. While discussing this subject in Viśeṣāvaśyakabhāṣya, it had been considered essential even for Jinakalpī ṣramaṇas to at least keep whiskbrooms and mouth cover.

During the middle ages, it is possible that it might have become essential to incorporate minor changes in dress code etc by differing congregations and gacchas to maintain their distinct identity and suit the local traditions as per the saying 'loke liṃga prayojanam'. However, undoubtedly we can conclude that every single tradition did try to maintain close identity with Lord Mahāvīra's congregation in some way or the other. All these statements can lead us to infer the type of dress code of monks during the time of Lord Mahāvīra.

One sect of Lord Mahāvīra started proclaiming that a monk using cloths cannot attain liberation in the same life in any condition. Since women cannot shed clothes completely so they cannot attain liberation in the same life as women. As against this, the other sect claimed that monks using clothes and women can attain liberation in the same life.

Similarly the first sect started claiming that the entire scripture of twelve limbs had been lost and none of it available in original state now. As against this, the second sect kept on saying that eleven out of twelve limbs of original scripture are still existent. It is possible that minor parts of these eleven fold scriptures may have been lost but the major part of these is still available. The first sect therefore does not give their approval to the authenticity of the scriptures, niryuktis, cūrṇis, appendices, prakīrṇakas commentaries etc compiled by ācārya after V.N. 1000 and later. Another sub group only give their approval for the doctrine of the original scriptures only and Bhāṣyas, cūrṇis etc are not acceptable completely to them. On the other hand, one sub sect of Śvetāmbara tradition gives full acceptability to all scriptures, niryuktis, cūrṇis, appendices, prakīrṇakas commentaries as well.

One sect believes in worshipping nude idols only while the other sect believes in worshipping clothed idols. The third section is fundamentally opposed to idol worship itself and believes only in the contemplation and meditation of non-concrete and pure soul only.

Therefore if someone tries to enumerate and list all the sects, sub-sects, traditions, gacchas and gaṇas etc after seventh century V.N., then he may take ages to compile that literature. Then there are differences in dress code in each group also. As far as Digambara tradition is concerned, on the one hand their monks (male) do not use even a thread of cotton for covering their body and yet Bhaṭṭārakas of the same sect keep all sorts of possessions including clothes, maids and servants, buildings, whisks, canopies material wealth of all types etc. Digambara monks only move around on feet while Bhaṭṭārakas use trains, airplanes, motors to move around.

As far as Śvetāmbara tradition is concerned, their monks belonging to idol worshipping sub sect do not keep mouth cover cloth but keep a hand cloth. They have accepted mouth cover cloth as an implement for monks though. One section of this sub sect use their body cover cloth for wiping and covering their mouth and instead keep a stick in their hand.

Sthānakavāsī Śvetāmbara monks on the other hand do not keep a stick in their hand but do keep a mouth cover cloth, pots, whiskbroom and books instead. One sub division of this sub sect do keep mouth cover cloth like their counterparts of Sthānakavāsī sub sect but the shape and size of mouth cover cloth of this group is different from Sthānakavāsī monks.

As far as complete loss of scriptures is concerned, we have to consider that not even a single scripture of other Indian religious traditions such as Vedic (who call their Vedas as divine sermons), Upaniṣadas, Vaiṣṇavas, Śrutis, Gītā, Mahābhārata, Piṭakas of Buddhism etc have been lost. They even do not talk of loss of their original scriptures. Lord Buddha, who was a contemporary of Lord Mahāvīra, also preached and his sermons are believed to exist in original. Then why do monks and followers of Digambara tradition talks of this loss of original scriptures. How can their own eleven limbs, sub limbs, Cheda sūtras can be lost? They cite the effect of bad (inauspicious) times for such loss. How come only Jain scriptures were lost and not the scriptures of any other religion? Under such circumstances, it becomes difficult to digest their claim of loss of original scriptures.

In a similar manner, the tradition of vāsakṣepa of Ācāryas, Upādhyayas, monks (male and female) and elders is a very popular in one sect of Jainism. In Āvaśyakacūrṇi, mention had been made that even Lord Mahāvīra practised this tradition on gaṇadharas like Gautama etc. But such practices are not traceable in scriptures.

Today each and every sect, sub-sect and gaṇa of Jainism consider their rituals and traditions as original and propagated by Lord Mahāvīra. In such a situation, validity of the true code of conduct and doctrine can only be made based on the description in scriptures like Ācārāṃga etc, whichever tradition comes out as per the descriptions in Ācārāṃga etc should be considered as the true and original code of conduct, ritual and tradition only.

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