Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [01] Bhagavatī Sūtra: As An Encyclopedic Work ► An Encyclopedic Work In Partikular

Posted: 20.05.2009

The scripture Bh.S in itself is a concrete proof of Mahāvīra's versatile knowledge of things. The contents of it cover nearly all-important topics discussed in other Jain scriptures. Thus, it can be regarded as an encyclopedia of Jainism and the most representative work of all the Jain scriptures including the Aṅgas, Upāṅgas, Mūla, Cheda and the Prakīrṇakas. Dr. J. C. Sikdar, a noted Jain scholar, has tried his best to compare the contents of the Bh.S with those of other scriptures referred to above in a lucid manner. But this comparison is not all-encompassing.

The eleven available aṅgas are considered to be the most authentic canons of Jain tradition, containing the original ideas and expositions as given by Lord Mahāvīra. While other aṅgas deal only with a particular theme, each in their own way the two aṅgasSthānāṅga and the Bh.S contain hundreds of topics which are diverse in nature. Though Sthānāṅga also deals with a number of topics, it is not more than a mere collection of different ideas and theories on the basis of numerology; unlike the Bh.S which contains original and fundamental ideas without any manipulations or compiler's inference.

[1] Bh.S and the Aṅga Literature

Bh.S and Ācārāṅga

In the comparison of the Bh.S with the aṅgas made by Dr. J. C. Sikdar only a few subjects are selected,[34] while many others are left out which are very important from the point of view of scientific study of the Bh.S e.g.; the doctrine of reincarnation and the memory of the past births.[35] Again the classification of the six kinds of living beings is only brief in Ācārāṅga but Bh.S gives a detailed description of the characteristics of these living beings.[36]

Bh.S and the Sūtrakṛtāṅga

Though Sūtrakṛtāṅga [37] does describe the wretched life of infernal beings, Bh.S furnishes a much larger description of these beings. The second chapter of the second part of Sūtrakṛtāṅga deals with kriyās (the instinctive actions responsible for the influx of karma) without their specifics. The Bh.S fills the gap by providing details that may be regarded as the complementary information on the subject concerned.

Bh.S and Sthānaṅga

As far as the Sthānāṅga Sūtra is concerned, there are hundreds of topics common between it and Bh.S e.g., classification of pudgala (matter and energy),[38] the duration of Yoni (the capacity to reproduce) of the food grains like rice, wheat etc.,[39] the description of the Lokapāla [40] (a special category of gods), the five astikāyas (the extended substances),[41] six leśyās (psychic colors),[42] ten kinds of Lokasthiti [43] (the order of the universe) etc.

Bh.S and Samavāyāṅga

Like the Sthānāṅga Sūtra, the Samavāyāṅga based on numerical classification of various topics has also many common subjects with the Bh.S.

Bh.S and Jñātādharmakathā

Dr. Sikdar has compared the stories of Mahābala, Jamāli and others with those of Jñātādharmkathā, but there is a world of difference in the stories given in the Jñātā and the true life-events described in Bh.S.[44] Whereas the text Jñāta, the sixth aṅga, has the purport of instructing disciples and giving them moral teachings, the true life-events mentioned in the text Bh.S are historical description of living human beings, who were influential persons during the time of Mahāvīra. Though some of the stories given in the Jñātā, relate to some pre-historical personages like Malli,[45] the 19th Tirthaṅkara, the five Kauravas and Draupadi[46] etc. Thus we may conclude that whereas the sixth aṅga is more mythological and legendary; the Bh.S is more historical and real as far as the stories given therein are concerned.

Bh.S and Upāsakadaśā

The seventh aṅga Upāsakadaśā, along with the biographies of the ten leading lay followers of Lord Mahāvīra, incidentally throws light only on the ethical aspect of observance of the vows (vratās) prescribed for a lay follower. So faras the Bh.S. is concerned, it throws light on the subtle aspects of Pratyākhyāna i.e.renunciation or giving up something in the context of its impact on the soul with regard to the inhibition of the influx of karma.[47] In the seventh chapter of the aṇga, the doctrine of fatalism of the Maṅkhalī Gośāla is criticized through the story of Sakadalaputra. Bh.S, in its 15th chapter, elaborately presents the fatalistic belief of Ājivikas and at the same time strongly refutes it through examples.

