Dharma in Jainism: Workshop at Manipal University

Posted: 10.05.2016
Updated on: 02.10.2016

Centre of Jaina Studies Newsletter: SOAS - University of London


Calendared auspiciously in the days leading up to the pūrṇimā of the month of Māgha, full moon day of 2-3 February 2015, a two-day workshop on Jainism took place at the Centre for Philosophy and Humanities (MCPH) at Manipal University in Karnataka, India. It was organised by Professors Sundar Sarukkai and Meera Baindur, both of Manipal University, which generously funded and hosted the workshop, and by Dr Jayandra Soni of Innsbruck University. Twelve speakers from India and abroad were invited to speak on a Jain-related theme of their choice. The conference was well attended by local researchers and students, and participants who had come from further afield. Allotting a full hour to each speaker, the workshop allowed for detailed presentations, sustained reflection and both extensive and intensive discussions.

Meera Baindur inaugurated the conference, noting that the meeting was specifically designed to bring together scholars working in various disciplines of the field of Jaina Studies. The event indeed brought to the limelight a wide array of aspects of Jaina dharma, with individual contributions focussing on subjects ranging from cosmology and mathematics to ontology and metaphysics, and from logic and ethics to literature and ritual. As such, the workshop gave the students of the MCPH and other participants a thorough introduction to the teachings and practices of Jainism, and a broad overview of the various disciplines practiced in the field of Jaina Studies.

Nalini Joshi (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune) opened the proceedings with a paper titled "Interpretation of the Mudrarākṣasa from the Jaina Perspective." She pointed out the Jaina elements in Viśākhadatta's Sanskrit drama (7th–8th century CE), revolving around the historical personalities of Candragupta Maurya and Cāṇakya. She also highlighted the lack of attention paid to the Cāṇakya-Candragupta narratives found in the Āvaśyaka- and Niśītha-cūrṇis.

The presence of H.H. Cārukīrti Bhaṭṭāraka of the Jaina maṭha at nearby Mūḍabidrī graced the start of the conference. With his multilingual and learned discussion of "Karma in Jainism," the Bhaṭṭāraka effaced in a wonderful manner the distinction between conference papers and traditional teachings (pravacan).

With specific reference to Haribhadra's treatise, Meera Baindur (Manipal University) introduced the intricacies of Jaina cosmology in her paper "Geography and Place in Jaina Dharma: A Discussion on Jambūdvīpasaṃgrahaṇī." By connecting Jaina cosmology with Jainism's soteriological concerns, she restored place as a central element of Jaina dharma. While it is an individual's karma that determines the location of rebirth, and the latter in turn determines the possibilities of further progress on the path of liberation, knowledge of one's cosmological location also helps and motivates one to make further advances.


Meera Baindur (Manipal University)

The polyvalence of the term "dharma" was pointed out by Jayendra Soni (University of Innsbruck) in his paper "Jaina Dharma of Beings and Things." Soni pointed out that beings and things (jīva and ajīva) should be seen in the context of substance, quality and mode/modification (dravya, guṇa and paryāya) to account for the changes they undergo without losing their intrinsic nature.

Luitgard Soni (Innsbruck) presented her research on the "Jaina Dharma of Dying and Death," with particular reference to the Bhagavatī-Ārādhanā written in Śauraṣeṇī Prakrit by the Digambara Śivārya. Reiterating the view that in the Jaina literature "on fasting unto death" the Jaina doctrine is reviewed as a consequence of its underlying metaphysics, Soni connected the Jaina methods and concepts of dying a good death with the Jaina views of body, soul, karma, rebirth and liberation.

Jagat Ram Bhattacharyya (Śāntiniketan) took up Jainism's crucial moral guideline of aparigraha (nonpossession) and discussed its practical application for both mendicants and lay people in his paper "Theory and Practice of aparigraha in Jainism with special reference to the Jain Canons." Quoting from several canonical works, he showed its historical development, also discussing how the 22 tīrthaṅkaras preceding Mahāvīra taught four rather than five great vows (mahāvratas), subsuming aparigraha and celibacy under one single vow (called bahiddhādāna viramana).

Opening the second day of the workshop, Anupam Jain (Sanwer, Indore) gave a comprehensive overview of "The Role of Mathematics in Jainism." He showed mathematics to be crucial for fields like cosmography, karmic theory, logic and astrological calculations of the auspicious moment for events like dīkṣā and pratiṣṭhā. His presentation also included an overview of Jaina mathematical works, among others Ācārya Mahāvīra's (814-877 CE) Gaṇitasārasaṃgraha and Paṇḍita Ṭoḍaramala's (1720-1767 CE) Gommatasāra Samyakjnānacandrikā.

Sundar Sarukkai (Manipal University) discussed the "Moral Implications of Jaina Logic." Many modern theories of morality are built on specific assumptions  concerning the relation between ethics and rationality, claiming that binary logical structures enable moral judgements to become more universal and objective. The multi-valued logic of Jainism, however, goes hand in hand with a "situated," contextual ethics.  In this context, Sarukkai also proposed an alternative understanding of (ethical) rationality, one that conceptualizes rational decision making as a process rather than a purely contentbased event.

Shubhachandra Jain (Emeritus, Mysore University) discussed the singularly central aspect of Jaina dharma in his paper "The Jaina Concept of Hiṃsā and Ahiṃsā." Premising his discussion on the view that for a clear understanding of the importance of ahiṃsā one should also understand the nature of hiṃsā, he discussed the various types of violence as distinguished in Jainism. These depend, among other factors, on the intentionality of the act of violence and the object to which it is directed. Violence, according to Jaina teachings, also encompasses "sva-hiṃsā," violence towards oneself, for example when engaging in passions like anger and greed. Next, Godavarisha Mishra (Madras University) presented the Digambara writer Ācārya Kundakunda in his presentation: "Reconciling the Differences: Kundakunda and Restructuring Jaina Dharma." Mishra presented Kundakunda's work as a conscious attempt to formalize and unify the thought of earlier Jaina philosophers. Special reference was made to the Samayasāra, which was highlighted for its comprehensive treatment of the self.

Priti Shubhachandra (Mysore University) discussed "Anti Yajña Representations in Kannada Jaina Literature." The opposition to Vedic sacrificial rituals of course relates directly to the central Jaina concept of ahiṃsā. Taking stock of Guṇabhadra's narration of the origin of hiṃsā-yajña in his Uttara Purāna, Shubhachandra then analysed and discussed the various narratives about violent sacrifices found in Cāmuṇḍarāya's Cāmunḍarāya Purāṇa and Nāgacandra's Pampa Rāmāyaṇa.

In his presentation "Ritual, Devotion and Liberation: the Case of the Digambara Bhaṭṭārakas," the present writer (Ghent University) highlighted the importance and function of Jaina ritual and devotion as irreplaceable epistemological and soteriological tools, arguing for a reappraisal of these practices as "technologies of the self."


Sundar Sarukkai (Manipal University)

Apart from the valuable presentations, it was the impeccable organisation, the delightful campus of the MCPH and the wonderful facilities and hospitality offered by Manipal University that contributed to making the workshop a grand success. The MA and PhD students of the MCPH, acting as the many helping hands of the organisers, also formed the heart of the proceedings. Their critical questions, vivid remarks and profound reflections demonstrated their earnest inquiring minds as well as the high standard of the centre's educational programme.


Tillo Detige is currently conductng doctoral research on Digambara history at Ghent University, aided by a scholarship granted by the Research Foundation Flanders.


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