Bh.S & Antakṛddaśā and Anuttaropapātikadaśā

The biographies of the great souls given in the eighth and ninth aṅgas Antakṛddaśā and Anuttaropapātikadaśā have not only parallels in Bh.S but explanations given for their attainment of emancipation in the very life and taking birth in the highest category of gods are also similar. For example, in the description of the events of Atimuktaka kumara, in spite of his severe breach of monastic conduct, Lord Mahāvīra explains his attainment of emancipation because of Atimuktaka's spiritual purity.[48]

Bh.S and Praśnavyākaraṇa

The tenth aṅga Praśnavyākaraṇa, a later exposition of the doctrines of āśrava (influx) and saṁvara (stoppage of influx), gives in detail the various aspects of hiṁsā (violence) and ahiṁsā etc. Bh.S,[49] on other hand, being an earlier exposition treats these subjects in very brief. Yet, we find at many places it it the explanation of the subtle aspects of the causes of influx. e.g., in aphorism 9.246-252 there is the dialogue on the topic such as 'killing of one is equivalent to killing of many'. This dialogue elucidates the fine nature of Bh.S's exposition in comparison to the later works like Praśnavyākaraṇa.

Bh.S and Vipākasūtra

Like Vipākasūtra the Bh.S has given some striking examples which explain how the soul which practices self-restraint can attain rebirth in heaven and that which indulges in sinful activities is reborn in hell and has to undergo various types of sufferings. It describes the example of Gaṇgadatta who was inspired by the 20th Tirthankara Munisuvrata and who attained rebirth in the mahasukrakalpa, one of the heavens. On the other hand[50], the warriors who fight battles and indulge in killing human beings with deep feeling of enmity, generally take rebirth in hell. This is illustrated by the description of thetwo battles, viz; Mahāśīlākaṇṭaka saṅgrāma and the Rathamusala saṅgrāma that took place between the king Konika and the Vajji republic headed by the king Ceṭaka.[51]

[2] Bh.S and the Aṅgabāhya Literature

In the following pages, the scripture Bh.S has been compared with some selected works of the Aṅgabāhya literature under which Āvaśyaka, Upāṅga, Mūla, Cheda and Prakirṇaka come.

(A) Bh.S and Āvaśyaka Sūtra

Āvaśyaka Sūtra is a treatise on the essential duty of the ascetics to perform expiation for any fault done by him during the day or night period. In the Bh.S[52] we find references to the undertaking of vows for the ascetics as well as the laity. In the light of this description, one can understand the expiations referred to in the Āvaśyaka.

Another very important dialogue of Bh.S[53] on the topic of Kāṅkṣamohanīya (the faith-debunking with a view to join the heretical faith) has a very interesting counterpart in the Āvaśyaka [54] which describes the main faith as a unchallengeable truth, the unique, the unparalleled, the perfect, leading to salvation, pure par excellence. Bh.S emphasizes on the cause behind the rise of the Kāṅkṣāmohanīya karma and samyaktva i.e. the enlightened worldview. All these can be properly understood in the context of the scripture Āvaśyaka. There are many more other passages in these two canonical texts, which are to be interpreted with mutual understanding.

(B) Bh.S and the Upāṅga Literature

Bh.S and Aupapātika

The twelve upāṅgas, which are definitely later works than the aṅgas, deal with many subjects that are common with Bh.S. In the first upāṅga 'Aupapātika' the detailed description of the caitya and the gardens is given and reference to this description is found at many places in Bh.S also. It seems that these descriptive passages were collected in the first Upāṅga in order to make the text of Bh.S free from unnecessary elaboration.

The chapter on Gautama in the first upāṅga Aupapātika seems to be a short copy of the dialogues reflected in the text Bh.S on hundreds of topics between Gautama and Mahāvīra. Many phrases and usages are given in both—Bh.S and Aupapātika in the same form. This also supports the belief that the upāṅga has borrowed a good deal of matter from Bh.S. For example; the description of Ambaḍa Parivrājaka, an ascetic, given in the Aupapātika [55] is the exact copy of that of Skandaka parivrājaka in Bh.S.[56]

Bh.S and Rājapraśnīya

The second upāṅga Rājapraśnīya is historically important because it is related to the king Pradesi and the ascetic Kesi Kumara Śramana. Many of the questions[57] put up by king Pradesi and answered by Kesi can be fully understood in the light of Bh.S which has discussed the same topics with better logical interpretation.

Bh.S and Jīvābhigama

The third upāṅga Jīvābhigama is mentioned at some places in the Bh.S;[58] which means that the content of Bh.S has been transformed into Jīvābhigama at the time of the canonical council and so it is clear that this upāṅga has directly borrowed from Bh.S. On the whole, the detailed description of the various species of living beings given in Jīvābhigama should be coupled with the important information available in the Bh.S to understand the subject matter completely. In the same way, the very brief description of non-living (ajīva) substances in the very beginning of the Jīvābhigama shows that as this subject is elaborately given in Bh.S, there was no need to repeat it. Many subjects like the description of gods, the continents and oceans etc. given in extensive manner in Jīvābhigama and only briefly dealt with in Bh.S,[59] indicate that these topics were probably given much importance in the later period. Still, their allusions in Bh.S definitely show that the discussion on those subjects was in vogue, even at the time of Lord Mahāvīra. The importance of Bh.S as compared to Jīvābhigama is much greater as the former represents the original ideas of Lord Mahāvīra himself.

Bh.S and Prajñāpanā

The fourth upāṅga Prajñāpanā or Paṇṇavaṇā is probably the most important later work. It gives us the best information about the contents of Bh.S. As a matter of fact, Bh.S in its text itself refers to the text Prajñāpanā more frequently than any other scripure. This is viewed most probably as the transference of many topics dealt with in Prajñāpanā at the time of canonical council conducted by Acharya Devardhigaṇī Kṣamāśramaṇa. Dr. Jozef Deleu, in his 'Viyāhapaṇṇatti', has strongly said that Bh.S and the Prajñāpanā are to be considered almost as a single scripture. According to him, it is the text which is most frequently referred to in the text Bh.S. He believes that practically the whole of Prajñāpanā has been incorporated into it.[60] Dr. Deleu has made exhaustive efforts to compare both these aṇgas and given a long list of subjects which are common in the both.

We can definitely say that in order to understand the Prajñāpanā one has to comprehend its corresponding counterpart in Bh.S and also the elaborate explanations given by Prajñāpanā at some places. It has to be used as a complementary source to fully understand the significance of Bh.S. For example, we can refer to the doctrine of karma. There are more than hundred places where this very important doctrine is dealt with, but the Prajñāpanā [61] gives us in a very systematic way. Ther are many aspects of this doctrine which make very clear the original discussion given in Bh.S.

In the same way, the difficult concepts of Leśyā (psychic colour), Kriyā (impulsive urges) etc. are given in Bh.S in parts at many places, whereas the Prajñāpanā [62] by giving them systematically at one place makes it easier for the student to comprehend the purport of such discussions in Bh.S. But it should be remembered at the same time that without the knowledge of it, one would fail to grasp the complete idea of such concepts only by reading Prajñāpanā.

Bh.S and the Three Prajñaptis

The next three upāṅgasJambudvīpa-Prajñapti, Sūrya-Prajñapti and Candra-Prajñapti are the treatises of Jain astronomy and geography and as such they give in detail all the aspects of these scientific disciplines. There is also a good deal of mathematical material in them. But, again here the Bh.S must be referred to for getting the original idea. Bh.S has, however, dealt with these subjects but briefly.[63] As far as the concept of whole cosmos is concerned, we get the original information of it in Bh.S with sufficient details. But the information about Jambudvīpa and other continents and oceans as well as the motion of the sun and the moon etc. are not exhaustively dealt with in Bh.S. Still, because of the importance of some mathematical computations given in Bh.S, it becomes very important scripture to get the first hand knowledge of Lord Mahāvīra's concepts of cosmology and cosmography.

Bh.S and the rest of Upāṅgas

The remaining five upāṅgas including the Nirayāvalikā and the others give historical facts about the fierce battles of the age, fought between king Koṇika (Ajātaśātru) and the Republic of Vajji's headed by the king Ceṭaka. The information given in Bh.S about the battles, namely, Mahaśīlākaṇ ṭaka and Rathamusala, is important for furnishing us with the details of wonderful weapons used in those times.[64] The informations about these battles give us a clue as to the exact dates of Lord Mahāvīra's important events as well as the chronological sequence of historical events. For example, the battles, which took place in the times of Lord Mahāvīra, make a categorical remark, from which it can be concluded that the Nirvana of Lord Mahāvīra did not take place at least sixteen years after these battles. Such information is definitely very important to fix the dates of Lord Mahāvīra. These events are also very helpful in fixing of the times of the other historical events of ancient India. Thus, the studies of the scripture Bh.S combined with those of Nirayāvalikā and other texts can prove to be a great asset to the students of ancient Indian history.

(C) Bh.S and the Mūla Sūtras

Bh.S and Daśavaikālika

Now we come to the comparison of Bh.S with the scripture Daśavaikālika which is one of the Mūla literature. Historically Acharya Sayyambhava compiled it in the second century after Lord Mahāvīra's Nirvana. Daśavaikālika is essentially a scripture depicting the rules and regulations about the monastic discipline. Mainly, it contains the code of conduct pertaining to collecting alms and consuming it. Interestingly, in Bh.S we find some important light thrown on such subjects too; e.g. it prescribes in detail the instructions regarding the method of consuming food.[65] It suggests to a monk or a nun to avoid attachment to delicious food and aversion to stale food. Again, he or she has been suggested to avoid the mixing of other ingredients in order to make the food tasteful.

Thus, Bh.S has mentioned explicitly as to how ascetics should be very cautious about the blemishes connected with food collection (eṣaṇā samiti) which is the third condition prescribed for a Jain monk. Similar treatment is found in Daśavaikālika which directs a monk to eat the food without evoking in his mind any kind of like or dislike for the food which he consumes.[66]

It also gives an elaborate description of six kinds of jīvanikāya, namely, pṛthivikāya, apkāya, tejaskāya, vāyukāya, vanaspatikāya and trasakāya.[67] This classification is done with a view to highlight the gravity of the slightest violence committed to any living being. Of these six, first five are immobile and the sixth is mobile living being. Bh.S has given in detail at many places the description of the subtle activities of the five kinds of immobile living beings.[68] A novice learns from the text Daśa. simply that these beings are endowed with life whereas an advanced ascetic also learns in detail about the subtle activities of these beings. Such knowledge helps strengthen his faith in the imperatives of the Jain monastic disciplinary rules.

Bh.S and Uttarādhyayana

The second text under Mūla is called Uttarādhyayana. It also deals with hundreds of topics including the monastic conduct,[69] the metaphysical doctrines,[70] the historical episodes[71] and the psychological things such as, karma, Leśyā, Bhāva etc.[72] As the text Bh.S also throws light on all these subjects and therefore, there is ample scope for comparison between Uttarādhyayana and Bh.S. e.g. there is a subject like samacāri i.e. the code of conduct, which includes the routine activities of day and night and the time for performing pratikramaṇa (confession) and pratilekhanā (careful watch of the things of daily use).

The scripture Bh.S[73] gives in detail how to measure the time periods relating to the division of day and night. Another interesting commonality of the two is the description of the monks who undertake contemplations (bhāvanās), such as kāndarpikī (regarding the amorous thinking), the kilbiśikī (regarding the definition of the omniscient, the preceptors, the ascetics etc.) Ābhiyogikī (regarding the practice of forecasting, witchcraft) though Uttarādhyayana focuses more on the malpractice of the ascetics given to such contemplation.[74] It is, thus, clear that a student interested in the study of Uttarādhyayana, cannot succeed in his purpose unless he acquaints himself with the corresponding information given in Bh.S.

Bh.S and Nandī

The Nandī is essentially a treatise on Jain epistemology. Bh.S[75] also refers to the important features of Jain epistemology at various places, sometimes giving us the clue to resolve the mystery that may not be removed by the study of Nandī [76]. Thus, though Nandī mentions that a clairvoyant can perceive infinite kinds of material substances, it is Bh.S[77] which declares that only a clairvoyant of the highest category (Parmāvadhika) can know or see the ultimate atom and not others. Very important information about the successive occurrences of kevalajñāna and kevaladarśana[*] is given in Bh.S[78] but the Nandī does not explicitly mention whether or not the kevalajñāna and kevaladarśana occur simultaneously. In Bh.S, it is said that the kevalajñāna knows and sees all the substances occupied in all the space, all the time and in all the modes. But we do not find such particular information in the Nandī Sūtra. Thus, Bh.S must be taken into account while treating the subject of Jain epistemology.

Bh.S and Anuyogadvāra

The Anuyogadvāra like the Nandī is also an important treatise on Jain logic and epistemology. Besides, it is a valuable work on Jain mathematics. Bh.S too is a repository of important facts regarding these disciplines. It is, therefore, inevitable that one has to study simultaneously both these texts in order to grasp the essence of Jain doctrines. Bh.S and the Anuyogadvāra [80] both discuss the units of measurement of space but there is a slight difference between the texts. In Bh.S, the names of the different mesurements of distence such as bālāgra are not mentioned, while they are found in Anuyogadvāra. The description of the particular unit of space, namely, the innumerability part of standard finger-breadth technically known as utsedha āṅgula referred to in aphorism 401 and 402 of Anuyogadvāra, cannot be understood properly without the study of the description of the same unit found in Bh.S,[82] the unit being described with respect to the length of the body of earth-bodied living beings (pṛthvikāya). It is, thus, evident that in the absence of the knowledge of the Bh.S, one will misunderstand the meaning of the Anuyogadvāra.

Similarly, there are many other topics discussed in Anuyogadvāra, such as, the shape and size of the universe, the types of various living beings, the standpoints of substance, space, time and modes, which, in order to have a correct comprehension of the text, should be studied in the light of the description available in Bh.S. Conversely, the detailed mathematical computations furnished by the auther of Anuyogadvāra are quite helpful to grasp the theme of Bh.S, which are not dealt with mathematical details.

(D) Bh.S and the Cheda Literature

Like the Cheda literature, Bh.S prescribes some disciplinary rules for the monks to observe which have been referred to before.[83]

(E) Bh.S and the Prakīrṇaka Literature

In support of the ten Prakīrṇakas, the Bh.S discusses the subjects on moral discipline, rituals and mythology[84] in brief and like the Causarana it deals with some rules and regulations, observances leading to a life devoid of sin, confession, renunciation (Pratyākhyāna), praise of Tirthankaras and paying homage to their virtues.[85]

The text Bh.S emphasizes more on the total renunciation and Saṅlekhanā i.e. a graded course of penance preceding the final fasting unto death like the Prakirṇaka Aurapaccakkhāṇa and teaches the monks in what way they should prepare themselves for the death like the Prakirṇaka Bhattapariṇṇā. For example while describing Skandaka Bh.S mentions in detail a peculiar way of death, how the ascetic spread, himself on a bed of grass or straws meditating on the doctrine taught by Lord Māhāvīra.[86]

Like the Tandula-veyaliya, another prakīrnaka, Bh.S briefly explains the gradual development of the embryo of a child and its birth, different organs inherited from mother and father, states of existence, the functions, etc.[87]

Like the Prakirṇaka Candavijjhaya, the Bh.S treats the general discipline showing the qualities that should be possessed by the preceptors and disciples and the rules of conduct to be followed. It also describes the manner in which one should prepare him for the pious death. Lastly, it also enumerates a host of gods and goddesses and classifies and describes them in details.[88]

In agreement with the Gaṇivijjha, the Bh.S makes short treatises on aspects of Astronomy, such as, time, hours, and days and contains some rules of confession, of renunciation as prescribed in the Prakirṇaka Mahāpaccakkhāna.

In its stray references, Bh.S refers to the different names[89] of Lord Mahāvīra, such as, Vardhamāna, Nāyaputta, and Kāsava as they are found in the Vīrastava Prakirṇaka.

Share this page on: